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News and views from the Microsoft UK Education Team
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  • FE blog

    Coventry's web-based voting with SharePoint

    • 3 Comments

    You're probably already familiar with SharePoint, and some of its capabilities to support communication and collaboration for both students and staff. But what never ceases to amaze me are the other uses that people find for it in education.

    Coventry University has 17,000 students, and has recently moved from a paper-based campus voting system (with long-winded hand counting of ballots) to an electronic one based on SharePoint. It makes sense to them, because their Active Directory contains all of their student community, and it also appeals to students, who seem to love anything web-based. Not only does Coventry save £1,000 per vote, but they also make it possible for students to vote over the web - increasing participation.

    You're not going to have the same needs in an FE college, but one of the things it points to is another way of using technology to engage more with your students. It's an issue which comes up regularly when talking to colleges - with the student base being particularly fickle, and changing rapidly.

    We've published a full case study on our global case studies database.

    The case study left me wondering - just how many elections does a university run?

  • FE blog

    Save £23,000 or Save the Earth...take your pick

    • 3 Comments

    PC Pro have been doing some research on the ways that Windows Vista can save power.....come again...save power?

    Yup

    It appears that computers are left on all the time with nobody using them (hmm, let me think about the IT Suite, or some of those odd computers in the back of teaching rooms). So, if you managed them better, you'd start saving power - and either save money or the planet, depending on your views (of course, you do both).

    And how does it do this? Well, I'm glad you asked...

    Windows Vista has a "sleep" mode, which is automatically activated if you don't use your PC for an hour, or you activate it yourself by hitting your power switch. What that does is move your PC into an ultra-low power state, where only the RAM is powered, everything else is closed down (processor, disks, screen etc). Which means that when you want to switch it back on, it comes back in two seconds (yes, really).

    Based on a typical user using that better will save £23 to £46 a PC a year, just by switching the operating system. Now, in a typical FE college in England, which according to the Becta survey has 1,000 PCs, that is at least £23,000 a year in electricity, or over 750 tonnes of carbon emissions. Just by changing some sofware.

    Want the evidence? Here's the PC Pro Labs Survey

    • Factoid 1: Your PC uses varying amounts of power depending on what it is doing - the power supply rating is the maximum it can produce. So a 350 watt PC doesn't use 350 watts all the time - if ever. 3D rendering uses twice as much power as using Word. Running the screensaver uses more power than doing nothing! A 250 watt desktop used around twice the power of a 65 watt laptop.
    • Factoid 2: I've been using Sleep mode on my laptop for months. I put it in Sleep whenever I've finished taking notes in a meeting, and then bring it back on whenever I want to make more notes, because it is so quick to restart. I was doing it to save battery power (giving me a whole day's use from a single charge), but now I know I've been saving money/the earth too
  • FE blog

    Microsoft SharePoint and the SharePoint Learning Kit - Live Meetings

    • 3 Comments

    We have a series of Live meetings scheduled over the next few months to provide more information on the use of SharePoint in learning. My colleague Steven Audis, the Microsoft Education Technology Advisor in the UK, will be running them, and he's provided some more information on their content:

    "In these sessions we discuss how Further Education customers can benefit from Microsoft SharePoint Learning Kit and the Microsoft SharePoint Community Kit, which have both been designed to further extend Microsoft Learning Gateway and e-learning opportunities.

    With the Microsoft Learning Gateway, colleges can readily build a standards-based education portal for administrators, educators, and students to share information, collaborate on projects, and access rich learning resources from a single point of access. The new Microsoft SharePoint kits are built on SharePoint technology that enables Web sites to provide document and information sharing capabilities. These kits offer tools and source code to help educators, administrators and industry partners to customise their portals to be as unique as their colleges and deliver e-learning resources through the Microsoft Learning Gateway.

