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

  • Education

    edX and Microsoft Office integration - Office Mix and Office 365


    Last year I wrote about the Microsoft partnership with edX to develop services to help teachers, including integration between edX and Office Mix - to allow teachers to quickly and easily create multimedia content using PowerPoint. Open edX is an open source platform teaching and learning, and is used by many universities to publish MOOCs, as well as being used by education and professional learning organisations (including Microsoft) to deliver courses online to the public. The latest Microsoft-edX integrations have been released into the latest release of Open edX.


    The Microsoft Open Tech team have provided details on their blog post, but here’s a quick summary of what’s now possible:

    edX Single Sign-On with Office 365

    The July Open edX release allows users to sign in to edX using their Office 365 identity, which makes life easier for students and teachers. If they are already logged into Office 365 in their browser, then they won’t need to use their username and password to login again as they switch between edX and Office 365.

    Office Mix XBlock

    This allows teachers to very quickly embed an Office Mix into an Open edX course. There are two immediate benefits:

    • Teachers can create interactive recordings inside PowerPoint, including PowerPoint slides, audio recording, video, interactive activities and quizzes and assessments, and upload with a single click
    • Teachers can use the Office Mix analytics to see which students have viewed the Mix, how long they viewed each slide\section, and what how they answered assessment questions.

    Technical info on the Office Mix XBlock

    Insert/Embed files easily into edX courses

    The Microsoft Open Tech team have contributed a new feature to edX that allows files from other cloud services to be easily embedded into courses. The Microsoft team created it originally to make it easy for users to add files that they store in OneDrive (either the consumer version, or the Office 365 version), but they realised they could expand it easily, so it will also allow users to embed files from, Dropbox, Google docs, SlideShare, Soundcloud, TED, Vimeo and YouTube!!

    Technical info on the File Storage XBlock

    Learn MoreRead more about these integrations on the Microsoft Open Technologies blog

  • Education

    Ten communication technology trends shaping education


    Today, after a colleague finished reading the article “10 communication technology trends shaping education”, they challenged me to come up with answers of which Microsoft products were relevant to the list. And they gave me two minutes to come up with the answers. It felt like I was sitting a very rushed exam!!

    I thought I’d share the list and my quick homework here. I’ve no idea how the original list of trends was created - it could easily have been somebody saying “quick, I need a listicle for my website”, or it could be grounded on deep academic research, although there’s no source links. But let’s assume that the list (or lists like it) are relevant, how are Microsoft’s solutions relevant to trends shaping education? I’ve tried to take on the extension exam, and link every single one to an article that talks about it in the learning context, thanks to our Teachers blog

    Australian Teachers blog header

    Here's the article’s Top 10 trends, and one or more examples of which Microsoft products schools can use to stay on trend! And then I’ve linked every single one to an article on our Australian Teachers Blog, that talks about how schools are already making a difference to teaching and learning using these products and services:

    Trend: Gamification
    Microsoft Product: Minecraft 

    Trend: Flipped Learning
    Microsoft Product: Office Mix, Sway, Skype

    Trend: Distance Education
    Microsoft Product: Office Mix, Sway, Class Dashboard, Skype

    Trend: Mind Mapping
    Microsoft Product: OneNote 

    Trend: Social Media
    Microsoft Product: Yammer 

    Trend: Digital Textbooks
    Microsoft Product: OneNote 

    Trend: Just Google It
    Microsoft Product: Bing!

    Trend: Augmented Reality
    Microsoft Product: Hololens

    Trend: User-generated content
    Microsoft Product: Delve

    Trend: Big Data
    Microsoft Product: Power BI

    Learn MoreIf you want a better list of ideas for the future, I'd recommend reading this "32 Engaging Ways to use Microsoft in your classroom" for teachers

  • Education

    Free Azure Machine Learning in education - trials and credits


    A couple of weeks ago I wrote a couple of articles about using Azure Machine Learning in education. Two ways to use Azure Machine Learning in education and Making machine learning in education easier for every day users. It covered scenarios like using Azure Machine Learning for education problems like student retention models, as well as things like face recognition to catch exam cheats, or text analysis of documents and research.

