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August, 2013 - 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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August, 2013

  • The UK Higher Education Blog

    Devices in Education: Lenovo Yoga vs. iPad


    New video showcasing the awesome new Lenovo Yoga device, the perfect choice for the back to school season.

    Play games, access your files anywhere, do two things at once side-by-side and catch up with family and friends, all on a single device.

    Have fun and get your homework done with a Windows 8 tablet!

    To learn more about which devices is right for you, check out our new Devices in Education eBook. Let us know which is your favourite device in the comments below.

  • The UK Higher Education Blog

    4 weeks left of the Surface RT Summer deal!



    With our Surface RT Summer deal in full swing, and only 4 weeks left to make the most of the fantastic offer, we really wanted to share with you some final tips and pointers on the deal.

    4 more weeks to benefit from the Surface RT Summer Offer

    As previously mentioned, due to the fantastic level of interest the deal has received, the deadline has been extended to the 30th September 2013 so that those of you haven’t been able to make your orders over the holidays, can still benefit from 4 more weeks order time.


    Windows 8.1

    We are excited to share some of the benefits Surface owners will have access to, one of which is a free upgrade to Windows 8.1. With Windows 8.1, colleges, schools and universities will be able to benefit from better security, longer battery life thanks to the embedded wireless radio and simple tag-to-pair printing, avoiding longwinded printer connection setups. Sure to fare well with students rushing to hand in deadlines on time!

    Filling in your order form

    As before, please make sure the 'Bill to' and 'Ship to' sections are both the same to avoid orders from slowing down. Similarly, to avoid delays, make sure to fill in the 'Purchase Order Number' and 'Institution VAT number'. If the VAT number is not applicable, please make sure to write N/A .


    Sending your order form

    All order forms please need to be sent to Please note, the offer is eligible to Academic Institutions only.

    Order Process

    After the inhaul of orders and enquiries, we are happy to report that we have streamlined our order process and reduced lead time from 20 days to 7 to 10 days.

    If your Surface RT delivery comes without attachments such as keyboards, please rest assured that the attachments will follow 3 to 5 days later.


    For any further queries, please send your emails to

    Again, we apologise for any delays you have experienced and thank you kindly for your patience.

    Make the most of the last 4 weeks to come!

  • The UK Higher Education Blog

    Unified Communications Apprenticeship Scheme - a partnership between Freedom Communications, West Herts College and Microsoft



    The growing adoption of innovative communication technology in business is rapidly fuelling demand for today's young workforce to possess voice, IT and business skills. While businesses become more technologically-centred, the communication skill gap of young unemployed people grows, making it harder for local businesses to find trained employees and even more so, for young people to find work. In less than 12 months, Hertfordshire Local Enterprise Partnership (LEP) has united West Herts College, Watford-based Freedom Communications and Microsoft IT Academy, a dynamic private-public partnership, to create an innovative apprenticeship scheme that is actively addressing a growing skills gap for the benefit of local businesses.


    The Drive for Partnership

    Freedom Communications delivers communication and network technologies, such as Microsoft's Lync to over 1,000 companies in the UK, playing an active part in the UK's growing communication technology market, valued at £6.6bn. Unified Communication Technology (UCT) skills are new in the UK so Freedom spotted an urgent need for specialist training to be provided to young people, early in their careers. What better way to address the employer/employee UCT dilemma, by synonymously developing young peoples' employability skills, and filling a pool of appropriately trained employees for firms to dip into!     

    Paving the way with a proactive passion for people development, West Herts College welcomed the opportunity to work with Freedom to give their students the training and tools to enhance their communication technology skills and employability skills. Duncan Murray, Deputy Principal of West Herts College recounts:

    "Working in partnership with ambitious companies like Freedom is the ideal way for West Herts College to help drive innovation and growth in the region. Higher-level apprenticeships offer a genuine alternative to higher education, keeping local expertise in the local economy and offering careers with great earning potential.”

    Meeting at the Watford Business Growth Forum, Freedom and WCH quickly realized they shared a passion for skills and people development and formed a partnership with Microsoft to support and inspire young people in developing their UCT skills with Lync.


    The Apprenticeship Scheme

    Working together, Freedom, WHC and Microsoft have created a tailored Apprenticeship Scheme through the Microsoft IT Academy, that meets not only Freedom’s specific requirements for talent, but addresses the skills gap by developing a skilled workforce and foundation for excellent career prospects.

    The level 4 Lync apprenticeship offered by West Herts College has been designed to focus on developing transferrable business skills, delivering live enterprise challenges alongside ITIL foundation and SDI accreditations, to prepare students for a career option at Freedom. We are thrilled to announce the first scheme in July 2013 is already set to appoint two apprentices.

