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  • The UK Higher Education Blog

    More thoughts about blogging in your university


    image Following on from my earlier post of The Good Blogging Guide, I came across an article about blogging in the corporate environment. Although this isn’t the kind of thing you’re likely to get involved in, I bet at least once a term somebody comes to the IT team and says “We want to start a blog to promote the university more to potential students/researchers/employers etc”.

    I’ve just read, and mostly agreed with, a great blog post by Paul Boag on that sets out 10 Harsh Truths About Corporate Blogging – and I think these will just as easily apply to a university thinking about the use of blogs for marketing too.

    Paul’s list of 10 Truths are:

    1. A blog does not magically generate traffic
    2. Good corporate blog requires long term commitment
    3. Teaser feeds are a wasted opportunity
    4. You are not “engaging” anyone
    5. Press releases shouldn’t appear on a blog
    6. You sound like a faceless corporation
    7. You need to show the warts and all
    8. Marketeers often make bad bloggers
    9. You expect too much from your readers
    10. Your competitors will read your blog - Get over it!

    I’m not sure if Number 5 is right – I think there’s a role for a different kind of press release (let’s call it a “News Release” instead) which is written to be read by your customers, not by journalists. In these digital days, you may have more chance of your customers reading your News Releases directly from you, than through the media – especially in the UK Education market, where the range of media available has probably shrunk 40% in the last three years.

    Of course, I disagree with Number 8 – but that’s just me and my selfishness!

    And Number 10 is really, really spot on. Whatever you do, if it is good, your competitors (ie other universities) will know about it. So make things good, and make them jealous/share the good practice! Who knows, it may help find you new students, employers and new employees.

    It’s worth reading the detail in 10 Harsh Truths About Corporate Blogging.

  • The UK Higher Education Blog

    Managing Costs at Microsoft using IT – An insider’s view


    I was in a training session on Friday, when we were joined by the Microsoft IT team – the clever chaps that keep our IT network running right across the business, seemingly in the face of all of the odds.

    I believe that the odds really are stacked heavily against keeping the IT system stable, because each user has complete control over their own computer – for example, I can hit F12 and rebuild any machine at any point, self-install software and am encouraged to use everything from Instant Messenger to development tools.

    imageAsif Jinnah who manages the UK IT systems, talked about what they have been doing to reduce our internal IT running costs, and although our challenge is different to yours, I thought you might enjoy hearing some of our story of balancing the need to grow our business whilst managing our IT costs. Asif recorded a presentation for the virtual TechNet conference in June in the IT Management Auditorium section, and you can watch his full presentation, as well as download his slides, which are full of facts and figures:

    • We manage 250,000 computers via SMS, including 124,000 Vista clients, and 20,000 Windows 7 clients
    • There are over 350,000 internal SharePoint sites
    • Over the last 4 years, the IT team have delivered a 44% decrease in IT cost per head
    • We have over 500 virtual servers, running on a 16:1 host ratio
    • OCS is saving us £160,000 a month on telecoms

    There’s also an interesting part about the reductions we made when we changed the way we ran our internal IT help desk – which resulted in reduced costs and reduced user satisfaction! (I noted this because of the way that Asif was prepared to be so open about our experiences - even the ones which obviously required more work)

    You can find the whole presentation by going to the Virtual TechNet site, and looking for the "Growing the Business and Managing Costs – An Insider’s view” presentation in the IT Management Auditorium


  • The UK Higher Education Blog

    Free Event - Windows 7 and Windows Server 2008 R2 – 21 Aug 2009


    Although it’s a little bit last minute, I’ve grabbed at the chance to get some of our Windows 7 & Windows Server 2008 brains together on Friday 21st August, in our Thames Valley Campus in Reading. It’s August, and I know that it is one of the busiest times for IT teams, however you probably have a bit more control over your diary than a normal month. So here’s your invitation to:

    imageI’d like to invite you to come along to our Windows workshop, where you’ll have the chance to hear about Windows 7 and Windows Server 2008 R2 and to explore what they mean for education. The agenda includes James O’Neill from our Developer and Platform Evangelist team, and Richard Lane, one of our Account Technology Specialists, exploring how the new products launched this year can help you to streamline your ICT infrastructure and improve the ICT management and user experience. With Windows 7 available to existing Campus Agreement customers from the end of this week, and Windows Server 2008 R2 available from the 19th August, it seems like the perfect time to take a day out of school to understand how it fits into your future plans (available from 1st September if you’re one of the unlucky ones and you don’t have a Campus Agreement yet).

    There are already a number of education institutions planning to implement Windows 7 this summer, and so we hope to make the day as interactive as possible, with plenty of time for discussion with your peers from other schools, to compare notes and experiences (there will be people attending who’ll have implemented Windows 7 by the 21st, so hopefully they’ll have practical advice for us all!)

