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September, 2011 - 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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September, 2011

  • The UK Higher Education Blog

    Re-building infrastructures, skills and lives with Microsoft Certified Trainers- the Haiti story


    Part of the reason I enjoy my role here so much in the Education team at Microsoft is the opportunity I have to see how educators around the UK can use our solutions and technologies to help others find their own potential and build skills to help make for a better and improved way of life.

    Andrew Bettany, IT Academy Manager at York University has literally done just that.

    When an earthquake hit Haiti in the Caribbean of January 2010, over 200,000 people lost their lives. Since then, the Haitian people have been trying to rebuild their lives as best possible with very little resources and money. Many of the skilled workers were those who lost their lives meaning aid workers found it difficult to find skilled people to call upon to help rebuild the infrastructure of the island.

    Shortly after the earthquake Microsoft and NetHope established links to the island and conducted a IT Skills boot camp for 39 young people, which then led to a six month internship with relief aid agencies which were quickly mobilized to the country.

    Andrew remembered a presentation by Ken Rosen of Microsoft Learning about NetHope, a non-profit organization partnered with Microsoft who uses IT to assist in relief efforts around the world. At the MCT Summit in Zurich a few years ago, Ken spoke to the audience of 450 IT Trainers about the issues that the aid workers across the world were facing and asked for any volunteers to go out and help rebuild the technology skills infrastructure.andrew bettany v 2

    So, after reading about the success of the initial wave of IT Training in Haiti, Andrew, a Microsoft Certified Trainer (MCT) for 5 years, volunteered to go out to Haiti and train IT Professionals and Developers from local colleges to become Microsoft Certified Trainers.

    He suggested an additional program which would train the Haitians to become MCT’s themselves - ‘’Train the Trainer’’ - a fantastic idea that would mean Haitian residents could once again become self-sufficient and in turn enable them to take control of their own destiny and train others directly; thus providing a local skill base of IT professionals in Haiti.

    Before Andrew travelled out to Haiti, he set up a plan and agenda to implement the training in a week long ‘boot camp’’, which included a packed out week of training, exams and presentations, testing all round skills of the students.

    Together NetHope, Microsoft and Andrew narrowed the 35 online applications to just 13 whom demonstrated the necessary desire, experience, ambition and learner focused mind-set to attend the week’s training in IT and delivery skills hosted and supported in a community college (Ecole Supérieure d’Infotronique d’Haiti (ESIH), based in Port-au-Prince, the Haiti capital.

    Over the course of the week, the student’s boundaries of learning were indeed stretched. Many were shy and didn’t like to initially ask for help when unsure, and could take up to an hour to complete a task that many of us could complete in a couple of minutes. Andrew had the job of teaching everything from technique and how to apply skills learnt as well as the actual MCT program. The days were long and hard in a room with very little air-conditioning and basic amenities, but incredibly rewarding.

    However over the days, more and more shone through and soon were able to stand up in front of the class and deliver a short 15 minute presentation, such as Windows 7 Firewall, overview of DNS or DHCP, giving good examples of using the skills needed to become an MCT.

    All 13 participants succeeded at the "Train the Trainer" part of the boot camp, and of the 13 students taking the Microsoft Certification Professional (MCP) exams, 5 passed first time and could apply for MCT status, more than doubling the number of MCTs already on the island, with those who didn’t pass, being able to retake over the coming months.

    Microsoft and NetHope will be working together again at the NetHope IT Academy Internship Program at the end of September, an event where the newly minted MCT’s will have the opportunity to present modules in front of 30 recent graduates which aims to help them secure IT work experience with aid agencies to rebuild not only the infrastructure using IT but also help those displaced after the earthquake.

    It’s just over 18 months since the earthquake hit Haiti, many people are still without homes, choosing instead to live in communities built up of tents. Maybe this is down to being frightened that if hit again, they would lose what they had. Hopefully with the help given between Microsoft and NetHope as well as individuals like Andrew, Haiti can slowly begin to re-establish itself. This will not be easy and certainly will not happen overnight, however giving people the confidence and more importantly the ability to use IT to grow and rebuild can only mean they are on their way up.

    Haiti 124

    Andrew with his class of students

    You can read more about this ''Boot Camp'' and read all about the NetHope IT Academy Internship Program via Born To Learn website.

  • The UK Higher Education Blog

    Adding Quizzes to SharePoint makes a viable learning platform


    Guest blogger John Kleeman, Chairman of Questionmark, describes how quizzes can be embedded in SharePoint and how SharePoint is coming of age as a learning platform.