    This dynamic scheme has been made reality by Freedom investing in both skills participation and infrastructure, including a dynamic work environment, acquisition of key resources including Lync trainers and the design and development of learning frameworks, learning standards and outcomes for its college work experience placements.

    Paul Witcombe of Herts LEP sheds light on some of the wider benefits of the scheme:

    "The promotion of the skills agenda and in particular an emphasis on apprenticeships is key to our strategy to drive business led economic growth. Employer-led investments are the best approach to achieving growth. Investment as part of this project will have an immediate and sustainable impact on private sector jobs growth in the local area.”

    Benefits in Abundance

    Perhaps most exciting is the broad impact the apprenticeship scheme will have:

    Young people will be better prepared to meet industry demand for ICT skills, and considerably increase career and salary prospects.

    As for the ICT Sector, business growth will be supported by increasing availability of high-demand Lync skills.

    The Hertfordshire region will provide new employment opportunities for young people, where almost three times the number of 18-24 year olds are out of work compared to 25-49 year olds

    Finally, the UK economy will be enhanced with services skills that ensure home-grown talent stays within UK organisations, so revenue opportunities remain in the UK


    Opportunities for the Future

    Within Hertfordshire, it is anticipated that Freedom, WHC and Microsoft will expand its apprenticeship scheme to involve WHC feeder schools, offering skills development and career support to inspire younger learners considering an ICT career. Plans are also afoot to introduce a Traineeship scheme at WHC, alongside the Apprenticeship, providing work experience and technical and business skills training.

    But you might be asking yourself how the scheme could help your local area?

    While this project focuses initially on the Watford locality, Freedom, WHC and Microsoft have created a blueprint for private-public partnerships that can be adopted by other local enterprises to benefit the UK. This includes replicating the scheme in Leeds, where Freedom’s secondary office is located, and expanding the number of annual apprentice recruits over time.

    We are thrilled to enlighten you with the social benefits of the Apprenticeship Scheme and would encourage you to share and explore the plan with the schools, students and local authority in your local area. 

    I will leave you with one final statement from Chris Luff, Director of Freedom Communications:

    "The partnership is a springboard to future accelerated growth for Freedom and will ensure WHC can develop a training approach that is sustainable beyond the scope of our initial project, to be a leading light in skills transfer and learning.”

  • The UK Higher Education Blog

    DreamSpark Getting Started Guide: Faculty


    We know first-hand the power of a student’s ideas (hello, Bill Gates?). That’s why we created DreamSpark, to give ambitious students a break and help kick-start their careers. 

    Every educator, student and school lab can take advantage of DreamSpark for learning, teaching and research to get the best, professional-level design and development tools - at low cost to schools.

    We want to help you make their dreams come to life with the real coding experiences they need  to build their skills and get ready for their future career.

    A great place to start is Microsoft Visual Studio Professional - the full suite of tools - to help your students build apps, games and sites in HTML, C++, C#, Ruby, Java and more.

    Subscribe to DreamSpark at and start helping your class get ahead.

    View or download our getting started guide below to learn more!

  • The UK Higher Education Blog

    DreamSpark at the University of Chester


    Great video featuring students and lecturers from the University of Chester discussing what DreamSpark means to them and how it’s used within the university to help students improve their skills and demonstrate their practical experience to employers.

    Check out the full video below.

  • The UK Higher Education Blog

    Devices in Education: Senior Managers and IT Professionals


    In our final day of Devices in Education themed posts, we are going to look at the devices best suited for IT Pro’s and Senior Management working within schools, colleges and universities.

    It may seem strange for us to group senior managers and IT pros into one section, but there is reason behind the seeming madness. While these two groups consume different content on their PCs, their requirements are actually quite similar. In their roles, they both need devices with high performance, professional looks and ample storage.




    3 excellent devices for Senior Manager and IT professionals include the following range of Tablets, All-in-One’s and Ultrabook’s:

    All-in-One (Mid Range): HP Envy 23-d010ea

    The Envy’s 3rd generation Intel® processor provides a fast processing speed which gives all the performance that senior managers and IT pros need. Its structure is smart, with edge-to-edge glass design, but doesn’t compromise performance, and you can even mount it on the wall. With the 10-point touch sensitive screen, you can introduce a truly hands-on approach to leadership meetings, or get your team of IT technicians involved in the solution planning process.

    Tablet (High End): Surface Pro

    With the ability to run all the apps and programs you care about, digital ink capabilities and the option to join a corporate domain for full access to your institutions network, we think the Surface Pro is the perfect choice for senior management and IT professionals within academic institutions.