    To allow for those making longer journeys, we’ll start at 10am and finish by 3pm.

    If you’d like to attend the free Windows in Education day, then simply drop an email to Sam Mills, who’ll reserve you a place, and send you confirmation details for how to get to our Reading campus.

  • The UK Higher Education Blog

    The Good Blogging Guide - PDF version now available


    After a little bit of prompting, and a few requests, I’ve pulled the chapters of the “Good Blogging Guide” into a complete PDF booklet.

    You can now download the whole thing as a PDF and read it at your leisure, and share with colleagues.

    Chapter One – Writing for your audience

    Chapter Two – Have an objective

    Chapter Three – Getting onto page one of Google

    Chapter Four – A blogging Code of Practice

    Chapter Five – No lawyers please

    Chapter Six – When (if) things go wrong

    If you prefer to still read it online (which does make it easy to disagree or add your own thoughts via comments) you can get to all via this Good Blogging Guide page.

  • The UK Higher Education Blog

    A comprehensive list of what's new in Windows 7



    I’ve just finished scanning an excellent series of articles on TechNet, about what’s new in Windows 7. Whilst not every feature is critical for education, there are some areas which are answers to current challenges in education ICT.

    And there’s plenty more on AppLocker, Biometrics, Print Management, Search, etc etc.

    Read the full set of articles on TechNet

  • The UK Higher Education Blog

    Microsoft Develops Plug-in for Moodle to Aid Teachers, Students


    This is a very exciting announcement and one that I’ve certain will be welcome from many in the education sector and also an important step in Microsoft’s Education Product Group strategy as we release the Microsoft Live Services plug-in for Moodle.

    (see video


    As the name suggests, the plug-in allows some live services to be accessed from within Moodle.  To help Microsoft’s live@edu customers gain access to and understand this functionality, we are releasing the full source and accompanying documentation to the plug-in.


    Specifically, the plug-in integrates to Outlook Live email, calendar, Live Messenger, Live Alerts and Bing Search directly into Moodle.  This means that students, teachers and faculty can quickly communicate, collaborate and conduct learning based research directly inside the Moodle learning management system.


    For more information, please go to Michael Golden’s blog posting

    and for access to the plug-in please view the education labs

  • The UK Higher Education Blog

    Integrating Moodle with Microsoft Live services


    Who’d have thought it, not only would I be looking for the Moodle logo for the blog, but other strange things have been happening this week:

    • We’ve released two projects under the open source GPL v2 licence for the first time ever
    • Following on from the experimental OfficeLabs project, we’ve launched Education Labs, to allow ‘quick’ projects to release helpful applications (or more likely ‘applets’) specifically to support teachers and learners
    • We’ve released software development kits to allow programmers to connect our Live services into other applications (like web portals)
    • …and it is only Thursday

    The background

    Let me go back to the beginning…

    • Moodle is an open-source virtual learning environment used in the majority of universities and colleges in the UK, and in a minority of schools. (More on Moodle at
    • Universities typically either implement Moodle as a stand-alone web portal, or use the SharePoint webparts for Moodle as one way of integrating it with the rest of their ICT systems. And in many universities, Moodle is something that has been adopted at departmental level, often bypassing the university-wide VLE of choice.
    • GPL is the licence scheme that most open-source software is released under. We don’t normally use it, because once something is released under this licence, control of it passes over to anybody who wants it. It’s different to the usual licences we use, where we retain the rights to the software – eg to modify it, or to introduce a fee for it.
    • OfficeLabs was started a year ago, to share some of the projects we work on internally, that produces prototypes products (a bit like ‘concept cars’). Previously these projects would have been used by Microsoft staff, but only the occasional product would make it out in the big wide world. But OfficeLabs allows the release of small projects which can add to the Office experience, even without them being fully engineered products. It’s come out with things like PPTPlex for PowerPoint (which completely transforms presentations from being a start-on-the-first-slide-and-go-all-the-way-to-the-last-slide experience) and the Forgotten Attachment Detector for Outlook (which looks out for key words like ‘attached’ in your email, and reminds you when you’ve actually forgotten to attach the document in your email). Oh, and it’s free.
    • Education Labs is the new equivalent for education projects from Microsoft. If you imagine Microsoft as a car factory, then Education Labs is the guys around the corner building a Go Kart – it’s the fun, hobby side of the team.

    The Live Services plug-in for Moodle

    What we’ve released on Education Labs this week is a toolkit that allows you to integrate the Live@Edu services onto your students’ Moodle homepage. Live@Edu is our hosted mail and collaboration service for students, which provides a free 10GB mailbox, 25GB of general online file storage, and additional 5GB of online document storage for collaborative projects. A large number of UK universities have started using it – with budgets so tight, the idea of outsourcing student email to a free provider is looking more attractive!

