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

September, 2012

  • Education

    Improving student retention in higher education–the data sources


    Chris Ballard, of Tribal, is an 'Innovation Consultant' working on student administration and management systems, with a focus area on student retention modelling. Earlier this year, at the annual conference for their SITS:Vision student administration system, Chris co-presented with Paul Travill from the University of Wolverhampton on a research project being undertaken to see how they could be using learning analytics to improve student retention.

    There is similar work going on in the Australian higher education marketplace, and I've had a number of discussions with universities here about student attrition and the ways to reduce it – driven by the fact that on average one in five students are leaving their higher education courses before the end of the first year. The factors which affect student attrition are made up of two key areas:

    Chris & Paul's slides dig into these data, how to interpret them, and how to build a system which allows you to model and predict student attrition using them (which obviously leads to how to react to them). On Slide 8 there's a really simple diagram of the key data sources:

    Chris Ballard's slides on data sources for student attrition analysis

    If you've got an interest in student retention modelling, then I'd recommend taking a look at the full presentation slides from the SITS:Vision conference, on the Tribal Labs blog

  • Education

    Microsoft Education Webinars coming up in the next three months


    My colleagues that work with schools are running a series of free webinars over the next three months:


    The Microsoft Education Webinar Series is now live! We will be hosting a monthly webinar where you can get the latest information on key topics for education.

    These webinars are designed for an IT audience and aim to showcase how our products can help you achieve the educational outcomes at your school.


    OneNote in Schools - 18th October from 1 - 2pm
    Join us as we show you how you can use Microsoft OneNote to revolutionise the teaching and learning experience and change the way your staff and students interact.


    Office 2013: Experience it Live - 15th November from 1 - 2pm
    We will be diving into Office 2013 and exploring all the new features and improvements in our productivity suite. Find out why you do not want to miss out on Office 2013.


    Tablets in Schools - 5th December from 1 - 2pm
    Everything your school needs to know about Windows 8 hardware. We will be looking at the emerging role tablets are playing in schools and we will highlight our recommended devices!

    Learn MoreYou can register for the webinars (or, if you can't make it, request copies of the recordings) by emailing Cooper Wearne.

  • Education

    Exciting Learning–Using Technology to Improve Education–free ebook


    My colleagues in the UK Education team, working with Ollie Bray, an educational leader from Scotland, have produced a brilliant ebook "Exciting Learning: Using Technology to Improve Education"

    imageThe new eBook aims to address the following:

    • Enhance the understanding of the benefits of ICT and technology across the curriculum including literacy, numeracy, technology, personal, social and health education
    • Provide practical information on how technology can be used to increase student motivation and enhance learning
    • Give teachers the confidence to use technology in class as a learning and teaching methodology that reaches across all subject areas and age groups
    • Reinforce the importance and place of ICT skills for productivity and the 21st century skills agenda
    • Encourage teachers to consider using games design and other technologies with students to help children become creators rather than consumers of content
    • Improve advice on how teachers and school leaders might tackle some of the common challenges encountered when trying to develop the use of technology in schools

    Ollie is a fabulously inspirational educator, and I have been lucky enough to hear Ollie leading professional development sessions and talk at conferences where teachers have been so excited to grab his ideas to take back to their classrooms, especially when he talks so passionately about games-based learning. So it's great that he's taken some time to put those ideas into this ebook, to share with a wider audience. (He's also shared much of his work on his website,

    Learn MoreDownload the ebook "Exciting Learning"

  • Education

    Using the cloud in the public sector–the Windows Azure InfoKit


    Windows Azure INFOKIT - Public Sector

    My colleagues over in the US create and update a handy one slide summary of Windows Azure resources that are specifically designed for developers using the cloud in the public sector – either because they are in public sector organisations (including education ones) or for people developing apps for public sector customers. It's a great combination of access to tools, training and resources, plus a batch of bonus information on Open Data (although it links to the US Open Government Initiative in the PPT slide above, I've changed the link in the list below to add the Australia equivalents).

    Developer Tools for developers using the cloud in the public sector

    Learning and Training for developers using the cloud in the public sector

    Online Resources

    Open Data and Big Data resources and links

    If you are using the cloud in the public sector, and want to understand some of the technical reasons, or cost benefits, then the links above are great places to start – and provides some of the training and resources that you might need if it's new to you.

