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January, 2012

  • The UK Higher Education Blog

    Teched Europe 2012 Registration now open

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    Come to TechEd Europe, unplug from your day job, & dive into the thousands of learning & networking opportunities

    In addition to over 400 sessions with Microsoft and industry speakers, TechEd offers you face-to-face connections with thousands of your peers who share your challenges. TechEd is the forum to gain the expertise and insights that will help you get the most from your IT investments.
    TechEd offers 4 days to:

    • LEARN in-depth about the latest technology trends and how you can leverage these effectively in your business
    • DISCOVER the future of Microsoft’s products, technologies, solutions and services directly from Microsoft’s leaders with news, announcements, and demos
    • NETWORK with Microsoft and industry thought leaders, and fellow delegates that share your technology interests and business challenges
    • PLAN the features and architecture to support your business goals and product roadmap

    Need Even More? Attend a Pre-Conference Seminar

    By arriving a day early on Monday, 25 June and registering for the special Pre-Conference Seminars you will get in-depth training and insights on the Microsoft technologies and products that power your business. Select from 10 different topics taught by John Craddock, Kate Gregory, Steve Fox, Mikael Nystrom, Kent Agerlund, Alberto Ferrari, Richard Hundhausen, and more!

    Register NOW for TechEd Europe (limited number of academic tickets available for students and educators)

    Register Now or visit europe.msteched.com and learn more

    Originally posted on the Microsoft UK Faculty Connection Blog.

  • The UK Higher Education Blog

    Learning Without Frontiers 2012 Conference - Core Points and Conclusions (Part 2)

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    Part 2 of my Learning Without Frontiers 2012 Conference summary.

    Last week I attended the Learning Without Frontiers 2012 Conference. My post yesterday introduced my initial 3 (of 5) core points gained from the conference. My final 2, and a short conclusion, are presented in this post. As mentioned yesterday, this only skims the surface and I would highly recommend viewing the video content from the conference when it is made available on the conference website. Some amazing content was presented!

    Point 4: Conrad Wolfram (Wolfram Research Europe)

    Conrad Wolfram, the founder of Wolfram Alpha , spoke about, with some passion, the subject of Math(s). He argued that there is currently 2 subjects relating to maths. Maths in society, that is more popular than event, and maths in education, which is more despised that ever.

    image

    Maths in education is currently mostly about calculation. In digital age where most people have access to powerful computers in their back pockets, this approach is out-dated and unappealing to most students.

    Maths is important for a number of significant reasons. It is the foundation for most technical jobs and also encourages logical thinking. Furthermore, maths is ultimately about asking the right questions and knowing how to find the right answer.

    Pure calculation and making students into 3rd rate computers is not going to develop students who can do and offer these things. Maths is bigger than that!

    The current efforts to improve math education is not working. Conrad argued that better deployment of the wrong subject (pure calculation) is not the way forward for maths curriculum. Instead, maths, even at an early stage, needs to be made more relevant. Working out by how many friends you are separated on Facebook, for example, is going to engage more students than the current approach seen in maths education.

    Conrad went on to say that computers are dumbing maths down and needs a radical overhaul to ensure its relevance and value moving forward.

    Its hoped that initiatives such as the Wolfram UK Programming 2012 Challenge will help raise awareness of these requirement and help inspire the changes needed.

    Point 5: Mark Surman and Michelle Levesque (Mozilla.org)

    Mark and Michelle gave a very interesting talk on the topic of making as learning, or more specifically, web making as learning.

    In an effort to inspire and build the next generation of web makers, Mozilla have been pairing film makers and other members of the creative industries with developers to create unique digital first versions of their movie content.

    image

    The web is like Lego, building blocks that are designed to be pulled about and used to create new things. Mozilla's project is all about embracing the concept of the web being like Lego and encouraging folks to remix!

    I love the analogy of comparing the web with Lego and will be watching their efforts in this area closely.

    Conclusion

    All in all, and as mentioned in the opening to this post, Learning Without Frontiers 12 was an amazing conference. Great speakers, inspiring ideas and an opportunity to be exposed to new and often conflicting perspectives made LWF12 one of the best conferences I have attended for some time.

