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The FE Blog
News and views from the Microsoft UK Education Team
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August, 2007

  • FE blog

    CRM Systems in the FE and HE sectors


    A perennial issue for colleges and universities is attracting, and retaining, students. There is a trend for students to act like consumers, and be more demanding of institutions, and more critical of services that they receive. And let's face it, that trend is only going to grow!

    Perhaps that's just one of the reasons why there is a growing trend for institutions to adopt Customer Relationship Management (CRM) systems - 12 months ago, Kable were predicting that CRM would become a high priority for both sectors by 2008/9.

    One of our CRM partners, Touchstone, have just published a case study on their CRM implementation at Bourneville College in Birmingham, and the following quote caught my eye (TEEM is Touchstone's CRM):

     Eddie Cottis, Project Manager at Bournville College, explains, “Most colleges now focus on the corporate and SME sectors; seeking to provide a range of flexible alternatives for training. Bournville College is a particularly attractive option for local businesses, given its excellent reputation for management and marketing courses amongst others. In keeping with our aim to provide the highest quality of service in all areas, we decided to invest in managing our interface with the local business community with TEEM. This allows our Business Development operation to target this sector more effectively, avoid duplication and ensure that there are no gaps."

     You can read more of the case study on Touchstone's web site

  • FE blog

    Getting students and staff started with Office 2007 - some handy help


    Even amongst those colleges who are moving to Office 2007 this summer, one common fear is whether students/staff will be able to quickly transition to the new Fluent interface in Office 2007. If you want more help, then I've just come across these brilliant add-ins for Office 2007. Basically, it adds a new menu bar to your tab called "Getting Started".


    This is the tab for Word 2007, but there's also ones for Excel and PowerPoint 2007. And it adds on an interactive guide to find commands, links to online training, video demonstrations for overviews and getting started, and even links to the online discussion forums. If you're installing this summer, then perhaps this is another thing you can do to help your staff and students to get started quickly on the first day of term...

    Download the new tabs using the links below:

    Word 2007 Add-in: Get Started Tab

    Excel 2007 Add-in: Get Started Tab

    PowerPoint 2007 Add-in: Get Started Tab

  • FE blog

    Microsoft SharePoint and the SharePoint Learning Kit - Live Meetings


    We have a series of Live meetings scheduled over the next few months to provide more information on the use of SharePoint in learning. My colleague Steven Audis, the Microsoft Education Technology Advisor in the UK, will be running them, and he's provided some more information on their content:

    "In these sessions we discuss how Further Education customers can benefit from Microsoft SharePoint Learning Kit and the Microsoft SharePoint Community Kit, which have both been designed to further extend Microsoft Learning Gateway and e-learning opportunities.

    With the Microsoft Learning Gateway, colleges can readily build a standards-based education portal for administrators, educators, and students to share information, collaborate on projects, and access rich learning resources from a single point of access. The new Microsoft SharePoint kits are built on SharePoint technology that enables Web sites to provide document and information sharing capabilities. These kits offer tools and source code to help educators, administrators and industry partners to customise their portals to be as unique as their colleges and deliver e-learning resources through the Microsoft Learning Gateway.

    The Microsoft SharePoint Learning Kit is a standards-compliant e-learning tool that makes it easy for educators to deliver both basic and interactive resources through the Microsoft Learning Gateway. The kit is compliant with Shareable Content Object Reference Model (SCORM) 2004 and SCORM 1.2 and provides basic functions for any electronic resource in a SharePoint document library, including Microsoft Class Server resources."


    clip_image006[8]Wednesday, Sep 26, 2007 10:00-11:00

    To attend, just log on to the following URL (about 5 minutes before, if you need to download the Live Meeting client)


    clip_image002You'll need the Meeting ID:   K9JQ8Z

    And then dial into the meeting on your phone for the audio. Dial (0118) 909 2000 and use Participant code  2164215


    Tuesday, Nov 6, 2007 15:00-16:00

    To attend, just log on to the following URL (about 5 minutes before, if you need to download the Live Meeting client)


    clip_image002You'll need the Meeting ID:   MCGZW3

    And then dial into the meeting on your phone for the audio. Dial (0118) 909 2000 and use Participant code  2164215

  • FE blog

    Would You Like To Know More About Unified Communications?



