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January, 2008 - The UK Higher Education Blog - Site Home - MSDN Blogs
The HE Blog
News and views from the Microsoft UK Education Team
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January, 2008

  • The UK Higher Education Blog

    Preview - Mac Office 2008

    • 9 Comments

    Around a year ago, Microsoft issued a press release announcing its intent to deliver Office 2008 for Mac.  Well, it seems that Microsoft is now even closer and there is a preview article on Computerworld with quotations from the Microsoft Mac Business Unit here.

    For a more detailed overview of what's under the bonnet on Mac Office 2008 then please visit this site.  It has some great graphics of the new release plus access to the Mactopia newsletter.

    The official release for Mac Office 2008 will be at Macworld where you can join Microsoft if you're lucky enough to be over there.

    I know of one University that has been on the beta for Mac Office 2008 and is ready to start installing the final release once they're able to get hold of it.  IMHO one of the main features of this new release is that it is all about re-connecting users with the power of Office.  As well as this, there are some significant updates to the components in the suite which should impress.

    I'm not a Mac user but I look forward to having a tour of Mac Office 2008 with friends and getting their opinion of the new version.

  • The UK Higher Education Blog

    Ultimate Steal Update - PayPal

    • 5 Comments
    ShoppingTrolley

    There are some new changes to the the Ultimate Steal website (Office 2007 Ultimate for students, for £38.95, only available online). One of the most significant is that we now accept PayPal (and since we switched that on, it appears to be a popular method).

    When students buy their new laptops, before they arrive at university, they normally do it with Dad's credit card (in what one parent described to me as "the last big present" - they wish!). Once they reach uni, they are then on their own. We see that pattern too - we got a little peak of credit card orders when students went home for Christmas ("the last little present"?), but now they are back, and making their loan cheques last, it appears that PayPal is more popular.

    Another reason to tell your students about the Ultimate Steal

  • The UK Higher Education Blog

    Engaging a student community via the web

    • 1 Comments

    Sounds easy but what's it like in your university?  Students have so many web sites to visit  both in and out of the university so how can you engage them in your university where you really need their support.  One example I have seen is where Coventry University wanted to streamline its student voting system from a traditional paper-based system using web technology.  Coventry had two distinct business needs:

    1. Streamline the student voting system
    2. Engage students in and online collaborative community

    Coventry University When two business needs are presented like that and you know even a fraction of Microsoft's portfolio you can guess what the answer is going to be.  SharePoint.

    During the summer of 2007, when it was raining everywhere, Peter Yeadon (Coventry's director of the Customer Relationship Management and Portal Development Programme) started work with Artemis.  The timescale was really quite tight but working together Coventry and Artemis have delivered a solution that met all expectations.  When I say tight, I'm talking 3 weeks.

    With the delivery of the solution Coventry has the immediate benefits of:

    • Elections are now much simpler to administrate
    • More accessible to all students, including those on international placements
    • Savings of around £1,000 per election
    • Guaranteed 100% election accuracy

    I'm really pleased with this solution, it shows how a university with a clear business need can work with a partner to deliver something which has clearly realisable benefits and helps to engage students on their terms.

    I've put the case study on my SkyDrive below.

  • The UK Higher Education Blog

    Is your data at risk?

    • 1 Comments

    2008 hasn't really started any better than 2007 finished - a laptop is stolen from the boot of a car, containing 600,000 personal data records - heaping data disaster upon data disaster. Reality says that laptops will be stolen, even when we think they are secure. I've had a laptop stolen from a hotel room, as have many friends and colleagues, and I know of friends and colleagues who've had laptops stolen from cars, or worse*

    While it's wise to do everything to avoid theft (I always use a Kensington lock on my laptop in hotels now), the other important step is to minimise the impact of the loss. According to the BBC news report "Teachers put pupil data at risk", which was prompted by research by RM, teachers in nearly half of England's primary schools back up pupil data on CDs and memory sticks, which they then take out of school. The survey of 933 schools found only 1% of respondents were encrypting the data. And I'm pretty sure that you'll have the same - is there a member of the management team in your university who takes home a complete copy of your student database each night on their laptop?

