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December, 2011 - Microsoft UK Schools blog - Site Home - MSDN Blogs
The UK Schools Blog
News and views from the Microsoft UK Education Team
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December, 2011

  • Microsoft UK Schools blog

    MTA Success story with Zenos


    Whilst most of us are now on holiday, my colleague Greg Pearson, UK Lead for Microsoft Learning has picked up this new video success story around our Microsoft Technology Associate Exams (MTA)  for students, with Zenos  which I thought I would share with you for you to then share with your students.

    - MTA eases the path towards MCP for students (and therefore a smoother path towards the skills and certifications our partners look and ask for)

    - Internationally recognised certification for the student

    - Valuable for your CV if you are a student/graduate and looking for a job in IT and want to stand out from the crowd

    - CapGemini also included in the video as they employ Zenos apprentices

    - They have MTA site licenses across their 31 sites, which includes our developer tracks if they did want to run developer courses


    If you would like to find out more about these exams or find out how these exams have helped students already, you can talk to Greg and see presentations from one our schools already supporting students through this at BETT 2012 where we will be situated on the Microsoft stand D30 and D40.

  • Microsoft UK Schools blog

    Microsoft Virtual Academy: Investing in your Future


    With so much buzz around cloud services and architecting your business for the cloud, it’s easy to feel left behind. Don’t fret; there are plenty of ways to keep up with the latest and greatest news, information and training.

    If you’ve not heard about the Microsoft Virtual Academy before then you’re in for a treat! Quite simply, it’s free on demand training on a range of IT Professional topics. Furthermore, the content is in the cloud and you can access it as and when you need it!

    Topics covered include:

    • Clustering
    • Hyper-V
    • Private Cloud
    • Public Cloud
    • Security
    • SQL Azure
    • System Center Virtual Machine Manager
    • Virtualisation
    • Windows Azure

    Everyone has their own learning style. So with this in mind, there are a range of different learning materials on offer, such as whitepapers, webcasts, training videos and access to experts. The site has been set up in a game based learning style with points for modules. As you pass each module you gain points which are then ranked both globally and locally.

    Alongside the training materials, there are some great opportunities to gain assistance from Microsoft through events such as the 6 Weeks of Azure programme of events. The sign up for this is available now!

    All in all, this is a NO cost approach to learning, which in the current economic climate means that you can still get trained up on the latest technologies no matter what your departments budget is.

    Learning is something that every good IT professional does throughout their career, so this is a great opportunity to hone those skills and be at the very top of your game.

  • Microsoft UK Schools blog

    SharePoint Search for education


    Continuing on from recent posts around Data Management and How many ways you can use SharePoint 2010, Alex Pearce, Most Valuable Professional (MVP), has written a guest post on his thoughts around using SharePoint Search and how this can benefit you in keeping your information and documents stored and then again easily found.


    For me, Search is a great tool. I use it all the time when I’m on my computer. From finding that e-mail in a folder, the document sat a folder to, how to fix that issue that is troubling my network.

    The ability of search in SharePoint 2010 is endless.  There are 3 different versions available in SharePoint 2010 including Enterprise Search and FAST Search.

    But most schools I have visited are not likely to understand the real benefits of having their own custom search within their school. So what are the benefits within your school and how can they help the school, teachers and students to find data?

    What SharePoint Search can do?

    clip_image002SharePoint Search isn’t just searching your own SharePoint environment for documents. It can search external environments such as your old legacy intranet websites, network file shares, personal documents and internet websites bring the accessibility of all your environments into one.


    Schools can have a lot of data stored across a network ranging from anything from 300GB to 5TB of data meaning there are a lot files and folders.  To look for an individual file is just too time consuming.  So why not search for it using a search engine which is SharePoint Search.

    SharePoint Search

    Any bit of data that is entered in SharePoint can be searched for, including the file name and the content of the file, each page of text including wikis and blogs and the discussion forums. If you are implementing any of the social network features you can also search profiles to find the best teacher to talk to about Romeo and Juliet or that tricky bit of homework.