    Exchange Tour Unplugged 2007

    09:30 – 16:30

    Monday 17th September
    Microsoft Campus, Reading


    This is your opportunity to get the inside scoop on Exchange Server 2007,  Office Communications Server 2007 and the rest of the Unified Communications platform.

    Microsoft UK’s Unified Communications (UC) specialists will all be there to guide you through Exchange Server 2007, Office Communications Server 2007,  Mobility and the rest of the Unified Communications stack. You’ll learn, first-hand, how Exchange 2007 has changed in response to customer feedback,  how to migrate from your existing solution to a unified communications solution and how Office Communications Server 2007 can help your users communicate more effectively.

    Sessions will include:

    • Exchange Server 2007 including SP1, an architectural overview and details on how it integrates into the rest of the UC suite.
    • Real world experience from a customer.
    • How to migrate from your existing platform to a new UC platform.  It’s not just ‘move mailbox’.  This section will cover other essential parts of migration including storage, public folders and hardware.
    • How email and voicemail are coming together in Exchange 2007 in Unified Messaging. Also covered in this section is how Outlook Voice Access give can give you another way in which to interact with your inbox.
    • Mobility and how Windows Mobile,  Exchange 2007 and Office Communications Server 2007 provide secure and scalable communications such as email, calendaring, presence and IM across an array of mobile devices.
    • Office Communications Server 2007. Communication can be seen, typed or heard.  Hear about the latest entrant into the Unified Communications stack and how it will change the way in which people will communicate forever.

    This is a brilliant opportunity to hear about the technologies that make up the Unified Communications stack and shouldn’t be missed.

    Register to attend this free event at our main campus in Reading

  • FE blog

    Which Windows Vista is the right one for colleges?


    My colleague Michael Green wrote this article in his US university blog, and I thought it was worth repetition:

    "Determining which Vista to install is not as complicated as you might think.  Vista Business contains most of what you are looking for out of an "everyday" work machine, including the capability to logon to a domain.  Assuming the "Business" as a base, we can construct a simple list of differences.

    Business > Enterprise

    BitLocker Drive Encryption

    Subsystem for Unix Applications

    Support for simultaneous installation of multiple user interface languages

    Software Assurance Benefit - Install up to 4 additional copies of Windows in Virtual Machines on the Enterprise host

    Enterprise > Ultimate

    Themed slide shows

    Native DVD playback

    Windows Media Center

    HD version of Movie Maker

    Parental Controls

    I often hear people say things like "Ultimate cannot connect to servers" or "Ultimate cannot be managed by Group Policy".  Those are incorrect statements.  Ultimate is a superset of Enterprise to add the consumer functionality like Media Center.  When you hear someone say that Ultimate cannot be managed using GPOs, what they really mean is that out of the list of features above that are specific to Ultimate, there are no GPOs to manage them.  The GPOs for Vista were designed with the feature set of Business and Enterprise in mind.  Home Premium and Home Basic are not able to join a domain but Ultimate can.  All versions of Vista can connect to servers.

    So if you are deploying a computer lab which version should you choose?  Assuming that the hardware provider has provided DVD playback software, Enterprise is the best choice.  Enterprise was designed for large deployments and provides volume methods of activation to do so.  With Ultimate, Microsoft has to keep track of the DVD codec since there is a royalty due to a 3rd party.  As such, there must be a key that is per machine."

  • FE blog

    Online file storage - Windows Live SkyDrive


    500MB of free online storage that can be private, shared or public.

    This has been coming for a little while, and then when it arrived, it was initially only for users in the US. But now, it has been activated for customers in the UK. And this has some really useful applications in education. SkyDrive gives users 500MB of free online file storage - password protected by their Windows Live ID. And they can be stored in private, shared or public folders - allowing you to decide who has access to each folder.

    What could you do with it? Well, things like...

    • Backup up important files, using personal folders.
    • Access files from any PC with Internet access - making it easy for students or staff to move files between a personal PC and a shared or personal college PC.
    • Work on a project with colleagues or amongst students, using shared folders.
    • Publish files, so that students can read them, but control their access so that they cannot add files or delete them - useful for assignments?

