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

November, 2012

  • Education

    Making student recruitment and retention systems more user-friendly

    • 1 Comments

    As we move towards a more consumer-centric world of IT in education – for example, as BYOD (Bring Your Own Device) models are sprouting right across Higher Education, TAFE and schools – there's pressure too on the big enterprise systems that users are forced to use (finance, CRM, management reporting) to become more consumer-friendly. For example, there are two very different approaches to things like online procurement platforms:

    • Corporate online procurement systems tend to be complex, require end user training and complex support help desks and top-up training
    • Consumer online procurement systems (aka online shopping) then to be simple to use, require no training and if they are not intuitive, they fail (sometimes, along with the business that built them)

    With the same mindset impacting corporate IT systems, then we're going to see a shift in systems and interfaces. If employees are walking around with a web-connected tablet, how do we help them do their job on that?

    One of the areas where this is a definite opportunity is in the area of student recruitment and student retention in universities and TAFEs. I'm involved in lots of projects where the Dynamics CRM system is being used to support student recruitment and reduce student attrition, and what's clear is that there are two types of users of a system:

    • People who spend most of their time in student recruitment activities, and use their CRM or other system on a daily basis
    • People who's role involves student recruitment, but only occasionally have to record activities or look up information in the main system

    One of the things I've noticed is that the people who occasionally use the system tend to have workarounds to avoid actually using the system – for example, they keep information offline in a spreadsheet, on paper or in their heads. Whilst it might work for them, it means that there's no visibility of progress and activities to others.

    So how do you encourage more people to actually use your CRM system as the core place to record information and activities on student recruitment, or student attrition activities? Part of the answer has to be to make it easier for your users to use the system, so they don't feel the need for extensive training, or experience disorientation if they are only using it a few times a week/month/year.

    We've just announced a new release of Dynamics CRM, called Polaris, which is designed to improve the experiences of every day, and occasional users, by:

    • focusing on streamlining processes for users
    • improving the experiences for specific users across browsers, mobile devices
    • improve the integration with Microsoft SharePoint and Lync, as well as Skype and Yammer

    There's plenty more detail on Polaris over on the Dynamics website, but the best way I've seen the journey described is the video below, which demonstrates the vision that the Dynamics team are working towards, and shows what the future interface for Dynamics CRM might look like:

    If your users across the campus had this kind of intuitive, and simple, application, would it make it easier to encourage them to use your CRM system holistically, rather than having separate silos of information on paper, cards, spreadsheets and hand-built systems?

    Learn MoreRead more about the long-term vision for Dynamics CRM (PDF)

    Read more about the features of the Polaris release in the Release Preview Guide (PDF)

  • Education

    Accessibility in Office 365 for education

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    Office 365 logoThe Microsoft Accessibility team  run a wide range of initiatives, including a global network of Accessibility centres, an online Accessbility tutorial programme for Windows, Office and Office 365, which includes Office 365 for education. They also publish a comprehensive range of general guides for specific types of impairments:

    Accessibility in Office 365 for education

    The precise details of the accessibility features available to you will depend on which components of Office 365 for education that you use, and which web browsers your users select, but I've summarised the accessibility for the key components and features below:

    • Accessibility features in Office Web Apps
      Office Web Apps provide screen reader support, keyboard accessibility, and high contrast modes. Office Web Apps run in a web browser so you can also use your web browser's accessibility features to improve the readability and accessibility of Office Web Apps, such as screen zoom, colour and font controls.
    • Support for assistive technology products in Word and PowerPoint Web Apps
      The Word Web App and PowerPoint Web App have display modes that make them accessible to screen readers. If you use assistive technologies, such as a screen reader or speech recognition software, you will have the best experience in Office Web Apps if the assistive technology that you use supports WAI-ARIA.
    • Accessibility in Lync Online for instant messaging, calls, and meetings
      Lync provides many accessibility features including keyboard navigation, high contrast, keyboard shortcuts, sharing notification, and screen reader support. You can setup Lync to hear incoming messages read aloud, as well as using keyboard shortcuts to make it easier to navigate and move between active windows
    • Accessibility in SharePoint Online for team document collaboration and websites
      SharePoint Online includes More Accessible Mode, keyboard shortcuts, easy tab navigation, and help for web managers who want to ensure the webpages created are accessible.
    • Accessibility in Exchange Online for email and calendaring
      With Exchange Online, you can listen to email on your desk or mobile phone, manage your calendar, and use familiar keyboard shortcuts when you are managing email and your calendar online.