    Even I've managed to do it!

    To be absolutely honest with you, I thought this whole 'developing apps in the cloud' was a bit too geeky for me. It's a long time since I've been a serious developer. But even I managed it, and it took me less than half an hour to sign up for a free Azure account, and setup and deploy a WordPress blog to a virtual server in the cloud, and publish my first bit of content to it.

    I chose to create a WordPress website, but there are tons of different web services that can be deployed with a click. So you could create a Drupal, DotNetNuke, Joomla, mojoPortal, MediaWiki, phpBB, Umbraco etc site just as easily. Or a vanilla site you want to hand build from scratch. You can do the same thing here (and go here to learn How to create a website from the gallery)

  • Education

    Windows 8 Education Software in the Windows Store



    Most education customers already have licences to run Windows 8 (either through an existing academic subscription like EES, a School Agreement or a Campus Agreement; or through MSDN/DreamSpark), so if you've not given it a go yet, I'd recommend installing it on a spare laptop or desktop computer. That way you can have a play around with it, and also try out some of the new apps, in advance of the big launch day on 26th October.

    My personal Windows 8 education app favourites that I'm playing with at the moment are:

    Wikipedia Windows 8 app tile



    Windows Store link for Wikipedia
    It's the usual great content from Wikipedia, but with a smart new interface, and especially useful semantic zoom

    Physamajig Windows 8 app tile 



    Windows Store link for Physamajig
    A great teaching tool which really takes advantage of a touch screen

    Mind8 Windows 8 app tile 



    Windows Store link for Mind8
    Simple mind-mapping, which would really useful to help students prepare revision or for assignments

    Wordament Windows 8 app tile 



    Windows Store link for Wordament
    My favourite word game

    Periodic Table Windows 8 app tile 


    Periodic Table

    Windows Store link for the Periodic Table app
    This does exactly what it says in the name!

    How Stuff Works Windows 8 app tile 


    How Stuff Works

    Windows Store link for How Stuff Works app
    A great app for curious minds, which always takes me off in a completely new direction every time I load it


      I'm going to try and find some time to share some deeper reviews of the education apps (now, where is that extra 25th hour in the day?), but hopefully there's enough pointers here for you go off and experiment with the new Windows 8 education software.

    • Education

      2012 Microsoft Australia Education Partner of the Year


      Microsoft APC 2012 logo

      The biggest event for Microsoft's partners in Australia is the Microsoft Australia Partner Conference in Brisbane. This year, over 1,000 people packed out the conference centre, and the awards ceremony for the Microsoft Australia Partner Awards was a great way to open the conference.  For the Microsoft Australia Education Partner of the Year 2012 the finalists were…


      The judging this year was incredibly difficult, as we ended up in a situation where after five rounds of judging the finalists had all achieved an identical score. We ended up having to go to three decimal places to find the ultimate winner!

      And the winner of Microsoft Australia Education Partner of the Year 2012 is ClickView

      ClickView's digital video solution for schools, is designed to support learning in the classroom by providing a simple and complete solution for watching digital video and other digital media (and if you're not yet using it, then give it a run with their ClickView free trial)


      The two other finalists, Data#3, for their Education SharePoint Rapid solution, and Janison, for their Cloud Assessment Framework, CAFE, were both exceptional and creative companies and products, but ClickView just pipped them at the post.

      We had some amazing entries this year, with some very innovative projects happening across schools, TAFEs and universities, and I'm hoping to be able to share some more details of the success stories now the award has been announced.

    • Education

      What are you going to choose for the new Academic year? New Windows 8 devices coming soon


      I was chatting with teachers earlier this week, at a school workshop in Sydney, and one of the subjects that came up was "What device should we be looking at for next academic year?". It's a really tricky question, for two reasons:

      • When you're choosing a Windows device, you're spoilt for choice. Do you want a desktop, an all-in-one, a laptop, a slate, or something else?
      • Every day it seems that we're all reading about new devices for Windows 8 that are just around the corner.