    The Microsoft SharePoint Learning Kit is a standards-compliant e-learning tool that makes it easy for educators to deliver both basic and interactive resources through the Microsoft Learning Gateway. The kit is compliant with Shareable Content Object Reference Model (SCORM) 2004 and SCORM 1.2 and provides basic functions for any electronic resource in a SharePoint document library, including Microsoft Class Server resources."

    clip_image004[9]

    clip_image006[8]Wednesday, Sep 26, 2007 10:00-11:00

    To attend, just log on to the following URL (about 5 minutes before, if you need to download the Live Meeting client)

    https://www.livemeeting.com/cc/microsoft/join?id=K9JQ8Z&role=attend&pw=nqXq%26n6Qd

    clip_image002You'll need the Meeting ID:   K9JQ8Z

    And then dial into the meeting on your phone for the audio. Dial (0118) 909 2000 and use Participant code  2164215

     

    Tuesday, Nov 6, 2007 15:00-16:00

    To attend, just log on to the following URL (about 5 minutes before, if you need to download the Live Meeting client)

    https://www.livemeeting.com/cc/microsoft/join?id=MCGZW3&role=attend&pw=BRw%24Jh%27%3E4

    clip_image002You'll need the Meeting ID:   MCGZW3

    And then dial into the meeting on your phone for the audio. Dial (0118) 909 2000 and use Participant code  2164215

  • FE blog

    Product launch invitation: Office Communications Server 2007

    • 2 Comments

    Here's another launch that might be of interest to you. This one is for our Office Communications Server 2007, which shifts the convergence of phone, email, fax, IM, web conferencing and voice over IP.  You will have seen how different mechanisms of communication are multiplying - in both our personal and professional lives - and this product launch takes a step forward in finding ways to integrate these mechanisms and helping individuals to manage their communications more flexibly. As an example, I'm working from home today, but you wouldn't know it - if you call me on my office number, your call will be automatically rerouted to my mobile number or my IP phone on my PC. In fact, it is so seamless that sometimes, when I'm unavailable, people ring my office number and leave me a message - and then call my mobile with the same message. They hadn't realised that their first call had been rerouted to the same device - and I end up with two identical messages.

    The agenda provides a good look at the general direction of unified communications, and ways of delivering Voice Over IP (VOIP), provide a single identity system, and improve universal communications security. There are also two great customer references, Tayside Fire and Rescue (watch their video) & United Bristol Health Care Trust, both of whom will be presenting on the day.

    The Event takes place on the 17th of October in London and there are two events, a whole day event for Technical Decision Makers, and a shorter 'breakfast briefing' for Business Decision Makers:

    Business Decision Maker information and registration

    Technical Decision Maker information and registration 

    Not sure which one to attend? If you understand this:

    "Deliver VoIP without needing to rip and replace your existing BX and telecommunications infrastructure. OCS 2007 works with legacy PBXs and connects to the PSTN through an IP/PBX gateway."

    then you should probably go to the Technical one!

     For further details of Office Communications Server 2007


  • FE blog

    The Ultimate Steal - FE Student Criteria

    • 2 Comments

    ShoppingTrolley

    You may recall that the criteria for students purchasing the Ultimate Steal promotion was that they should have a .ac.uk email address, and a 1/2 course load. Although that made a lot of sense in some countries, in the UK we have a more complex model of Further and Higher Education than some, so we've worked on a new definition, which encompasses everybody that we think should be eligible.

    In a nutshell, if you're a Further Education student, and have scheduled contact time for your course of 15 hours or more, then you qualify and you can order Office Ultimate 2007 at £38.95.


    In the UK this promotion is open to both higher and further education students, although we want to ensure that it is individuals who spend the majority of their time on academic studies that use this offer, rather than individuals who are primarily full-time employees and study part-time (e.g. by attending a weekly evening class).  That's why the extra restriction exists. Hopefully this makes sense to you too!

    The specific criteria, now on the website is:

    image

  • FE blog

    Windows Server 2008 roadshow

    • 2 Comments
    clip_image001

    The TechNet roadshows are coming soon - in April and May the team will be on their way around the country, talking about (and showing) lots more of Windows Server 2008 and the other products launched this week. I know that the launch event in Birmingham in March was filled up very quickly, and there were a number of you that couldn't get a place.