    That being said, though, I am not sure that it took full advantage of the opportunity to address the future of education. There is no doubt that the conference had the opinions and ideas needed to start making a difference. I can't help but think, though, that delegates will have left Olympia wondering how they can take some of the ideas they heard and start making a difference in their schools, colleges or universities. The conference lacked the practical elements required to drive change and, with the odd exception, was very heavy on the theory. I appreciate that this is the aim of the conference, but its time to stop talking and actually start doing.

    It seems like the will is there and there is pockets of great work being carried out, although I think the community needs to now come together to start mapping out the practical next steps needed to stimulate and drive a Napster like shift in the education sector.

    All members of the community, from government to newly qualified teachers, now need to embrace the challenge that is presented to us and be bold enough to define what the future of education looks like.

    I hope that Learning Without Frontiers, as custodians of this community they are building, considers what happens between now and the next conference to encourage the practical realisation of the ideas presented at the conference.

    I am passionate about this topic and look forward to playing my part in the future of learning.

    What do you think? What do we need to do next? I would love to hear your thoughts in the comments below.

  • The UK Higher Education Blog

    Using a BlackBerry with Office 365

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    Originally posted on the Live@edu blog.

    Wouldn’t it be cool if you could use your BlackBerry to access Office 365? Well, now you can! Yesterday RIM officially announced that BlackBerry Business Cloud Services was available for Office 365 customers.

    office365_bg[1]

    Key features:

    • Wireless synchronization with Microsoft Exchange Online email, calendar and organizer data from a BlackBerry smartphone
    • BlackBerry® Balance™ technology, which presents a unified view of work and personal content on a BlackBerry smartphone while keeping the content separate and secure
    • An intuitive web-based console for IT administrators to provision, manage and secure BlackBerry smartphones from anywhere
    • Online access to employee self-service smartphone security functions, allowing users to easily reset a device password or remotely lock or wipe a device in the event of loss or theft

    The service is available today in over 50 countries. Customers can go to www.blackberry.com/cloudservices to get started.

  • The UK Higher Education Blog

    Interesting Opportunity for Academic App developers to win some great prizes

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    Rewards

    The Nokia Lumia 800 Windows Phone is now available as a reward with the Windows Phone UK Developer Reward Programme.

    nokia-lumia-800_41Nokia-Lumia-800

    By simply joining the UK Developer rewards programme Educators and Students can get rewarded with loads of other fantastic prizes for building Windows Phone App and publishing it on the Windows Phone Marketplace.

    The programme concludes (Sunday 5 Feb 2012). So There is no better time to start building and publishing your Windows Phone app. It’s incredibly easy with 5 simple steps:

    1. Build your original & unique Windows Phone App and publish on the Windows Phone Marketplace.
    2. Register yourself on this website (www.my-rewards.com/wp).
    3. You will be awarded with one point when we have evaluated your app in the Windows Phone Marketplace.
    4. Redeem your points for a range of fantastic prizes and gadgets. When you have earned a point, you are automatically entered into the weekly prize draw with an awesome line up of bonus prizes.
    5. Build more Windows Phone Apps and get the chance to earn more points to redeem bigger and better rewards!

    So download the tools form DreamSpark and Register and start building & publishing your Windows Phone apps today.

    Once you started building apps why not get involved and Make a Difference

    Enter to compete in the Microsoft Imagine Cup 2012 Windows Phone Challenge and create software that can really make a broad impact in the world.

    IC

    Get started on your solution today.

    Get your questions ready! Join Windows Phone Challenge Captain Jukka Wallasvaara on 22 February at 15:00 GMT or 23 February at 05:00 GMT via Live Meeting and ask him about competing in the Windows Phone Challenge. Follow these instructions to join Live Meeting. The Live Meeting sessions will be recorded and posted on this page under the Helpful Links. Find out what time it is your country/region.

    Originally posted on the Microsoft UK Faculty Connection Blog.

  • The UK Higher Education Blog

    Cool new devices for schools at CES

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    Originally posted on Anthony Salcito’s Education Insights Blog.

    I’m back in the office after a quick trip to Las Vegas for CES. I love to walk the show floor each year to see all the new gadgets, not just because it’s fun to tinker with new technology, but because I like to get a first look at the new innovations that could be most useful when applied in education. There are a lot of new Microsoft products that are available to schools now or very soon. Surface 2.0 has just shipped, the Kinect for Windows Software Development Kit (SDK) and a Kinect for Windows sensor are coming on February 1st, and Nokia phones built on Windows Phone are out now.

