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July, 2011 - Education - Site Home - MSDN Blogs
The Australian Education Blog
Ray Fleming's take on what's interesting in Education IT in Australia

July, 2011

  • Education

    The 5 factors which affect school performance


    imageAs I mentioned on Friday, I’m currently reading “School performance in Australia: results from analyses of school effectiveness”, a research report published in 2004.

    When the report starts to take a look at the comparisons between secondary schools, using the main data sets that they have available for school-level analysis, there are five factors which they isolate as being key ones. In the statistical analysis, they call these the ‘control variables’, but they key message is that these are the five things external which have a big impact on the attainment of students. If you remove the influence of these from school-level analysis, you can then analyse the difference in performance between secondary schools more effectively.

    The 5 factors which affect school performance

    1. Previous student attainment (through GAT scores)
    2. Socio Economic Status of the student intake
    3. School size, based on number of students
    4. Rural/Urban location
    5. School sector - Public, Private or Catholic

    Why are these the key underlying 5 factors which affect school performance?

    1. Previous student attainment (in Victoria they use GAT scores to measure this)
      This is used to ensure that you are measuring the ‘value added’ to students’ performance, not just their final achievement
    2. Socio Economic Status of the student intake
      This is used to remove bias from a school being in a particular area which may affect it’s student intake. For example, if a school is located in an area with a higher proportion of social housing, statistically the students are likely to be less engaged with education (eg higher absence rates), with less well educated parents.
    3. School size, based on number of students
      OECD research quoted in the report shows that as school size falls below 1,000 students, average student attainment falls too
    4. Rural/Urban location
      Research shows that this is an important influencer of school performance within Australia
    5. School sector - Public, Private or Catholic
      When you don’t take this factor into account, then the analysis of school performance tends to show schools grouping into three bands, representing the different sectors.

    By taking these factors into account when looking at school performance, you are able to get a better idea of how each school is performing compared to other schools, and a better idea of the ‘value added’ to individual students. (You can read much more about this from page 28 of the report. You’ll also see on Page 29, that they used a different set of factors for primary schools, which included density of indigenous students and transient families).

    The question I have in my mind now is:

    If you are a school leader in Australia, do you have the right performance data available, in your analysis systems, to allow for these 5 key factors? Do the reports that you receive help you to allow for these factors?

    Learn MoreRead the full 'School Performance in Australia' report


    NB I know that there will be readers who will see this as an over-simplification of the analysis. My aim isn’t to reinterpret it, but simply to share what I’m understanding as I’m reading it. And I’m sure you’ll correct me if I’m wrong - either by adding a comment below or hitting the ‘Email Blog Author’ link at the top right.

  • Education

    Ten of the best - SharePoint School websites


    A colleague asked me to recommend some school websites built on SharePoint, that they could share with others. After I’d finished it for him, I thought I’d pop it into a PowerPoint for others - and then go further by popping up a quick blog post too. Here’s my take on 10 School SharePoint websites that are worth looking at for design ideas and inspiration - or simply because you want to nudge another colleague towards seeing that SharePoint beauty can start at skin deep.

    Click on any of them to link to the live website

    1. Twynham School Sixth Form, Christchurch, UK

    2. John Paul College, Queensland, Australia

    3. Victoria Department of Education’s FUSE site

    4. West Hatch High School, Essex, UK

    5. Hale School, Western Australia

    6. Wootton Bassett School, Wiltshire, UK

    7. Brigidine College, New South Wales, Australia

    8. Brookfields Specialist SEN School, Berkshire, UK

    9. Florida Virtual School, USA

    10. Twynham School Sixth Form, Christchurch, Dorset

      Note: The reason I listed this twice isn’t me cheating - I simply wanted to make sure that you saw their amazing interactive curriculum pages, and I know you’d kick yourself if you hadn’t seen it at No.1

    Learn MoreDownload the PowerPoint version of Top 10 School SharePoint websites

  • Education

    Ten of the best - SharePoint University websites


    After the list of school websites built on SharePoint from earlier in the week, here’s another handy (and subjective!) list of Ten University SharePoint websites. These websites are all public facing, and by building them on SharePoint, it means the universities can manage the content in exactly the same way as they manage their other resources - and use SharePoint’s workflow to manage the publishing process. But enough of the SharePoint Content Management story - let’s get down to the pictures:

    Click on any of the images to link to the live website

    1. Northern State University, USA
      Northern State University website

    2. Saïd Business School – University of Oxford, UK 
      Saïd Business School – University of Oxford

    3. Coventry University, UK 
      Coventry University

    4. University College London Hospitals, UK 
      University College London Hospitals

    5. Harvard Business School Executive Education, USA 
      Harvard Business School Executive Education

    6. Furman University, USA 
      Furman University

    7. University of Wales, Newport, UK
      University of Wales

    8. The University of Colorado Denver Business School, USA 
      University of Colorado

    9. Chalmers University, Sweden
      Chalmers University

    10. Washington University in St. Louis - Olin Business School, USA

    Learn MoreDownload the PowerPoint versions of Top 10 University SharePoint websites

  • Education

    How to make a beautiful school SharePoint site


    Last week ago I shared my list of “10 of the best school websites on Sharepoint”. And the opinion around the office was that the Twynham School Sixth Form website was the most astonishing one (in fact, half a dozen times I was asked by Microsoft colleagues “Are you sure that was done in SharePoint?”).

