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November, 2011 - The UK Higher Education Blog - Site Home - MSDN Blogs
The HE Blog
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November, 2011

  • The UK Higher Education Blog

    Make Money with Windows Phone

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    Originally posted on the UK Student Blog.

    We're going to turn over the blog for another guest blog post - this time we asked people to give us their AppHub success stories, and George rose to the challenge. You can read his post below - and don't forget to submit your apps to the marketplace so that you can earn money, too! Over to you...

    Hey there! I'm George Miller, and I am a proud Microsoft Student Partner and Windows Phone developer.

    A few days ago I received my first pay out from App Hub from my second app on the market, Bro to Go! An app based on the hit American sitcom, How I Met Your Mother on the CBS network. This is the second app I developed for the Windows Phone 7 platform and the first app I charged for on the marketplace. I chose the platform because I felt it was far more open than my alternative, which was the iPhone App Store, I found coding in Objective C really over complicated than coding in C#, and as a beginner to coding mobile applications it really mattered how easily I could pick up coding for the platform. Being a Mac and PC owner, I had access to both XCode and Visual Studio 2010 and exploring both; Visual Studio was the choice for me, especially when I can use Microsoft Expression Blend for designing my GUI for the app which integrates seamlessly with Visual Studio.

    This app was the first app I chose to charge for; having an app already on the market with over a thousand downloads at this point, I decided that I could make some money from developing apps, I knew that charging for an app would lower the download rate considerably so I ‘d have to increase the quality to compensate. I charged the base price for an app, £0.79, thinking I probably wouldn’t reach the pay-out sum but I should try and reach for it. I started the development much like I did for my first app, designed it in Expression Blend and moved across to Visual Studio for the coding. The amount of work a developer puts in to his app and the functionality of the app itself should be related to the price and for my first priced app, I think I chose the correct price band.

    A few months later, after only monitoring my first app on the marketplace, it reached over 3,500 downloads I got an email from Microsoft saying I am eligible for my first pay out on my second app. I was amazed, I felt amazing! People liked my work enough that even with a trial version they still want to pay for my app for long term use? It confirmed for me, that this is an amazing platform backed by great people. It was beyond anything I could expect from being a mobile app developer, and even though it’s not the billions you hear about on the news from other famous developers, I felt like I was up there alongside everyone else, contributing to Windows Phone 7.

    My advice to anyone else tempted to code for the platform? Play around in Expression Blend and Visual Studio 2010 as much as possible, get a feel for the environment and make anything you like. No matter how trivial, just to learn how. The best thing you can do when trying to make an app you want to publish? Think about something you personally want your phone to do, because if you want it, I can guarantee over a hundred other people want the same thing from their own phone. For me, it wasn’t about the money, it was about the downloads. When I log into AppHub and see thousands of people have downloaded my app, it makes me feel proud of my work. The best thing about it, it is free to do, login to DreamSpark and download all the tools you need; sign into AppHub and you can develop as many apps as you want!


    P.S: My cumulative downloads stand at over 4,000 now. Seriously try it out!

    Get access to all the apps referenced in this post via DreamSpark!

  • The UK Higher Education Blog

    SkyDrive updates sharing and file management

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    With more app centric sharing, particularly for Office docs, updates to file management, and the inclusion of HTML5 uploads, the SkyDrive upgrade that is currently being rolled adds to the impressive range of user centric updates that the service has already seen over recent months.

    The video below demonstrate some of these updates, and many more.

    As someone that used SkyDrive extensively while studying for my most recent marketing qualification, I will definitely be following the SkyDrive teams Twitter updates for more news on additional features that are planned for the service!

    Tim

  • The UK Higher Education Blog

    The Open University makes significant cost and efficiency savings through the use of Microsoft Lync 2010

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    Contribution from freelance writer, Gerald Haigh.  Gerald writes regularly for the Microsoft UK Education blogs. 

    I graduated from the Open University, I’m proud to say, as a member of the very first intake – the “Class of ‘71”. Earlier this Summer we were royally treated to a celebration at the Milton Keynes Campus that few of us had ever seen before. You see, it’s a feature of the Open University’s brilliant use of distance learning techniques, constantly updated over forty years, that students are hardly aware of an actual university campus.

    image

    Sure enough its there, though, with over 3500 academic and administrative staff. An additional 1500 also work in 14 National and Regional Centres across the UK. It’s clear that efficient communication between these people, and beyond, is vital if the level of service to the university’s quarter of a million students is to be maintained.