    So what can you do to avoid becoming the next headline?

    The information that I wrote last October on data security is still accurate today, and contains an action plan, but here's a very quick reminder of two ends of the scale:

    • It should be absolutely non-negotiable that anybody using a laptop for work (and which probably have some personal data on it) should always have to type in a password at logon. Do all of your university laptops conform? Do all laptops used by staff in the university conform, even if they are not owned by you? Has anybody 'tweaked' the system to avoid having to type their password in every time. I know it's a pain (I will admit that I used TweakUI to automatically log on to my home PC, but changed that a couple of years ago when I realised what would happen if my computer was stolen) but it's an important basic step.
    • At the other end of the scale, if you have staff taking home personal data which it would embarrass you to lose, then use encryption of one kind of another.

      imageIf it's a spreadsheet or document file, encrypt the file. (Under the "Prepare - Document for Distribution" menu in Office 2007") 

      If it's a complex database, or series of data files, then you should consider encrypting the whole file storage system, stopping people from easily accessing the data. Windows Vista Enterprise Edition (which is the version you normally licence in education) has BitLocker built in, which allows you to ensure that all files are encrypted (without it becoming a hassle for your users - see Russell's video).

    This is potentially quite a boring subject, but the alternative to doing nothing is that you go through quite an 'exciting' time, like HMRC.

    We've been through it ourselves - to read our Trustworthy Computing web site for more about our security journey.

    * Worse: One friend took his laptop into a supermarket (to avoid leaving it in his boot) and had it stolen from his trolley. Or so he thought. When the security staff at the supermarket watched the CCTV tapes, to help him find the thief, it appeared he'd walked in with an empty trolley. So where was the laptop? On the roof of his car...  
    Before you laugh to hard, I bet you've heard of people leaving phones on the roof of their car, and driving off...

  • The UK Higher Education Blog

    Windows Server 2008 - Launch Invitation

    • 0 Comments

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    The launch team have just released the link to be able to sign up for the Windows Server 2008 launch event (actually, it's also the Visual Studio 2008 and SQL Server 2008 launch too). This is going to be held on the 19th March, at the ICC in Birmingham. The event is going to feature both Microsoft and external speakers - and I've heard that plans are afoot to have a university on the launch stage!

    Register now – places are extremely limited

    URL: http://www.microsoft.com/uk/heroeshappenhere/events.mspx

    There are two agendas - one for "IT Professionals" and the other for developers, so choose carefully! (Otherwise, like me at IT Forum, you could end up in the wrong room, with somebody using more unintelligible acronyms than your ears can cope with)

    There will be breakout sessions, hands-on labs ready for you to work directly with the products, an Expo area where you’ll be able to see the latest trends in hardware, application development and systems integration, and Ask the Experts where our technical teams will be on hand to answer all your questions.

  • The UK Higher Education Blog

    Partners in Learning programme relaunched

    • 0 Comments

    Although this information is predominantly about work we are doing with schools, I thought that it is worth publishing on the HE blog, as many universities have links to teacher training and are actively engaged with schools and their development programmes.

    For the last 5 years we have been running a programme, called Partners in Learning, to extend and expand the development of learning, and especially the ways that ICT can support learning in schools. Globally this programme has invested £125 million into projects run in partnership with governments, and government education agencies. In the UK, we have invested £3m, and have been working in partnership with organisations such as the Training Development Agency for Schools (TDA), Futurelab, Childnet and Becta.

    As these first projects head towards their conclusion, the next stage of Partners in Learning was announced by Bill Gates at the European Government Leader's Forum last week. This is a further investment of £120m over the next 5 years, and over the next few months we'll be developing the UK programme plan, again in partnership with government and education agencies.