    Ultrabook (High End): Lenovo X1 Carbon

    Another visually stunning device, the Lenovo X1 Carbon has everything you could ask for, and more. The long battery life allows you to stay unplugged all day, so if you’re walking around the school offering support, or in and out of meetings, you can rest assured that your laptop will last as long as you do. The Intel® vPro technology enables you to manage, protect, repair, and locate assets from anywhere in the world, which we know is important to those leading the school and staff. Being on the move can leave you with little time to charge your device, but with Lenovo’s rapid charge technology charging the battery up to 80% in 35 minutes, you needn’t worry about those busy days out of your office.


    For a full overview of our current curated list of devices for education, check out our eBook below.

  • The UK Higher Education Blog

    Devices in Education: Educators


    Any educator requires a PC to enable them to prepare, teach and communicate within their school, college or university. They use their devices for a diverse range of activities, from electronic grade records, to communicating with students, parents and other educators, to designing lesson and assignment plans. Their device is often used as the primary teaching and projection device in a classroom, and may therefore be used for video-conferencing and web browsing in addition to the aforementioned. Consequently, they need a device which can keep up with their fast-paced lifestyle, and has the ability to perform multiple functions without slowing down.


    3 great devices for educators, are as follows:

    Ultrabook (Entry Level): ASUS VivoBook S200E

    A sleek, lightweight device with a price point starting at under £350, this ASUS is perfect for a teacher just starting their career. The touchscreen allows you to make the most of Windows 8, but you still have full laptop functionality for those all important lesson plans and emails. The devices size is only a plus, and is easily portable for when your bags are full of various textbooks and worksheets. We know that connection ports are important for teachers, as you need to connect to display equipment, peripherals and other devices, and the ASUS doesn’t let you down, being able to connect to almost anything with its VGA, HDMI and USB ports.


    Hybrid (Mid Range): HP Envy x2

    Boasting up to 14 hours of battery life when attached to the keyboard base, this device will take you from home to work, and survive the journey in between so you can continue your work when commuting. The detachable tablet is perfect for portability, allowing you to move your demos and teaching around the classroom rather than being stuck behind the laptop stand, and the Intel Atom processor, combined with 2GB of RAM, come together to give a smooth experience when multitasking.



    Ultrabook (High End): Acer Aspire S

    This beautiful looking device is great for teachers who want to get things done while looking professional at the same time. The screen can be opened to 180 degrees and laid flat, making it perfect for collaboration, and the Acer Crystal Eye HD camera allows you to video conference with other classrooms around the world using services such as Skype. The Intel Core i7 processor provides a seamless experience, whether browsing the web or running multiple applications, giving you more time to work and less time waiting for things to load. If you want a high performance, lightweight and visually impressive device that provides you with everything you need as a teacher, this is the device to choose.


    More information about the devices featured in this post is available within our Devices in Education eBook. The eBook can be viewed/downloaded below:

  • The UK Higher Education Blog

    Devices in Education: FE & HE Students


    Day three of our look at devices in education is shifting to FE and HE learners. A student in further or higher education needs a device which can handle intensive use while they research and write essays, create PowerPoint presentations and collaborate with their peers, whilst also being able to handle the demands of their personal life, such as playing games, socialising or even making computer and mobile phone apps. They want something smart and sleek which they can show off, but need something portable enough to take to and from class.

    3 devices that would be great for FE and HE students include the following:

    Ultrabook (Entry Level): Stone NT310

    Designed to withstand the trials and tribulations of daily use, this device perfectly suits a college environment, and is both stylish and durable. The Intel i7 processor delivers the swift, instant response you need as a student, no matter what you’re doing, and the 15.6” HD LCD screen gives you plenty of real-estate to multitask using the Windows 8 snapping function.

    All-in-One (Mid Range): Toshiba LX830-11D

    For students looking for a sturdy and productive, yet entertainment ready, All-in-One device for their bedrooms, or institutions looking to kit out their computer labs with a universally user-friendly device, look no further. The i3 processor in the LX830 provides all the speed a student needs to complete their work, and the 1TB hard drive gives them enough space to store it all once it’s complete. We love the HD graphics too, which bring images and videos to life on the big touchscreen, and are great for keeping you engaged when doing research for projects.


    Hybrid (High End): Sony VAIO Duo

    A gorgeous alternative to standard form factors, the Duo can be transformed from a tablet to laptop in seconds with the SurfSlider™ screen, which slides up to reveal a full QWERTY keyboard, perfect for getting your college and university work done. The Digitizer stylus allows a fluid and natural writing style, which you can use to make notes during class when typing isn’t enough. The Intel i5 processor delivers a fast performance, automatically providing a boost of speed when needed. What more could you ask for when juggling study and personal life?

