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The Australian Education Blog
Ray Fleming's take on what's interesting in Education IT in Australia

  • Education

    Get your developers ready - Office 365 is coming

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    As the 'March of the Cloud' continues, it changes lots of things:

    • It changes the jobs that IT people do in schools, TAFEs and Universities, because most of the basic IT infrastructure just sits there in a cloud data centre, and you switch it on;
    • It changes the costs of introducing new IT services, because the usual barrier, a big up-front capital cost for servers, goes away and is replaced by a pay-for-use subscription;
    • It changes where your storage is, and how much bandwidth is needed - because your data is stored out in the cloud;
    • And it changes your development practices.

    Over the last few years, as education has adopted Live@edu, and education email has moved to the cloud, these changes have been visible. But it's been on a small part of the network infrastructure. Over the next 2-3 years that impact is going to grow, as services like Office 365 come in and supplement or even replace some of the other parts of your IT infrastructure (when it's fully here, Office 365 will deliver Exchange, SharePoint and Lync as a service in the Cloud).

    One of the first groups of people to need to know how to manage this change are your developers - because as they develop applications for your users, they'll need to know how to develop these applications for a Cloud service. The good news is that Cloud services aren't all closed - you can develop applications which work to supplement these core Cloud services - whilst there's a different methodology to development, it still uses the same tools that developers use today - like Visual Studio and Silverlight.

    So if you're a developer, or you've got developers in your organisation, there's a set of training resources that are really useful:

    Office 365 Developer Training Course

    The Office 365 Training Course contains developer focused presentations, self-paced labs and links to key resources to help you build solutions that use SharePoint Online, Exchange Online and Lync Online. In Office 365, SharePoint 2010, Exchange 2010 and Lync Server 2010 are hosted in Microsoft cloud datacentres, so using this course, you’ll learn how to build collaborative and communication focused cloud solutions that run in Office 365 using Visual Studio 2010 and the .NET Framework.

    The course is available as a complete offline download, and the modules include:

    Developing in the Cloud with Office 365
    which gives you an overview of the tools

    Developing for SharePoint Online with Sandbox Solutions
    which will enable you to develop and test, without affecting your live environment

    Building Workflow Solutions for SharePoint Online
    for things like 'allow students to submit assignments, and send them to the right teacher'

    Developing SharePoint Online Solutions with the Client Object Model
    which gives you the chance to build scenarios like 'this student didn't turn up for the lecture, so send them a customised email'

    Leveraging Excel and Access Services in SharePoint Online
    to allow you to link back-end databases to your front-end systems, for example for student learning reports

    Developing Communication Solutions for Lync Online
    for doing things like 'click to chat with a homework helper' to be built into your learning management system

    Developing Messaging Solutions for Exchange Online
    to allow you to create links, eg link to a teacher's calendar so that you can show when their next free period is

    Learn MoreFind out more about the free Office 365 Developer Training Course materials

  • Education

    Education content at Microsoft World Partner Conference in LA

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    WPC Logo

    If you are going to the Microsoft Worldwide Partner Conference in Los Angeles next month, then there's the chance to join the worldwide Microsoft Education team for some of the conference sessions. With the team promising that you can "learn why education is one of the fastest growing industry segments at Microsoft", you'll also get clear updates on our products and solutions, and hear from other partners.

    Education Sessions during WPC

    There are two specific education sessions during the main WPC agenda:

    • July 12 - BP06i - Office in Education: The Evolution of Live@edu and Office 365 for Education
      Come to this session for an interactive discussion around the Microsoft Office Cloud offerings for education. We will present an overview of Live@edu, the future of Office 365 for education and discuss the major opportunities this presents for partners worldwide.
    • July 13 - 4:15 pm - PS04 - Growing your Business in the Education Industry - Strategies for Success!
      Anthony Salcito, WW VP Education, will outline Microsoft’s overall strategy with the theme of "Partners and Microsoft –Education Inspired." Salcito will address how and where things are evolving for partners within our ecosystem. We are focusing on simplifying our approach, helping partners make money, competing to win and growing our joint market share by driving partner-led solutions.

    You can find out more about WPC, and register, here

    Global Education Partner Summit at WPC

    On Friday 15th July, directly after WPC, there is an additional event, the Global Education Partner Summit (GEPS) @ WPC, which is specifically reserved for education partners. This will in the morning, at the Omni Hotel in downtown LA.