    I’m hearing a lot of interest in SharePoint as a learning platform in Higher Education. You may have seen the University of Northumberland survey suggesting that 75% of UK Higher Education uses SharePoint (though often not for learning). With SharePoint 2010 providing an attractive user interface, and with various concerns around more closed learning platforms like Blackboard and Moodle, I’ve spoken to several universities and colleges that are seriously looking at SharePoint as a student-facing learning platform.

    One of SharePoint’s strengths is that it’s easy to embed other software in it. You can either integrate programs with SharePoint APIs or else present other programs in a mash-up (using iframe technology). This makes it very easy to include formative assessments within SharePoint as a web part – for instance one university makes learning pages in SharePoint with a video at the top of the page and a quiz at the bottom.

    Why bother with a quiz? Psychology research shows that if you study something and then answer questions on it, you are much more likely to retain it for the future than if you simply study the material. The act of answering questions gives you retrieval practice that reinforces the memory in your brain and makes it more likely that you can retrieve the information in future.

    The diagram below is redrawn from a cognitive psychology research paper, The critical role of retrieval practice in long-term retention, by Roediger & Butler, published in Trends in Cognitive Sciences in 2011 (see here for an online copy).


    As you can see, students in this experiment who only studied the material scored an average of 11% when tested a week later, but students who studied and took a quiz got an average of 33% to 54% in the test, with higher scores for those who saw feedback on the quiz. Cognitive psychology research gives strong evidence that quizzes and retrieval practice aid retention of learning.

    You can embed quizzes in all learning platforms, but SharePoint makes it particularly easy to include them within a page. This capability adds to SharePoint’s many other strengths, making it very interesting as a learning platform in higher education.

    Additional information and advice on SharePoint and assessments can be found at John’s blog at

  • The UK Higher Education Blog

    IT Academy Summit Announced


    After an eventful summer, which saw events such as 15 year old Rebecca Rickwood from the UK pulling off a significant shock at the 2011 Worldwide Competition on Microsoft Office by being crowned 'World Champion in Microsoft Excel', Microsoft's IT Academy programme continues on its quest to add value for both students and academies across the sector.

    The achievements seen by the likes of Rebecca could only be made possible by hours of hard work from students and the support and facilities of the IT Academy, itself.


    To help equip IT Academies, both existing and prospective, with the information they need to continue developing the Rebecca Richwood's of the future we are hosting another of our popular IT Academy Summit's.

    Hosted at Microsoft's UK Headquarters at Thames Valley Park Campus on Wednesday 19th October from 9am, the IT Academy Summit brings together speakers from Microsoft, industry and the academic community to cover a full range of topics to help those involved get the most from their IT Academy memberships.

    With keynotes from Karen Price (CEO at E-Skills) and Stephen Uden (Head of Skills and Economic Affairs at Microsoft UK) the sessions and discussions will include;

    • How will the shift towards Cloud technologies change the skills that the IT Industry will demand?
    • Updates on new IT Academy benefits including free certification vouchers
    • Discover new technology releases and how they can help you, including Windows Phone and Kinect

    Additionally, there will also be opportunities for networking with other academies, Microsoft employees and our education partners.

    Spaces for the Summit are limited. If you would like to attend or learn more about the event itself, please do not hesitate to contact Marc Barfoot at for more information.

  • The UK Higher Education Blog

    SharePoint Best Bred for Education?


    Post originally featured on the SharePoint and Assessment Blog from Questionmark.

    Thought leader interview with Ray Fleming of Microsoft Australia about SharePoint’s place and future in Education.

    Ray Fleming (Microsoft)Ray, what do you do at Microsoft?

    I’ve worked in education IT for 25 years, and for the last 5 years, I’ve been with Microsoft. I used to be Education Marketing Manager in Microsoft in the UK, but 6 months ago I moved to Australia where I’m working at Microsoft on new strategic opportunities with our partners.

    Where do you see SharePoint being used in Education?

    It’s very widely used in schools, colleges and universities right around the world, because it brings many web services together into one place – and because learning is all about making connections and collaboration, SharePoint has been widely adopted to help that. In the UK, over 80% of universities are using SharePoint. Some of them use it as a strategic platform, connected to their collaboration systems and they use it as their main portal. Others are starting by using it as a tactical project, almost like using a shared drive, they just happen to use SharePoint instead. There is a similar pattern here in Australia – most universities are using SharePoint, most of the State funded schools are using SharePoint but there’s a huge variety – some see it as a strategic platform, others as just one more service they provide.

    What good practice advice would you give people about using SharePoint in Education?