    To check out the full specs of the machines featured in this post, our full Devices in Education eBook can be viewed/downloaded below/

  • The UK Higher Education Blog

    UCAS turns to Windows Azure and partner IPL on ‘A’ Level results day


    For many in England, Wales and Northern Ireland yesterday was one of the most important of their lives. Hundreds of thousands of university applicants were anxiously on A level results day to find out if whether they had secured places at their chosen university or college. UCAS, the UK's shared admissions service for higher education, handled a massive 180 logins per second yesterday. This represents a huge challenge with the hopes and dreams of students resting on the reliability of IT that needed to scale to cope with a massive peak in activity.

    To do this, UCAS, worked with Microsoft partner IPL with a Cloud-based solution running on Microsoft Windows Azure to power the infrastructure that runs the university admissions system. The system known as ‘Track’ and running on Azure provides UCAS with the ability to scale with the massive peak demand it experienced and is new actively helping students find university places via the UCAS clearing system.

    Steve Jeffree, UCAS Chief Operating Officer, said: “UCAS’ job is to provide a robust service for universities and colleges across the country, especially during this key time. The higher education sector will benefit from the move to cloud computing for many years to come.”

    Paul Jobbins, CEO at IPL, added: “UCAS needed a truly extraordinary solution to a completely one-off requirement. We had to provide a robust IT platform that could withstand a torrent of online access in one 24-hour period – and potentially within as little as one or two hours of that 24-hour period. Practically speaking, this was likely to be over half a million applicants wanting online access through browsers and mobile devices.

    Windows Azure combined with the solution that IPL designed is a classic application of cloud-based technology, taking advantage of its inherent capability to scale massively when required, while remaining highly cost-effective and secure.”

    Michael Newberry, Windows Azure lead, Microsoft UK concludes: “The Cloud and Windows Azure comes into its own when scale such as this is needed. We are pleased to have played our part to ensure the process ran smoothly and students are matched to universities and courses.”

  • The UK Higher Education Blog

    Office 365 Xbox Promotion


    We are delighted to announce that our latest Microsoft Office 365 Summer offer is now up for grabs for a limited time.  Running until 28th September, 2013, 12 months of free Xbox Live Gold membership is now included with all Office 365 Home Premium or Office 365 University subscriptions.


    Claiming your Xbox Live Gold subscription is simple. When you purchase an Office 365 Home Premium annual subscription or Office 365 University, follow the three simple steps here to start enjoying 12 months of Xbox Live Gold.

    Please note, the offer is only eligible for purchases made between 18th July and 28th September 2013.

    See the offer details and terms for complete information, including eligible countries/regions.

    Office 365 Home Premium Features


    Office 365 Home Premium has many advantages including access to the latest Office applications on up to 5 PCs or Macs and 5 mobile devices. Home Premium is ideal for all members of the family delivering access to the Home suite from work, from school, from home, or on the go, enabling the family to stay connected and share together. Cloud capabilities open up the possibility of working, connecting and learning anywhere with internet access, and any time, thanks to real-time updates. Office Home Premium provides all Office apps plus a generous 7GB of SkyDrive storage, and 60 free minutes of Skype world minutes per month. For either £79.99 per year or £7.99 a month, your family can all enjoy a whole new experience of learning and working. For more information, click here.

    Office 356 University Features


    For busy students and teachers, working and learning has never been more interactive than with Office 365 University. Accessible for up to two PCs or MACs, the 4 year Office 365 subscription can be installed to any two devices in the four year period, ideal for cash-strapped students carrying out a 4 year degree program, likely to require an expensive laptop upgrade! The Cloud will transform the logistics of collaborative work and learning for students and teachers, enabling real-time sharing of PowerPoint presentations, group work, lecture slides, calendars and many more aspects. What's more, thanks to the Cloud, working and studying on the move has never been easier with virtually anywhere access to Office 365 from any computer with internet and Windows 7 or 8.  Office 365 University provides all Office apps plus a generous 7GB of SkyDrive storage, and 60 free minutes of Skype world minutes per month. For just £59.99 for four years, enhance the way you learn and work independently and with your peers and colleagues. For more information, click here.

    So what does Xbox Live Gold bring to the table?


    Aside from the exciting entertainment experiences Xbox Live can bring to the living room with online multiplayer gaming, free game downloads and on demand TV show and movie streaming, there are educational benefits too. Smartglass technology enables users to easily connect their smartphone or device to the television screen and explore and research on the net without having to use a mouse or keyboard. This can transform the appeal of after school group work for students and add a 'fun' spin on learning. To find out more about the many features of Xbox Live Gold, click on the video link here.


    Make the most of the summer Office 365 Xbox offer and get ahead of the game for next academic year.

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