      Time Title Speakers
      9:00 - 9:45 Opening and introduction Larry Nelson & Anthony Salcito
      9:45 - 10:30 Trends in Education: What you Need to Know to Grow Your Business Profitably in Education Industry Bruce Dixon, Fellow, Education Impact
      10:30 - 11:00 Break & networking  
      11:00 - 12:00 Business Modeling for the Cloud Dr. Petri Salonen, CEO TELLUS International, Inc
      12:00 - 1:15 Roundtable discussions; 2 rotations, 40 minutes each:  
        Transitioning your Business Solutions to the Cloud Bradley Tipp, WW Director Education Cloud Computing
        Building Education Scenarios Across the PC, Phone & Browser John Rivera-Dirks, WW Client Strategy Manager
        Helping Education Customers Manage "the Business of Schools", Applying CRM & SQL Server to Build Learning Analytics Solutions Mike Lloyd, WW Education Industry Solutions Specialist
        Supporting Partners entering the Education Industry Alessandro Giacobbe, Sr. Director WW Education Partners, MSFT Office Division
      Mike Chase, Education Transaction/AER Partners
        Building a Services Business in Education with the Education Services Portfolio Larry Nelson, WW Managing Director, Education Partners
        Leveraging the transformation to digital content David Langridge, WW Sr. Director Partner Development
        Leverage Windows Multipoint Server (WMS) to Increase Access for Students Pankaj Srivastava, Principal Program Manager, WMS
      1:15 - 1:30 Concluding remarks Anthony Salcito

    Learn MoreFind out more about, and register for, the Global Education Partner Summit (GEPS) @ WPC

  • Education

    Google Apps to support modern browsers - only

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    Not sure what to make of this news this morning, and definitely not sure what comment to add on this. So I'll go for the completely factual presentation of something I've just read on the Google Enterprise Blog. I know this is relevant to education customers and partners, because when we talk about our Live@edu email service (which is a Gmail competitor) we are always asked about our browser support, and to confirm that we support the main browsers being used by education establishments today, and students at home. And in many cases, we know that includes older versions of Internet Explorer and other browsers.

    Here's the relevant paragraphs from Google's blog:

     

    …soon Google Apps will only support modern browsers. Beginning August 1st, we’ll support the current and prior major release of Chrome, Firefox, Internet Explorer and Safari on a rolling basis. Each time a new version is released, we’ll begin supporting the update and stop supporting the third-oldest version.

    As of August 1st, we will discontinue support for the following browsers and their predecessors: Firefox 3.5, Internet Explorer 7, and Safari 3. In these older browsers you may have trouble using certain features in Gmail, Google Calendar, Google Talk, Google Docs and Google Sites, and eventually these apps may stop working entirely.

     

    (For comparison, here's our list of supported browsers for Live@edu - IE7, Firefox 3.0.1, Chrome 3.0.195.27 and Safari 3.1)

  • Education

    Integrating a Learning Management System with student email

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    itslearning is a Norwegian learning management system (LMS) provider, and their solution is used by millions of students and teachers across schools, colleges and universities around the world.

    The LMS market has seen rapid development and innovation over the last few years, as technology has changed alongside users' expectations and experiences. Where once monolithic systems were the default - with users expected to do everything in one complete system - the boundaries between the Learning Management System and other ICT systems in education have been rapidly moving. It created a tension between the closed messaging systems being created in Learning Management Systems, and the email systems that students were using for their rest of their work. Everybody knew that email/messaging had to be available in an LMS - but the early model of writing a closed email system as part of the LMS wasn't sustainable - because it was becoming increasingly expensive to manage and keep pace with systems students were using outside of this.

    itslearning's answer was to offer a full email solution, as part of their learning management system, by using the Live@edu integration. It meant that they could stop developing the internal mail system, and integrate to the standard Microsoft cloud-based mail system already used by many of their customers. This took away the need for itslearning to develop separate filtering and control systems.

    Now, when their users login to the itslearning system, they get Single Sign-Onimage to their cloud-based mailbox, and things like email notifications appear within the LMS. And all of the other features of Live@edu are still there - like a 10GB email inbox in the cloud. It makes life easier for teachers and students (and, in some implementations, parents) as they have one single system to use and login, and the system handles the invisible connections.

