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

  • Education

    Update 10 on Windows 8 Education apps - Corinth Micro Plant


    There's a rapidly growing list of Windows 8 education apps in the Windows Store – simply too many to keep up with, so what I'm now keeping my eye open for are ones that are completely different, and especially those that take advantage of the touch interface of Windows 8 to create an immersive experience for students and teachers. Here's an app for biology teachers that's great for a touch tablet for an individual student to explore, or for a teacher to project onto a classroom interactive whiteboard (it would be great to use this on a multi-touch whiteboard for zooming and navigation around the 3D models).

    It's from Corinth, a new education interactive publisher based in the Czech Republic. It's been built by a team of graphic designers and 3D experts – and it shows within a minute of loading the app, as you whizz around 3D models and zoom in and out of rich graphics.

    Corinth Micro Plant Windows 8 Tile 

    Corinth Micro Plant

    It's an unique interactive education app which takes you into the fascinating microscopic world of plant biology. Starting from an image of a forest, you can use touch to zoom into enormously magnified images, or explore fully 3D interactive models of trees which take you from the overall structure right down to looking at individual viruses. The video below walks you through the app, and gives you a clear idea of what it can do:

    The free version of Corinth Micro Plant Windows 8 app offers immersive zooming into micro world and a 3D interactive learning page for trees and their structures. Additional features can be unlocked through a Facebook Like (which unlocks the 3D gyroscope-driven interactive page on viruses), and then interactive learning pages like the ones below are unlocked through an in-app purchase.




    You can install Corinth Micro Plant free using the link above

    Learn MoreRead a list of other recommended Windows 8 apps for education

  • Education

    2013 Microsoft Australia Education Partner Summit – March 2013


    On the 25th March 2013 we're hosting the 2013 Microsoft Australia Education Partner Summit in Sydney. It is open to all of the partner organisations who are registered on the Microsoft Partner Network*, and who focus on the education market in Australia.

    The keynote speaker for the day is Anthony Salcito, the Vice President of Microsoft Education Worldwide, who's visiting Australia. You can see Anthony speaking at TEDxPantheonSorbonne here.

    Microsoft Education Partner Summit, 25th March 2013

    Header for the 2013 Microsoft Australia Education Partner Summit

    The agenda will focus on helping our partners to understand the way that our key desktop and cloud products and services – especially Windows 8 and Office 365 in education – help education customers to transition to new models of teaching and learning.

    This event will be headlined by the Vice President of Microsoft Education Worldwide, Anthony Salcito.

    You will end the day equipped with the value proposition of Windows 8 and Office 365 in education, in a format that will help you to share this with your customers to support your conversations around products, services and devices in education.

    The morning will be a series of keynote presentations and open Q&A sessions with key executives from the Microsoft global and Australian business. And then in the afternoon, we'll be offering a choice of breakout sessions, which will focus on specific topics.

    I'll have the full agenda up on Monday, but for now I'd recommend grabbing a spot through the registration link, as I'd expect that the seats will fill up pretty quickly.

    Date:         Monday 25th March, 2013.

    Time:         9:00am – 3:45pm.

    Place:        Microsoft Sydney, 1 Epping Road, North Ryde, NSW 2113

    Make a dateMake a date: Register for the 2013 Microsoft Australia Education Partner Summit

    * Acronym Soup – Our Microsoft Partner Network (MPN) partners include:

    • AERs – Authorised Education Resellers
    • OEMs – Original Equipment Manufacturers
    • ISVs – Independent Software Vendors
    • SIs – System Integrators
    • LARs – Large Account Resellers
  • Education

    Join the online launch of Office 365 on Thursday 28th Feb



    imageThe invitation is out for anybody to join our Virtual Launch Event next week as we celebrate the availability of a major new release coming to Office 365 for businesses and education customers. Kurt DelBene, President of the Microsoft Office Division, will talk about Microsoft’s vision for productivity, enterprise social and the cloud. We’ll demo new features in enterprise social and show how we’ve transformed the full Office experience you know into an always up-to-date service. Finally, you’ll hear real world stories from our customers about their move to the cloud. We’ll also answer questions via live chat as we go.