    My colleague, Ben Nunney, who’s an ex-teacher, paid it a massive compliment when he said on Twitter “I know I'm too old to go back to school, but if I could I'd go here - PURELY based on their amazing website

    Mike Herrity from Twynham School talks on his SharePoint in Education blog about all of the things that they’re doing with ICT in his school, and it makes a useful resource if you’re thinking of doing some SharePoint work yourself.

    Twynham School's VI Form website

    He also wrote a series of short articles about how they have created the Sixth Form site, which were published on his blog. The series actually walks through the whole process, and describes the challenges (including the need to convince the Leadership Team in the school that you can make a good looking site in SharePoint).

    If you are in any way involved in using SharePoint in a school, I think it is a must read series, either for you, or for whoever is providing/developing your SharePoint.

    How to build a SharePoint website for a school

    Learn More icon

    The whole series, and a lot of extra detail, is also available in the Twynham School Learning Gateway 2007-2010 ebook

  • Education

    Free tools to create online courses



    Do you want to start creating your own learning packages for use in a Learning Management System? And want to find free tools to create online courses? I might be able to help…

    The Microsoft Learning team create and publish a wide range of online courses for IT professionals and developers using the free Learning Content Development System (LCDS). They have developed over 2,000 hours of e-learning courses themselves, and have built a series of 20 templates to allow you to quickly create e-learning content in a number of categories. And then allows content to be played through a browser (Internet Explorer, Firefox) using Silverlight for interactivity, including animations, demonstrations, videos and simulations. And you can also embed Flash content into your courses.

    The finished courses are packaged as SCORM objects, which mean that they can be played through a range of Learning Management Systems, and can also include SCORM assessments - including multiple choice, true/false and essay questions. Your finished courses can be uploaded and shared on your Learning Management System, or can simply be shared on a website or download link.

    There are no shortage of SCORM creation tools  (see this list on the Moodle site for example) but many of them are either basic convertors that simply take a PowerPoint presentation and put it into a SCORM package, or can be costly. If you want a simple tool set to create more interactive content, then LCDS is worth considering.

    Learn MoreLearn more about the Learning Content Development System

  • Education

    Get the Education blog on your Windows Phone 7


    imageI have to admit, I thought my days of programming were behind me. But thanks to AppMakr and the Windows Phone 7 App Hub, I’m reliving the heady days of my first job (whilst in Sixth Form) of being a programmer. And I’ve created a free app that gives you this Education blog on your Windows Phone 7, along with the live feed of the worldwide Microsoft Education case studies, and direct access to the official press release news stream we provide for journalists.

    It’s my first app for 20 years, and was published on the Windows Phone 7 Marketplace on Friday night. The experience of creating the app was pretty smooth - mainly because I was aiming to bring together a series of existing RSS feeds. In fact, the most time consuming part was creating all of the graphics needed - the WP7 tiles in 3 sizes, the splash screen, a header graphic, and the screen shots needed for the marketplace. But once they were all in place, it was pretty seamless.

    If you’ve got a Windows Phone, then hopefully this makes keeping in touch with education blog news easier - as well as connecting you to the education case studies that are published on the worldwide Microsoft Case Studies website.


    To get the free app on your phone, you can either use this link [Australian Education Partner Blog] or search for ‘Education Blog’ in the Marketplace on your Windows Phone.

  • Education

    Updating the Ten of the Best University websites build on SharePoint


    I had to update the Top Ten University websites build on SharePoint over the weekend, as one of the websites I’d listed wasn’t actually built on SharePoint

    (Whoops - turned out their internal sites run on SharePoint but they’d used something else for their external site Sad smile. And because I’d chosen to only look at external websites, that ruled it out).

    Anyway, there’s now a new entrant in the list of the Top Ten University SharePoint sites, which is the Olin Business School, at the Washington University in St Louis - with a nice website that puts all of the key information in the right place - making it easy for prospective students and their parents to get a good idea of the Business School’s offerings:


    Learn MoreRead the original blog post - Ten of the best - University SharePoint websites'

  • Education

    Office 365 - Curtin University moves first


    In the last week of June, we launched Office 365. As the next wave of Cloud-based applications, it’s a service that will grow over time.

