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March, 2012 - Education - Site Home - MSDN Blogs
The Australian Education Blog
Ray Fleming's take on what's interesting in Education IT in Australia

March, 2012

  • Education

    Going from 'Did You Know' to 'Do You Realise'


    This is an incredibly smooth video – from the New Brunswick education system in Canada – that builds on the essence of Shift Happens/Did You Know (the UK version of Shift Happens, which I created 5 years ago, focused on the intersection with education, and has been watched over 200,000 times on YouTube).

    Like Shift Happens, I reckon this one is going to become an opener for education conferences for quite a few months ahead.

  • Education

    Unified Communications webinar with Polycom


    Polycom and Microsoft are hosting a webinar next Wednesday 28th March that will look at the practical side of creating a unified communications system.

    Ugh, “Unified Communications”, what’s that all about? To be honest, it’s turned into the short-form phrase for sticking your telephones, video conferencing, instant messaging, live screen sharing, 1:1 video etc all into one single system.

    What it means to me is that I can sit at my PC, see if a colleague is free or busy, have a instant messenger chat, or click one more button and have a phone conversation, turn it into a conference call by adding other people, and then a virtual meeting by sharing my screen or a joint whiteboard. All within one bit of software. Oh, and it also means that if you ring my phone, it will also automatically ring my mobile at the same time, so if I’m away from my desk, I still know you’ve called and can pick it up if I’m free.

    From an education point of view, there’s two key reasons I keep coming across for buying unified communications systems:

    • Save money – by switching off their PBX and the associated service contracts, they can save a lot of money
    • Support different models of learning – allowing genuine anytime, anywhere learning with much more flexibility than conventional video conferencing based learning


    Although the webinar isn’t specifically for education customers only, it’s a good opportunity find out more about the way Lync is used and how it integrates with your Outlook email and calendar, and to listen in to a case study (in this case, it’s Andrew Pritchett, the CIO of Griffith Hack talking about what they’ve done with Lync), and to hear from Mario D’Silva of Microsoft and Nick Hawkins of Polycom:


    Join us on 28 March 2012 for a live webinar to learn how you can maximise your UC solutions for growth and productivity in your organisation. Real life applications and considerations for deploying UC networks will be covered by the keynote speakers to help you in your next stage of planning and implementation.

    Topics include:

    1. How Griffith Hack transformed their organisation into a true UC environment.

    2. Key considerations in developing a scalable and robust network and increasing user adoption.

    3. Creating the mobile, video-enabled organisation.

    4. Unifying your voice, IM, audio, video, and web conferencing with NEW Polycom UC Solutions for Microsoft Lync for a seamless user experience.

    Together, Polycom and Microsoft are transforming businesses around the world by driving increased teamwork and productivity, while reducing business costs through:

    • Highly productive interactions. Increase and improve interactions with colleagues, customers and partners through a unified collaboration experience that brings together IM, video, voice, and content-sharing.
    • Interoperable end-to-end solutions. Microsoft and Polycom deliver open standards-based, end-to-end unified communications optimised for Microsoft environments and integrated with the Polycom RealPresence platform.

    The webinar is running at 12:00PM AEST on 28th March.

    Learn MoreFind out more about the Polcyom/Microsoft Unified Communications webinar

  • Education

    Moodle in the cloud–a Moodle 2 kit for Windows Azure


    The Microsoft CodePlex site is host to a wide range of open source projects, and just last month the first beta release was made of the project to allow hosting of Moodle 2.0 or Moodle 2.2 on the Windows Azure cloud service. As the project notes say:


    The MoodleBuild toolchain patches and packages a Moodle source code directory into a Windows Azure Package using the Azure SDK directly, instead of relying on third-party tools. This allows an easier way to update and customize Moodle, components and the Windows Azure SDK without the hassle of using outdated and incompatible versions.
    The core of this toolchain is a batch file named build.cmd. This script patches and packages Moodle using the tools and components included on the package available to download


    This is good news for people considering deployments of the Moodle Learning Management System, as it means that you can avoid the hassle of having to deploy in-house servers and complex infrastructure, and instead deploy Moodle in the cloud. This is ideal for agile projects, or where you expect the demand for the system to be variable (the beauty of Moodle in the cloud is that you can scale it up and down as you want, rather than having to build a system that will support a gazillion users on day one).