    Internal websites and VLEs

    You may still be running that old intranet website that you or a member of staff created using Microsoft FrontPage but only a single member of staff is using it and they can’t let it go because of all the great amount of work they put into creating it. There must also be some web pages on there that has content that could be useful to teachers who have started at the school since it was implemented and don’t know that these great resources are available as they can’t find them. SharePoint Search can be used to find data on this intranet website so when searching the content is available to the user.

    Or maybe you have a VLE in your school which is great, being used to it’s extreme and not wanting to move away from it,  why not just use SharePoint for its search facilities and have your own search engine for the whole school?

    School website and the Internet

    Before visiting a school, I always visit their website to see what the school is about as it gives me a good impression of the kind of people I meet and the characteristics of the school. Some school websites include curriculum information so parents can see homework, worksheets to help their children and what they are studying at that time.

    If you have a number of websites you use across the school, these too can be searched by SharePoint and search from a single location. These may include the history blog or the wiki page on an external website however pupils can only find this information if it has a high search engine result or if they know how to get to the website. SharePoint Search allows them to find it within their school environment.

    If you are going to implement this feature, I would advise that you only let it search websites that you need it too, otherwise you will need some big drivers to store every bit of information from the internet!

    Network or Personal Share

    Many schools are making the shift of moving their documents from their shared drive to SharePoint so they can be meta-tagged and file away in a website that is easy for students to find. With SharePoint Search you can search your network and personal shares to find documents. No more looking through endless folders to find that file. Just open a web page and type in what you are looking for. If you are worried about security on those folders and students accessing them, don’t as SharePoint is clever and knows the folder and file permissions so when the user searches they only see the files they have permission to see.


    SharePoint Search is just one feature and if you only use SharePoint as part of your EES license for Search you will feel the difference is the accessibility and findability of the files and information from other websites, VLEs and your internal data.

    Useful Links

    Here are a few blog posts I have created in the past that might help you to configure and understand this more.

    Using SharePoint Search in Education and Schools: Part 1

    SharePoint Search for Education: Part 2 Search Centre

    Configure SharePoint 2010 Search to crawl internet sites

    Configure SharePoint 2010 Search to crawl file servers

  • Microsoft UK Schools blog

    Microsoft Learning Suite – free download now available!


    Learning Suite is a comprehensive set of FREE software specifically all schools and teachers now ready for you to download. These titles add so much to Windows OS and Office. See below for the titles you can get.

    Learning Suite can be downloaded FOC  by logging onto the Partners In Learning Network  or alternatively directly from here with your Live ID/Sign up details to the Partners in Learning Network

    Here’s what you can download, for free!


    • Songsmith
    • Photosynth
    • Photo Gallery
    • AutoCollage
    • Kodu
    • Photosynth


    • Windows Live Writer
    • Live Messenger
    • Office Web Apps
    • Partners in Learning
    • Bing Translator​

    Research & Study

    • Bing Maps
    • Academic Search
    • Worldwide Telescope
    • Internet Explorer
    • Mathematics 4.0
    • Chemistry Add-ins for Word​

    Teaching Tools

    • PhotoStory 3
    • Office Add-in for Moodle
    • Getting Started & How-to Videos
    • Digital Literacy
    • Mouse Mischief
    • Interactive Classroom
    • Community Clips


  • Microsoft UK Schools blog

    7 ways frequent online assessments keep student learning on-track


    eduGuest blogger John Kleeman, Chairman of Microsoft Partner, Questionmark, describes the advantages of frequent online assessments.

    What are the advantages of giving your students frequent quizzes and tests, instead of waiting until the end of a module or course? At first sight, this might sound like more work for you as instructor, not to mention less popularity with your students!

    Here are seven reasons why it helps:

    1. By looking at assessment results, instructors know whether students have learned -- and what action to take if they haven’t. If the whole cohort achieves low scores on a topic, you know you need to improve or redo some teaching, and if individuals score low, there is an opportunity for remediation or other intervention, preventing a drop-out or eventual failure.
    2. Students can also gauge their progress and know what areas they do well or less well in and where to focus study. Especially if you include feedback with your assessment, they can learn where they went wrong and recover from misconceptions.
    3. Early tests require students to study earlier, not just wait to cram before the final exam. There is solid psychological evidence (see for example this excellent report by Dr Will Thalheimer) that spacing out learning is a powerful learning aid. By spreading out studying time, you increase learning.
    4. You have more data points to give fairer final grades and if learners are ill and miss some exams, you have evidence of achievement to help provide a grade.
    5. Cheating is harder if tests are frequent. For example, a student might impersonate another in one exam, but this is much harder to do so in weekly tests.
    6. As I shared in my earlier guest blog here, taking each test gives retrieval practice, which helps students retain information for the long term. Whenever students take a quiz or test, it directly helps them learn.
    7. There is increasing peer-reviewed, research evidence (see for example here, here, here, here and here) that in courses with frequent quizzes or tests, results and learning are better.