    As well as saving itslearning's customers' money, it also meant that they no longer had to deal with yet-another messaging and collaboration system. And for itslearning, it meant less development was needed to deliver more customer benefits. As their CEO Arne Bergby put it:

      Why reinvent the wheel? We got a highly-used, familiar mail service without having to invent the UI or code the functionality ourselves. Even more, the integration was easy and we spent very little time working on the actual integration steps.  

    Learn MoreRead the itslearning case study on the Microsoft global website

  • Education

    Where's the server with your student data on? Is it encrypted?

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    SQL logoSomebody asked me yesterday what the differences are between the various versions of Microsoft SQL Server. Given that we have 7 different editions - in addition to the core editions, there are two free versions and three specialised editions - it's a reasonable question. The question made me think hard about the kind of data that's being put onto these servers.

    Probably most education establishments will have a range of different SQL servers running, each running your student management system, email system, SharePoint system and a pile of others. And they may be running on different flavours of SQL - for example, a lot of primary schools will be running their student management system on SQL Express, one of the free editions, because they have small databases.

    There's a handy table from the SQL Server team, that summarises very quickly the key differences, in terms of database support (eg the Express edition will support a maximum database size of 10GB), but it's in the features that the real differences come out - and help you to work out which version is right for you.

    So, in an education context, here's my simple guide to choosing the right version:

    Question

    Is
    Express
    edition suitable?

    Is
    Standard
    edition suitable?

    Is
    Enterprise
    edition suitable?

    Do you need a basic database system?

    Yes

    Yes

    Yes

    Is the database big (>8GB) or going to keep growing with complex info (for example adding images, scanned paperwork?)

    No

    Yes

    Yes

    Does it contain sensitive data (for example, any student medical data)?
    ie you need data encryption

    No

    No

    Yes

    Do you need to be able to track all changes of data, and all access by users?
    ie you need an audit trail for compliance

    No

    No

    Yes

    Find out the differences

    Express

    Standard

    Enterprise

    In a nutshell, for the majority of education users, the Enterprise Edition is the right one to choose, because most school databases contain some sensitive student data (medical, behavioural), and that data is then at risk from unauthorised access or theft. Unless your server is very securely locked away, then you've got a data security risk. And if you don't have an audit trail of who's accessing what data, you've also got a data security risk that you can't even quantify. (Enterprise Edition also offers live mirrored backups, for more data resilience).

    I have seen plenty of primary schools where the server for the Student Information System is in the school office, under a desk - right by the front door. And I've walked past plenty of them as I've headed towards a meeting with staff. With so much sensitive data now stored by default on these servers, they definitely need better physical security, as well as better protection for the data which is being stored.

    With so much focus on data security, and privacy, it's right to think about how valuable your data is. With data storage growing massively, as more and more data is retained, the situation might well have changed since you last looked.

  • Education

    Reducing computer lab costs in schools with Windows MultiPoint Server

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    I've written before about Windows MultiPoint Server and the theoretical cost savings identified by Forrester.

    The idea with Windows MultiPoint Server is quite easy to explain - you basically have a group of screens/keyboard/mice connected to a single computer - and each users gets a full Windows 7 desktop. And you save on hardware, electricity and management costs.

    Now I can point you to more detailed real-life case studies from schools using the system.

    Windows MultiPoint Server banner

    Windows MultiPoint Server in Indian classrooms

    In India, the Gulzar Group of Institutes has used it to reduce the cost of rolling out 120 stations in one big computer lab. Their original plan, to deploy 120 desktop computers, would have cost them $60,000, but using MultiPoint they reduced this to $36,000. As Gurkirat Singh, the Executive Director for Gulzar Group of Institutes, said at the time:

      We saved 40 percent on our initial hardware cost, which was a significant saving for us  

    They other savings they made were in power usage - saving over $10,000 a year - and reduced the number of technicians needed to support the system by 50%. Overall, the case study points to a saving in the first year of over $40,000.

    Windows MultiPoint Server in Rwandan classrooms

    On another continent, Gashora Girls Academy in Rwanda has used the latest version - Windows MultiPoint Server 2011 - to provide access to students who didn't have classroom computers. They were aiming to increase availability of IT , without making it too complicated to be managed by classroom teachers. And they also needed to keep a lid on their power costs, due to the high costs of electricity in Africa. They setup 36 workstations, and as Kimberley Mecham, the Technical Advisor to the Academy, said:

     

    “Some of these girls have never even seen a computer before. Through Windows MultiPoint Server, they can experience the most current software and technology.