    Here are three really important things I’ve come across in the last 5-6 years:

    1. Start with a particular project in mind. Don’t start with “We’re going to put a SharePoint up” and take the attitude of “build it and they will come”. Because an empty SharePoint is an empty SharePoint – in the same way that an empty piece of paper is! You need to have a use case in mind and build for that use case, because that gets people to use it – and then start thinking of other things. So as an IT manager, if you deliver a project to manage the workflow around your new policy document, that’s great – for example 5 people are going to review a document and then we’re going to check it in and it will go live. Someone will then ask during the process, can we also use it to create lesson plans or our curriculum for next year? That’s great because then you’ve got users hooked on wanting to solve a problem and you can then use SharePoint to solve it. Be very focused about the use case, rather than starting with the platform.
    2. The second thing I’d say is to think about the design. SharePoint can look amazingly different depending on who gets their hands on it. It’s still very important to users that it looks good, and it’s got to be high up the priority list. There are some amazing SharePoint sites, see my list of top 10 Australian education websites built on SharePoint (see for instance the Gordon Institute below).
    3. Gordon Institute of TAFE The one that I refer to more often than not is Twynham School Sixth Form College in the UK, which has got some amazing graphics and interactivity. A College like this recruits from a number of different schools in their area, competing against other colleges. And the reason I know it’s good is that my daughter who was 14 at the time, the minute she looked at the site, said that’s the school I want to go to. And that’s the job it should be doing!
    4. The third tip is about user education. SharePoint isn’t the kind of system that you’re going to get value from just by building it and letting people use it, Giving enough training to let people understand the true potential is important. I found that myself, I almost stumbled upon the wiki functionality and out of the back of it built a fantastic knowledge base. But if I hadn’t come across the feature, who would have sat down and told me I could achieve this? Often with SharePoint there is more than one way to “skin a cat”, and training can help you with the best way. User adoption training is critical, not just at the point you introduce it but on-going.

    What is your advice to people advocating SharePoint within their institution? How do you make the case for SharePoint?

    Ultimately that conversation comes down to the breadth and depth of what you can do in SharePoint. What tends to happen in a web 2.0 world is that a particular teacher will say “I want to do this, so I’m going to put students in a web app in order to do function X”. Then they want to do a learning exercise and that’s a different web app. What you very quickly get is a snowball of different websites being used for different things.

    When you look at the underlying functions, you often find that functionality does exist in SharePoint. And the benefit of doing it in SharePoint is that it sits in your existing IT infrastructure; your users are all there, your security is all set up. If a member of staff leaves the school, they automatically leave all of the systems, but if you’re doing things on different websites that isn’t going to happen. So not only do you have all the capabilities of wikis and blogging and assessments and workflow and document storage – but you also have corporate security that means it matches up to your system and your duty of care to students.

    The key to help Education understand SharePoint is to take it from that very generic “yes it can do lots of things” down to specific scenarios like: “you need your students to work together on a project and they need to be able to communicate, store files and work on files collaboratively; here is how to do this in SharePoint.”

    So not “with SharePoint, you can create lists and flow diagrams” but “you can get students to go through a particular test and record their answers”. Being able to discuss a scenario makes SharePoint more real.

    How do you see the application of SharePoint to deliver and report on tests, quizzes and exams?

    It’s an area of great untapped potential. If you look at the teaching process, on-going assessment of students is critical to checking understanding and that the student is ready to go onto the next level of the work. Today a huge amount of that revolves around paper. A typical high school in the UK will use a million to a million and a half sheets of paper a year, and yet they’ve got a SharePoint sitting there that could save them huge amounts of effort; not just the cost of paper, but the costs of preparing the tests and getting them duplicated and to the right classroom at the right time and then marking the tests – all of this could be avoided with SharePoint.

    There is a real opportunity to optimize one of the key aspects of the learning process, formative assessment, to be sure students are progressing in their learning. So my view, and one of the reasons I follow your SharePoint and Assessments blog, is this seems a big area of untapped potential – it’s core to the learning process. Get it right, you make teachers lives much easier and improve the learning process for individual students.

    How much of an impact do you think Office 365 will make?

    In the worldwide context, the move to the Cloud in education has been faster than many other segments of industry. I think a key driver for use of Office 365 will be for institutions to move staff collaboration to enable the same level of collaboration that students use every day. I saw some statistics yesterday that says over 85% of the use of the Deakin University LMS takes place outside of the University. So there is a huge logic for putting things into the Cloud, as your users are out on the Internet – not necessarily in the institution when using your systems.

    How do you see SharePoint interacting with other learning platforms?

