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March, 2012 - 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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March, 2012

  • The UK Higher Education Blog

    Featuring the new and updated Microsoft DreamSpark at UCISA 2012


    dreamspark-logoRecently, Microsoft have launched the new site DreamSpark Premium giving schools, colleges and universities opportunity to utilize the benefits it has to offer. What this means for existing EES licensed schools, colleges and universities will receive a complementary copy of DreamSpark $99 campus wide licence whilst not impacting any existing MSDN Academic Alliance (MSDNAA) services or IT subscriptions.

    So, what’s changed?

    To put it simply, DreamSpark and MSDNAA have become one to become DreamSpark Premium providing Microsoft products to both students and educators across all education sectors and added in a new institution wide subscription that licences you to distribute our development and design products to your students and educators  - complimentary if already EES subscribed.

    With professional developer tools, as an educator, you can teach your students to create, improve and enhance their learning's with both non and low cost software and with the new additions to the DreamSpark family including Visual Studio Lightswitch 2011  and Windows Phone, your students can continue to build and share their ideas around apps, games and real sites whilst developing themselves with no charge.

    With the tough job market as it currently is, having knowledge around technology is increasingly important. DreamSpark is a software tool that allows students to have that edge by giving them access to the same tools the pros use, making them job ready when they graduate.

    As we are attending UCISA 2012 this year, we will have the opportunity to talk to you about this in more detail or answer any queries you may have on stand 22 or visit our Q&A and Usage Guidelines to take advantage of the benefits around DreamSpark.

  • The UK Higher Education Blog

    How academic institutions can use Connected Education to maximise contemporary learning


    There’s no doubt that innovative learning techniques create excitement and motivation for students as well as teachers, improving achievement and development for both. Providing contemporary learning experiences in education is really important for successful and forward-thinking institutions.


    There are many challenges in today’s learning environment, such as improving learning outcomes, increasing efficiency, and competition from other institutions. Connected Education aims to help overcome these challenges, using the latest creative tools and collaboration technologies. The Connected Education tools which include eLearning concepts, sophisticated reporting systems and ideas to manage and secure IT efficiently, can greatly improve methods of working for ICT in schools.


    For example eLearning enables students and academic staff to deliver and manage content from any device, anywhere, at any time. Pupils can write assignments, take notes and create multimedia projects using high-level software from wherever they are working – in the classroom, at home, or anywhere else.

    Students can also improve projects by being able to communicate with teachers and fellow students using a range of software such as voice, video and instant messaging tools. This can largely improve the speed and effectiveness in which they are able to learn, ask questions and complete assignments. There are also many teacher resources within eLearning to help teaching staff put together engaging learning sessions, using multimedia presentations, podcasts, videos or interactive online courses.


    Another effective element of Connected Education is the improvement of administration tasks within schools. Microsoft business intelligence solutions enable academic staff to collate performance related reports into easy to understand dashboards and graphs, in real-time. Reporting is simplified, allowing leaders to gain a better insight into their institutions and make informed decisions from the data gathered. The greater insight schools have, the more enhancements they can make to their learning approaches, making them high competition for other institutions.

    IT Professionals and CIO’s in education organisations can also take advantage of Connected Education. Microsoft’s suite of smart tools can reduce IT overheads, as well as manage and secure IT networks more efficiently. For example, IT staff can automate the distribution of applications, updates and patches to servers, desktops and laptops across their network. Security, imperative in education institutions, can be strengthened successfully using Connected Education. Networks can be protected from attack by setting security protection criteria for networked PCs, automatically quarantining those that do not comply while they are disinfected or patched. Virtualisation software provided within Connected Education can also hugely reduce unnecessary overheads, for example you can consolidate all servers into one virtualised environment, create a virtual desktop so that software and applications can be accessed centrally across the network, and host applications and files in the cloud.

    For more information on Connected Education, please refer to our dedicated microsite.