    What the plug-in does is allow a student to see their live, real-time inbox and calendar on their Moodle home page, via a single login. And it also allows lecturers to do things like send out student alerts – things like “Your homework assignment is due in tomorrow” with an easy step, and the system will handle the delivery of it to students (through email, mobile phone etc).

    When I saw a brief demonstration of it yesterday, the bit that impressed me was seeing the email inbox on the home page of Moodle – not just a link to it, but the actual emails themselves. It is another step towards making your school Learning Platform the core of everything that your students and staff do.

    You can download the Moodle plug-in from Education Labs, or watch the video of it on this page.

    With this project, you’ll need the technical skills to get it working (but then you’ll have needed those to get Moodle working in your university too). But if you are using Moodle already, this project is a step in the right direction to help integrate a range of your ICT services together, and builds on the work we did a couple of years ago to help the integration between SharePoint and Moodle.

  • The UK Higher Education Blog

    Windows 7 release date announced – 7th August for most UK universities


    The Windows Team have announced, via The Windows Blog, more information on the various availability dates for Windows 7. Whilst the consumer product launches on 22nd October, it will actually be available earlier for customers using our ‘volume licensing’ schemes – like the Campus Agreement and Select Licensing.

    The very good news in their blog post is that customers who have bought their existing Windows licences with Software Assurance – which includes every University with a Campus Agreement – will be able to get the full released version on 7th August. (Whilst the rest will have to wait until at least 1st September)

    This ‘thank you’ to Campus Agreement customers means that some universities can start to roll out Windows 7 during this summer holiday, whilst some will have to wait until Christmas or beyond, when the classrooms are quiet enough.

    Full details of all of the dates are on the Windows 7 team blog

    It may seem adventurous to roll out a brand new operating system very early, but this time things are very different – over 2m downloads of the Windows 7 beta, and millions of people running it means that we’re releasing a pretty mature product which has already had significant amounts of real-life testing. The old adage of “Wait for Service Pack 1” doesn’t seem to apply in the new release model, where the Beta and the Release Candidate are both widely available for public use.

  • The UK Higher Education Blog

    Windows 7 Deployment resources


    After my last post, I got a couple of immediate emails asking for sources of deployment advice for Windows 7. So here’s a brief set of links to resources to read (perhaps wait until term’s over at the end of the week?)

    How to start a Windows 7 deployment

    Deployment Tech centre (including chance to sign up for beta of new deployment tools)

    Deployment training video on Win 7 DISM, from MS Learning:

    And finally, how about signing up for beta programme for the Microsoft Deployment Toolkit 2010?

    Get ready to deploy Windows® 7 and Windows Server® 2008 R2 with the newly released Microsoft Deployment Toolkit (MDT) 2010 Beta 2. MDT 2010 is the next version of Microsoft Deployment Toolkit, a Solution Accelerator for operating system and application deployment. New features such as flexible driver management, optimized user interface work flow, and Windows PowerShellTM will help simplify deployment and make your job easier. As a member of the Beta review program, you will be asked to provide feedback about the tools that the Solution Accelerator includes.

  • The UK Higher Education Blog

    Windows 7 release dates for education


    Our Worldwide Partner Conference was on this week, and there has been a flurry of announcements. I’ll summarise those that may be important to you over the next few days, but if you can’t wait then go over to our PressPass site.

    One of the most important things mentioned at the conference was the imminent release of Windows 7. The Windows 7 team immediately added some more info to their blog, to give a bit more detail.

    The most important thing is that our customers who have a Campus Agreement, or another agreement with Software Assurance, will be the first to get access, and it looks like that’s in the middle of August.

    So the race is on to be the first university to deploy the release version of Windows 7 widely this summer!

    Here’s the verbatim from the Windows 7 blog:


    As previously stated, we expect Windows 7 to RTM in the 2nd half of July.

    Once Windows 7 is complete, how do I get it?

    The answer depends on who you are:

    • MSDN & TechNet Subscribers: Subscribers will be able to download the final version of Windows 7 a few weeks after we announce RTM.
    • Volume License (VL) Customers: Customers with Software Assurance for Windows will be able to download the final version of Windows 7 Enterprise a few weeks after we announce RTM. As announced today by Bill Veghte during his WPC09 keynote, customers without Software Assurance will be able to purchase Windows 7 through Volume Licensing on September 1st.
    • Consumers, Enthusiasts, & Beta Testers (Everyone else): The retail version of Windows 7 will be available in stores October 22nd. If you pre-ordered Windows 7, it should be delivered sometime around the October 22nd timeframe (depends on the retailer).
    • On New PCs: OEMs are expected to start shipping new PCs with Windows 7 pre-installed on them around October 22nd.  Endquotes
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