    Our hardware partners are building some cool PCs and Windows 7 runs super-fast and super-long on them. They’re building rich input devices, with mice, keyboards, and pen inputs – some go from a laptop to a tablet in just seconds -- satisfying those students who want the best of both tablets and PCs in one. There are also a lot of new form factors designed to appeal to students that are lightweight with rich screens, and that are very flexible with support for gaming and use things like voice and touch commands to enable a very immersive experience. Ultrabooks were the star of the show. You can see the latest Windows 7 devices here and in the embedded video below.

    I am really excited about all the choices schools have when it comes to determining what device they want to bring into their institution. As we know 1:1 learning is going to become more rampant with the shift to digital content and the need to make sure kids are prepared for college and career. We’ve learned a lot about technology’s effectiveness in schools and in 1:1 programs in particular, and I encourage school leaders to think holistically about the learning environment before they jump to buy technology for technology’s sake. I met with JP Sa Couto and Critical Links at CES. They help schools think about all aspects to create the most effective learning environment. They have done a lot of research and investment in looking at everything from the school furnishings to lighting to looking at ethnographic studies to literally determine how a device best fits into a school.

    Schools want devices for different activities….reading digital textbooks, taking notes, creating presentations and papers, the ability to plug in an array of peripherals and 3rd party solutions, and centralized IT management and security. And as data-driven education improves, schools need to be able to analyze what students and teachers are doing with the technology and link the outcomes to assessments and personalized lesson planning through business intelligence and learning management systems.

    There are a lot of great new tablet PCs and laptops designed especially for education that can withstand the rigors of heavy use during the school day, including getting thrown in backpacks and dropped on the playground.

    At CES, Lenovo was showing off the newly released Lenovo Classmate + . It’s a rugged PC laptop that converts into a tablet, sports a drop resistant exterior, spill proof keyboard, reinforced steel hinges, 10.1 inch touch display with pen (optional HD), 10 hour battery life, multiple USB ports and VGA or HDMI output to monitor. The Lenovo X130e is also a good choice for K12 schools made rugged with rubber “bumpers” and reinforced hinges to take a long school day.

    Dell’s Inspiron Duo continues to win praise from students and teachers alike because its innovative flip hinge design makes it very easy to go from touch to type in seconds. The 10.1 HD multi touch screen, student sized keyboard and rugged design make it the perfect device for schools that want a HD tablet and a laptop in one device.

    For university students who want a computer that’s light, fast, durable and stylish, ultrabooks are all the rage. The video below showcases the latest hardware from Asus, Acer, Toshiba, Dell, HP, Lenovo, Samsung and Sony.

  • The UK Higher Education Blog

    Microsoft’s best kept secret for Higher Education

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    Recently, Premier teamed up with Microsoft Services to discuss Microsoft Premier Support and how it’s helped universities save money, simplify their deployments, and avoid costly downtime while helping students, faculty and staff to be more productive using Microsoft technologies. During that session we had a great discussion with London Southbank University and how they’ve utilised Microsoft Premier Support in their environment.

    You can watch the video South Bank University Premier Presentation 15th Dec 2011 and hear about London Southbank University’s experience of working with Premier Support, in particular:

    · Their experience of a business critical situation and the resources applied by Microsoft to solve it promptly.

    · How they reduced organisational risk following a co-ordinated programme of Premier Support Risk Assessments and Health checks

    · How they saved money through migration assistance for Live@edu Policy

    What is Premier?

    Premier Support is a flexible offering that can be tailored to your requirements.  It includes three distinct categories of support:

     

    •  Service Management: A Technical Account Manager will be your single point of contact to help optimise your existing IT environment and mitigate risks for business critical solutions built on Microsoft technology.
    • Proactive Services: workshops and assessments to plan successful deployments, migrations and new technology integrations. Focus on alignment with Microsoft proven practices and skills transfer into your support organisation. A proactive approach will build value and reduce IT costs.
    • Problem resolution services: for the peace of mind that unplanned outages will be fully managed by your Technical Account Manager and rapidly resolved by Microsoft experts.

    The result?