    With widespread Windows PCs and other devices, and increasingly reliable Internet connectivity, technology now allows universities and colleges to give online assessments to students frequently and routinely not just at end of courses. Setting up tests and quizzes as an instructor is relatively easy in most institutions with institution provided assessment systems. User interfaces are simple and don’t need much computer knowledge, like for instance the question type selection page shown below.


    If you’re interested in delivering online assessments in this way, Questionmark ( offers an easy-to-use OnDemand service (using Microsoft technology) to create, deliver and report on assessments.

  • Microsoft UK Schools blog

    Consumerisation of IT in Education: Security Considerations


    As part of our on-going series of posts dedicated to the consumerisation of IT in education, we now turn our attention to the security considerations that institutions need to take on board when planning their strategy.

    When considering security we need to think about the devices themselves, the data and the network.

    Device Encryption

    Is any data going to be stored on the device, or is it all in the data centre or cloud. If there will be sensitive data, on a member of staff laptop, for example – would you consider enforcing encryption policies with a   technology such as BitLocker Drive Encryption. BitLocker Drive Encryption is integrated into Windows 7 Enterprise and Ultimate Editions and encrypts the hard disk at volume level. Thus, if a staff laptop goes missing, you will have the peace of mind that any sensitive data is unreadable.

    BitLocker To Go extends encryption protection to USB memory sticks. Policies can also be enforced to ensure only encrypted memory sticks be used on campus. 

    Providing Network Access

    With the potential introduction of “untrusted” devices onto your network there are many points to consider, including network segmentation (physical or logical) and user authentication.

    A typical student might require a school PC one day to access internal systems, while the next day she might bring in her own device. What level of access will you give your student when using an untrusted device?

    Will you limit her access to external access only? Will she be able to use the same username and password regardless of which device she uses?

    You will likely want to limit the access level based on the level of trust you have in the device they are connecting from.

    Microsoft Forefront Unified Access Gateway is a solution that can provide secure access (both internal and remote) based on a number of criteria. For example a student logging on from a School PC will be able to access applications 1-5, the same student logging on from an untrusted device might be limited to one application – or have no access at all.

    Will you enforce a security policy to ensure devices meet minimum security levels, local firewall, antivirus protection etc. Network Access Protection (NAP) a technology introduced with Windows Server 2008, checks policy compliance of Windows clients and enforces security before allowing access to the network.

    Is it likely that you will have students visiting from other schools, colleges or universities? If so, how will you manage their authentication? You might consider using a service such as the JANET(UK) federation service eduroam. The eduroam service provided by JANET(UK) is a federated service that enables JANET connected institutions to offer secure network services for visitors from other eduroam-enabled institutions – without the need for guest account management.

    Alternatively, running a commercial offering, such as BT OpenZone, alongside your JANET(UK) provision could be a good option for allowing network access to non-approved devices.

    For more information on our thoughts around the consumerisation of IT in education, download our paper or view in full below.

  • Microsoft UK Schools blog

    Windows InTune – Managing your IT Infrastructure from the cloud


    Windows InTune is a management and security solution allowing you to manage your on premise IT infrastructure from the cloud.


    In a nutshell this is what it can do……..

    Allows you manage a single or multiple organisations from a single console

    Manage machines outside of the network / Domain

    Asset Management – track hardware and software inventory

    Help protect PCs from malware – With Windows InTune EndPoint Protection

    Deploy Software

    Centrally manage deployment of software updates and service packs

    Proactively monitor PCs.

    Set security policies centrally

    Take advantage of Windows 7 Enterprise security as part of subscription

    Gain better control of remote PCs.

    Provide remote assistance.

    Increase insight with reporting.

    Manage your licenses.