    Learn MoreThere's plenty of detailed information on the Microsoft Accessibility website but perhaps better still, a handy downloadable handout, "Accessibility in Microsoft Office 365" for education, to share with colleagues who are starting to use Office 365 for education.

  • Education

    Microsoft Education roadshow coming to Sydney-Melbourne-Perth and Adelaide in November 2012

    • 0 Comments

    image

    We've got together with a couple of our partners – Generation-e and Paradyne - and are heading out to Sydney, Adelaide, Melbourne and Perth with an education roadshow for schools. And the timing's perfect, because we've got the opposing effects of rapid technology change and squeezed IT budgets, happening right now.

    So we thought you might want some help to consider how to make effective use of cloud technology, and providing your students with sustainable access to a 'no compromise' learning device. Plus, for the IT enthusiasts, there's a need to fill the insatiable appetite for learning about the new technology and product releases – like Windows 8 and Office 365. And that's what the roadshow is all about.

    Logos - Microsoft Paradyne Generation-e

    Agenda

    The aim of the agenda is to pack in as much as possible, and still leave enough time at the end for you to talk with colleagues from other schools and get the chance to see some of the latest Windows 8 devices, and touch and feel some of the new laptops, slates and all-in-one computers.

    8:45am Registration
    9:00am Welcome
    9:15-10am Learning Re-Imagined with Windows 8
    10am-11am Windows 8 Deep Dive: Management, Security, Usability, Devices and more
    11am-11:15am Morning Tea
    11:15am-12pm How to empower your staff, increase productivity and reduce IT costs with cloud computing
    12pm-12:45pm Enhancing collaboration and communication in schools with Lync
    12:45pm-2pm Lunch & Showcase of some of the latest devices

    Make a date: Find out more, and register for the Microsoft Education Roadshow in one of the following cities:

    Make a dateSydney on 23rd November, at our North Ryde offices
    Adelaide on 26th November, at the Microsoft Adelaide office
    Melbourne on 28th November, at our South Bank office
    Perth on 30th November, at Wesley College, Como

    I'll be speaking at the Sydney one, so I'll look forward to meeting some of you face to face for once!

  • Education

    Which Windows 8 device for next academic year?

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    Windows 8 device range

    There's all kinds of new devices running Windows 8 appearing on the shelves of retailers and online stores at the moment. In fact, it seems as if new ones pop up every time I walk away from my screen. Which might lead you to looking at the choices for different Windows devices for next academic year.

    Typically, in most education institutions, there's a need for a range of different devices for different users and scenarios. Something portable and robust for students; something for computer labs; something different for staff; oh, and something really shiny and fast for the leadership team. Whatever the scenario you're buying for, you're going to find a computer that's been tailored precisely for your use - whether it's tablets, convertibles, ultrabooks, laptops, desktops or all-in-ones.

    A good place to start to find out what's available is the Australian Windows 8 website, which highlights some of the great devices now available:

    imageFor my own use, I'm looking for a new home PC that's an All-In-One, that I can put on the countertop in the kitchen for photos, music, video, and to become the hub for my other laptops around the house. And my current favourite is the Sony VAIO Tap 20, which seems to have the right design to be acceptable to my wife, the right portability to make my children happy (it's got a built-in battery, so we can move it onto coffee table for games or video), and the right price and specification to make me happy.
    And the hidden bonus that according to the picture, it can levitate Smile

    Find MoreFind your new Windows 8 PC here

  • Education

    The Imagine Cup team that made it into Time's Best Inventions of the Year 2012

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    In TIME magazine's Tech website, they've recently published the Best Inventions of the Year 2012, which includes indoor clouds, a drifting fish farm, the MakerBot Replicator 2, the Tesla Model S and Enable Talk gloves.

    Enable Talk gloves and the Imagine Cup

    The fact that the Enable Talk gloves are in TIME's Best Inventions of the Year 2012 list is amazing because of the back story.

    They were created by four Ukrainian university students as their entry to the Imagine Cup, to allow speech and hearing impaired people to communicate more easily. The gloves contain sensors that recognise sign language and translate it into text on a Windows Phone, and from that into spoken words. So they quite literally allow somebody with speech impairments to talk – without the listeners having to learn sign language.

    imageThe four students were the Ukrainian team that entered into the global Imagine Cup, which Microsoft run.