    But I should also have covered one get thing - that for education customers there are some ways to use Azure Machine Learning that aren’t available to everybody else Smile

    Azure Machine Learning Banner

    There are three easy ways you can get started with Azure ML for education:

    • There is a free tier that includes 10GB of Azure storage for our datasets, and the ability to build Azure ML experiments for an hour with up to 100 modules. Get started with this here.
      This is available to anybody, not just education customers.
    • Azure for Education is for teachers/lecturers running courses using Azure, including Azure ML. Each student receives $100 of Azure credit per month, for 6 months. The Faculty member receives $250 per month, for 12 months. You can apply anytime at
    • Azure Machine Learning for Research is for university or TAFE teaching staff running data science courses who may need greater amounts of Azure storage and additional services such as HDInsight (Hadoop and Spark) or DocumentDB (NoSQL). Proposals are accepted every two months, you can find out more and apply at
  • Education

    OneNote, SmartBoard and students with autism


    Autism activities K-5Our global Office blog recently published an excellent article from a teacher in the US, sharing their experiences of using OneNote for students with autism. They found it supported their use of tablets and interactive whiteboards in the classroom, with the OneNote notebook allowing students with autism to engage in interactive exercises, and bringing together the learning journey for students and teachers across the different devices.

    Alexis Parker, the teacher from Florida, introduces her students briefly before sharing her professional practice:

      I am a special education teacher for kindergarten through 5th-grade students who are highly impacted with autism. While every person with autism has a variety of talents and challenges, many of the students in my classroom face similar challenges—specifically in the areas of behaviour, communication and fine motor skills. Six of my students exhibit behavioural challenges when presented with tasks they don’t want to do. Seven are either non-verbal or have limited verbal skills. A few of my students are beginning to use alternative communication devices. Two of my students are able to reproduce letters of the alphabet, two can copy letters given an example, and three can trace letters.  

    By connecting together their specialist software and their SmartBoard resources through OneNote, they were able to help classroom teachers and assistants, their students and also to strengthen the connection with parents:

      In December, I decided to create student portfolios in OneNote. Now all the work my students completed on the interactive whiteboard could be saved in the student portfolio. This solved two problems: it reduced the number of worksheets I was printing and it gave the students the ability to complete the task independently. After the student completes the interactive assignment, we write a grade with the interactive whiteboard’s ink feature, which lets you write in the Internet browser. Next, we screen clip it and send it to a OneNote page pre-named with the assignment name. At the end of the week, I move all the assignments into OneNote folder sections labelled by quarter, then by subject. I share each student notebook with the student, and parents have instructions on how to access their student’s OneNote notebook. Now my students’ parents can see what their students are doing in the classroom.  

    In her blog post, Alexis shares some of the classroom activities that her students are now doing, as well as the process that she’s put in place for teachers and classroom assistants to make planning and learning delivery easier.

    If you want any more reasons to read the full blog post, then here’s her final paragraph:

      Microsoft OneNote and Windows tablets have had a huge impact on learning and instruction in my classroom. They have given my students a way to demonstrate their knowledge that was previously unavailable to them. They have provided me a way to plan effectively and efficiently. They have also given me the ability to save students work and share it with their parents, so they can see on a daily basis what their child is doing in the classroom and how they are progressing toward their IEP goals.  

    Learn MoreRead Alexis Parker's full blog post on the Microsoft Office blog

  • Education

    What a 21st Century career looks like in the UK


    Want to inspire students with their career options (and also demonstrate how pervasive technology is going to be in their future lives?)

    This video, from the UK Surface team, is very different from what you’d expect from a Careers guidance session at school. In fact, there’s a bunch of things in here that I hadn’t even thought of as a career choice, and so it’s eye opening to see what today’s students could leave school to do:

  • Education

    OneNote for Learning - Microsoft Hackathon 2015 winner


    During the last week of July Microsoft employees around the world participated in our //oneweek Hackathon, where teams create projects with technology to solve small and big problems. Some of the ideas are just fun things that go nowhere, and others end up being built into products that you then end up using. It’s volunteering at its best because people get to forget their day job for a week, and do something they are truly passionate about. And many of the teams go all out - working for weeks in advance of the Hackathon, and then virtually living with their Hackathon team for the week whilst they code, test, sleep and eat pizza. Some teams, like the OneNote for Learning team, actually got started weeks before the Hackathon, but worked in different countries. For the //OneWeek Hackathon, the OneNote for Learning team all then came together in Seattle.

    From 3,300 projects, built by 13,000 hackers, one team gets crowned champions of Microsoft Hackathon 2015.


    This year’s winners were a project team that created OneNote for Learning, an extension to OneNote to help students succeed in reading and writing, and to support every student, including those with learning disabilities like dyslexia, or language barriers. What they produced - with the help of coders, education researchers and designers - will very quickly be turned into a complete product and be rolled out to pilot schools this year.

    You can read the story about OneNote for Learning here - and if you want to keep up to date with their progress, and how you can get your hands on it (or lobby to pilot it too!) then maybe connect with Mike Tholfsen on Twitter - he’s the guy in the purple OneNote t-shirt in the middle of the photo.