    Remotely assist your employees to resolve pressing PC issues, regardless of where you or your users are located.


    We have an upcoming 1hr webcast which you can register for here where we will demo the solution and give you chance to get all your questions answered.

  • Microsoft UK Schools blog

    Learning Suite: Microsoft’s new suite of education apps now available!


    After months of hard work across the education team, Learning Suite is now available as a free download via the UK Partners in Learning Network.

    What is Learning Suite?

    Learning Suite is a free set of innovative applications that, when combined with the power of Microsoft Windows and Office, creates a robust, flexible and collaborative learning environment for students and teachers.


    More specifically, Learning Suite offers a fantastic range of apps that will surprise and amaze educators and learners, alike. These include:

    • AutoCollage
    • Photosynth
    • Songsmith
    • Mouse Mischief 

    Learning Suite in Action

    Learning Suite allows educators and learners to create and collaborate across a full range of media tools, including text, audio, photography, music, and video. These media assets can then be integrated into documents, presentations, movies, or web sites therefore creating the perfect formula for today’s classroom. Additionally, the teacher resources and tools included in Learning Suite empower educators to effectively integrate technology directly into their curriculum.

    The video below give a more detailed overview of Learning Suite.

    Download Today

    As mentioned in the opening to this post, Learning Suite is now available as a free download via the UK Partners in Network.

    Registration to the Partners in Learning Network with a Live ID is a pre-requisite.

    In addition to offering access to Learning Suite, registration to the network provides access to a dynamic and passionate worldwide community of educators who are all focused on one thing: improving the delivery of teaching and learning!

    Furthermore, Learning Suites availability in MSI format makes it easy to roll out the full suite of apps across your institution. Alternatively, the apps can be downloaded on an individual basis.

    More information about Learning Suite will be available over the coming weeks and we look forward to hearing about your experiences. Leave your feedback in the comments below.

  • Microsoft UK Schools blog

    Lync, Office Communications Server, and Live Meeting at Nottingham Trent University


    We’re hearing more and more about the way Microsoft Lync Server 2010 is set to change the nature of working life in universities. At Nottingham Trent University, for example, with 24,000 students on three campuses across the City, Unified Communications Team Leader Thomas Farrand, has made great strides in building links and promoting collaboration with Office Communications Server.


    Now he’s busy hatching plans for making use of Lync’s extended functionality, increasing efficiency, reducing carbon emissions and saving time and money for the institution.

    Thomas and his team, in fact, are a great example of how an energetic and imaginative IT team can make a real difference to the way things happen within their institution. Not only that, the solutions they come up with can reduce costs both directly, but also in terms of improved efficiency.

    One of his examples of what Lync can do shows how important it is to watch for opportunities in every corner of the institution’s work. In this case, it’s all about keeping the University’s basic services up and running with the aid of Lync’s “Location Information” feature.

    “When we have a problem on City Campus, for example, and we need a plumber or electrician, we’ll be able to see who is close by, perhaps working in the same building.”

    That, of course, is just one example of how adding location to contact details can streamline communication.

    Much of Thomas’s enthusiasm for the extra features in Lync comes from the way he and his team have found creative ways of using Office Communication Server since he introduced it during 2009.

    For example one university course requires students from around the country each to do a live presentation. Live Meeting makes it possible for them to do this remotely, and also adds the necessary authentication for examination purposes, because the presentation is recorded and time stamped.

    “This provides proof of when it was done, and the webcam means we can verify the identity of the student.”

    Another project that captured attention across the university was the use of NTU’s Live Meeting equipment and expertise to make a conference at neighbouring University of Nottingham available to NTU undergraduates and staff. The potential savings in travel and conference attendance of this one event alone were considerable.

    Lecturer Emily Burton reported afterwards, “We broadcast two major talks which were held during the conference and the feedback was amazing. If we hadn’t done this using Live Meeting, we would have to have sent a coach for the students at a cost of £80 per person not including travel for which the funds were not available. “

    At the same time, the NTU environmental team estimate that because 75 people didn’t have to make the trip to the conference, NTU saved the emission of 900kg of CO2.

    Showing the potential of IT, and demonstrating the supportive role of the team, is obviously high on Thomas Farrand’s agenda. So, for example, when he wanted to encourage the use of video conferencing with Live Meeting, he set out showcase it to as many people as possible, from all departments.