    The Imagine Cup 2011 provided me with one of my most inspiring days of 21011, so it was fantastic to see the global finals for the Imagine Cup come to Sydney in 2012 – with teams from 75 countries competing to win the Imagine Cup. And I was lucky enough to be there at Imagine Cup 2012 as a staff volunteer, watching these inspiring students pitch their ideas to a worldwide bank of judges, and to aim to beat the other 300,000 students who entered, to be crowned as winners of the Imagine Cup.

    The Ukrainian's eventually won the Software Design category with their project, and obviously impressed more than just the Imagine Cup judging panel.

    I've always been a fan of the Imagine Cup, and it's power to help students take the world stage of innovation – and to see a small group of dedicated students go from competitors to appearing on a TIME Magazine list of 'Best Of…' is just amazing!

    To see Enable Talk in action, watch their video from the Imagine Cup finals, below and find out more about the team at enabletalk.com

    The Imagine Cup 2013

    The 2013 Imagine Cup is in Russia, and the wording on some of the advertising for it now makes absolute sense in the context of the story above!

    The Imagine Cup 2013

    The worldwide finals for the Imagine Cup 2013 are going to be held in St Petersburg, Russia. And they are open to teams of four students from high-schools, TAFEs and universities around the world (students must be 16+). Teams must register by March next year, and the Australian judging finals will take place by April 2013 – they'll pick the team to represent Australia in St Petersburg.

    Do you know any students who are ready to start their journey, and perhaps make it onto TIME's list of Best Innovations of 2013?

    Find MoreFind out more about the Imagine Cup 2013, and how to enter

  • Education

    Win prizes for building apps for Office and SharePoint

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    image_thumb[7] We're in the middle of a competition for partners or individuals to build apps for the new Office and SharePoint. With the new model of creating, selling, distributing and running apps in Office, and the creation of the new Office Store to promote apps, there's plenty of potential for developers to create new apps that are available for the hundreds of millions of potential users. And the competition is open to Australian developers too.

    Ideas for Office app developers in education

    If you want ideas for education apps for Office, to get your creative ideas flowing, take a look at Building education applications for Office, Office 365 for education and SharePoint.

     

    Prizes for building Office and SharePoint apps

    The top app in the competition will win US$10,000, plus lots of promotional activities in partnership with the Office team, including getting to be a featured app on the Office Store and Office blog. And some support and consultation to help you with your next app!

    There are an additional 15 winners, who get a Kinect and Xbox, plus promotion for their apps. And then finally 100 further prizes of a Microsoft Mouse or equivalent (see the prizes here)

    The closing date is 20th December, so you've got a few weeks to get your act/app together and submit your entry.

    Learn MoreRead more about the competition, and find out how to enter

  • Education

    Supporting and Enhancing Office 365 deployments with IT Academy

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    Office 365 Microsoft IT Academy logoAre you using Office 365 for education, or thinking of it? Well, there's some help available in the IT Academy programme to ensure all your staff, students and administrators are using it to its fullest potential. Which, let's face it, can be a huge task for a school or institution. Each individual has separate training requirements and starts with a different understanding of Office 365.

    IT Academy now offers a seamless access to its training materials and resources through Office 365 for Education. Not only do you get resources to enable a successful deployment and implementation of Office 365, but all Office 365 for education users can have single sign on to the IT Academy's members site.

    If you're not quite sure what IT Academy is, it's a global skills program that enables academic institutes to gain training and certification on Microsoft technologies; everything from fundamental productivity skills (e.g. MS Word, Excel, PowerPoint and Windows 8 & Office 365) to Advanced IT Professional courses. And in Australia there are over 450 institutions delivering it. There's more info on IT Academy in Australia here.

    IT Academy offers the following:

    • The latest Microsoft software for labs, classrooms, and PCs used by students
    • Access to a wide range of Microsoft E-Learning courses and the Instructor Learning Management System (LMS) to help track and monitor student progress
    • Discounts on official courseware that is available to academic institutions only
    • E-Reference Libraries that offer instant access to over 127 Microsoft Press books online
      (Hmm, as you'll realise I just copied that line from somebody else. I'm guessing that 'over 127' means there are 128 books online Smile)
    • TechNet subscriptions, which provide a wealth of resources for educators seeking to expand their professional development and students mastering IT professional concepts and skills
    • Marketing tools to promote the association with the Microsoft brand and official certification

    Office 365 Content & Resources

    For Office 365 users, and those planning deployment, the Office 365 content in IT Academy is split into 2 bits - administration & deployment and users. There is a range of eLearning, certification and press books available to complete your user and administrator training plan.