    Seamless support for both your cloud-based and on-premise IT environments, minimising your risk of integration issues or service interruptions. Faster issue resolution, keeping costly downtime to a minimum. And a single point of contact for both strategic and operational support.

    Want to learn more? Join our Lync Meetings in February and find out how Microsoft’s Premier Support could deliver tangible value to your University.

    Dates and Times of LMs

    The URL’s for these LMs are as follows:

    Friday 10th February 2012

    Introducing Premier Support for Education Customers – 11:30

     Delegate Registration Link here

    Tuesday 14th February 2012 – 15:00

    Introducing Premier Support for Education Customers – 15:00

    Delegate Registration Link here

    In the meantime, you can find out more here.

  • The UK Higher Education Blog

    Bring Some Game To Your Coding Lessons

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    Originally posted on the UK Microsoft Faculty Connection blog

    Visual Studio is a ideal tools for schools, colleges and Universities for inspiring future developers, to enhance the experience Microsoft has released Visual Studio Achievements, with the achievements students talents and learning are recognized as they perform various coding feats, which unlock achievements and earn badges which can be shared and displayed on social network profiles and web sites.

    Some examples of individual achievements include Regional Manager (have more than 10 regions in a single class), Close To The Metal (use 5 preprocessor directives), Stubby (generate method stubs 10 times) or Interrupting Cow (have 10 breakpoints in a file). All in all, there are 32 achievements awaiting to be unlocked, all of which are listed here. Here's what the 6 different badges look like:

    The Six Categories of Achievements

    powercoder

    Learn More About Visual Studio
    Visual Studio is a powerful tool with tons of features, many of which you may not know about. Earning some of the badges may result in learning about features you didn’t even know existed!
    Download It Download Now
    How It Works

    With the Visual Studio Achievements Extension, achievements are unlocked based on your activity. Your code is analysed on a background thread each time you compile. In addition, the extension listens for certain events and actions that you may perform in Visual Studio, reporting progress on these events to the server. When you unlock an achievement, Visual Studio lets you know visually with a pop-up displaying the award. Each time you earn a badge, a unique page is created with your profile picture, the badge and a description. Students can then automatically tweet about achievements they earn and/or share them on Facebook.

    Get Visual Studio for FREE via DreamSpark

    DreamSpark_bL_tvisual_studio_logo

  • The UK Higher Education Blog

    SkyDrive and Office Web Apps

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    For schools, colleges and universities looking for a powerful tool for their students to help them better collaborate on group projects, SkyDrive and Office Web Apps is the ideal solution.

    Those looking for a web based solution often think about Google Docs. While tools such as this may work well for simple tasks, they may not have the features you need to create professional documents. You can also have formatting issues when you move between these apps and Office.

    You could also use a “file cloud” like Dropbox, but these tools aren’t really designed for collaboration, and they don’t let you work simultaneously with others on a document.

    Faced with these choices, many people decide to work independently and email files back and forth. This makes it hard to know if you’re working on the latest version of a document, and sometimes you can run into attachment limits. It also can take a lot of time to piece together different Word documents or PowerPoint presentations from multiple email messages.

    With SkyDrive, you have a better option. Students can store all their files in one place, so everyone can access the latest version. They can also use free Office Web Apps for basic editing from any browser.

    More specifically, SkyDrive and Office Web Apps allow you to more easily manage the following:

    • SkyDrive and Word let students work together on the same document from different computers
    • Let everyone in the group work on the same presentation file – even at the same time – from any PC, Mac, or just a web browser with the PowerPoint Web App
    • Easily share the presentation and let everyone see it the way it was intended to look by uploading the file to SkyDrive and viewing it with the PowerPoint Web App
    • Access and collaborate on files in almost any web browser even if Office isn't installed on that computer
    • Spend more time actually working on a spreadsheet or model and less time reformatting or organizing it
    • With OneNote, keep notes synced across all of your computers and even your Windows Phone or iPhone
    • Easily open and print your documents from the library or computer lab at school

    SkyDrive and Office Web Apps make sharing easy. Learn more about how your students can start embracing these powerful tools, also offered as part of Live@edu, today.