    It shouldn’t be surprising, then, that when the OU IT Infrastructure Team looked to update the university’s internal communications, they decided to take a leap beyond a straight like-for-like replacement of the existing phone system. Instead, they went for a 21st Century solution in the form of Microsoft Lync Server 2010, which offers fully interactive integrated communications, including voice, instant messaging, conferencing, meetings and shared desktops, all from a single interface.

    Why go with Lync?

    With the University’s current PABX system up for renewal or replacement at the end of 2012, there were some clear options. One was to take an upgraded version of what was already in place. Another was to look at integrated communications systems from Microsoft, and others. However, for Adrian Wells, the OU’s Assistant Director of IT Infrastructure, the decision to go with Lync wasn’t difficult. Not only would the system provide the right kind of integrated support for the OU’s project teams, it would also, says Adrian, be substantially more cost effective.

    “We believe,” says Adrian, “That the cost saving will be in the order of £2million over five years.”

    The key lies in the ease, efficiency and cost-effectiveness of installing and running Lync as compared with either updating the existing system or changing to a competing VOIP provider.

    “We’re a mainly Windows-based organisation, so the software was included in our Campus Agreement. And Lync offers strong integration with our MS Office 2010 platform, SharePoint and Windows desktop, in a way that another system wouldn’t.”

    Making it happen

    The story began with a trial in 2009 of Lync’s predecessor, Office Communications Server (OCS), as a possible replacement for the existing phone system, which was coming to the end of its life.

    “We were looking at functions such as working from home, and team working using instant messaging and integrated email.”

    Spring 2010 saw a limited further roll out of OCS, but Adrian and the team knew that Lync, with increased functionality, was on its way. So rather than face two major changes, it was decided to wait for Lync, and roll it out during 2011, beginning with Instant Messaging and “Presence” (which indicates a user’s level of availability) and moving to full enterprise telephony for the whole campus and national and regional centres. The aim is to have the existing telephone system completely replaced by early 2012.

    By comparison with OCS, says Adrian, “Lync’s additional features closed the gaps, especially with provision of resilient services to our 14 national and regional offices.”

    Rolling Out

    A roll-out of this nature is a management challenge. It’s often a matter of finding a balance between bringing keen early adopters on board on the one hand, and working methodically through the structure of the organisation on the other. It’s a fine judgement for an IT leader to make, requiring deep understanding of the institution and its people as well as mastery of the technology.

    Describing his approach to the roll out of Lync enterprise voice, Adrian says, “We quickly had 100 early adopters. We then began to turn down requests from individuals and went into a systematic overnight roll out, floor by floor, building by building.”

    That process, which began in May 2011, went on at rate which saw 35 handsets installed each night, four nights a week. Each handset was left with a short A4 booklet with the top tips and feature differences for the new system aimed at getting users up and running in a short time. Next morning, the newly installed area was covered by a small team of trouble-shooting “floor walkers” -- 2 for every fifty handsets for about two hours each morning. This, says Adrian, can actually be all the training that some users need.

    One of the attractive features of Lync, after all, is that it’s easy to use and makes fewer demands on the IT team when, for example, users move offices or desk. At the same time, it’s important to ensure that everyone understands just what it can do for them.

    “We’re doing a series of workshops on how to get the best out of it, some aimed at mobile users,” says Adrian. “We also use a lot of Microsoft’s own videos. But we find a lot of the knowledge spreads by word of mouth, as people learn how to interact with colleagues. Quite quickly you reach a critical mass of users.”

    Reaping the benefits

    It’s clear that the benefit curve of Lync, plotted against the working pattern of an institution like the OU, just keeps going up as people start to use advanced features.

    There are obvious cost savings, for example from having licensing within the Campus Agreement.

    Most impressive, though, is the direct saving of £2m over five years that Adrian estimates comes from not having to replace hardware and by the elimination of third party maintenance of the previous system.

    The availability of Microsoft Active Directory also means, says, Adrian, “We’re make substantial savings by doing the roll out ourselves. We have help from Dell, but really most of it is down to us.”

    Then there are the efficiency savings within the IT team and beyond. Routine maintenance becomes easier. And observation during the pilot, for example, indicated that travel for staff between OU centres and the main campus could reduce by at least five to ten percent.

    “Lync supports remote workers much more effectively,” says Adrian. “Integration of email and voicemail is very powerful, and so is Presence, especially with Office 2010. And Desktop sharing is great even for people in the same office building.”

    And beyond, of course. Adrian describes a typical scenario in which an urgent document was created by people working in Milton Keynes, Peterborough and Sweden.