    For education customers and partners, it's an opportunity to hear about the new features being added into Office 365 for education, and consider how they might help you to improve communication with and between students, and deliver collaborative learning scenarios for schools, TAFEs and universities (with the added bonus that Office 365 for education offers a free service for customers, so that there's not a cost barrier to getting started)

    And the really good news is that the timing works for Australia, with an option to join the online launch event at lunchtime on Thursday 28th February.
    Make a dateMake a date: Register for the Office 365 launch webcast  
    Click on the one at 5pm on Feb 27th PST, which will be 12PM AEST on Thursday 28th February (or a little earlier for SA/WA)

  • Education

    University of Washington - Moving business intelligence to the cloud


    International case studies are always good to review, because sometimes you see things that aren't being done in Australia, and give useful ideas for solving problems for Australian education institutions. Of course, many international education organisations run in a very different way to Australian ones, but the underlying business problems can be very similar. Sometimes organisations take a more commercial approach (something that often comes up in projects involving CRM and BI in education)

    University of Washington logoFor example, I've just finished reading a Business Intelligence case study from the University of Washington, who have developed a system to help their university staff more easily connect with donors and potential donors, by using the cloud services of Windows Azure to take their existing SQL-based reporting system and moving it into the cloud. It's a very practical case study for business intelligence in education.

    Moving university reporting to the cloud

    Three years ago, the University of Washington (UW) developed a self-service reporting application called Michelangelo that helps users access the university’s databases and then quickly and easily create accurate reports. With the growing popularity of - and outside interest in - its application, UW met the challenge of increased demand by moving Michelangelo from an on-premises environment to Windows Azure in the cloud. Now, the university can scale the application on demand to support as many users as needed, including potentially giving outside educational and other research organisations access to Michelangelo. Thanks to cloud infrastructure resources managed by Microsoft, UW is also able to reduce hardware, labour, and maintenance requirements for Michelangelo.

    UW often needs to create lists of alumni based on their location, degree earned, donation history, and so on, as part of the university’s fundraising efforts. Historically, compiling lists like these at UW has been a slow (up to two weeks) manual process that includes a lot of technical steps. As a result, it has often required assistance from a database programmer or administrator.

    Five years ago, to make this task easier, UW developed Michelangelo—a self-service reporting application that works with an ordinary web browser and requires no customised client software. Michelangelo offers an intuitive interface for accessing key data, filtering the data by wide-ranging criteria, and delivering the results to a Microsoft Excel spreadsheet for convenient analysis. At UW, Michelangelo draws data from their customer relationship management (CRM) system using SQL Server, although the application is designed to support almost any structured data source.

    By 2010, the reporting application had become quite popular, used by several UW departments and attracting the attention of outside organisations, including North Carolina State University and the University of California, Davis. As Chris Sorensen, Associate Director of Reporting said:


    The time had come to determine what technologies we would need for Michelangelo to support perhaps 500 users and many more data sets. Simply adding more servers and storage did not make sense for us from a capital investment and labour perspective.

    We chose Windows Azure because it has the combination of scalability, reliability, and strong security that we were looking for.


    UW also used the flexible federated authentication capabilities in Windows Azure, meaning that they could use their existing identity systems to protect the information in the reports, using the rules for access to data sets based on the users' job role.

    The migration was completed in 2011, and was their first application to be moved from their on-premise infrastructure to Windows Azure, and they regard it as a model for migrating future applications.

    What benefits did they see?

    As well as lowering both short-term and long-term IT costs, the university are also seeing improvements in IT staff productivity. As Chris Sorensen said:

      What we really liked about the migration was that it decreased our management time for Michelangelo. With Windows Azure, we no longer have to deploy our own resources for things like internal system uptime, maintaining firewalls, or deciding what machines to partition or what virtual instances to provision. That’s all taken care of at a Microsoft data centre.  

    Users benefitted from improvements in the application's speed, with all of the relational database information held in memory. And for the University of Washington, it means that they are able to expand the use of Michelangelo to outside institutions and users, using federated authentication.

    The Michelangelo team have created a video of Michelangelo in action (warning: if you're in an Australian university, your alumni/donor management team may start to make more demands for easy access to data if they see this!)