    Learn MoreRead more about the Microsoft Hackathon winner - OneNote for Learning

  • Education

    Microsoft Australia Education Partner Summits - September 2015


    We have just announced dates and venues for our 2015 Education Partner Summits in September, in Brisbane, Sydney, Melbourne, Adelaide and Perth. As usual, the invitations are open for Microsoft Education Authorised Resellers and our other partners who deal with education customers.


    This year’s education ICT buying season is almost underway, and we have lots of new product and service announcements - including specific versions of Windows 10 and Office 365 for education - that are key for our partners and education customers. There are also significant changes in the market, including a shift to cloud services, Bring Your Own Device, a growing move away from institutional purchases towards students buying devices from retailers, and the devolution of the decision making process from central bodies to schools and individual teachers.

    With traditional revenue streams being disrupted by these elements, we are running a national series of Education Partner Summits in September which are an opportunity to gain deep insights into the changing dynamics of the schools, TAFE and universities sectors from the Microsoft Education team. The agenda is specifically focused on meeting the needs of those who want to develop the most effective sales messages and strategies to win and grow in a transformed marketplace by providing practical sales resources. You will also leave the event with an understanding of how you can create new opportunities by leveraging this year’s launch of Windows 10 and getting the most out of Office 365 in Education and Azure cloud services. It will also be an opportunity to develop your relationship with our Education sales team.

    The seminar will benefit sales and marketing personnel in Microsoft Authorised Education Resellers dealing with the education sector and provide valuable insight to product marketing and development teams who are looking to identify new profitable product and service opportunities within the sector.

    The aim is to ensure that our partners can compete effectively, and tell a differentiated story that appeals across the different levels of decision makers within educational institutions.

    Dates and Venues

    We’ll be hosting the events in our offices in each of the key capital cities, and each briefing will be a full day from 8:45AM until 5PM

    In addition to some of the national education team from Microsoft (George Stavrakakis, Joseph Alvarez, Jason Trump, Dan Bowen and me), you will also get the chance to meet with our local team in each state - helping you get a solid connection to the national and local team!

    Make a dateMake a date: Find out more, and register

  • Education

    Stopping exam cheating - plagiarism checking is not enough


    I read in today’s Sydney Morning Herald the continuing story of universities in Australia fighting a constant battle with cheats in exams and assessments. Today’s story reveals that there’s not just a problem with plagiarism in essays, but also students paying impersonators to sit their exams for them:


    University students are increasingly paying impersonators to sit their exams or smuggling in technology to help them cheat, while other students cannot be trusted to sit in sloping auditoriums because of their willingness to copy answers in multiple choice tests, a new report reveals.


    The story focuses on one investigation report from an Australian university, but the problem is likely to be happening across a broad range of universities, in Australia and internationally.

    And I realised that two weeks ago I wrote about a way to tackle this, in a way that’s cost effective, quick to implement and simple to do. The answer lives inside my story about “Making machine learning in education easier for every day users” - and something I’d been talking about with customers recently…

    The simple summary of “Making machine learning in education easier for every day users” is that we’ve developed a series of recipes to help build intelligent services, called Project Oxford, and one of the recipes is to do face recognition - and you can quickly build it into your own app, website or software. The services take the complexity of machine learning tasks, hide all the detail, and let you just perform a simple task - in this case “Are these two pictures of the same person?”. And it is very simple for a developer to use it, because it’s based on our Microsoft Azure Machine Learning service.

    Mat Velloso, one of our developers, built it into a website called, which lets anybody do the comparison by uploading two photos of your own, or finding two photos with Bing Image Search.


    What is amazing is that Mat built this sitting in a hotel room in the Czech Republic, in one evening, thousands of miles from home, in just four hours. You can read his story of how he created here, and how it went from a geeky evening-to-kill hotel-room project to a massive viral success (it went from zero users to 75,000 within 7 hours of being demonstrated at a local conference, and a million hits within days).

    The user experience is really simple - you pick your two photographs, and it gives you a percentage probability that the two are the same person.

    The image below is as close as I could get within our own local Education team - apparently there’s a 66% resemblance between Keith and Jason (which really isn’t that close).

    Sample from - Keith Downs and Jason Trump

    So although it would probably take a human a bit longer to do the checking, the software can instantly tell us that we need to check out Jason if he turns up in the exam hall pretending to be Keith!

    The system also makes allowance for every day differences - different lighting conditions, different styles of photo - even different facial hair. So the two photographs of me below were taken 2 years apart, one with full beard (yeah, I know, I never did that again!) and one without. And yet it knew that both photographs were of me. sample image

    Although was built as a fun website, exactly the same services could be used to build an app that runs on an exam moderator’s phone, or on a laptop at the entrance to the exam hall, that compares a student’s ID card photo to the person entering the exam, and in real time reports to the proctor whether they are the same person, or there needs to be more checking done.