    “It couldn’t have been done any other way.”

    Working at home, too, with all the savings that brings, also becomes much more feasible, with Lync’s “Presence” indicator removing the psychological barriers that could make colleagues reluctant to call.

    For the future

    The immediate target is to finish the roll out of enterprise voice across all fifteen OU sites. It’s envisaged that the integration of the other sites will increase the current low use of desktop video conferencing.

    Also for the immediate future will be the addition of a client for Mac users within the OU, which will bring a further set of efficiency gains.

  • The UK Higher Education Blog

    Want to programme Kinect, Windows Phone, Gadgeteer & other Microsoft Technologies with C#

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    Originally posted on the Microsoft UK Faculty Connection Blog.

    C#

    Learn to programme in C# over the course of 24 episodes, our friend, Bob Tabor from www.LearnVisualStudio.net, will teach you the fundamentals of C# programming.

    Learn the skills and concepts applicable to video games, mobile environments, and client applications.

    The following tutorials and videos walk you through getting the tools, writing code, debugging features, customizations and much more! Each concept is broken into its own video so you can search for and focus on the information you need.

    Download the entire series' source code

    Watch all 24 Episodes

  • The UK Higher Education Blog

    Consumerisation of IT in Education: Opportunities with Virtualisation Technologies

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    Continuing with our Consumerisation of IT in Education series of posts, virtualisation technologies can also help organisations embrace CoIT. Virtualisation technologies provide us with the ability to run applications or full school desktops on a wider range of device types and operating systems.

    Presenting Software to Users

    Microsoft has offered Session virtualisation (aka presentation virtualisation) for many years. Initially, through Terminal Services and more recently with RDS (Remote Desktop Services). RDS Remote App allows for a centrally managed and server hosted application to be presented to remote users via a simple RDP client. RDP Clients are widely available across a range of platforms and devices, thus removing the need for clients to be using a specific OS version.

    An alternative to session virtualisation is application virtualisation which Microsoft provides through App-V. The key difference being that session virtualisation is server hosted, while App-V applications run on the client device (although they are not installed in the traditional sense). App-V has all the benefits of centrally managed software combined with the benefits of removing any application conflicts on the clients. App-V is part of MDOP (Microsoft Desktop Optimisation Pack). App-V applications can also be extended to non-windows devices through partner tools such as Citrix XenApp.

    Presenting Desktops to Users

    Desktops can be presented to users via both session virtualisation and VDI (Virtual Desktop Infrastructure). They are quite similar technologies, the key difference is that instead of presenting the user with a shared computing session from a server, VDI users are presented with a full desktop from a virtual machine. This provides users with a fully customisable and personal computing experience. A VDI server typically supports fewer users than an RDS environment. Storing numerous large VHD (Virtual Hard Disk) Images can also take up valuable disk space, although some VDI solutions make use of sophisticated differencing technologies to save space. VDI desktops are also presented to users via an RDP client. Presenting a full desktop experience to users via RDP is a good way of providing a school standard desktop and applications regardless of user device type or location, distance learners for example.

    For more information on our thoughts around the concept of Consumerisation of IT in Education, download our paper on the topic via our SlideShare account. Alternatively, the full paper can be viewed below.

    Tim

  • The UK Higher Education Blog

    Steps to the Cloud with RM

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    Chris Munday, Head of Proposition Development, RM  has written a guest post on his thoughts on the benefits of Cloud and which steps to take to get there, of which will be further discussed at BETT

     

    When you think about what Cloud computing can offer within education, the possibilities are really exciting.

    However, I appreciate that at this point Cloud won't be right for everyone and can even seem daunting or not relevant for some schools. How do schools relate this new world of Cloud to the everyday challenges that they face in ensuring that their ICT provides the things that their teachers and learners need?

    Let's start with what Cloud means, as there are many hugely varying perceptions associated with it and, in some cases, they can just be plain misleading and confusing. I like to think about the way things are heading as "ICT as a service" in that it is really about having parts of your ICT hosted, delivered and maintained by someone else. Just like any other service, you could pick and choose the bits that were right for you - "I'd like backup, storage and email delivered as a service but I'll keep my learning environment on site as that will enable me to do what I need to, most effectively for now". That for me is the essence of what Cloud will mean for schools; let someone else do the donkey work and just enjoy the benefits of the services you have chosen.