  • The UK Higher Education Blog

    DreamSpark for Institutions: FAQ’s for Customers


    Microsoft DreamSpark provides no-cost access to Microsoft designer and development tools for verified students and educators around the world, to support and advance their learning and skills through technical design, technology, math, science and engineering activities. Academic subscription volume licensing customers receive an online subscription to DreamSpark at no additional cost for instructional use by their teachers and students organization-wide in their classrooms and labs. In addition, Science, Technology, Engineering, and Math (STEM) departments in higher education institutions may qualify for an online DreamSpark Premium subscription at no additional cost as a benefit of their Enrollment for Education Solutions (EES) or Open Value Subscription – Education Solutions (OVS-ES).

    To learn more about DreamSpark, view/download our FAQ document below.

    DreamSpark FAQ's
    View more documents from Microsoft Education UK

    Still unsure about something? Pop your question in the comments below and we will get straight back to you.


  • The UK Higher Education Blog

    School in a Box Reception – House of Commons, 29th February 2012


    On 29th February, Microsoft were at the House of Commons, Westminster for the School in a Box Reception hosted by Reading MP Rob Wilson. The event provided a high profile opportunity for schools and Microsoft Partners to show how they are working together to provide high quality, flexible and scalable low cost technologies to support leadership, administration and even more importantly, classroom learning.

    Gerald Haigh, independent writer for Microsoft, went along on Wednesday to find out how School in a Box is moving along in education and how cloud computing is transforming already the way ICT works for education.


    The tone of the gathering was firmly set, after an upbeat introduction from Rob Wilson, speaker Dan Moynihan, CEO of the Harris Federation, of 13 schools, eventually growing to 25 began by describing the remarkable record achieved in short order by schools within the Federation. You can read it on the school site here.

    In his talk, Dan outlined a philosophy of ‘High expectations, matched with decisive action,’ and a belief that every child can achieve.

    ‘The ICT has to facilitate that, no excuses. It has to work every time, and it’s part of our uncompromising approach to quality.’

    The Federation’s mission is to take on underperforming schools and turn them round. This involves dealing with some schools where ICT provision is poor, and not well managed.

    The solution in a nutshell, is to provide a central, cloud-based solution ‘HarrisNET’ for the whole Federation.

    ‘It’s our own Cloud. We developed it ourselves, we host it and run it. We store data and learning content, accessible from anywhere.’

    There’s extensive use of Microsoft technologies including Windows 7 at the desktops, Server 2008 providing a single Active Directory for all the Academies, Exchange 2010 also serving all the Academies and Sharepoint 2010 which is branded as HarrisNET. Together they form the Cloud and provide the ability to run Office 365 which uses SharePoint to provide Cloud storage.

    As new academies join the Federation, ICT provision is set up for them remotely in the cloud to be rolled out on site. Dan contrasts that with an older style of ICT provision which may have involved designing a new network for each academy, with separate attention to software and hardware, at at typical cost of £1450 per pupil – say £1.7million per school.

    ‘We wondered why we needed to spend all that money, when we could provide a better solution with a cloud system. How we did it now is something we call Academy in a Box.’

    It’s not, though, he emphasises, ‘one size fits all’.

    ‘We tailor it to the site, but avoid having different solutions for the same problem. We manage it centrally and there’s less support needed locally,’

    This then is a centrally designed and hosted solution which is also flexible enough for each Academy to have its individual approach, response to community needs and appropriate teaching and learning style. Efficient, lean, ready-to-go and reliable, it’s a very cost effective way of provisioning any school  be it new, refurbished, updated or whatever with the ICT that it needs to achieve its own particular vision. That cost saving element is highly significant.

    ‘We’ve gone from £1.7 million per school to £500,000 per school. Across the group our savings are £2m per annum on ICT alone.’

    (The change in licensing costs with the advent of EES last March was of great benefit here. It actually made the Cloud investment financially possible )

    ‘Most importantly’, says Dan, ‘everything works.’