    “Call me annoying or what,” he says. “We used three big lecture theatres in the three campuses. We invited everyone to them, and put on a three way video conference using Live Meeting, a fictitious scenario as if there were three different countries.”

    There were questions from the audience, Thomas kept it all together, (“Like Jerry Springer”) and members of his team circulated, asking people how they worked, and how this kind of approach might benefit them, “By doing it this way,” he says, “We reached people from all levels not just senior management.”

    Among the most enthusiastic early adopters was the student placement office. Many NTU courses require students to spend a year out on placement, often abroad, with visits from university staff.

    “Originally, they were required to have one visit a year,” says Thomas, “But then it changed so that every student had to have three visits.”

    Fortunately, only one of the visits is required to be face to face. The others can be remote and so Live Meeting is called into play which is infinitely better than relying on a phone call.

    “Quite often it’s not just the student who’s involved; it’s the employer as well. And it’s possible to share documents of course.”

    Generating enthusiasm, of course, then raises the question of how much help to provide.

    “There’s a fine line between hand-holding and leaving people to work it out,” says Thomas, pointing out that Tesco didn’t run training in online shopping.

    What is important, though, is to make sure that a new adopter is using appropriate hardware in the right environment, because failure can be permanently off-putting.

    To help with this, Thomas and his team have put together a portable Live Meeting kit, packed in a flight case. It has everything from robot camera, tripod and microphones, to extension leads, gaffer tape and cable ties, all designed to ensure that the planned video experience actually works. “It allows Live Meeting to be used in any location from small meeting rooms to full size lecture theatres.”

    Moving to Lync

    Thomas Farrand and the team have already made considerable strides with OCU and LiveMeeting. Lync is going to build on that. For example, the announcement of Lync for Mac is particularly welcome.

    That’s because the Art and Design department, who are Mac users, are keen to develop new courses which include distance learning, and they’ve been pressing for a solution that supports Mac. So Lync for Mac saves both the cost and complication of having to buy in another product. Thomas describes it as “A big win for us.”

    Lync web apps will also make life easier for many users who are in other institutions or simply don’t want to install the client on their machines.

    The general theme here is one of reducing complication. It’s something of a mission for Thomas Farrand to make the user’s experience as simple as possible.

    ‘The aim is for the user to have that single hub of communication with easy access to Messenger, phone calls, email and video. It’s the whole ethos of unified communication where you just want to contact a person without having to know how to do it. Let the system worry about that.” Lync is a significant step towards achieving that.

    Conclusion: Painless Evolution

    At NTU the move first to OCU and then to Lync was, and continues to be, evolutionary. The position at NTU is probably repeated in other institutions across the country in that their existing communications system was installed at considerable expense relatively recently. So the move to Lync, though it will save money and improve efficiency, has to be done gradually and opportunistically.

    For example Thomas is looking at technical ways to ‘dual fork’ phone calls between both systems, perhaps using a border controller. It’s typical of his positive approach that, instead of simply deciding that the move to Lync wasn’t currently possible, he set about finding ways of doing it, by what calls “A staged approach, implementing Lync side by side with the existing environment.”

    More information about Lync can be found on our Microsoft Lync microsite.

  • Microsoft UK Schools blog

    Free School Norwich breaks out of the classroom with Civica’s CloudBase


    You may have heard references to Free Schools that are now opening up around the country, in response to communities who feel, they are needed in order to improve education for children local to them.

    I recently met with Bob Pigott, Sales Director in the Education Division, for Microsoft partner Civica, who told me all about the work they have done in implementing their CloudBase solution to one of the growing numbers of Free Schools and how this has made a difference for teachers, parents and students alike.

    The Free School Norwich is something of a pioneer in education, being one of the first wave of Free Schools set up under the Governments education reforms. Drawing on the Free School’s initiative’s scope for community-based and flexible learning modules, the school is changing the standard model of primary education for the better – both in terms of teaching and the role a school plays in the local community.

    To bring true flexibility to their daily operations, the school uses the Civica CloudBase platform to maintain a secure and stable IT environment regardless of the user’s location. The school is already taking full advantage of its capabilities, with an out-of-school learning exercise occurring almost every day with its 98 current students (which is planned to expand to 168 by the end of the next academic year).