    With Windows MultiPoint Server, we can provide cost-effective access to technology, and this is the kind of thing that really changes a whole community.

     

    In addition to saving hardware costs, they have made significant savings on power - especially important when a kilowatt hour of electricity costs 22 cents. Their original plan, of 36 desktop computers, would have been costing $149 a month to run - whereas their new system costs just $29 a month - reducing power costs by 80%

    Windows MultiPoint Server video case study in Iowa

    There's also a video case study of the use of Windows MultiPoint Server at Tri-Center Schools in Iowa, that shows how they used the system to connect 20 old computers to a single server - and use that to get their desktop experience up to date for their students.

    Read the full case study on the Gulzar Group of Institutes in India
    Read the full case study on the Gashora Girls Academy in Rwanda

    Learn MoreFind out more about Windows MultiPoint Server 2011

  • Education

    What the future holds - The Horizon Report 2011 Schools Edition

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    Horizon Report front coverAfter the publication of the Horizon report in March, the new 2011 Schools Edition (or 'K-12 Edition' as it's really called, as it originates in the US) has just been published, and provides a really useful insight into emerging technologies likely to have a large impact on teaching, learning, research or creative expression. The report is produced by three respected organisations - the New Media Consortium, the Consortium for School Networking (CoSN), and the International Society for Technology in Education (ISTE) - and the advisory panel that contributes to the report is global, so the research isn't just covering a north American perspective -

    The Horizon Report

    The Key Trends, Critical Challenges and Technologies to Watch identified in this year's report make interesting reading, and there's plenty of detail in the report for more information:

    Key Trends

    The report identifies a series of key trends, from interviews, articles, papers and new research - and these are then used to analyse the future changes. You can see the commentary behind each of the these key trends in the report, but the headlines alone tell a key story:

    • The abundance of resources and relationships made easily accessible via the Internet is increasingly challenging us to revisit our roles as educators in sense-making, coaching, and credentialing.
    • As IT support becomes more and more decentralised, the technologies we use are  increasingly based not on school servers, but in the cloud.
    • Technology continues to profoundly affect the way we work, collaborate, communicate, and succeed.
    • People expect to be able to work, learn, and study whenever and wherever they want to.
    • The perceived value of innovation and creativity is increasing.

    The message from this list is that change is constant - and we cannot expect change to be rolled back - even if we haven't yet adapted to them. We'll need to react to the increasingly anytime-anywhere learning model - because students are moving there (as are employees) whether or not the institution allows for it.

    Critical Challenges

    The report then goes on to identify the challenges that schools face, and are prioritised in their impact on teaching and learning:

    • Digital media literacy continues its rise in importance as a key skill in every discipline and profession.
    • Economic pressures and new models of education are presenting unprecedented competition to traditional models of schools
    • The demand for personalized learning is not adequately supported by current technology or practices.
    • A key challenge is the fundamental structure of the K-12 education establishment — aka “the system.”
    • Many activities related to learning and education take place outside the walls of the classroom and thus are not part of our learning metrics

    What this says to me is that there is a growing tension between 'systems' and 'people' - and that the old rules that kept users locked into a system aren't in play anymore. We're seeing this regularly in higher education, where the learners and the teachers are exploiting technology to get around the 'system rules' - and there are plenty of examples of this in schools too (eg look at the use of Twitter by teachers to create their own Personal Learning Networks, replacing structured professional development courses)

    Technologies to watch

    The crystal-ball gazing ends with a look at the technology changes that the report sees as 'ones to watch' in the near future. It's interesting that education, criticised by some as slow to change, is one of the earliest adopters of Cloud Computing - and that it's sitting in the 'near-term horizon' category, as impacting all schools - and that Learning Analytics and Personal Learning Environments are seen as 'far-term horizon' - although there has been plenty of discussion about both of these for many years.

    On the near-term horizon - within the next 12 months

    • Cloud Computing
    • Mobiles

    On the second adoption horizon - within two to three years

    • Game-based learning
    • Open content

    On the far-term horizon - within four to five years

    • Learning analytics
    • Personal learning environments (PLEs)

    Learn MoreDownload the Horizon Report 2011 for Schools (PDF)

  • Education

    Authorised Education Reseller programme webcast - 9th June

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    AER logoHere in Australia, our main education subscription licensing scheme is EES (Enrolment for Education Solutions), and to be able to sell this scheme to their customers, partners must be Microsoft Authorised Education Resellers (AER).