    Some of the features added to this Beta version are:

    • An upgraded look and feel – new graphics to go along with your new features!
    • “Also on SkyDrive” – easily get back to the SkyDrives you’ve recently visited
    • You can see thumbnails of your image files
    • Drag and drop your files right onto your SkyDrive, using the handy applet
    • Embed your stuff anywhere – with just a few clicks, post your files and folders anywhere you can post html

    Sign up for your personal SkyDrive here

  • FE blog

    Upcoming Live Meeting - Microsoft's Enterprise Client Licence


    If you've not had a chance to join a Live Meeting before, then this would be a good opportunity to find out how it works. Basically, it's just like a real meeting, but without the travel! Dominic Watts will be presenting this one, and once you've logged on you'll see his presentation on your screen and hear him live. You get the opportunity to ask questions via a message box on the screen - which means that you can get the same opportunity to interact as at a normal meeting. All without leaving your desk.


    In this session we discuss how Higher Education & Further Education customers can benefit from the Microsoft Enterprise Client Access Licence (CAL) Suite, which brings together 11 of the latest Microsoft products to provide your users with the newest innovations in compliance, real-time collaboration, security, communication, desktop management and more. The Microsoft Enterprise CAL Suite provides an outstanding opportunity for you to utilise your existing investments in the Microsoft core platform.

    Furthermore, the Microsoft Enterprise CAL Suite provides significant cost savings over the purchase of individual CALs. Customers considering investments in just two of the products included in the suite will find that the economic value of the Microsoft Enterprise CAL Suite becomes compelling.

    Dominic Watts, our Business Manager for Higher Education in the UK will present the session, which is on Tuesday, Aug 21, 2007 4:00 PM for an hour

    To attend, just log on to the following URL (about 5 minutes before, if you need to download the Live Meeting client)


    You'll need the Meeting ID:   D3JFMK

    And then dial into the meeting on your phone for the audio. Dial (0118) 909 2000 and use Participant code  2947513

    If you have questions or feedback please contact either Margaret Umoh (Internal Business Manager, Higher Education) on 0118 909 7820 email:v-maumoh@microsoft.com or Sarah Finch (Internal Business Manager Further Education) on 0118 909 7861

    And once you've been to your first Live meeting, you might also wonder how it might help you to deliver courses and tutorials over the web to students.

  • FE blog

    Learning Gateway and Accessibility


    There's already quite a lot that you can do with Learning Gateway, and explicitly the SharePoint components, to increase accessibility to users, across devices. And this news item I read promises more:

    Shared-source software kit will advance the accessibility of SharePoint-based solutions for people with disabilities

    July 31, 2007 — HiSoftware , a leading provider of software, services and managed operation solutions that monitor and optimize Web content governance, quality and regulatory compliance, today announced an agreement with Microsoft to develop the Accessibility Kit for Microsoft Office SharePoint Server (MOSS) 2007. The kit will provide templates, master pages, controls and Web parts along with technical documentation to advance MOSS accessibility for people with disabilities. All of the source code will be provided via the Microsoft Permissive License and will be available on CodePlex (www.codeplex.com) later this year for customers and other Microsoft partners to download, reuse and extend.

    The Accessibility Kit for Office SharePoint Server will include site templates, Web parts, documentation, instruction and tutorials enabling partners and customers to develop Web sites that conform to the guidelines set out in the W3C’s Web Content Accessibility Guidelines (WCAG). The solution will also provide accessibility updates for Office SharePoint Server templates and Web parts for Web publishing, corporate intranet, team and project collaboration sites and more. This allows users to create a site and replace “out-of-the-box” MOSS components with accessibility kit templates, reusable Web content and Web parts.

    As part of the testing for the kit, HiSoftware will work with Microsoft, key stakeholders and early adopters to maximize value and functionality, including organizations in the UK and worldwide.

    Accessibility Community for Office SharePoint Server
    As part of this initiative HiSoftware will provide an extensible platform with an open API and SDK, on which other Microsoft partners can build, collaborate and extend. HiSoftware will lead a partner and customer community to share thoughts, solutions and strategies for enhancing usability and accessibility across MOSS deployments.