    Learn MoreYou can read the full case study on

    There's also a website for the Michelangelo system here

  • Education

    The Gizmodo "Back to School and Uni Gear Guide"



    I've written a few times about some of the new Windows 8 devices for education customers from an institution perspective, and it's good to see that Gizmodo have published some device ideas for students, just in time for the new university year. They've looked at a range of devices, on different operating systems and from different manufacturers, and it's clear that they are seeing Ultrabook convertibles as the next big thing – clamshell designs, full keyboards, and touch displays. The perfect kind of device for students who want to sit in front of a laptop-style device typing an assignment, and then hold it on their lap as a tablet and using touch with a pen or their fingertips.

    They've featured the Sony Vaio Duo 11 with a slide-up screen, the Asus Taichi a screen on both the inside and the outside of the case, the Dell XPS12 with it's swivel screen, the Lenovo ThinkPad Twist (described as 'the best bang for the buck on the market right now'), the Samsung ATIV which is the next version on from my current Samsung tablet, the HP ENVY x2 which is appearing on adverts all over the place at the moment, and also the Microsoft Surface (also described as 'the best bang for buck').

    The good news from all of this is the huge choice of different designs for Windows 8 devices – laptops, convertibles, tablets, desktops, all-in-ones. Students can take their pick, from loads of different manufacturers…

    Learn MoreRead the Gizmodo guide to hot convertibles, ultrabooks and tablets for students

  • Education

    Ask the Experts–Tomorrow's BYOD in Education Webinar for partners


    Every month we run a Microsoft "Ask the Experts" webinar for Microsoft Education Partners in Australia, and on tomorrow's webinar we're going to do a deep dive into BYOD in schools (BYOD=Bring Your Own Device).

    I've got expert colleagues joining the webinar, and they'll talk about some of the things that they are seeing and hearing, and to explain how you can help advise schools about effective strategies for making BYOD in schools successful. Of course, you can't just airdrop technology, and it's important to understand what the learning outcomes are for a BYOD programme.

    imageAsk the Experts: Education Partner Monthly Webinar

    BYOD in Schools – February 26 2013

    The webinar is from 11:00-11:45AM tomorrow, Tuesday 26th February, and I'll be hosting it with Sean Tierney and Travis Smith, both of whom have long experience with BYOD programmes in schools. They'll be able to bring specific advice based on projects they have been involved with in the past.

    Important note: This webinar is for Microsoft partners who are registered on the Microsoft Partner Network, or are registered Academic Education Resellers. If you're working for an education institution, like a school, TAFE or university, then keep an eye out in the future here for similar webinars for you.

    Make a dateRegister for Ask the Experts: Education partner webinar - 26 Feb 2013

  • Education

    Full agenda for the 2013 Microsoft Australia Education Partner Summit


    Last week I announced the date for the 2013 Microsoft Australia Education Partner Summit – on Monday 25th March in Sydney, and the fact that we've got Anthony Salcito kicking off the event with his characteristically engaging story telling on the future of education, and our role in supporting the process of teaching and learning.

    Now I can give you more on the whole agenda for the day, to explain some of the value that you're going to be able to get from investing a day with us.







    Renee Gamble
    Microsoft Australia OEM Lead


    Education Keynote

    Anthony Salcito
    Vice President of Microsoft Education Worldwide


    Executive Q&A

    Anthony Salcito and senior Microsoft Australian Executives


    The Future of Education

    Ray Fleming
    Education Industry Market Development Manager





    Scenario Workshop 1

    See below


    Scenario Workshop 2

    See below


    Scenario Workshop 3

    See below

    Afternoon Scenario Workshops

    The Scenario Workshops will focus on three specific education scenarios common across schools and other education institutions, and give you an opportunity to participate in a deeper session on up to three topics. Each of these will be run in smaller groups on rotation, so you can choose which order, and whether you attend one, two or all three of them.

    The three Scenario Workshops are:

    • Bring Your Own Device (BYOD) in Education: What opportunities does this provide, and what advice is out there for education customers and Microsoft partners?
    • Compete in Education: Comparing education strategies achievable with different devices
    • Collaboration and the Cloud in Education: How partners can achieve growth through cloud services, and the strategies to support education institutions as they move to the cloud

    If you attend the whole Education Partner Summit, including all three Scenario Workshops, the day will close at 3:45PM.