    Learn MoreDownload the Moodle 2.0 resources for Windows Azure from CodePlex

  • Education

    Developing Windows 8 applications for education


    There’s going to be a lot of interest in new applications to run in the Windows 8 Metro interface. If you’ve installed and started playing with Windows 8, like me, you probably really, really want to start running more Metro apps.

    Developing Windows 8 AppsNick Hodge, our resident Windows 8 evangelist (and self-described ‘Professional Geek’) is organising a series of Windows 8 Developer Camps in Australia, and giving over his weekends for the next few months to make them a success. And he’s travelling the country (no really, he’s going to Darwin, Hobart and Adelaide, on top of the usual suspects).

    The events are all free – run by developers for developers – and the promise is that you’ll learn the skills for developing Metro style apps, and put the skills into practice on the day. Nick will be lining up the coffee, food and wireless, so all you need to bring is your laptop, with the Windows 8 Consumer Preview installed.

    You have to register to get a place – and I’d recommend doing that soon, as I reckon places will be snapped up by developers pretty quickly (because this is open to anybody in Australia, not just partners). I reckon I might sign up for a place too, so that I can migrate my Windows Phone app to Windows 8).

    Although the workshop isn’t specifically about developing Windows 8 applications for education, every single thing that you learn about will be relevant to developing applications for education.

    When and where we’re running the Windows 8 Developer Camps





    Saturday, 31 March



    Saturday, 14 April



    Saturday, 28 April



    Saturday, 12 May



    Saturday, 19 May



    Saturday, 26 May



    Saturday, 2 June



    Saturday, 16 June


    Why you should be developing Windows 8 applications for education

    If you’ve read this far, you might be wondering why you, or your colleagues, might want to spend a day learning about developing Windows 8 applications for education. Here’s my list of 3 key reasons:

    • The earlier you have an application in the Windows 8 marketplace, the more exposure you are going to get. Today the marketplace has a limited number of applications, so new ones are getting a high profile.
    • Our Education account teams are currently installing Windows 8 onto their laptops and starting to demonstrate it to their customers. If you create an education specific app, I reckon you’re going to get them demonstrating your software to a lot of our early adopter customers in the next few months.
    • You’re demonstrating your innovation, to innovative customers (the people installing Windows 8 right now are the leading edge innovators)

    Learn MoreEven if you can't get to the workshops, do you know about the MSDN Windows 8 Metro App Development Centre?

  • Education

    Why 99 milliseconds matters to students


    This is annoying. I’d never cared about milliseconds before. But as soon as I’d seen this video, I suddenly cared. And although a tablet with a pen feels more natural to students than a tablet with just straight finger touch, I think we’re not going to get a completely fluid touch experience until we’ve removed all of those wasted 99 milliseconds from every touch gesture we make.

    Read more about the background over at Steve Clayton’s Next at Microsoft blog

  • Education

    Developing education applications and services in Office 365


    We’ve already said that the full Office 365 for education service will be launched this antipodean winter, and there’s a continuing trend for education customers to move their IT services into the cloud. So if you’re a Microsoft partner working with education customers moving more services to the cloud, how does this impact your business? If you’re currently providing a custom application in SharePoint, how do you integrate that to a cloud service, and just as importantly, how can you use it to develop a new software application?

    Education customers tend to have very specific needs – like distributing homework assignments, communicating with parents, managing internal workflow of documents etc – which can look similar to standard business processes, but have subtle and important twists. For partners, that has historically meant developing a custom software application. But over the last couple of years, there has been more focus on using a standard platform – like SharePoint or Microsoft Dynamics CRM – and customising it, rather than starting from the ground up. Or creating an interface between a custom application – such as a Student Management System or Learning Management System – and linking it closely to a standard platform. For example:

    • Use SharePoint connected to a Learning Management System, to provide workflow, document storage and access across the web.
    • Using SharePoint as the document management system for a Student Management System, so that your documents are accessible to all users, but managed by your institution’s standard security model and workflow, to ensure that the data is secure, version controlled, and backup up systematically.