  • The UK Higher Education Blog

    Learning Without Frontiers 2012 Conference - Core Points (Part 1)

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    Last week, I attended the Learning Without Frontiers (#lwf12) conference in Olympia. Aside from Olympia now starting to feel like my second home after spending the early part of this month there at the BETT 2012 show, the conference was arguably the most inspiring and motivating I have attended since Thinking Digital a few years ago (FOTE gets a mention here, also).

    Much like Herb Kim of Thinking Digital, Graham Brown Martin and his team have done a brilliant job at curating an amazing line-up of speakers to address the core theme of the conference: The Future of Learning.

    With the underlying theme of trying to create an environment that can stimulate a Napster like shift in education, speakers such as Microsoft's very own Anthony Salcito, Noam Chomsky, Ray Kurzweil, Ellen MacArthur and Conrad Wolfram, to name a few, presented some inspiring and often controversial views and ideas about how to transform education.

    To recap the content from all of the presentations would probably qualify me for the longest blog post in the world award. For the sake of brevity, though, I will try and summarise the 5 core points from my perspective, made from a selection of speakers across the 2 days. This only skims the surface and I would highly recommend viewing the video content from the conference when it is made available on the conference website.

    Also, if you attended the conference, it would be great to hear what you thought where your core points and ideas presented at the event. Leave your thoughts in the comments below. I look forward to continuing the conversation over the coming weeks.

    This blog post covers part one of this summary, with part 2 to following tomorrow.

    Point 1: Anthony Salcitio (Microsoft)

    I am not just highlighting some core points made during Anthony's presentation because he is VP for Education at Microsoft. I personally felt that Anthony's presentation was both thought provoking yet practical, and the fact that Sir Ken Robinson referenced it during his summary means I can't be far off the mark.

    Anthony spoke about a number of pragmatic and game changing ideas, but his thoughts around the fact that technology should be used as a service to teachers and students and not be the core focus, really stuck with me.

    Technology to support teaching and learning should be at the forefront of our agendas moving forward. Technology, combined with great teaching, is what is going to drive change and improve attainment for students in the future.

    Technology and bad teaching is going to add little value and has very little scale at a time when learning is no longer a linear process. Students now come to class with content already pre-wired. It is the teachers role to make that content come alive and add meaningful context and discussion. Technology, when used effectively by great teachers, can give real scale and impact.

    The paradigm of learning has changed and simply digitising the old methods of teaching and content delivery is not going to provide the Napster like change the conference was trying to unleash.

    The personalisation of learning and creating an emotional connection to this learning is what is going to create the transformation needed.

    Anthony, during his presentation, discussed a number of different methods and techniques that can help transform and enhance the emotional connection to learning. Gaming, and the gamification of learning, was a core element of this.

    Jane McGonical, in her brilliant TED talk 'Gaming can make a better world', discusses some of these ideas and was referenced by Anthony is his talk. The video is well worth taking the time to view below.

    Games based learning requires and builds skill as the game develops, and the gamer creates an emotion connection with the game. With points and reward built in to the game, games based learning essentially creates a new category: the incentivisation of learning.

    When gamers play a game, at the beginning they die a lot. Yet they slowly become an expert at the game as they play more often and learn more about the environment and dynamics of the game.

    This approach to learning could have a massive impact and is in stark contrast to the traditional methods of teaching and learning that focused on content, retention and assessment.

    We must not forget, though, that students and teachers are the future. Not technology.

    I have probably done a really bad job at trying to highlight some of the core points from Anthony's presentation, but will post the video from LWF12 to the blog when its available. I will definitely be watching it time and time again!

    Point 2: Noam Chomsky

    Noam Chomsky, in a recorded introductory video to the conference, discussed some fairly controversial ideas regarding how to positively change the future of learning. I didn't agree with all of them, particularly his views around the impact that technologies such as the internet has had on society. That’s maybe something for another blog post, though.

    Noam's opening remarks covered a fairly wide range of topics, but ultimately focused on curriculum, pedagogy and assessment.

    He discussed that we need to create an education system that encourages creative exploration, independence of thought and the ability for people to push the boundaries forward. He argued that we wont get the economic and technical gains society needs without graduates that can achieve this.

    Noam went onto talk about that significant changes to how the education curriculum is structured are needed to support this goal. He discussed assessment, in particular.