    The next five years

    There are three streams for the PiL programme going forward:

    • Innovative Schools, which is a programme to help schools to move beyond the limits of the classroom and traditional learning models. The Innovative Schools programme assists 12 schools worldwide by providing intellectual property, technology expertise, experiential knowledge, and the support of the Microsoft community. We work with them to inspire big thinking and discover best practices. Through our shared experiences and goals, we are creating models that any school, any system, can use in the future, to prepare children for success in the 21st century. The Innovative Schools worldwide include Bowring Community Sports College in Knowsley.
      There's plenty of information on the Innovative Schools programme on our global education website, and a short video on Bowring's involvement with Innovative Schools.

    • Innovative Teachers, which enables teachers to connect across the UK, or globally, through the Innovative Teachers Forums and Innovative Teachers Network. It gives you the opportunity to network within a global community interested in education focused on 21st century learning, and be recognised for your efforts to prepare students to become productive 21st century citizens.
      The Innovative Teachers programme is described on our global education website, or you can hop straight over to register for the Innovative Teachers Network.

    • And finally, Innovative Students, which is a programme specifically designed to support government purchasing of PCs for students. Microsoft has developed the Microsoft Student Innovation Suite for governments seeking to improve students' access to PCs and transform education, and offers reduced price software directly to governments where they are providing access to PCs for underprivileged households.
      You can read more about this programme here.

    And the last 5 years?

    Since 2003, the Microsoft Partners in Learning programme in the UK, has reached over 2.4 million students, as well as providing training materials and resources to around 134,000 teachers, in the UK alone. This amounts to a UK investment of £3 million to date. Through working in partnership with organisations such as the Training Development Agency for Schools (TDA), Futurelab, Childnet and Becta, the focus in the UK has been on building teacher confidence to integrate technology into the learning environment, as well as providing training that has helped foster the innovative use of technology in schools.

    As Steve Beswick, Director of Education for Microsoft UK, explains

    “Technology underpins the key developments and policy directives that will affect UK education over the next five years. Whether it’s providing the kind of world-class education outlined in the Children’s Plan or ensuring that young people leave education with the skills that equip them for life and work in the world today, ICT is playing an increasing role in the learning environment.

    “Microsoft realises that technology alone is not sufficient for true education reform. We need to ensure that teachers and students are confident in using ICT if they are to reap the full benefits. It’s also about inspiring schools to think more creatively about how technology can make learning more exciting and relevant for the 21st Century”

    Partners in Learning initiatives in the UK have included:

    • The Gateway Project – a ‘virtual’ school environment created to allow schools in England, France and Spain to work collaboratively on a shared curriculum. Developed in partnership with the TDA to support the teaching of modern foreign languages (MFL) in primary schools. The programme also helps support teachers’ continued professional development (CPD) around technology integration into teaching.

    • Enquiring Minds – a £1 million joint research and development programme led by Futurelab aimed at developing ways in which schools can develop curriculum and learning methods appropriate for the needs of young people in 21st Century. The programme aims to place students at the centre of their own education, encouraging more personalised and enquiry-based learning, in line with recommendations made in the Gilbert Review of teaching. Browse the Enquiring Minds website for more information on the programme, and find out how you can get involved.

    • Know IT All – resources for trainee and practicing teachers, developed in conjunction with Childnet, the TDA and Becta, to support educators in dealing with e-safety issues in the school environment. The initiative helps teachers to better support and educate children around a wide range of e-safety issues in line with the Government’s ‘Every Child Matters’ programme. Take a look at the resources available on the Know IT All website, which also includes resources for parents.

    Stephen Sayers, Director of Operations and Planning at Futurelab, a not-for-profit organisation dedicated to innovation in education, comments: "Microsoft Partners in Learning has been of vital importance in supporting the Enquiring Minds programme of research. Without their resources and support, it would not have been possible to bring the outcomes of this ground-breaking research to such a wide audience of teachers.”