    ‘We hit the ground running when a school opens. Our Principals are guaranteed a working solution… safe and secure, enabling all users to access files and software and applications in the cloud when and where they need them. ’

    Above all, Dan feels there is the assurance of change and improvement for the young people…..learning and teaching is the guiding force.

    Also at show at the House of Commons was some of the work Microsoft and their Partners have been doing with newly opening Free Schools. European Electronique  were on hand, with some of the students from West London Free School.  They were quick to tell me how pleased they were with their Office 365  and its ‘anytime, anywhere’ accessibility. European Electronique claims this as “One of the first Microsoft Office 365 deployments in Britain’s schools.”

    (EE’s own case study of the West London Free School deployment is at )

    One universal cost benefit of Cloud is the much reduced need for on-site support. I saw the ultimate example of this when I met Tania Sidney-Roberts, Principal of The Free School Norwich , a new primary for 168 children, opened in September 2011.

    Tania, her staff and children enjoy a full and efficient service of ICT for learning, management and administration  but with no servers around, and so nobody has to be around to look after them. Everything comes as a cloud service from Microsoft Partner Civica.

    Tania Sidney-Roberts claims not to be technically minded, but what’s more important is her depth of vision and experience when it comes to children’s learning. She is deeply committed to personalised learning of a style which will often take children beyond the walls of the school, and what she wanted at the new school was something easy to manage, easy to learn, and intelligible on the screen to a four year old child. When it came to the tender process, she sketched out her ideas on a few sheets of A4 and, she says, ‘Civica were the ones who immediately grasped what I was trying to do.’

    The result is an attractive, child-friendly, easily navigable look, with colour, graphics with squirrels and a generally very comfortable primary school feel. And, as with the Harris schools, there’s anytime, anywhere access for parents, and, importantly, for the children on a range of mobile devices. (We’re told they routinely make use of the Wi-Fi at a Café on Cromer beach during their seashore studies.)

    So driving everything is a suite of powerful Microsoft software  such as SharePoint 2010, Live @Edu, Office 365, delivered by Civica as a contracted cloud service.

    (Civica also have their own case study of how they brought the Norwich Free School system into being within a two-month window)

    Is it cost efficient for small schools to provision their ICT this way?

    For me, to attempt that sort of comparison misses the point. I’d say that to produce an on-site server-based system from scratch at a new school, up and running on day one, would be prohibitive to the point where you simply wouldn’t attempt it.

    I was going to say that I came away from the House of Commons with a sense that something really big is stirring again in our nation’s relatively short, but dizzyingly fast moving story of educational IT. The truth is, though, that it’s now beyond the stirring stage. Projects like HarrisNET and the work at Norwich Free School are already being found in other places  for example West London Free School. So what we have here is a pot that’s well and truly boiling. They’re great stories on School in a Box and Cloud Services, with lessons for all schools, of all types, in all places, and we’ll try to keep you up to speed with them.


    More information can be found on the Microsoft Education SlideShare 

     School in a Box

    Baby Steps to the Cloud

  • The UK Higher Education Blog

    Help your organization using Microsoft Hyper-V


    Dave Coleman from SharePointEduTech Ltd ,user and ‘guru’ of Microsoft Hyper-V Microsoft Hyper-V and virtulization, has written a guest blog post on the benefits and commonly asked questions in regards to moving your old servers to virtual servers.


    I always think that it is a good idea to look back so you can see the way things are heading so I will begin with a bit of history.

    History of Hyper- V

    Microsoft first released Hyper-V on 26th June 2008. Hyper-V started to knock on the door of other enterprise virtualization technologies with the release of Server 2008 R2 in September 2009 this version included the ability to configure Hyper-V in a clustered configuration with failover capabilities and shared storage so that if one of your Hyper-V servers rebooted during patching etc. your virtual servers would live migrate to another node in your Hyper-V farm.