      So to help everybody that's planning for next year, then I thought I'd share some of the highlights from the blog post from Nick Parker, who leads the Microsoft OEM Division (they are the team that work with all of the companies making Windows devices)

      A couple of weeks ago the focus of the technology world turned to IFA in Berlin, a massive consumer electronics trade show that gets over 150,000 people attending. In the run-up to the consumer launch of Windows 8 on 26th October, this year's event made it the perfect place for manufacturers to show off what devices are coming in the next few months. With devices that range from tablets and hybrids to more familiar notebooks and all-in-ones on display at the IFA conference, it's clear that we'll have a broad range of PC choices when Windows 8 launches. Some of the highlights included:

      New ARM based slates

      ASUS Vivo Tab RTThe new line of “transformer” PCs from ASUS, such as the ASUS Vivo Tab RT, is a good example of tablets that run the Windows RT operating system powered by ARM processors and provide an easy docking setup that makes it a snap to go from a traditional setup in the classroom to a tablet mode for browsing the web from your sofa.

      dell-xps-10Also powered by Windows RT, the Dell XPS 10 brings productivity and a mobile keyboard dock with long battery life.

      Samsung ATIV Smart PCs

      smartPCSamsung announced a docking tablet with its new line of Samsung ATIV Smart PCs. With their support for a range of touch and gesture commands, it makes them amazingly adaptable for home, professional and educational uses. All of them are touch devices, and most of them also come with pens, so that students can write as well as type.

      Convertible slate PCs

      Some of the new hardware designs include keyboards, blurring the line between pure “tablet” PCs and “hybrids.” Several of the PCs are being billed as desktop replacements that function just as well in either mode (as somebody now using my Samsung Series 7 slate PC as a replacement for my desktop/notebook, it's something that's already working for me!)

      Toshiba Satellite U925tvaio duo11 envy_tcm_245_1287920

      Acer’s new Iconia W510 is an incredibly small and light example, outfitted with a cradle that allows the display to be used on the desktop via keyboard and mouse input or tilted back for easier touch control. The keyboard also functions as an additional battery, giving the PC up to 18 hours of battery life. The HP Envy X2 is another detachable tablet PC with a slick aluminum chassis and an interesting physical feature for docking — magnets embedded in the PC help pull and guide the tablet into the dock, making it easy to dock the machine and get to work.

      Sony’s VAIO Duo 11 is a unique hybrid design that features a surf-slider keyboard which stays with the PC wherever it goes. The Duo also comes with a stylus that is a breeze to use, allowing users to write, doodle and interact easily in tablet mode. Toshiba’s Satellite U925t is a tablet-convertible version of its more traditional U920 laptop offering and features a 12.5-inch screen that easily converts to a tablet.

      New laptops and notebooks

      spectre_tcm_245_1287936 ultrabook_tcm_245_1287938 vaio t and e

      For more traditional notebooks, Acer, HP, Lenovo, Samsung, Sony and Toshiba have all refreshed their notebook and Ultrabook PCs to take advantage of touch capabilities in Windows 8 — Acer’s premium Aspire S7 and S5, HP’s Envy TouchSmart and SpectreXT ultrabooks, Sony’s VAIO T and VAIO E, all feature classic notebook designs with powerful components and responsive touch screens. The S7 in particular is designed with extra tension in the hinges so it can open up to 180 degrees, enabling a new type of collaboration scenario.

      For those that want a more familiar laptop, consider the Lenovo IdeaPad S300 and S400 laptops, which include an updated touchpad that gives users a more controlled experience when scrolling and zooming.

      New desktop All-In-One computers

      Samsung Series 9 AiO_27_001_Front_56320 Acer Aspire 7600U swivel_vert_horiz_NEW Lenovo A520_Hero_12Toshiba LX835 AIO

      All-in-ones are becoming increasingly popular, and designs from Samsung, Lenovo, Acer and Sony are bringing the world of touch to full-tilt desktop computing.  From an education point of view, we're going to see these used for creating more interactive classroom activities (maybe alongside an interactive whiteboard) as well as for uses like information points and for libraries.

      This isn't comprehensive – it's just a glimpse of some of the hardware innovation coming with Windows 8, and I'm looking forward to seeing some of these devices in Australia really soon.