    There aren't any more details available yet, other than what's in the HiSoftware press release, but look out for the first releases in the autumn! And when I know more, I'll post it here.

  • FE blog

    150 applications and 2,000 workstations. And only 24 hours in a day.


    Around 80 IT Managers of colleges and universities attended last year's IT Forum - a conference dedicated to looking at how Microsoft technologies can be implemented to support business critical IT services.

    One of the technologies that most grabbed people's attention was the SoftGrid applications, which allow you to deliver a virtualised application to a desktop, without having to install on every machine. By using application streaming, it means you can avoid having to install on every single machine, and even run incompatible applications at the same time on a single PC. Some education institutions have piloted, and then deployed it during this year (there's even one local authority using it to handle school deployments).

    We've now repackaged it as part of the Microsoft Desktop Optimisation Pack (MDOP for short), which is available to Campus and School Agreement customers at pretty low cost.

    You may wonder why people are deploying it? Well, this research from IDC, from 132 IT Managers using the package, point out the results that they have seen:

    • 52% agreed that it simplifies desktop administration, automating processes for deploying, patching, updating and terminating applications.
    • 56% agreed that it allows them to rapidly deliver applications to a broad user community whilst reducing installation and testing work.
    • 52% report that is has accelerated application lifecycle management.
    • 65% reported that it had reduced the volume of help desk calls and the length of calls.
    • And..(whisper this carefully)..43% reported that they will be able to reduce the IT resources dedicated to desktop administration.


    When asked to describe the savings, almost half described them as 20%+ a year (one in 10 described them as 60%+). The diagram on the right shows the breakdown.

    There's a lot more in the report about the other aspects of MDOP, including Asset Inventory Management and Advanced Group Policy Management, and a nice summary of the different MDOP components. In a nutshell:

    • Microsoft SoftGrid (formerly Softricity SoftGrid)
    • Microsoft Asset Inventory Service (formerly AssetMetrix)
    • Microsoft Diagnostics and Recovery Toolset (formerly Winternals Administrator’s Pak)
    • Microsoft Advanced Group Policy Management (formerly Desktop Standard GPOVault)
    • Microsoft System Center Desktop Error Monitoring (formerly Agentless Exception Monitoring from Ops Manager 2007)

    The particular problem it resolves in universities and colleges is how to manage hundreds of incompatible applications, and deploy them to shared computers, IT labs and specific departments. But judging by the report, you'll solve your problems at the same time as those of your service users!

    Read the full IDC report and then read more about MDOP

  • FE blog

    Mapping, Satellite Imagery - and your curriculum


    This is quite embarrassing - twice in one month I'm going to use the word "mashup" - which hasn't even made it into the Cambridge dictionary yet. But perhaps you'll forgive me once we reach the end of this item.

    The idea of a "mashup" is that you combine two different data sources together in a new way. My example was using Popfly to take my Flickr photos and displaying them in a virtual book through a mashup. Other examples are taking geographic information (like your student postcodes) and plotting them onto a virtual mapping website.

    This has taken a leap forward, with something called MapCruncher, which lets you import and combine existing paper maps with Virtual Earth. This is another one of the projects to come out of the labs of Microsoft Research, and has appeared as a beta that you can use. The programme lets you take an existing map, like a map of bus routes, tourist hotspots, or hiking paths, and import it into Virtual Earth. You import the map, whether in vector (PDF, WMF, EMF) or raster (JPG, PNG, TIFF, GIF, BMP) format, find 5-10 landmarks on both the imported and Virtual Earth maps, and then create a mashup for use on a web page, and image tiles to match up with the road and aerial images in Virtual Earth.

    There are lots of examples on the MapCruncher website, some of which include mapping a university campus onto the Virtual Earth satellite imagery. Imagine, if you have a multi-site facility (and most do!), being able to plot building floor plans and facilities onto a satellite image, so that you can see them all in position, with the local facilities and roads. How useful would that be for planning purposes?

    Or, how about in Archaeology, being able to plot dig sites, with very detailed imagery or diagrams, over the map or satellite picture of the area.

    Take a look at the examples on the MapCruncher website, including a college campus map. If you want to understand the detail you can overlay, take a look at Jeremy's lunch!

    (Now, am I forgiven for saying "mashup"?)

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