    So here's your second chance. The roadshow will be heavy on demos and light on PowerPoint (you don't hear that every day at Microsoft). We'll look at various scenarios, such as managing Windows Server 2008 and how Windows Server 2008 works alongside Windows Vista. There will be  opportunity to meet the Microsoft Community, user groups and Most Valued Professionals, as well as experts with top technical information and real-world scenarios.

    Places really are limited so register now:

    22 April 2008, Cardiff

    24 April 2008, London

    30 April 2008, Manchester

    12 May 2008, Glasgow

    15 May 2008, Newcastle

  • FE blog

    Mass SCORM Conversion Tool

    • 2 Comments

    Have you been looking for a way to convert older learning resources into SCORM format? Well Hunterstone may have the answer for you.

    HunterStone announced it has developed a "Mass SCORM Conversion Tool."  The company developed the tool for use in projects that require large amounts of content to be converted to SCORM.  Targeted for use in projects with publishers and organizations that have very large databases of content and learning materials HunterStone President and CEO Neil Richards stated "the tool will save organizations countless hours of time which will directly translate into saving tens of thousand if not hundreds of thousands of dollars in SCORM conversion endeavors."

     

    The tool is thought to be among the first of its kind used for commercial purposes.  SCORM's adoption rate is forecasted to accelerate during the next few years and HunterStone's strategy as a leading provider of SCORM eLearning services is further solidified by this announcement.  Previously, the company released its leading SCORM Conversion and Authoring product suite THESIS for general use by instructional designers, subject matter experts, and trainers throughout the world.  Additionally, Microsoft's Education Product Group licensed a portion of THESIS technology for use in its Learning Essentials Program and provides Microsoft Academic Customers the ability to author SCORM content with Microsoft Word, PowerPoint, and Excel.

     

    THESIS is a suite of eLearning tools which adheres to the SCORM specifications and integrates with Microsoft Office. This enables a user to author eLearning resources and objects straight from familiar Microsoft Office applications such as Word, PowerPoint, Excel, Visio and Producer. The THESIS "Learning Object Manager" allows a user to author complete SCORM courses and quizzes for online instruction, using multiple learning objects from different sources. THESIS Librarian "SCORM enables" Microsoft SharePoint to create Learning Object Repositories where subject matter experts can collaborate on course development and also use the tool as a meta-data manager.

  • FE blog

    Tech Ed arrives again – 3-7 November 2008

    • 2 Comments

    TechEdHeader

    Time to start being nice to the people that sign off your professional development budget? (I know, you always are…)

    Tech Ed (also previously known as IT Forum) is in Barcelona again this year on the 3rd – 7th November, and the agenda and registration information has just been released.

    Tech Ed is the premier Microsoft technical education conference just for IT professionals. For five days, you and 5,000 of your peers will learn how to architect, plan, deploy, manage and secure a connected enterprise from Microsoft experts and industry leaders.

    You’ll get the chance to meet new people, get new ideas and be a part of the experience, including:

    • Breakout Sessions: More than 190 technical sessions cover the latest Microsoft-based products.
    • Interactive Sessions: Interactive Sessions are small and informal and provide you with an opportunity to interact with speakers, to ask questions and discuss topics. They can be a chalk-talk, based around a whiteboard or even an extended walk-through of a demo or product feature presented at an earlier Breakout Session. Interactive Sessions are 30-75 minutes in length and delivered in theatre-style format in rooms seating a maximum of 80 people.
    • Self Paced Hands-on Labs: Evaluate products from Microsoft and our most important industry partners.
    • Panel Discussions: Panel Discussions are lively debates with a mix of industry experts and Microsoft product team members on stage answering your questions. Panel Discussions are 75 minutes in length and delivered in theatre-style format in rooms seating 140 to 700 people.
    • Instructor-Led Labs: Led by Microsoft product team  members and industry experts and supported by MCTs. Hands-on product evaluation using individual desktop workstations in sessions running for 75 minutes in length - on a first-come first-served basis.
    • Product Demos: Fast-paced demos that provide an overview of products and technologies delivered during the Lunch break in theatre-style format in rooms seating 140 to 700 people for up to 45 minutes in length.
    • Connections with the community: 5,000 IT professionals to meet. 5,000 opinions to consider. 5,000 wits to engage and experiences to share. Add Microsoft product team members and industry gurus to the mix, and you'll see why a Tech·Ed EMEA IT Professional crowd is like no other.