    Noam felt that tests can be a useful benchmark, but beyond this doesn't tell you much. You can study for a test and then 3 weeks later you have forgotten everything. In this sense, assessment managed in this manor is just a set of hurdles and is relatively worthless. Searching and enquiring is more significant than passing tests.

    Noam felt that an education system that rewards discovery and independent thought, not standardisation, was needed to build the foundation for a strong economic future.

    How do you feel about some of these ideas?

    Point 3: Ellen MacArthur

    Ellen gave a motivating talk about her experiences of sailing around the world and the lessons she learnt.

    Sailing solo around the world presents some very unique and dangerous challenges. With a boat that is built for speed, rather than safety, luxuries such as sleep and 'turning off' for a few hours are soon a distant memory when you are 2,500 miles from the nearest port. Extreme concentration and the full awareness and management of the resources available to you are key to survival. On the boat, the battery is like a heart beat and 5 seconds is all it takes for disaster to hit. What is available on the boat is all you have and the management of these is key!

    When Ellen successfully completed her goal, she thought back to the finite resources on the boat and drew comparisons to the earth. Much like on her sailing adventures and the resources on her boat, what we have available on the earth to sustain future generations are also finite.

    This led to Ellen leaving professional sailing and launch the Ellen MacArthur foundation that aims to focus on one thing - all our futures.

    image

    Societies use of natural resources have spiked since WW2 and are clearly fundamental to life, today. These are finite, though, and will eventually be used up. So if these can be eventually used up, what does society do? Use less?

    If this is the case, what are we aiming for as a society. To do less? If so, how do we inspire young people?

    Ellen argued that we need to think differently when it comes to manufacturing the things that we need and use in the future. Designing for disassembly, that would allow for products to be broken down and used to produce the next car or carpet tile, would offer the environmental protection the earth needs combined with new economic opportunities.

    A system level change is needed, though. In the case of the automotive industry, for example, consumers would purchase miles rather than a car. You would essentially lease the miles and then give it back to the automotive company to breakdown into the next car. Bold steps, but arguably necessary given the facts presented by Ellen during her talk.

    A practical expression of this ideology is something called the circular economy, which promotes a continuous circle of production and recycling/re-production of goods.

    With the mission to re-think, re-design and build a better future, the foundation is working closely with governments, businesses and, most importantly, young people to encourage a generation to see things differently and safe guard the future of our environment.

    Part 2 of this Learning Without Frontiers themed post will follow tomorrow.

  • The UK Higher Education Blog

    Microsoft Lync 2010 at De Montfort University, Leicester.

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    lync

     

    It’s becoming increasingly clear that Lync  can be a real game-changer for universities. Among the higher education institutions we’ve talked to about this recently is De Montfort University (DMU) in Leicester. There, the Information Technology and Media Services (ITMS) team, led by their Director, Michael Robinson, is engaged in a Lync implementation that will enable staff and students to engage and work more productively, efficiently and cost effectively. To the existing choice between a phone call an email and a visit, will be added the possibilities of audio and video conferencing , instant messaging and desktop sharing, all from within each user’s familiar software, at work, home, or with a mobile device.

    Driving change

    De Montfort University is strategically committed to enhancing teaching and learning and management through technology. There are, though, two immediate drivers of the current adoption of Lync 2010.

    One is the approaching need to replace the University’s current telephone system, which is nearing the end of its life. The other is the move, completed in 2011, of the University’s School of Nursing and Midwifery from an outlying site to a new home at the Edith Murphy Building on the main campus. This has involved a major building refurbishment and rather than commit budget and resources to equipping the new premises with the existing telephone system, the decision was made to install Lync for about 100 users, at first for phone service only, working in parallel with the legacy system. This first installation, completed in September 2011, was the first step leading towards a roll-out of full-feature Lync across the whole institution completing in August 2012. Leading the project is Michael Robinson, Director of Information Technology and Media Services.

    Planning the roll-out

    The preliminary installation in the Edith Murphy building was designated as Phase One of the University’s Lync implementation. It acted as a pilot for Phase 2, the full roll-out.

    Phase 2 is organized into a number of workstreams, individually led but closely inter-related, covering all technical, training and project management aspects of the Lync adoption and its integration into the overall management and leadership of the University.

    Two of the workstreams will deal with, respectively an upgrade from Exchange 2003 to Exchange 2010  and the setting up within Lync of the University’s Contact Centre.