    Who should attend the Education Partner Summit?

    The Education Partner Summit is open to all of the partner organisations who are registered on the Microsoft Partner Network, and who focus on the education market in Australia. Acronym Soup – Our Microsoft Partner Network (MPN) partners include AERs, OEMs, ISVs, SIs and LARs.

    The day has been designed to be most valuable to partner executives and employees who have direct customer sales, pre-sales and advisory roles, as well as business strategy roles.


  • Education

    Upgrading to Lync 2013 in higher education - case study from Marquette University


    Marquette University's iconic bell towerTwo years ago, I wrote about Lync case study on Marquette University in the US, who switched from a conventional PABX system to Microsoft's Lync system. At the time, the Director of IT Services at Marquette University described succinctly the benefit of choosing Lync, because in addition to a replacement telephone system, they also got full integration with their existing Microsoft systems, such as Outlook and SharePoint. In higher education, the addition of instant messaging within the university's network and instant collaboration capabilities (like video calling, shared screens and digital whiteboards) provide significant benefits to students and faculty as they develop new ways to deliver teaching and support students' learning.

    The team responsible for that system have just published an updated case study on Marquette University, including their plans to upgrade to Lync 2013, the latest version released in the last month. The upgrade will give them high availability, improved video and persistent chat capabilities – meaning that they have improved availability of critical services, reduced cost and admin needs – at the same time as improving communications capabilities on and off the campus.

    Cost saving with Lync

    Dan Smith, the university's Senior Director of IT Services, estimates that the transition from a PBX system to Lync will save them more than $200,000 a year, as soon as they can retire their old PBXs. Already they are using Lync to provide instant messaging (IM), presence, desktop sharing, and conferencing capabilities to 2,200 staff members and 11,500 students and enterprise voice for all 2,500 faculty and staff. IT Services estimates that the university will save US$31 per line each year in maintenance costs; this will result in more than $90,000 per year in savings. As Dan said:

      For just the student administration building, our annual saving is $12,000 because we no longer have to maintain the PBX for those phones.  


    Savings come too from other choices – like reducing the need for outsourced audio and video conferencing services, and using SIP trunking for its enterprise voice calls (which on it's own saves the university about $120,000 per year).

    And cost savings from managing the phone system come with improved customer service, according to Dan:

      People on campus change offices frequently. Our problems with adds, moves, and changes have disappeared. When people move, their laptop goes with them.  


    Streamlined audio and web conferencing services

    imageThe university was able to move to using Lync as the single conferencing service, rather than each department contracting out their audio and web conferencing services. And the integration with SharePoint and Exchange also means that it is easier to co-ordinate schedules for conference calls, and create shared document workspaces associated with meetings and conferences. And with Lync's web meeting services, there's broad support for a range of browsers for the attendees – an important consideration when you have thousands of students accessing the system remotely with their own devices.

    Using Lync to improve the student experience

    To encourage students to adopt Lync Server 2013, Marquette is promoting capabilities to improve their experience, such as federation with Skype and Google Chat. As Dan Smith puts it:

      Our foreign language department uses Skype to practice language skills with students around the world. Now they can have those conversations using the Lync 2013 client, so they are integrated with the rest of their communications.  

    They can also offer students and faculty Lync Mobile (for Windows Phone and all other major phone platforms), meaning that they can stay connected from anywhere. They can even allow the facility for them to make calls through data networks rather than using their mobile plan (so that a student can join a lecture or tutorial remotely - eg using their home wifi connection – without call charges.

    The IM side of Lync is also encouraging users to move away from email as a first contact route. Persistent chat has the potential to improve the delivery of education at Marquette. Setting up chat rooms for class discussion will enable the professors to monitor and add to student discussions. The discussions or explanations of course topics become readily accessible to all class members over the entire semester, providing much more value than simply responding to one student via email or in person during office hours.

    Learn MoreRead the full Marquette University case study on the worldwide Microsoft case studies website

  • Education

    Using Lync for emergency contact management in universities


    Last week I wrote about Marquette University, and their Lync 2013 implementation project. One of the aspects l didn't explicitly mention is their use of Lync for emergency contact management - the university's emergency response team are using Lync 2013 to enable collaboration in real time.