    Now, it might sound clichéd or a bit "X Factor" but moving to the Cloud will be a journey. There are a number of steps for schools to take, each with tangible benefits so they can take it at their own pace, on their own terms. Go as far along the journey as you need to, to realise the benefits that you're looking for

    So what are the main benefits of Cloud? To my mind, it is mainly about three things:

    • Anytime, anywhere, any device learning. Allow learning to continue using the same resources outside the school gates and after school hours, embrace any devices you choose to use or that your users own, and allow all your apps (including legacy ones) to be run on any device.
    • Making the life of ICT and other staff easier. Don't worry about managing aspects of your ICT that can be looked after by others, e.g. managing tape backups and taking them off-site, and free your time up to spend on the really important stuff. Remove the headache of refresh cycles and owning and maintaining hardware, and no longer worry whether your software is up to date and patched; that's all taken care of for you.
    • More efficient ICT. Make the most effective use of the ICT you've got, access ICT services when you need them and only pay for what you use. Could you share services with other schools or even become a service provider for other schools in your area and generate revenue?

    We've identified a number of steps on the journey and we'll be talking more about this at BETT but here’s a flavour:

    1. Review and upgrade your connectivity. Good connectivity is essential for Cloud services and could be a real barrier to Cloud adoption. This could be a lack of availability of necessary Broadband speeds, prohibitive costs for the required level of service and factoring in redundancy for your connectivity. Have a look at what your current service is and we can help you to understand the level you'll need for different services.
    2. Sort out your infrastructure and local network. Make your ICT as efficient as possible and working as hard as it can for you. Virtualisation makes an eventual move of those servers to the Cloud easier but gives benefits in the short term (more efficient utilisation of hardware, consolidation of physical boxes, for example). Remember that even when many of your services are in the Cloud, local infrastructure will still be really important to enable access to those services.
    3. Choose the right devices - Choose the right tool for what you want your teachers and learners to achieve. What is the strategy for the school and how would this support or conflict with Cloud? Is Bring Your Own Device (BYOD) high on your agenda? Cloud can open up your options but means there are more to consider.
    4. Open up access to your network. Host your own private Cloud in your school to give access to your network to students and teachers at anytime from anywhere, or start to embrace other parts of your community. Alternatively, just give access to applications that you host so your students can run curriculum software easily from home and continue their work and learning.
    5. Move services to the Cloud. Start moving services to the Cloud that will give you the greatest benefit and the least effort. For example, could you be taking away the hassle of backup tapes by backing up to the Cloud, cater for your future data storage requirements by securing extra storage in the Cloud that is easily accessible from anywhere, or move your MIS to the Cloud to take away deployment, management and accessibility concerns?
    6. Full Cloud. Move your remaining services (that make sense) to the Cloud. In the foreseeable future, we believe that schools will need some level of on-site provision to cover the bandwidth intensive services, as well as being a cost effective solution to connectivity redundancy.

    Much of what I've mentioned above is available now; a hosted Learning Platform, hosted MIS system, Cloud backup being used by customers, and we're working on proof of concept systems for other Cloud services. These are helping us to understand where the real value will be for education and our thinking is evolving as we learn more. What remains as a guiding principle throughout this process though, is that the answer must be based on the benefits delivered to schools, rather than being driven purely by the technology. The benefits are there and my goal is that everyone who speaks to us at BETT about Cloud and their school will leave having clearly mapped the benefits that they want to achieve onto what technology and solutions they need to implement. Cloud demystified, now that would be a silver lining!

     

    If you would like to find out more about Cloud and how it can work for you, you can visit both the Microsoft stand (D30 and D40) and the RM stand (C60 and D60) at BETT

  • The UK Higher Education Blog

    Consumerisation of IT in Education: Software as a Service

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    One of the key enablers for Consumerisation of IT in Education (COIT) is the growing number cloud based applications and services.

    Much of the software available from Microsoft is now available as a cloud hosted service. A great example in Education is Live@Edu which provides free email, calendaring and collaboration functionality and is completely free to education organisations.

    Office 2010 also embraces the cloud with a great combination of software and services. It is worth exploring this in more detail. As with previous versions, Microsoft Office 2010 is still installed locally on your PC, this provides all the rich functionality you have come to expect from Microsoft Office and works equally well with or without internet connectivity. In addition there are now Office Web Apps – which are lightweight web-based versions of Word, Excel, PowerPoint and OneNote. The Office Web-Apps have the same look and feel as their fully installed counterparts (albeit with less functionality) but they work in the browser, with most major browsers supported. When we combine these versions of Office with a centralised storage service such as Windows Live SkyDrive or SharePoint, it opens up a plethora of possibilities.