      Learn MoreGet the latest on the Windows world from the Windows Team Blog

    • Education

      How to sell Windows 8 apps to education customers


      Windows Store logoDevelopers around Australia are creating Windows 8 apps and making decisions about how to go to market.  With the arrival of the Windows Store, there's another route to market that wasn't there previously, especially as it gives you a way to get to market without having to build a complete channel.

      So here's quick guide to some options you might want to think about:

        • Selling Windows 8 Education apps through the Windows Store
          Of course, you can't just dump an app into the Windows Store without any prior steps. The app must adhere to certification policies and process required for all apps in the Store. You’ll get high visibility in the store because there's a specific Education category, and because every user will see the Windows Store on their home screen, and will be looking to try out some new Windows 8 applications, I reckon that getting listed as soon as possible in the store is a great marketing strategy. There are tons of blog posts on the Windows Store blog on getting your app into the Windows Store and strategies for making it successful through the store.

      Windows Store - Education categoryYou have two options for selling your app on the Store: you can offer your apps for sale directly to the end user, with each individual user making the purchase directly from the Store. Another option is to offer the app as a free download, then manage the sales and licensing directly with the institution. Your app would then use authentication to bring specific functionality to each of your customer’s users.

      If you want to enforce a volume licensing model based on user counts for sales (egfor a pre-licensed number of teachers or students), you can use a signed receipt from the Windows Store. This option enables you to securely identify the user running the app.

        • Sell and distribute it directly
          Where your buyers will distribute the app directly to end-users and develop using the Windows App Certification Kit. The kind of scenario this works for is a school or university which wants to get a site licence for an app, and then load it onto their computers themselves (via sideloading). If you do this, be sure to follow some of the best practices around getting discovered on the Internet.
          There's a guide to deploying Windows 8 apps without using the Windows Store here
          • Promoting Windows desktop software through the Windows Store
            You don't have to have a Windows 8 Modern app to list it in the Windows Store. You can also list conventional desktop apps. The key difference is that the user will buy the app directly from you, not the Windows Store (so basically the Store is acting as a marketing point for you). Find out more about listing your desktop app in the Store
            • Microsoft PinPoint
              In addition to the choices above, you should also list your company and your product in Microsoft’s Partner Directory, PinPoint. When you do so, be sure to label your company as working in Education, and it helps a lot when the title of your product or solution in the listing contains the words people might search on, like "teaching", "spelling", "curriculum" etc. The PinPoint database is the source of various partner searches throughout where the results are displayed within the context of pages like Windows Server, SharePoint and other sites where customers click “How to Buy..” to locate the appropriate partner.
              The Australian Microsoft Education website uses PinPoint whenever somebody clicks on the 'Partners' link (eg on this 'How to Buy' page), where it returns a list of Australian education partners listed in PinPoint

            And although the consumer launch of Windows 8 isn't until 26th October, our volume licence customers (which includes almost every single education customer in Australia) already has access to Windows 8, and may be running it on some of their computers. So the sooner you're listed in the Windows Store, the sooner that people will see your software Smile

            Learn MoreRead more on the Windows Store blog

          • Education

            Office Web Apps–the new Office Web Apps Server


            Two years ago we introduced Office Web Apps – browser-based versions of Word, Excel, PowerPoint and OneNote. They appeared in a number of places – for example, you could work directly with them in the cloud, using SkyDrive. And they also ran on SharePoint servers, so that you could be opening and editing documents directly in SharePoint, without having to download them to your machine first. And even without needing a copy of Office installed on your computer.

            Education users have started using them, and they helped create new ways of using, sharing and collaborating on Office documents. For example, a teacher could publish a homework assignment on SkyDrive, and students could edit it individually or collaboratively on their home computer – whether or not they had Office installed on their home computer. And it made it very easy to publish, review and share documents on the school SharePoint (great for working on policy documents and other internal documents).

            But there were some scenarios that it still didn't solve. For example, schools are typically very sensitive to putting information in the public cloud. So if IT blocked access to SkyDrive, then that stops teachers sharing files easily for students to access from home.