    The Exchange upgrade is necessary in order to gain the full functionality of Lync including voicemail, but will also provide improved email archiving and integration into SharePoint.

    The Contact Centre, taking calls from outside, has to meet considerable variations in demand at the time of university clearing for example, when anxious students (and schools and families) phone in. It has to be robust and at the same time capable of returning detailed statistics. DMU’s Contact Centre, the key first point of contact, will be up and running by April 2012.

    The core mission

    The main drive of the Lync project is to successfully introduce Lync to several thousand users across the campus.

    The need here is for flexible response to varying needs.

    “It’s not just about deploying technology. We need to consider how to communicate changes to staff that things can be carried out in different ways.” For example phone call forwarding and pickup is now configured in the Lync software client rather than directly on the phone. Another would be to collaborate on documents on-line rather than sending them around via email.’’ Michael Robinson

    A key preliminary is a comprehensive audit of the way the current telephone system is used. Users will rightly expect that they’ll be able to do what they did before, at least as well and preferably better. They will, though, also need to be shown, by training and example, that Lync is much more than a straight replacement for an existing phone system. It has the potential to streamline working practices – instant messaging instead of email for example, and the possibility of collaboration through web conferencing or the sharing of documents.

    In all of this, some users will need more help than others, and training plans encompass a wide range of approaches, including the deployment of “champions”, lectures, online help, demonstrations and one-to-one sessions.

    “There’s a balance.  It’s about working with people and not frightening them. It’s possible to throw too much technology at people, too soon. We want to bring them along, to give support.”

    In this, the ITMS team is able to build on a number of growth points, supportive groups and individual advocates or champions. The University has a Centre for Enhancing Learning through Technology CELT, along with eLearning champions within the faculties, all keen to support ITMS in making the most of the Lync rollout.

    Crucially for innovation and change is the degree of enthusiasm and tangible support coming from the top.  Michael and his team are pushing at an open door, because the Vice Chancellor (on Twitter, @DMUVC) and the Executive Board are entirely signed up to the potential of technology in general and Lync in particular.

    “The Chief Operating Officer has Lync on her PC and she’s looking to use it to improve the way the people use meeting time.”

    Benefits

    Lync is seen as a ‘‘game changer’’ as not only  does it support existing patterns of learning and collaboration with virtual meetings, document sharing and one-to-one contact but also creates possibilities for entirely new kinds of connections and encounters between individuals and groups.

    “Once you start the deployment, people will find creative ways of using it, ” says Michael.

    So, for example, there’s the prospect of using Lync for contact with students away on year-long placements. Lync, with video and desktop sharing could improve contact with both employers and students.

    Cost saving

    “The structure of our Microsoft Campus Agreement means that the cost of deploying is approximately fifty percent of the cost of a traditional PABX system.”

    There are also some savings to be made through not replacing handsets one-to-one.

    “Many people are happy to use laptops with Bluetooth headsets, or mobile phones.”

    Lync can reduce the need for travel, saving time, money and carbon emissions. So although DMU is housed on a compact campus, the conservative estimate is that it will save 10percent of current travel costs.

    There are also clear efficiency savings by reducing misunderstandings, shortening the time spent in meetings and making draft policies and documents more widely and quickly available for consultation.

    “Integration with Outlook and with SharePoint will bring huge benefits as we move to a more collaborative working model.”

    Lync working with strategic change

    We’re seeing profound changes in the way that higher and further education institutions are led and managed. There’s a move to the use of project teams working across hierarchies and between departments.  Technology, creatively used, will both support and encourage such developments, reducing the need for face-to-face meetings, and providing easier access to draft documents and policy papers. DMU is no exception to this.

    “We’re seeing more multi-disciplinary and collaborative working, with virtual teams sitting across the structure. We’re looking at modernising many systems to go along with that. putting Board papers on SharePoint for example, and using mobile devices in meetings. “

    The same kind of change is affecting the way students work and communicate.

    “People don’t work alone on courses. There are group projects and assignments, and Lync is fantastic for supporting that.”

    Microsoft education team are going to have both presentations and demo area’s dedicated to Lync and how it can be effectively used in learning in the classroom. If you would like to find out more, ask questions and see for your self, we are at BETT 2012 on stand D30 and D40 where we would love to see you!

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