    Let’s look at an example…

    As you are probably aware, Windows Live SkyDrive is a completely free storage and collaboration service which provides users with 25GB of online storage and the ability to create folders and share them by defining access permissions.

    So let’s imagine 2 students, Peter and Jane who are working together on a project. Peter is working on his own laptop at home, running Windows 7 with Office 2010 installed locally. Jane uses a Mac with no MS Office installed.

    Starting the project, Peter creates a new folder on his SkyDrive with and also grants Jane the read and write permissions on the folder.

    He then creates an Excel workbook using his locally installed rich client, and uses functionality including pivot tables, pivot charts and sparklines. Peter saves the document to the project folder he created on SkyDrive.

    Interacting with SkyDrive, shared storage is integrated into Office 2010. From the File menu, under Save & Send, there is an option to Save to Web. This connects directly to the users SkyDrive account and shows the file structure directly from the cloud.

    image

    The file is now saved on SkyDrive and can be accessed by both Peter and Jane.

    Working on her Mac, Jane accesses the Excel workbook via her browser – and importantly even though she is using the Excel Web App – with the lighter weight feature set, full fidelity viewing is preserved.

    In the screenshot below, Jane can alter the cell values – and the Sparklines (in Column H) will update and reflect the changes made – even though Jane cannot create Sparklines directly in the Web App.

    image

    The following day, they both need to work on the document at the same time. Jane is at home and opens the Excel workbook from her Safari browser. Peter is working on a shared computer in the library, Microsoft Office is not installed – so he opens up SkyDrive in his browser and opens the Excel workbook. They can now happily co-author this document at the same time across a range of technologies.

    image

    Excel Web App – showing 2 people co-authoring a document

    The future of cloud based applications is looking very strong. Office 365, a recent addition to the Microsoft Portfolio, includes Exchange Online, Sharepoint Online and Lync Online. An education specific version, aptly named Office 365 for Education, is expected soon and will add additional functionality to those found in Live@EDU. Microsoft Dynamics CRM is also available online which provides customisable and powerful relationship management in the cloud. Many Education ISV’s (Independent Software Vendors) are now providing their solutions as hosted alternatives to their on premise offerings.

    We are passionate about the cloud and its ability to help institutions and students realise their potential.

    To learn more about our thoughts around the Consumerisation of IT in Education, our paper on the subject is now available for download from our SlideShare account or can be accessed below.

  • The UK Higher Education Blog

    Partner in learning Global Forum, Washington 7th-10th November 2011

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    At this year’s PiL Global Forum, over 700 of the most innovative global educators from over 75 countries came together in Washington D.C to share and and celebrate creativity in education.

    One element of the Forum is to recognize teachers excellence and how by using technology in their teaching and how this then impacts student learning.

    UK teacher, Gareth Ritter from Willows High School in Cardiff won a Partners in Learning Global Forum award for his music project made by students for students.

    The reason I love this story so much is because Gareth gave his students the opportunity to take control of their own learning using technology and make it relevant to them. Take a look at this interview with Gareth as he explains how by using Microsoft technology, the students in his class went from creating a soundtrack for themselves, sharing their project on YouTube to receiving over 27,000 hits .

     

    We also have a couple of other videos you can check out.

    Dr David Christian on his impressions from partners In Learning Global Forum.

     

    Educator Ken-Wei Hsu of Taiwan on his innovative use of Microsoft Photosynth to capture 3D imagery of plants.

    You can read more great stories about the award winners via the Partners in Learning Blog

  • The UK Higher Education Blog

    Microsoft Education Webcast on Hyper-V 8th November recording

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    For those of you who were not able to attend the Microsoft Education Webcast on Hyper-V last week, as promised, here are the links to all the slides and presentations.

    Migrate your virtualisation solution from VMware to Hyper-V and save money

    The slides are now available here

    - Mark Doyle' Infrastructure Engineer at Carmel College Blog

    - The Microsoft Privat Cloud Whitepaper

    If you have any questions or require any information please don’t hesitate to contact Richard Lane

  • The UK Higher Education Blog

    Baby Steps into the Cloud

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    The education team are busy working on a number of new eBooks that will be launched on this blog over the next couple of months. Keep an eye on our Twitter account (Microsoft_ed_uk) to be one of the first to know when they are available.

    In the meantime, though, we thought you might find one of our earlier eBooks ‘Baby steps into the Cloud’ interesting. The document can be viewed below, or downloaded via our Slideshare account.

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