    Administration & deployment training

    For managing and deploying Office 365, Microsoft exams are available now for Administering Office 365 and Deploying Office 365

    And the learning resources are:

    • Administering Office 365
    • Getting Started with Office 365
    • Managing Office 365 Users, Roles and Identities
    • Installing Client Computers with Remote Connectivity for Office 365
    • Administering Exchange Online Mailboxes and Groups in Office 365
    • Managing Exchange Online Security and Compliance in Office 365
    • Configuring Exchange Online in a Hybrid Environment for Office 365
    • Integrating SharePoint Online with Office 365
    • Integrating Lync Online with Office 365

    User Training Content

    The Microsoft exam for this part is the Office 365 Microsoft Office Specialist Exam

    And the learning resources are:

    • Communicating and Collaborating with Microsoft Office 365
    • Sharing and Working with Teams Using Microsoft Office 365

    And the accompanying Microsoft Press books are:

    IT Academy is available for direct purchase or can be added to any volume licence agreement. For more information about IT Academy please visit www.microsoft.com.au/itacademy or contact Richard Ryan our Australian IT Academy program manager.

  • Education

    Update: Microsoft Education roadshow in Sydney on 23 November, then Adelaide, Melbourne and Perth

    • 0 Comments

    image

    A reminder of our roadshow – which kicks off in Sydney in a week's time

    We've got together with a couple of our partners – Generation-e and Paradyne - and are heading out to Sydney, Adelaide, Melbourne and Perth with an education roadshow for schools. And the timing's perfect, because we've got the opposing effects of rapid technology change and squeezed IT budgets, happening right now.

    So we thought you might want some help to consider how to make effective use of cloud technology, and providing your students with sustainable access to a 'no compromise' learning device. Plus, for the IT enthusiasts, there's a need to fill the insatiable appetite for learning about the new technology and product releases – like Windows 8 and Office 365. And that's what the roadshow is all about.

    Logos - Microsoft Paradyne Generation-e

    Agenda

    The aim of the agenda is to pack in as much as possible, and still leave enough time at the end for you to talk with colleagues from other schools and get the chance to see some of the latest Windows 8 devices, and touch and feel some of the new laptops, slates and all-in-one computers.

    8:45am Registration
    9:00am Welcome
    9:15-10am Learning Re-Imagined with Windows 8
    10am-11am Windows 8 Deep Dive: Management, Security, Usability, Devices and more
    11am-11:15am Morning Tea
    11:15am-12pm How to empower your staff, increase productivity and reduce IT costs with cloud computing
    12pm-12:45pm Enhancing collaboration and communication in schools with Lync
    12:45pm-2pm Lunch & Showcase of some of the latest devices

    Make a date: Find out more, and register for the Microsoft Education Roadshow in one of the following cities:

    Make a dateSydney on 23rd November, at our North Ryde offices
    Adelaide on 26th November, at the Microsoft Adelaide office
    Melbourne on 28th November, at our South Bank office
    Perth on 30th November, at Wesley College, Como

    I'll be speaking at the Sydney one, so I'll look forward to meeting some of you face to face next Friday. I'd better work out what I'm going to talk about soon Smile

  • Education

    How to help students fly first class?

    • 0 Comments

    I'm starting to see a number of Windows 8 apps that are creating a personal experience for their users. And the latest, for Emirates - one of the world's fastest growing airlines- made me think about the parallels to education.

    The Emirates KIS app for Windows 8

    Emirates have just announced that they are using a custom Windows 8 application, and touch slate, to personalise the journey for their passengers.

    They serve over 15 million passengers a year, on 125,000 flights to 74 countries. It's a pretty diverse customer base, and one of the challenges they will face is how to deliver a personal experience for their passengers – and to continue to improve already great experience for their First Class passengers. To help, the cabin staff will have a Windows 8 tablet, with the Knowledge-driven Inflight Service (KIS) app next year:

      The KIS app is a fully immersive crew and customer management solution that captures important passenger data around preferences and history. For example, details around previous trips, any issues a customer had during their travels, preferences (food, wine, seating, etc.) are stored in the app to help the crew better serve the needs of customers. Pursers use the app prior to each flight to brief the cabin crew, enabling them to provide an exceptional level of personalized service. The crew can also use the app to upgrade Emirates Skywards members while in flight to Business Class or First Class, as well as record customer feedback that is delivered straight to Emirates management once the flight lands.  