    If you are a Microsoft partner, then there is a webcast on Thursday 9th June at 2-3pm EST (that's Australia EST, not middle-of-the-night-US-EST) to provide more information on how to license your customers using the academic licensing scheme. We'll also be talking about our incentive programme for partners, and what resources are available to help partners reach their education customers.

    The webinar will have three presenters - Mark Caldwell and Wendy Smith from Microsoft Australia, and Kim Rubbo, the Academic Area Lead from our regional headquarters in Singapore. The subjects covered will include:

    • What's the opportunity in Education?
    • How & why to sell Open Value for Education Solutions (a derivative of EES), the new licensing program available for AERs only
    • Earn rewards with the EEScore Incentive campaign

    If you are a Microsoft partner in education, I'd recommend that you attend this webcast to find out all you need to know, and where to find the key resources you need to support your education licensing sales.

    If you're an education customer rather than a Microsoft Partner, then pop over to our main Australian Education website to find out more about EES.

  • Education

    Is Glow the world's largest education SharePoint?

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    imageAlmost at the other end of the world (well, for those of us in Australia), there's a massive SharePoint in education project providing a learning environment for students and teachers in Scotland. 80% of Scotland's 70,000 teachers are using the system, with a total of 425,000 users. The project is called Glow, and is run as a nationwide project funded by the Scottish Government through Learning and Teaching Scotland (LTS).

    Less than four years on, Glow has just celebrated the 20 millionth login - a pretty staggering story of long-term growth and development. (Probably also staggering for the unsuspecting primary school pupil who's in line for RM's goodie bag!)

    The project started with the design and build of the Glow system in 2005, when RM won the tender to provide a national learning intranet for all primary and secondary schools in Scotland. Two years later, the system went live, and has since attracted worldwide recognition. The George Lucas Foundation honoured LTS with the Global Six award and presented Glow to the U.S. Senate Committee on Health, Education, Labor, and Pensions as an example of exemplary use of IT in education.

    At the time these kind of big systems are launched, there's always a lot of fanfare and triumphal celebration. But even more important is the result a few years down the road, when the attention has moved on to newer projects, and the students are the ones who are seeing it every day. 20,000,000 logins show that good things are still happening five years on.

    It's one of the largest SharePoint projects anywhere in the world - and certainly the largest one involving a SharePoint learning management system, so it is a great case study for mass student engagement.

    Learn MoreThere are some great ideas for classroom projects in the Glow Cookbooks

  • Education

    Calumo Business Intelligence for Universities

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    A couple of weeks ago, I wrote briefly about the universities who were using the Calumo Business Intelligence systems to improve their financial planning and modelling. In it, I quoted the Calumo figures for estimated cost savings for the universities - between $300,000 and $500,000 each.

    Calumo logoCalumo work across lots of different markets, including finance and banking, but have a specialist for education, Mike Henegan. He's written more about the specifics of the cost and time savings that each of the three universities mentioned is making:

    The Business Intelligence implementation at the University of NSW has added a simple budget interface, that links their finance and HR systems into a single set of information for the individual users. A typical example of time and effort savings is in the production of consolidated research reporting. Research heads used to have to download individual research projects into Microsoft Excel, then perform a consolidation to be able to compare against budget. The Calumo system now automates this process so each researcher selects their search and range criteria - and one button press reduces 3-4 hours of work to just 45 seconds. With about 100 research heads saving 3 hours a month each, it's a big benefit

    The Macquarie University Business Intelligence project went out to tender, which Calumo won. They implemented a system to link financial and HR information, and 400 people use it daily. And from that, they extended to use it for their annual budget process, and regular re-forecasting processes. The key was that individual faculty teams could use their own financial models, and feed all of the data into the central finance team (reducing the need for off-system spreadsheets).

    At the University of Canberra, business intelligence was first used for management reporting, budgeting and forecasting - and then extended to build a model for Student Load Planning (of the most critical, and difficult to manage elements of university financial life). That gave them better transparency in the planning process, whilst continuing to give the individual Deans direct input to the model. The result is stronger growth in student numbers, and they are already beating the 2013 targets set out in their 2008 strategic plan.

    Learn MoreRead the related 'Education' articles on the Calumo blog

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