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February, 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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February, 2008

  • The UK Higher Education Blog

    Moodle on Windows Server 2008?


    I'm over in the US this week, with a number of our educational IT partners, and have heard about some of the things happening here that may be of interest to UK universities. One of them, {Open Source} Heroes Happen Here, is for those who are using or developing Open Source applications which also link to Microsoft technology. And there's a free offer to American customers that you can also sign up for.

    I immediately thought about Moodle users, who are often running it on top of a Microsoft platform - either Windows Server or SQL Server. With new versions of both due this year, then you might want to start evaluating how the new features in Windows Server 2008 can enhance your system. This is also interesting to all of the universities running Moodle on SharePoint.

    In the US, there's an offer for a free 'Hero Hack Pack' - it's only being promoted over here in the US, but the web site will accept requests from the UK, so sign up quick while you still can, and get your own copy.

    You sign up on this webpage - and they'll send you a pack with a free evaluation copy of Windows Server 2008 and Visual Studio 2008, along with a 'Getting Started' guide on integration between open source and Microsoft technologies.

    Go to and click the 'Order the Hero Hack Pack' button in the middle of the page.

    ps In US parlance, the web site celebrates individuals who are doing amazing work with open source and Microsoft technology - like Steve Bjorg of California ('tis he, on the right) who, the site tells us "warmly embraces the term recreational programming".
  • The UK Higher Education Blog

    Another use for SharePoint - engaging students


    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 probably already licensed for SharePoint, and in most cases, using it, so here's a way to use it to help your campus processes

    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?

  • The UK Higher Education Blog

    SkyDrive - 5GB of free storage


    I like SkyDrive. Before it was invented, I used to have to load any files I wanted to share onto an FTP site somewhere, and then write clunky links to them. Now, I just drag my files onto my SkyDrive, and then provide a nice graphical link to them, like this:

    But up until now, it's been called Windows Live SkyDrive Beta. I've just received an email telling me that it's been officially released, and the size has been increased to 5GB of free storage!

    Anybody can get a SkyDrive, as it's free - just sign up for it using your Windows Live/Passport ID, and you too can have 5GB of file storage online, with file storage areas for private, shared and public files. Gone are the days of moving files between home and work with a USB drive (which inevitably got lost somewhere between the two places).


    Imagine - all of your students currently carrying their data around on a USB memory stick (and busily plugging them into USB ports all around your campus), could be using this. What would it cost you to give every one of your students 5GB of Internet-accessible storage on your network?

    We include SkyDrive in our Live @ Edu service, which means that you could automatically provide accounts to all of your students, linked to their university email address.

    More info on SkyDrive


  • The UK Higher Education Blog

    The Centre for Excellence in Learning and Teaching


    I had a down trip to Wales today (from rural Oxfordshire), visiting the Centre for Excellence in Learning and Teaching (CELT), part of the University of Glamorgan. I was invited to talk with the Blended Learning course, following a presentation I gave to the ESIS group last year in Cardiff. It's always flattering when somebody who's seen you talk provides a further invitation - and often tricky to fit into the diary. But, with six months notice, we found mutually agreeable dates, and I found myself standing in front of 40 academic staff from universities across south Wales, talking on the subject of "Transformed Education".

    At this point, you might wonder why I might be doing this. After all, what right have I (we) got to tell others what Transformed Education looks like? And me especially, as I never made it through to the august institutions of higher learning. But the theme of 'transformed education' isn't about me telling others the way it is going to be, but instead it's a story about how the world of learning is being changed by new technologies, new student skills and attitudes, and new approaches to institutional structure, and what the implications of all of these things could be.

    If you want to see what we covered, the presentation files are all available:

    Presentation Download File Notes
    Shift Happens
    - the UK version
    More info available here
    Transformed Education
    - CELT version
    - the movie
    Try it yourself on the Popfly website
    BSF Showcase
    - the trailer
    More info, and longer videos available here

    One of the questions at the end was (and if I summarise this badly, I'm sure the person who asked the original question will correct me!):


    If the students are relying more heavily on ICT to support their learning, and using ICT much more to find information, will it lead to a shallower level of learning and understanding? Won't it mean the end of "deep learning?Endquotes

    Which stimulated an interesting debate about whether the issue was that the students needed to learn differently, or whether they needed a deeper skill set to be able to learn in a new way. I think I learnt from the debate that there is a wide gap between the assumed skills of "digital natives" and the actual skills. They may be able to use all of the new web-world technologies at a surface level, but do they have the skills to be able to use them at the deeper level that will enhance their knowledge (eg do we all know how to properly search the web).

    I also learnt that some of my learning is shallow - most of the time I don't go to page two of a search engine, but instead redefine my search. This was the same for half of the room - but what are we missing by not looking beyond that first page?

  • The UK Higher Education Blog

    Live meeting next week - Collaborative Campus


    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

    DreamSpark - Free software for your students



    I guess this will be pretty big news on the Internet. And if I've timed this right - and you're reading this just after I've blogged it - then you're one of the first to find out.