    If Matt could build this in an evening, then could the same be possible for a university? Well, they already have the components - almost all use the Microsoft Azure cloud services already; they’ve got laptops with webcams and they have got student ID photos. So all it needs is for a developer to spend a few hours building a prototype, and then they could try it in an exam hall by the end of the week. And, just as importantly, they could be ahead of the newspaper headlines within hours…

    This isn't a perfect solution that could completely solve the problem, but (a) this could be done quickly at low cost and take a step forward against cheating and (b) doing it will improve the detection of cheating without adding a huge workload for staff. It’s not designed to give 100% assurance, but out of 100 students it would provide a way to highlight the 5 people that need a bit more checking by a moderator.

    I think that the battle to combat exam cheats is similar to the battle against computer viruses - it’s a game of cat and mouse, and it’s a constant game of improvement iteration at high speed, and this suggestion is another step forward in the game…

    Do you want to build a CheatOrNot website or app?

    1) Well, the website domain is available, because I only just thought of the name…

    2) Listen to Matt Velloso on the MS Dev Show sharing his experiences

    3) Read Mat’s blog, where shares the links he used for building

    4) Mat's even shared his source code to get you started!

    Once you’ve built a prototype, let me know how it goes!

  • Education

    Login to Mathletics with Office 365 Single Sign On


    Yesterday I wrote about the way to make Single Sign On easier for staff and students by using their Office 365 Education login on third-party websites. This week one of the most popular student learning websites in Australia (and elsewhere) has been added to the list, as your students and staff can now sign into Mathletics with their Office 365 Education identity.


    Here’s the news straight from the Mathletics team:


    Mathletics has evolved… to integrate with Office365! The multi award-winning e-learning platform now has integration with Office365 Active Directory, so you can sign into Mathletics using your Office365 account!

    Mathletics is the world’s leading educational resource for mathematics, created by the team behind the World Education Games. Over 4 million students in schools across the world are a part of our global learning community.

    You need never remember your password again…

    Passwords are annoying, we get it. That’s why we are teaming up with some big names to ensure you have one less to remember. All students and teachers can now link their Mathletics and Office365 accounts to create a single point of access.

    Linking a Mathletics account to an Office365 account is simple and takes just a few moments. Once linked, students and teachers can access Mathletics directly from their Office365 dashboard without needing to log in.


    Once you’ve added it, users can seamlessly move between Office 365 and Mathletics, without having to login again (and the same applies to the other 70+ education services that have also enabled single sign on with Office 365)

    Find More

    Full details on how to set up Office 365 login for Mathletics are on the 3P Learning website here


    Or, if you’re logged into Office 365 Education right now, you can hop straight over to the Office Store to add Mathletics into your Office 365 Education service.image_thumb

  • Education

    Making things easier for your users: Single Sign On with Office 365


    Over the last year, we have been working with software and website developers to make it easier for students and staff to login to their services by allowing them to login with their Office 365 username. This means that students don’t need to remember yet another login identity and password, but simply use the username and password that you’ve already given them. And, in many cases, they are automatically logged in without having to re-enter their details. It also means that your users stay under your control - for example, if you suspend a user account, you’re also suspending it on all of the third-party websites too!

    It’s the simplicity of Single Sign On, but without all of the previous hassle and custom technical work that both sides (developers and end user organisations) previously had when linking their systems together.

    Apps and services like Teacher Dashboard, Literatu, nearpod, GeoGebra, LMS365, Brightspace, Moodle, RedCritter and ParentPaperwork give your users the option to sign in with their Office 365 identity when they go to login (this is the Sign in page for ParentPaperwork)


    You can see a long list of some of the Office 365 education apps and services here.

    And all of the services that connect to Office 365 can now be found in the Office Store’s Education category, and you can quickly add them into your Office 365 service.


    What is great for users is that they can then see the apps that they are connected to, through their App portal (at, where they can see all of their Office 365 apps - the ones that we provide, like Word, PowerPoint, OneDrive and mail, as well as the third-party apps (as you can see below, I’ve got quite a few on my account Smile):


    And anywhere the user is within Office 365, they can get to the apps really easily from the app launcher that sits at the top of their screen


    This means that you’ve got a ready-made portal for users - they don’t need to bookmark all of these services on their different devices - they can just use the app launcher. And when they move between all of the different sites, they easily login with one click - they don’t have to keep signing in again and again each time they go to a different site.

    And the IT team at school/university also get tons of useful data on who’s using what applications, how frequently etc, that is available through their Azure Active Directory service, which is linked to Office 365. They also have the ability to enable and disable apps, or even assign licences for specific apps to specific users or groups.

    Find MoreFind out more about developing Office 365/Azure Active Directory Single Sign On

    Find out more about how IT can manage the Single Sign On services

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