    The first university using Office 365?

    According to iTnews Curtin University were the first Australian customer to start to move to Office 365, and plan to move 10,000 staff onto the hosted service over the next four months. The first phase, started before the official launch, was for 100 pilot users with ‘complex variations’ of needs, with a goal of ironing out the different scenarios before moving the deployment across the campus. This move, for university staff, follows the decision a few years ago to move their 200,000 student and alumni email mailboxes to the Live@edu Cloud service.

    Switching from Lotus Notes to Office 365

    In the case of Curtin University, they are aiming to switch users from their on-premise Exchange servers, to the Cloud service - which will save them money and administration time. But other universities are using the opportunity to switch from Lotus Notes to Office 365:

    • In an even more ambitious switch, the Georgia State University are migrating to Office 365 from Lotus Notes for all of their staff - over a single weekend (they’ve wisely chosen the long 4th July holiday weekend, to get a 50% longer weekend!). You can follow news of their migration, and see some of the training resources they have created, on their website.

        • The University of Nebraska-Lincoln also announced last week that they’ll be switching from Lotus Notes to Office 365, with a move planned to complete over the next 12 to 18 months. You can read their press release here.

        Learn MoreLearn More about the Curtin University move to Office 365

      • Education

        BI in Education - Brisbane Catholic Education case study from StrataDB


        Business Intelligence (BI) in education is going to become an interesting topic over the next couple of years in Australia. Although there has always been a discussion about the use of data, and various projects that have looked at ways to analyse and use student learning data more effectively, I predict that learning analysis is going to move up the priority list for every education leadership team across Australia.

        Within schools, the discussion of BI in education, and its use for learning analysis, is going to be driven by a ‘perfect storm’ of circumstances:

        • the arrival of a national curriculum, increasingly standardising achievement measurement
        • increasing parental focus on learning achievements, fed by projects like MySchool
        • a more dynamic higher education marketplace, as the student cap is lifted in 2012
        • and more data being available on student performance within school systems

        Is the time coming for BI in education?

        In some ways it is wrong to talk about BI in Education in the future tense, as there have been so many projects already which have used learning analysis data to improve student performance. But I think there is still a lot of change to come. The 2011 Horizon Report identified Learning Analysis as a key technology to watch - in four to five year’s time (I think they got the timescale wrong - it’s going to happen a lot quicker than that, and is already in many parts of the world).

        StrataDB bannerThere’s already some work going on within Australia. For example StrataDB have designed a project with Warren Armitage, the CIO of Brisbane Catholic Education, to deliver more detailed analysis of the learning data that’s being collected by schools and the data that comes back down from government - for example, the outcomes of formal assessments, like NAPLAN, for both their own students and other national data. The case study video below gives a good overview of the work so far.

        Warren Armitage, CIO of Brisbane Catholic Education, discusses BI in education in their schools

        Learn MoreRead more 'BI in Education' stories on this blog

      • Education

        What factors influence school performance in Australia?


        imageI am halfway through reading “School performance in Australia: results from analyses of school effectiveness”, a research report published in 2004. It looked at the performance of Victorian schools, as part of the Shared Future project. Although the report dates from 2004, almost all of the data and findings are still absolutely relevant today.

        As I’ve been reading it, I’ve been looking for snippets of information that would be relevant and useful for a leader/teacher in an individual school. Here’s some of those:

        • Teachers who are more satisfied with their jobs produce better results (Page x)
        • Where teachers rely more often on traditional teaching methods the results are lower (Page x)
        • High performing schools adopt policies facilitating student engagement…such as extra-curricular programmes and student support (Page xi)
        • There is no relationship between school expenditure and school performance - although there’s a note that later analysis showed there may be ‘some positive effect’ (Page 6)
        • Smaller schools perform worse in international reading tests (Page 12)

        So, if you want to raise standards in your school, the data says that having more satisfied teachers, with innovative teaching practice, and extra-curriculum programmes will make a difference. And that is even more critical to do if you are from a small school.

        The other thing that surprised me is that students’ socio-economic status has a direct link to school absence (Page 20), which is interesting, but perhaps something that individual school leaders can do much about directly?

        The Executive Summary has a list of key findings which are interesting at a system level, but probably less useful to an individual school seeking to improve learning (mainly because they are factors which they have little control over), but here they are, for completeness:

        • Performance in schools is strongly linked to student background
        • Australian students are highly segregated along social and academic lines
        • Segregation of students tends to intensify between-school differences in student outcomes
        • Schools differ in effectiveness
        • Effective schools are found in both the government and non-government sectors
        • Some schools consistently perform well
        • Effectiveness extends beyond cognitive outcomes
        • Some school factors help raise performance

        Learn MoreRead the full 'School Performance in Australia' report

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