    We have launched a programme called "Microsoft DreamSpark", which allows university and college students to download a range of free development and design software resources to help them in their studies. The suites available include Visual Studio (described as "the Swiss Army knife of computer programming"), which is the kind of toolset which can help you programme everything from a computer, to a mobile phone, or a web page. It also includes the major applications in the Expression design suite - including Expression Web, Expression Blend, Expression Design & Expression Media. And for development work, there's also SQL Server & Windows Server.

    From today, these are available to more than 6.5 million FE & HE students. Last year's survey co-sponsored with Intellect, the British Computer Society, and The City University, London demonstrated that the "Knowledge Economy" (is that a Microsoft-ism?) is the fastest growing part of the UK economy, and there's a real need to ensure that students have the chance to get the technical skills they may need to operate within it.

    Whilst it's easy to think that this will only be of interest to technical students, there's plenty of other areas affected - things like design, where digital design is one of the fastest growing areas; and the ability to manipulate and analyse masses of data seems to spread across most subjects.

    Students don't need to get additional validation or accreditation from their university or college to do this download - they can download as long as they have an Athens ID (that's pretty standard for all university students and most college students) or an ISIC card. For more info on the verification of UK students, take a look at Ed Dunhill's blog.

    There's more about this on Channel 8, and you can also read the press releases on PressPass

    At the moment, this is available in 10 countries, including the UK.

  • The UK Higher Education Blog

    University, it's all about getting a better job isn't it?


    I know this is a common discussion in Higher Education but I'm not wanting to start a philosophical debate on the purpose of Higher Education.  However, let's not forget that many, if not all, universities publish the percentage of graduates who get a job within a few months.  After all, for many/most/(all) students it really is about improving their career prospects and this is something that we at Microsoft certainly recognise through our own intern and graduate recruitment.

    One of the companies Microsoft acquired, UK based Rare, has a series of free lectures which are aimed at giving greater insight to students about life in a gaming company.  Unsurprisingly, 9 out of 10 hires made at Rare are graduates and Rare has been working with Microsoft's UK Academic team to help gaming students get a better understanding of creativity, characterisation, productivity and more useful subjects to help those preparing to make a career in this industry.

    To find out more, I'm taking you first on a tour to the UK Academic team and in their safe hands you can learn more about some of the activities Microsoft is involved with to help students get more out of their time at university.

    UK Academic Team Blog : Why Rare recruits games graduates

  • The UK Higher Education Blog

    Live Meeting: System Center 2007 - Making IT management easier


    I know it's half-term/study/reading week next week for most of us, but just in case you’re thinking of catching up on some of the things you don't get round to in term time, this Live Meeting could show you a way to change that. (It’s bliss isn’t it, when the corridors go quiet?)

    Happening at the usual time of 3.30pm on Thursday 21st February, this session will reveal how System Center 2007 can make IT management a whole lot easier. Something I'm sure you'll agree is a must, with all schools facing increasingly dynamic IT infrastructures under pressure from recent government policies to transform education through the use of ICT.

    So, how can you ensure that your school is making the best use of the technologies and functionality available while also making the day-to-day management of the infrastructure easier?

    By using System Center 2007 you can simplify the management of the systems and applications your school is already running, and also capture and share knowledge and best practice to help your IT staff decrease downtime. This can lead to enhanced service delivery, which in turn can help to reduce costs and increase your teachers’ confidence in using ICT within the classroom.

    This Live Meeting will cover what’s new in System Center 2007, including System Center Configuration Manager and System Center Operations Manager, and show you how it can help to make your IT management a much simpler and effective process.

    Steven Audis, Education Technology Adviser, will be presenting once again, so register now and then all you need to do at 3.30pm on Thursday 21st February is logon to view and listen to the meeting online.

  • The UK Higher Education Blog

    Salford Software and Live @ Edu


    Salford Software is hosting an event on 2nd April at the Microsoft offices in Reading to explore Microsoft Live @ edu (one of the services that's part of Collaborative Campus)

    The agenda presents an information packed half-day, offering you the opportunity to hear more about Microsoft Live @ edu, and learn from the experiencesof a Salford customer who've implemented the service. Join us and find out what challenges they were facing, why the solution was implemented and how it is helping to enhance the student’s learning environment.  Colleagues from Salford Software and Microsoft will be discussing Collaborative Campus and the associated services, including implementation and requirements.

    The Microsoft Live @ edu service is part of Collaborative Campus, promoting and supporting the exchange of knowledge, learning and ideas between students and staff by using Collaborative workspaces, blogs and email to create an enhanced user experience.

    We'll be running two sessions, one during the morning and another after lunch.  Places are free but limited and allocated on a first come first serve basis.  Book your place on the Salford website.

  • The UK Higher Education Blog

    Accessible Technology - A guide for education


    We have recently published a worldwide guide which provides information about accessibility and accessible technology resources, to help teachers ensure that all students have equal access to learning with technology.

    For teachers new to accessibility and working with students with disabilities, accessibility can seem overwhelming. To help teach students with all types of abilities, this guide includes information about accessibility and how to successfully and more simply bring it into the classroom.

    This guide provides
    • An understanding of accessibility and how it impacts the classroom
    • Definitions of impairment types and technology solutions for each type of impairment
    • Guidance on choosing accessible technology solutions
    • Resources for more information

     Download the guide directly

    For more resources, take a look at the accessibility tutorials on our main web site.

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