    The capabilities of Hyper-V were further enhanced with the release of Service Pack 1 for server 2008 R2. This added the dynamic RAM capability to Hyper-V, meaning that you could allocate a minimum and maximum amount of RAM to your virtual machines so that when your virtual machines need to use more RAM for an operation they will expand the amount of memory allocated and then return it when not needed. And with the upcoming release of Windows Server “8” Hyper-V will be extended even more.

    Benefits of using Hyper-V


    As you can see, Microsoft are investing a lot in their virtualization technology and adding more enterprise features. But the real benefit is on the cost saving front. If you check out the table below, you can see the licensing benefits and with the new improved EES licensing, it makes much more sense to run the Datacentre edition of Windows server 2008. This will mean that you can run an unlimited amount of virtual servers but only pay for one server license for each of your hosts.

    Windows Server Version

    Number Of Free Licences

    Windows Server 2008 Standard Edition


    Windows Server 2008 Enterprise Edition


    Windows Server 2008 Datacentre Edition


    Power Saving

    The undoubted power saving features is very attractive as you are running fewer physical servers, so electrical costs will drop. You will also save money on cooling your server room so depending on the amount of physical servers that you virtualize you may find it possible to turn off that expensive air conditioning system.

    Make the most of your hardware

    Rather than having a set of physical servers running at a small percentage of their total capacity, Hyper-V allows you to make use of all the processing power and RAM of a physical box and therefore get the most out of your physical hardware.

    What operating systems are supported for virtualization?

    As you can see from the table below the support for operating systems is extremely wide and covers all Microsoft server versions from Windows 2000 server right up to Server 2008 and also includes some versions of Linux.

    Guest OS

    Virtual processors


    Windows 7

    1,2,3 or 4

    Both x86-32 and x86-64, all editions except home editions (the home editions are Home Premium, Home Basic, and Starter)

    Windows Server 2008 R2

    1,2,3 or 4

    x64, Web, Standard, Enterprise, Datacentre

    Windows Server 2008

    1,2,3 or 4

    Both x86 and x64, Web, HPC, Standard, Enterprise, Datacentre, with or without Hyper-V

    Linux (SUSE, Red Hat Enterprise or CentOS fully supported, other distros may work)

    1,2 or 4

    Both x86 and x64

    Windows Server 2003

    1 or 2

    Both x86 and x64, Standard, Enterprise, Datacentre, SP2 required

    Windows Server 2003 R2

    1 or 2

    Web, Standard, Enterprise, Datacentre, both x86 and x64 except for Web whose 64-bit version is not supported

    Windows 2000 Server


    Server, Advanced Server, SP4 required

    Windows Vista

    1 or 2

    Both x86 and x64, all editions except home editions

    Windows XP

    1 or 2

    x86, Professional edition only, SP3 required (SP2 only supports 1 virtual CPU)

    Windows XP x64 Edition

    1 or 2

    x64, Professional edition only, SP2 required

    Windows Small Business Server 2011

    1, 2 or 4

    Essentials, Standard (Essentials supports only 2 virtual CPUs)

    Windows Home Server 2011

    1, 2 or 4


    Windows Storage Server 2008 R2 Essentials

    1, 2 or 4


    What server services can I virtualize?

    We have completed many roll outs of Hyper-V and we have yet to find a server technology role that is not supported be that SharePoint, SQL, Exchange and Active Directory my only advice is do not virtualize all your active directory servers always keep at least one physical for disaster recovery.

    How do I virtualize my old physical servers and manage my new Hyper-V farm?

    Microsoft provides a tool for this as well in the shape of System Centre Virtual Machine Manager. This management tool installs an agent on old physical servers then does a P2V (Physical to Virtual) on these servers virtualizing them and bringing them into your Hyper-V environment. You can as well manage your virtual servers using this product.

    Where next?

    OK I want to virtualize but who do I ask?

    For more information on running Hyper-V in your organisation including what hardware to buy, please contact SharePointEduTech at

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