    Over the next year, they will roll out 1,000 devices, so that the purser on every flight will have access to the app, and the customer data that they need to enhance the customers' experiences. Their goal is to increase productivity, enhance teamwork, help with performance management and improve customer service. You can see it in action in this video below:

    So why do I think there are parallels to education?

    What I find interesting is that the scale of personalisation needed here is massive – 15 million passengers a year – and the data that they have on their customers is relative light (even their good customers are only going to be giving them a relatively small number of data sets a year) compared to every day student interactions.

    So with the depth and breadth of student data that is available to every principal, leader and teacher in education, what would the Knowledge-driven Learning Service app look like? What are the design principles that apply to make the right data available to the right teachers, at exactly the right time – and on the right device? I know that there are people working on this kind of problem right now – and some early models of what it looks like are around.

    But going forward, I think that there are some lessons from outside of education that might guide us into the future.

    We have the data across the education system, what we need are increasingly sophisticated – and simple – ways of making it immediately valuable for teaching staff.

    Learn MoreYou can read the full Emirates KIS case study on the global Microsoft case studies website

  • Education

    Can education IT keep up with the speed of innovation?

    • 0 Comments

    Last week the annual EDUCAUSE 2012 conference, for Higher Education IT people, took place in Denver. As usual, there was a buzz of stories that appeared on HE news websites like The Chronicle of Higher Education.

    What struck me, following the news and discussions, was that there's a real focus on the pace of change happening (or believed to be just around the corner) in higher education, and the fact that the 'old ways' of doing things just aren't going to work in a world dominated by rapid change and consumer-led thinking of your customers (whether that's external customers – students, research funders) or internal ones (the faculty and administration that choose to use IT services).

    Out of the hundreds of hours of talks, and tens of thousands of words that happened at the conference, here's two quotes from two different parts that struck home:

    Clay Shirky at EDUCAUSE 2012

    Clay Shirky, in his keynote kicking off the conference, talked about how he believes that technology is changing everything across education, from research to publishing to studying. And his idea for the conference was about the benefits of, and revolution possible through, a spirit of openness and collaboration created through social media. There's a short summary on The Chronicle of HE, but I'd recommend watching the whole session here, as I'm only going to highlight one single soundbite from a much longer, brilliantly engaging keynote (at 58:30 in the video)

    Here's the two sentences that struck me as completely pertinent to Australian universities (start watching the video at 52:45 for the analogous story):

      Do not put together an interdisciplinary team from 12 departments and give them a budget of a quarter of a million dollars, and a year and a half deadline. Find five people and ask them what can you do in a month—for free. I think the results will surprise you.  

    Start-Ups at EDUCAUSE 2012

    And this quoted make me think of another session from EDUCAUSE, where education-technology start-ups were pitching to venture capitalists for their money. It was the last three sentences in The Chronicle report, quoting the founder of one of the start-ups, Matthew Racz, that struck me:

     

    …ed-tech start-ups faced a challenging market because colleges move so slowly in adopting new products.

    “There’s a 9-to-18-month decision cycle,” he said. “That’s a little too slow for innovation to happen.”

     

    So here's my question: Can IT keep up with innovation?

    Why did I find these two particular quotes important? Well, as I reflected on the statements above, it challenged my thinking about IT in education – and made me reflect on projects in the past. I've often seen IT projects at the leading edge – where IT has been enabling and driving change, sometimes at a speed that is faster than users can easily adapt to. And here we are being told that change isn't fast enough. Have we been banging our head against a brick wall?

    No, I don't think we have. But the challenge is the way that projects and procurement processes can support an agile, innovative organisation.

    Example: I once worked with a university on a project that could deliver an ROI for an investment in energy reduction in 7 days (ie the project paid for itself in a week). But it took them 9 months from start to finish on the procurement process – which meant that 97% of the time, they were throwing money down the drain.

    I've no doubt that IT teams can keep up with the speed of innovation in education, but to do that, some of today's processes are going to have to change. When…

    • It takes longer to write a specification than it does to create the final project that results;
    • The specification process takes so long that the specification is out of date by the time the project delivers;
    • It costs more to run the procurement process to choose a product, than the actual cost of the product;

    …then it's time for change. I often see exactly these three characteristics above in projects for Business Intelligence systems and also for CRM systems

    IT can keep up with the speed of innovation – and continue to lead change. But some of the approaches to project are likely to have to change significantly to allow this, especially with the fragmentation of control and decision making that we're facing by individuals, managers, leaders, and departmental organisations.

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