    There are LMSs and learning gateways that are embedded completely within SharePoint. In further and higher education, there are a lot of dedicated LMSs like Blackboard and Moodle, and SharePoint is seen as another system, rather than being part of the core LMS.

    I think that’s changing. What’s happening worldwide in Education is that people are starting to understand the capability of SharePoint as a platform. For example I’ve been involved in discussions today with SharePoint being used to surface all business intelligence information – getting data displayed and available to people – staff, students and parents – through a SharePoint. This is opening people’s eyes that they can do more with one platform, they can’t just think of SharePoint as an LMS, or a document storage system or a collaboration system but actually it has a potential to do more.

    Historically it’s been difficult to describe what SharePoint is, because SharePoint can do so many things. We’ve avoided pigeon holing SharePoint in one particular box, but that’s also led to customers not fully understanding what’s possible, because the answer is always “Yes, you can do that with SharePoint; now what is it you want to do?” as opposed to a learning-specific system where someone can be very clear that it does some things. SharePoint can do those things, but it can also do other things.

    Where do things go from here?

    We are starting to see the end of the idea of the big monolithic learning management system where you buy one system that does everything. What we’re going to see going forward is best of breed solutions – best of breed assessment engine, best of breed collaboration engine, best of breed content delivery system, lecture capture system, online course delivery. We’ve been building bigger and bigger central LMSs to do more of these things in one system. What we’re going to see is a fragmentation of this, and people are going to be asking – what is the platform we can put all of these on?

    And that’s where SharePoint is going to come into its own. If you put Moodle on top of SharePoint, you get better document management, you get better security, you get backup, you can edit documents live rather than having to take them offline to edit them. The same is true of adding an assessment system like Questionmark on top, it links in with everything else you’ve got going. So I think we’re going to see less and less of a single LMS and more and more of interconnected components that make a great learning experience for students.

    You can follow Ray Fleming on Twitter at @RayFleming or see his blog at

  • The UK Higher Education Blog

    Spread the word about Windows 7 Computers from just £95!


    There are 9 million citizens in the UK who do not have regular access to a PC and are not enjoying the benefits of the internet. For many of your customers, and in many of the communities you support, the last significant barrier to getting people connected is the cost of a PC at home.  BBC research shows that everything you do to inspire and encourage people – and to give them the right skills to go online – will gradually slip away if there is no PC at home to keep the excitement alive and provide easy, instant access clip_image001[7]to the internet.  It’s not enough to go online once – our goal is to make it possible for them to stay online – and to feel the wonderful benefits of Skype-ing with friends and family – unlimited video calls to any part of the world; to find information just when they need it; to make the most of learning opportunities and develop their particular passions.  You can help your customers overcome this final barrier by pointing them towards the GetOnline@Home website – the best place to buy a no-nonsense, affordable computer, which will give them a chance to stay online for good and to enjoy all the benefits we take for granted.

    BT, the Post Office, 3, Microsoft and many other Race Online 2012 partners are behind the GetOnline@Home offer which includes:

    • Phone or online purchasing for a powerful refurbished PC with new flatscreen, keyboard and mouse
    • The latest version of Windows (Windows 7); and a range of Microsoft software for documents, emails, pictures and more; and free anti-virus for life
    • The option to choose a broadband package from a range of specially tailored offers for beginners
    • A collection of useful sites and software to delight beginners and to open up the web
    • A great set of Quick Start guides and support in the form of telephone helplines and warranties etc

    If you think that this would be a good offer or solution for any of our customers or their communities – please help us to get the message out as far and as wide as possible.  To make it easy to share the news about this offer, we have developed a presentation (attached) and a range of materials, all available to download from “Support for your Computer” section of the GetOnline@Home website:

    • Posters, leaflets and quick start guides
    • Web banner graphics which you can drop into your website or portal and hyperlink to
    • “Share IT” buttons on the home page of the website
    • A graphic that you can use to personalise your email signature and hyperlink to

    We will expand and develop the GetOnline@Home offers over time and for anyone who would prefer to have a laptop, rather than a desktop, we are aiming to have a laptop offer available before Christmas.  And we expect that, if take-up continues to be good, we will be able to reduce the price of the “open to all” refurbished PC at the same time.  What we can promise, though, is that this site will always have fantastic computer packages for beginners.  The GetOnline@Home site truly offers the best in breed for no-nonsense, affordable computers.  The sale price does not include the cost of a huge marketing campaign – so we are depending on you to share the news and hope you will use the resources above to reach out as widely as you can – to boost the number of beginners who are able to go Online @ Home.

    Also, the GetOnline@Home site is hosted on Windows Azure and is ready to cope with whatever demand you can generate to the site!

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