    The Challenge

    The Free School Norwich was set up by Tania Sidney-Roberts, Principal,  who had the idea of changing the role of a school, creating a school that caters for the needs of ordinary, working parents who cannot afford to pay for after-school care or sf20110108%20-%20Norwich%20Free%20School%20Prospectus-10nannies whilst they remain at work.

    This vision meant creating a school that made the most use of the time available to parents, and catered for its pupils until the end of the working day, for a full 51 weeks of the year.

    With the vision set, it was clear the Free School Norwich required a powerful and flexible platform that was able to take the education experience out of the school, and allow parents to take an active role in their child’s education without having to book time away from work to do so. Consequently, allowing parents to access the ICT platform remotely and monitor student activity was a must.

    Alongside this flexible method of communication, the Free School Norwich aimed to change the way students learn and Tania wanted an interactive experience for the pupils that could truly take the learning experience outside of the classroom. The school therefore needed to be able to access their education applications through a variety of mobile devices, and with a target audience of 4-7 year olds, this process needed to be as fast and easy as possible.

    Finally, between the contract awarding and the first day of service, there was just 6-8 weeks remaining before the school needed the cloud solution up and running in order to be ready for the first day of term.

    The Solution

    To meet Tania’s expectations, Civica’s educational consultation team worked with the Free School Norwich team to install, test and sign off the CloudBase solution within 6-8 weeks, allowing the solution to be implemented for the start of term, and the cloud to be working smoothly from day one. On top of this, Civica provided teacher and staff training during the installation period and afterwards to make sure they were able to fully utilising the platform from the beginning of the term. The Civica e-learning consultancy team is continuing to build upon these skills, supporting teachers and staff as they grow with the solution.

    CloudBase is a single sign on, hosted, online environment built on SharePoint 2010 that allows pupils and staff to access email, MIS, office and educational applications quickly and simply, regardless of location - easily facilitating the many trips to museums, theatres and libraries that happen at the school every day. The flexible solution allows for collaboration not just between staff and pupils but also with parents. The school recently installed a tracker system that will allow parents to check up on their child’s attendance, their progress in lessons, as well as for any outstanding homework that may need completing!

    Finally, Civica’s managed service desk supports the CloudBase solution remotely, allowing the school to call upon Civica’s expert technical support services at any time.

    The Benefits

    The Free School Norwich has seen a tremendous level of support from staff, who are using the solution to support academic outcomes, as well as from pupils and their parents, for its pioneering work and positive attitude towards embracing next-generation technology.

    Attendance at the school’s after-hours “Squirrels” club has vastly exceeded expectations, and parents that enter the school regularly comment on how quickly and easily they are able to log onto the school’s cloud system and access resources.

    Tania Sidney-Roberts, headmistress of The Free School Norwich, commented: “I wanted cloud based ICT because I knew that this is the way forward in education. Cloud offers the whole school community (parents, pupils, staff and governors) the opportunity to interact with the school at any time of day or night, from anywhere in the world. The school is never closed as it has a cloud.”

    She continued: “We’re extremely pleased with the smooth installation and running of the CloudBase system, considering the scale of the project, as well as with the level of support we have received. Staff in particular are impressed with the “single sign-on” capabilities of the Civica CloudBase solution – which allows them to access all apps/software in the cloud without having to memorise multiple login details”.

    Civica has worked with Tania and the Free School Norwich team to achieve their vision of a 21st century school within just 6-8 weeks, providing a full service and platform, as well as onsite floor walking support for the school during the first two weeks of opening. Civica’s floor level support team take their job seriously – even helping to clean up the school before the Prime Minister David Cameron’s visit in September 2011.

    The Future

    The Free School Norwich plans to expand from 98 to 168 pupils over the course of the next school year – in addition, Tania is planning another Free School in Barnsley, and will recommend the Civica CloudBase system. Due to the nature of the cloud, with the CloudBase system already fully functioning at Norwich, this process of expansion will be incredibly quick and efficient.

    If you would like to find out more about this and other new and innovative ways to work in education, please feel free to ask them more at BETT 2012 on their stand, K54.

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