    Tim Tarrant, Head of ICT at the TDA, adds: "Since 2005, Partners in Learning has provided the TDA with new opportunities to have a positive impact on schools in the UK and abroad. Microsoft's support for our jointly funded projects has been a great asset, as has the ICT expertise it has also enabled us to access."

  • The UK Higher Education Blog

    Live meeting - Collaborative Campus

    • 0 Comments

    My colleague Matt sends details of a Live Meeting event he's hosting online next month:

    Microsoft Collaborative Campus Presentation

    On Tuesday 26th February at 9.30am we will be running a Live Meeting presentation to discuss the Microsoft Collaborative Campus as a way to connect students in a way that provides access to a vast breadth of online services such as mail, file storage and social networking capability.  The presentation will be relevant to technical decision makers who are currently responsible for providing these sorts of services to students, and to business decision makers who are interested in understanding how technology can underpin these scenarios for students and staff.  To request details for the meeting, and a URL to join the presentation, please email Ceri Morriss in our HE team.

  • The UK Higher Education Blog

    Microsoft's Dynamics CRM 4.0 launch

    • 0 Comments

    I've noticed how the use of CRM (Customer Relationship Management) systems have been growing rapidly in education. I have traditionally thought about "students" rather than "customers", but student expectations have been rising so rapidly, since the introduction of tuition fees, that there is a growing need to manage the customer relationship with potential and current students. Sophisticated customer management techniques are vital to support the continuing development of your business revenues. And effectively managing potential students who are already in touch with you is less expensive than going looking for new ones.

    The Microsoft Dynamics CRM system version 4, is being launched on 31st January, at our main offices in Reading, with a follow up launch at The Royal College of Surgeons in Edinburgh on 26th February. The event will give you a chance to see how the CRM system is developing, and an opportunity to hear a customer talking about how it is being used within their business. (I notice the General Manager for Dynamics CRM worldwide will be there, so a chance to ask some deep questions about our strategy too!).

    Use these links to find out more about the event, and register to attend, in London on 31st January or Edinburgh on 26th February.

    A customer case study within education

    You may also be interested in reading about how one of our customers is using Microsoft Dynamics CRM. The case study is just over a year old, and examines the issues that the DfES wanted to tackle when they implemented a pilot CRM system in their Corporate Services and Development Directorate. You can read more about it on our worldwide Case Studies website

  • The UK Higher Education Blog

    Heroes Happen Here - Windows Server 2008

    • 0 Comments

    We've been talking about it for quite some time - and the beta and trial versions of the new 2008 products have been floating around on the web. The official launch event for all of the products - Windows Server 2008, Visual Studio 2008 and SQL Server 2008 - is happening on March 19th, and will be followed by a series of technical roadshows around the country.

    In WIndows Server 2008 there are new web tools, virtualisation technologies, security enhancements and management utilities to help save time, reduce costs and provide a solid foundation for your IT infrastructure. If you'd like to find out more - or download a trial of the products - to help with your ICT planning going forward, then click across to our Heroes Happen Here website, which has all of the latest information, downloads and links to more detailed product information.

  • The UK Higher Education Blog

    IE7 update coming your way - automatically...

    • 0 Comments

    This isn't specific to education, and I'm sure that if you need to know things like this, you'll automatically be registered to our update and security blogs, but for the network managers out there, here's a quick note:

    Windows Update will automatically deploy Internet Explorer 7 next month, if you are using Windows Server Update Services (WSUS). If you don't want it to, then read more here.

    If you're not a network manager, or you are using Windows Vista, or you don't know what WSUS is, then ignore this - it isn't going to affect you...

    Although this is the kind of generic technical stuff I try to leave off this blog, because I'd rather be talking about education, I am aware that sometimes holidays\play havoc with your information timescales. This update will come out in half-term for most schools, and I know that's when a lot of staff in education take holidays, so you may need to get things sorted before then.

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