    Take a look at some of the things we blogged from the conference last year

    Just right for IT Directors and their support team

    Each year, 80+ delegates from UK education organisations attend the event – a number which has been increasing year-on-year. Which means that there’s a community of like-minded colleagues that you can share information with. Some of the MS UK Education team will be there too, and as usual we’ll be hosting a social evening, and a specific education session during the conference (Any ideas for what you’d like us to cover? That’s what the “Comment” button is for)

    Although people from colleges normally arrive individually, many universities bring along 3 or 4 of the team – the agenda is so wide, and so deep, that it often makes sense to split up and go to different sessions, and then meet back up to compare notes.

    Discount for UK Education customers

    When you register, you can save over €1,500 (and with the Euro the way it is, that’s a bigger saving than last year!).

    Register using our specific Academic registration code (DLACMM9M) and you’'ll only have to pay €695 Euros. (With the Euro the way it is, that’s a little more. But that’s for five days of conference and training!)

    Anyway, find out more on the Tech Ed site, and register here

    See you in Barcelona!

     

    (Oh, if you’re one of those people that would prefer to go the Tech Ed Developers conference instead, which is a week later, then you too can have a discount code of DLACBF4J. But you won’t get any of the joy of meeting up with education team, as we’ll all be tucked up back in the UK again)

  • FE blog

    Promoting Innovation through Virtual Learning

    • 2 Comments

    Whoops – the title might have set your expectations too high!

    I was chuffed to bits to be invited back to Wales yesterday, to present the keynote at the “Promoting Innovation through Virtual Learning” conference. It’s the third time in the last year that I’ve been to South Wales, and each time I seem to be drawn further up the valleys – this time to Merthyr Tydfil, almost at the foot of the Brecon Beacons.

    A number of people asked me for the presentation, so here it is for download, as a PowerPoint file

    I used a couple of videos during the presentation, so have put the URLs on the slides for them.

    There were moments during the conference when I felt like a bit of a sore thumb – not because I was English -because there was a lot of references to free or open-source software.

    One presenter kept referring to the fact that “FE doesn’t have much money”, and that was why they tried to base their ICT strategy on free software. Not sure if I agree with the logic of that – if you need something because is critical to success, do you only choose it if it’s free? Or do you evaluate what will give the best value (which may be free software, or it may be software you pay for) – especially when almost every research project into TCO (Total Cost of Ownership) shows that most of the cost of ICT is related to training for, running and supporting systems – not buying them in the first place.

    If you were running an FE college, and you were on a tight budget (no huge leap of imagination required!), what would you do about teaching staff? Take whoever is willing to work for free or hire the best you can afford?

    Is the fact that some colleges put “Is it free?” at the top of their criteria for choosing software an indicator that they aren’t yet thinking of ICT as a strategic contributor to learning, and to the objectives of the college?

    And while we’re on the subject :-)

    Average spend on ICT per FTE student (2006/7)

    Schools £58 - source: BESA

    FE colleges £265 - source: interpretation of FERL/Becta data

    Universities £300 - source: interpretation of UCISA data

    So is FE under-funded for ICT?

  • FE blog

    Saving money on software at Christmas

    • 2 Comments

    Santa Claus is coming – and this year he’s going to have to cope with the credit crunch! There will still be loads of PCs bought this Christmas, and given the offers by retailers at the moment, there will be some great deals around.

    It might be a good time to remind your students & staff that they can buy Office 2007 Ultimate Edition at the bargain price of £38.95, through the Ultimate Steal offer. Not only will they get the top-end version (rather than the smaller Home & Student Edition), but they’ll pay less than the normal retail version.

    Of course, there’s some limits on who can buy:

    • They must have an email address than ends in “.ac.uk” to register & buy
    • FE Students must have 15 hours of scheduled contact time on their course
    • Staff must be employed for more than 8 hours per week (or 4, if teaching)

    Find out more at http://www.theultimatesteal.co.uk/?cid=ukedu

    There are some downloadable banners and promotional materials available here

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