    The university’s emergency response team originally came to the IT department with a request for a system that it could use to communicate in an emergency, and track the actions of various responders. Lync's persistent chat was a natural fit (persistent chat means that conversations can be picked up from where they are left off, and are fully searchable and archived). Persistent chat enables teams to meet and collaborate in virtual rooms in real time, enabling more efficient information sharing.

    The response team can post notices to the entire university, and use chat rooms for internal communications to maintain a record of the event. All students, faculty, and staff can access persistent chat rooms through the unified Lync 2013 client (which is available on a wide range of different devices).

    Dan Smith, the university's Senior Director of IT Services, described some of the use scenarios:

      Persistent chat is great for us. We set it up for the emergency response team, but now we have created rooms for IT support, class discussion rooms, and any other scenario where we want to preserve conversations from multiple people  

    The question I had about this scenario was how they implemented Lync to minimise the risk of downtime, as using IP telephony for emergency contact management has been looked at as higher risk. According to the case study:


    Lync Server 2013 has several capabilities that will help Marquette ensure a high level of availability. Marquette deployed Lync Server 2013 with two front-end server pools that are linked to provide redundancy. If one server pool is taken offline, people are automatically switched to the other pool and experience little to no downtime.

    In addition, Marquette deployed two instances of SQL Server data management software and is using database mirroring to provide a backup. With the addition of a third SQL Server instance to serve as a witness, the failover between the database servers is automatic.


    As Victor Martinez, the lead of the university's Windows Team, responsible for implementing the infrastructure to support Lync for emergency contact management, said:

      With Lync Server 2013, we have a standalone infrastructure that is redundant. We can lose half of our servers and still have IM and voice. Also, data is now stored in two places with automatic failover, so we don’t have downtime while we restore from backups.  


    And the added bonus is that their Lync implementation will be saving them at least $200,000 a year. You can read the full case study on the worldwide Microsoft case studies website:

    Learn MoreRead the full Marquette University case study

  • Education

    Starting university with a Windows 8 tablet from Dell


    InformationWeek's Education section is reporting on the South Illinois University's plan to hand new students Windows 8 tablets from Dell as they start. According to the university, they'll be at the centre of a project to support new styles of learning as well as save students money through e-textbooks (helping to reduce the average $1,000+ cost for textbooks for an American student*).

    imageThe project, called Mobile Dawg, involves 300 students getting a Dell Latitude 10 tablet, running Windows 8, and access to a range of resources including a series of textbooks (through an Educause/Internet2 project), as well as integration with their existing systems including their Student Self Service system, and their learning management system from Desire2Learn.

    The University will deliver a range of services that can be accessed by students on their tablets:

    • Residential life and dining - dining hours, menus, residence life programming
    • Athletics - event-streaming, calendars
    • Classroom and instructional technology - clicker applications, audio and video recordings, note taking, surveys, quizzes, assessment, homework, collaboration, assessment, placement tests
    • Campus events and activities - streaming, event calendars, notifications
    • Campus safety - emergency notification, access to police and reporting capabilities
    • Virtual desktop initiative - access to all applications, data and documents students need without having to visit a computer lab

    But the university didn't start off with a plan to use Dell Windows 8 tablets. At first they had to make a decision about which tablets for students – and they weren't looking at Windows 8 at all. As David Crain, the university CIO told Information week:

      We started out with the perspective that it would be nice to give every student an iPad, partly because college students still think iPads are really cool. But once we started digging into it, we found a number of reasons to go with Windows.  

    One of the reasons was cost – the university predicts that the Dell tablets will save them $3m through lower cost of ownership (on things like hardware, warranty and support costs over four years). And with the ability to manage the tablets using their existing Microsoft System Center software, it means they can be managed just like other Windows devices on the campus.

    Another key reason was compatibility – in SIU's case, it was about being able to run existing tutorial and assessment courseware that wasn't able to run on the iPads.

    They are one of four American educational institutions/systems Dell highlighted recently who are deploying tablets to support Windows 8 in education scenarios, including Fargo Public Schools, Spartanburg School District and Westwood Independent Schools.

    Learn MoreRead more from the university on their campus-wide Windows 8 tablet initiative

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