    If you’re interested in finding out more about developing applications as part of Office 365, which is one of the key future cloud services for education, here’s where to go for more reading:

    The SharePoint Online Developer Resource Centre on MSDN

    It’s there to help you develop for Office 365 (which is delivered through SharePoint Online). There’s a short video introduction – which gives you the full development overview in just 3 minutes, and specific sections on cloud-based collaboration, remote authentication, a SharePoint Online Developer Guide white paper, and a full Office 365 Developer Training Kit (either online or downloadable).

  • Education

    Bring Your Own Device–what it means in education


    There’s a lot of interest in Bring Your Own Device in education, as many believe BYOD is going to be an increasing trend moving down from higher education into schools. But today, there aren’t many exemplars that we can look at to see how it might work.

    I have come across some stuff that might be useful, which is a case study from the Microsoft IT team (MSIT are the people that run our IT infrastructure for employees and the business). The scale probably isn’t typical, but there’s some excellent information that is!

    The Microsoft IT infrastructure and BYOD

    • Most employees at Microsoft are working with at least two portable devices at any given time
    • There are approximately 1.3 million devices on the Microsoft corporate network
    • Most employees expect to use their own devices for work
    • The challenge for IT is balancing employee productivity and satisfaction, whilst safeguarding the integrity and security of corporate data
    • Devices are evaluated for risk into a series of device classes
    • It’s a tricky set of decisions - the balance to be struck is between business value versus risk

    Tony Scott, the Microsoft CIO, puts it clearly:

      We worry about data security, not about a device in particular. When you do that, you find that your employees, or consumers of your information, love it, because now they have something that s useful to them both at home and at work. It’s also a recognition on the enterprise's part that a lot of our information comes from outside, not from internal IT systems.  

    Technologies to support BYOD in education

    The article goes on to discuss what technologies are being used by the Microsoft IT team to support the strategy. Although the situation is quite different, there are many parallels to how you would manage an education BYOD policy:

    • System Centre 2012 Configuration Management allows device management on the corporate network
    • Exchange ActiveSync allows for policy control over mobile devices – eg remote wipe
    • Office 365 provides secure access from anywhere to collaboration technologies
    • Direct Access provides secure remote access, without needing a VPN.
      The MSIT team saves approximately $300,000 per facility with this (as well as making me, as a user, happier than the days of VPN)
    • Lync and Lync Mobile allows real-time collaboration across multiple platforms.
      And the business saves over $200M using this every year for remote meetings, training and communications
    • OfficeTalk, which is an internal social network

    You should read the article for the full story – especially towards the end, when it talks about the best practices for development of future internal applications that are web-based and device agnostic – like using HTML5, supporting employee-driven development, and using the cloud.

    Learn MoreRead the full case study on Microsoft's BYOD story


    NB: I have gone back and tagged articles on this blog relevant to Bring Your Own Device in Education, so that you can easily track down everything on the subject.

  • Education

    New lower prices for Office 365 for education


    Yesterday Kirk Koenigsbauer, Corporate Vice President of the Microsoft Office Division product management group, made an announcement about some changes we’ve made to the pricing for Office 365 for enterprises, and Office 365 for education.


    As we rapidly add customers, the cost to run Office 365 becomes more efficient.  This is the beauty of the cloud where we can deliver economies of scale through our worldwide data centres and economies of skill with our engineers, administrators, and support teams operating the service.  

    With these efficiencies, we're able pass on savings to make it even more affordable for customers of all sizes to move to Office 365.

    In line with our longstanding commitment to education, we will make our "A2" service plan free to not only students, but also to faculty and staff.  A2 includes the core capabilities of Exchange, SharePoint, and Lync and the Office Web Applications.  Exchange Online and Lync Online are available today for academic institutions, and we'll launch the full Office 365 for education service starting this summer.   You can get more information on our Office 365 for education offering here.


    When Kirk said “this summer” he was thinking about the Northern Hemisphere.
    So you’ll need to translate that to “this winter” for Australia.

    The information on the new pricing for the various Office 365 for education options is available on the Office 365 for education webpage. Here’s the key table from that page:


    The prices listed are the US prices currently
    I’ll provide an updated link as soon as Australian prices are available.