            Jumps on soapbox temporarily: I actually think IT are sometimes too sensitive. What's the real risk of putting a homework assignment worksheet in the cloud where users can even be asked to login to get it. In fact, what's wrong with just putting it on a publicly available website? Why do my children have to login to the school network to get their homework assignment, which they can't access from home? Can't it just be put on the website in a folder that anybody can access? Are teachers worried about other teachers borrowing their work? It doesn't contain any sensitive data or student names or anything other than a standard homework assignment.
            Oops, I'd better jump off my soapbox and return to where I was!

            The other scenario that it didn't cater for is where people want to access files that aren't stored on SharePoint. For example, if you're using a Learning Management System which isn't SharePoint integrated – like Moodle – then users have to download files to their local computer before they are able to open them.

            Office Web Apps Server becomes a standalone product

            I've just read news from the Office team that with the new version of Office, the Office Web Apps will now run on a standalone Office Web Apps Server, rather than being installed on each SharePoint server. For today's typical setups, it means that you don't need to upgrade lots of different servers every time there's a new release of Office Web Apps – instead you have a single configuration of Office Web Apps that you manage in one go (even if it's physically setup on a number of Office Web Apps Servers or virtual servers).

            Nick Simons, a Senior Program Manager for Office Web Apps, has written a fully detailed post Introducing Office Web Apps Server, explaining the technical changes that are going to happen, what's now possible, and how it simplifies the management of Office Web Apps.

            Office Web Apps Server in education

            Office Web Apps Server architectureReading it, it occurred to me that it is especially useful in education for a couple of scenarios (especially when you look at the labelling of the black box on the diagram to the right, from Nick's blog post, 'Open from URL'):

            • Even if you're not using cloud services (like Office 365 for education) and you haven't deployed SharePoint for all students, you could still provide access for your students to Office Web Apps for use with Lync or Exchange (for example, to allow them to open Office documents within the mail system).
            • If you're using a Learning Management System (LMS) that isn't linked to SharePoint, you could make some technical changes to allow your users to open documents directly in Office Web Apps from within your LMS. For example:
              • Wouldn't it be great to open a Word document directly from a Moodle course folder, in a web browser, without having to have Office installed on every machine (good for students on their home computer or even on their phone
              • How about students and teachers being able to do the same in the Victoria Ultranet?

            I know there will be a bunch of technical things to do to make this kind of thing possible, but the idea of having a separate Office Web Apps Server in the new Office makes it realistic – especially where people don't want to have anything stored in the cloud, or they want to glue together different technology to make life easier for students.

            Learn MoreRead the blog post from the Office team "Introducing Office Web Apps Server"

          • Education

            Two things I’ll never have to say now I'm using the new Office


            Over on our Microsoft News site, there's a list of "10 Things You’ll Never Have to Say With the new Office". They are all good thoughts, but there are two that are particularly brilliant for me:

            Use Word to load and save PDFs

            And once you've got them open, you can edit and save them, or copy info etc. How many times have you wanted to just make a small change to a PDF file before you send it on to somebody? Or make comments on a PDF you've been asked to review. Bingo!



            Easily fill a spreadsheet column from an existing column

            There's a new feature in Excel 2013 called Flash Fill. And once you've used it, you will never want to go back to spreadsheet software that doesn't have it.


            It's going to save me hours of typing and formula. Here's how it works. It takes a look at what you're typing into a column, and then is able to predict what you're trying to do. So in the example below, it actually works out you're creating a column of people's names, from the contents of Column B. And so it fills the column for you.

            Flash Fill in Excel 2013

            Like the best software everywhere, this has two important characteristics:

            1. It's indistinguishable from magic Smile
            2. It made me smile when I first used it Open-mouthed smile

            Can you imagine how much time this is going to save teachers – how many times have you sat down with a spreadsheet with a list of full names and you've wanted to just have a column of initials? Or you've been given the name as surname-firstname, and you want it to be firstname-surname? Flash Fill can do it. This is simply a genius idea.

            And if you want to see some amazing examples, watch this YouTube video from an enthusiastic Excel user to see how it can be used to extract, combine, insert or reverse data. (And learn the magic of the CTRL-E key).

            Learn MoreSee the rest of the "10 Things You’ll Never Have to Say With the new Office"

            Or…try the new Office by downloading the free preview version

          Page 1 of 2 (17 items) 12