    Find out more

    You can sign up via email to get updates and to find out more information about Office 365 for education over at the product website.

    Oh, and if you want to know more about what Office 365 could do for you, there's always the free Microsoft Press digital book on Office 365 - grab it here

  • Education

    Global Education Partner Summit at the Microsoft Worldwide Partner Conference


    imageIf you are planning to go to the Microsoft Worldwide Partner Conference 2012 (WPC) in July in Toronto, then you might also want to schedule a couple of extra days on your travel plans to allow you to attend the Microsoft Global Education Partner Summit which will be held on either side of the main WPC days.


    • Sunday 8th July 2012 – Global Education Partner Summit @ WPC Day One
    • Monday 9th to Thursday 12th – Microsoft Worldwide Partner Conference 2012
    • Friday 13th July 2012 – Global Education Partner Summit @ WPC Day Two

    Last year, we were a little late in confirming the dates with partners, so it caused a hiccup for some travel plans (and more importantly, a few people missed it because they had flights pre-arranged). So this year, I’m going to publish the dates now, even though we can’t yet disclose the agenda for the two Education Summit days.

    A group of Australian partners were able to attend the main four day Global Education Partner Summit in February in Seattle this year, but for many, I know that it can be a choice between attending that or attending WPC. So now you can do both!

    If you are interested in attending, for the minute, pop it in your diary, and keep an eye out here for more details. And also drop me an email, and I’ll make sure I send you details directly for agenda, registration process etc.

    Learn MoreEmail me to receive updated info on GEPS@WPC when I have it

  • Education

    Do you know how to measure your student recruitment efficiency?


    ClickDimensions are a worldwide Microsoft partner, who offer a ‘marketing automation’ system for the Microsoft Dynamics CRM system which is used by a growing number of Australian universities.

    Let me slip in a bit of translation. ‘Marketing Automation’ in student recruitment terms basically means helping you run email campaigns, track their success, link that back to activity on your website, work out which prospective students are most likely to be worth chasing, find out more about activity on social networks, and carry out surveys online. So that in an ideal world, you can know which prospective students are showing interest in your university, and help convert more of them to become actual students!

    Like me, ClickDimensions believe that marketing is part art and part science, and efforts in making it more predictable and measurable are never wasted (especially when dealing with super-rational people who like data aka the people who set budgets). Part of the journey in marketing has been the evolution of marketing automation solutions (sometimes called ‘demand generation’) from stand-alone silos towards becoming completely embedded into CRM systems.

    imageClickDimensions produce a nice set of quick guides, which provide common sense advice about how you can improve the mix of art & science in marketing, and their latest Quick Guide “Marketing ROI for Dynamics CRM” is a great guide to help think about the ways of measuring your student recruitment pipeline – from the initial enquiries through to the final offer – so that you can improve your conversion rate. And, like their other quick guides, it’s written in a straightforward way.

    Here’s the intro:

      In the most basic form, marketing ROI is simply a measurement of the effectiveness of each dollar spent on marketing efforts.  It is the sales output for each unit of marketing input.  In other words, how many dollars in the pipeline can be attributed to each campaign undertaken, whether it is your [university’s] website, an email campaign or a [recruitment] show.  Armed with this information, you can begin to make informed decisions about where to focus your marketing budget and resources to maximise sales. In Dynamics CRM, the holy grail of marketing ROI is a dashboard that shows the relative effectiveness of each of your campaigns so you can distinguish at a glance the underperforming campaigns from the top performers, and the revenue output from your marketing input so when your boss asks the dreaded ROI question you can answer quickly and precisely.   

    And they talk through exactly how they track their own campaigns, and the marketing dashboard that they have created. By showing practical walk-throughs of how to do it, they demonstrate how you link your web activity back to your outbound marketing activities, so that you can differentiate somebody who comes to your site from your paid activities, compared to social media referrers etc.

    I worked in marketing for 15 years, and I wished that the kind of clear guidance in here was available to me then – along with the smart systems that allow the tracking and measurement that’s now possible. So I’d heartily recommend sharing this link with colleagues who are responsible for student recruitment and measurement of your recruitment activities.

    Learn MoreDownload the "Marketing ROI for Dynamics CRM" Quick Guide from ClickDimensions

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