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News and views from the Microsoft UK Education Team
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May, 2012

  • FE blog

    Microsoft Office 365 vs Google Apps


    You may be considering a cloud based solution to save costs and increase efficiency in your school, college or university. There are lots of factors to take into account when moving to a cloud solution in your institution, from security and compliance to access and support for users.

    This is a useful document that compares two offerings – Microsoft Office 365 and Google Apps. The two services are reviewed in this ‘Day in the Life of an IT Professional’ presentation, including links to some supporting reports, videos and customer feedback.

    Office 365 vs Google Apps
    View more presentations from Microsoft Education UK
  • FE blog

    Lync in education site


    Lync is a fantastic tool to use in education, with its many opportunities to improve communication in schools, colleges and universities.  So we’re really pleased to tell you about our microsite, which is all about Lync being used in education.

    The site includes lots of interesting information with a video about how The Open University have deployed Lync and and benefited from it.  In the video, staff at The OU talk about ways that they have used Lync to improve communication and collaboration within their organisation, for example replacing their ageing telephony system with the tool.


    You can also find written case studies available to download on the site including one from The University of the West of England, Bristol.  The case study explains how UWE reduced costs by 25 percent and increased efficiency by using Lync.

    There are some useful links on the site to further information about Lync, as well as links to university blogs.

    You can view our new Lync in education microsite here.

    Microsoft Lync 2010 is truly a unified communication client with instant messaging, meetings, and voice. With an updated user interface, Lync 2010 brings together communication tools that work the way you are used to using them. The client features a dashboard that makes it easy to find and use common functions such as the dial pad, visual voicemail, the contact list, and the list of active conversations.


  • FE blog

    Apprentice and education leader helping young entrepreneurs in schools


    Claire Young is a successful entrepreneur, who owns a business called School Speakers that puts motivational speakers into schools. Claire is also known for participating in the the Apprentice TV series three years ago.

    On leaving the Apprentice, Claire had over 500 job offers, before starting her own property business. She sold her shares in that a year later and then started working in education.


    Claire speaks in schools for all ages and different learning levels. She was first approached by a number of organisations asking her to visit them or to attend events. One of the requests was from a school in Blackpool where they explained that they had very low aspirations with teenage girls, and they would like Claire to visit as a young business woman and great role model. After the visit Claire realised how much she enjoyed the experience and that she wanted to continue working with students.

    Claire then started up the TeenBiz scheme, which gives under 18s the opportunity to win funding and a mentor to start their own business, as well as a start up kit including a website and business cards. TeenBiz is open to anyone 13-18 years old with a solid business idea.

    In this video Claire Young explains more about TeenBiz, entrepreneurship in schools, the use of technology in education and more.

  • FE blog

    Cloud for education: Live@edu and Office 365 for education

    Originally posted by Ray Fleming
    There’s recently been a lot of discussion within education about different models of ICT services. Individual universities have tended to use a mix of services provided on-premise and cloud-based services . And newer models of teaching and learning have accelerated the trend towards cloud-based services – and at the very least, services which absolutely rely on a 100% reliable Internet connection. And this hybrid model, relying on both on-premise and cloud-based ICT infrastructure, looks like it is going to become more common across education.

    But this doesn’t just affect education – the integration of on-premise and cloud-based services is a hot topic for all IT Directors across business and the public sector, from small local businesses to global enterprises, and for all levels of government agencies and departments.

    How do all of the dots join up in this new IT services picture? Well, thinking about it has prompted me to write a summary of what’s going on with cloud-based services at Microsoft, to fill in some of the picture from an education viewpoint. Here’s the first summary in a series of posts about Microsoft's cloud-based services.

    Microsoft Online Services and Education

    imageWe’ve made a public big shift in our emphasis towards cloud-based services; but behind the scenes there have been very big changes going on for years to get ready for the day that cloud takes off right across the world.

    I’m going to use ‘Cloud’ to represent all of the Internet services that users and institutions might be using. It might be a mix of desktop and web-based software, or an entirely web-based service. Either way, it’s something that involves a web-service as part of the IT delivery.


    So here’s my summary of the cloud-based services that Microsoft do that may be directly relevant to education, and the essential differences.

    The first two services, Live@edu and Office 365 for education are education-specific, and not available outside of education. The other services are designed for a wide range of business and public sector customers, so you’ll see some overlap between the different services. Although that can feel like duplication, it also means that you’re able to select your online services rather like an a la carte menu – choosing the combination of options to match your exact needs.


    Live@edu is a free hosted service, designed specifically for education, which allows you to outsource some of your IT infrastructure to the cloud. The starting point for many is email, where you keep your existing email domain (institution.ac.uk) and point it over to our email servers – and we then run an Exchange 2010 mail service from our data centres for you, with each student getting a 10GB email inbox. As part of the service, each student gets their own Windows Live ID, which also means that they can use the hosted SkyDrive service too – with 7GB of personal file storage hosted on the web for each student.

    How do you buy it?

    As it’s free, you can simply sign up directly at the Live@edu site

    Where to find out more

    Visit the worldwide Live@edu website

    Office 365 for education logoOffice 365 for education

    Office 365 for education, which will be available from the (northern hemisphere) summer is a hosted service, designed specifically for education, which allows you to outsource a large set of your IT infrastructure to the cloud. The starting point for many, like Live@edu, is email and calendars, but the key additional functionality in Office 365 is the whole productivity suite offered by Office 365 online – SharePoint, Lync, Office Web Apps etc. So you could use Office 365 for education for something as complex (and money saving) as replacing your existing telephone system!

    How do you buy it?

    You have to wait until it’s available shortly, and until then I’d suggest you have a chat with your Microsoft account manager.

    Where to find out more

    Read more about pricing, and then jump over to worldwide Office 365 for education website

  • FE blog

    Cloud for education: Windows Azure and Microsoft Dynamics CRM


    To follow on from our recent post Cloud for education: Live@edu and Office 365 for education, the next post in this series includes a summary of Windows Azure and Microsoft Dynamic CRM. 

    Originally posted by Ray Fleming

    Microsoft Online Services and Education

    imageWe’ve made a public big shift in our emphasis towards cloud-based services; but behind the scenes there have been very big changes going on for years to get ready for the day that cloud takes off right across the world.

    I’m going to use ‘Cloud’ to represent all of the Internet services that users and institutions might be using. It might be a mix of desktop and web-based software, or an entirely web-based service. Either way, it’s something that involves a web-service as part of the IT delivery.


    imageWindows Azure

    Windows Azure is Microsoft’s cloud computing operating system. This is essentially a set of services that developers, software vendors and systems integrators can use to develop applications and new business models. We host the servers in the cloud, running cloud versions of the same platforms that would normally run in-house – things like web servers or highly-available SQL servers. The developers use exactly the same tools as today to develop their applications (eg Visual Studio) on their own desktop/in-house machines, and then they can choose to deploy locally or onto Windows Azure in the cloud.

    Because our job is to run an agile, efficient, secure and trustworthy central service through our worldwide datacentres, it means that the developers don’t need to worry about building and managing virtual machines, patching operating systems, and designing their own redundancy system. That’s the Azure team’s job.

    The Windows Azure Platform also allows you to integrate your on-premise and cloud infrastructure.

    How do you buy it?

    It is based on a pay-as-you-go subscription, calculated on the volume of data/workload that’s used. In a sense it is very similar to a normal utility, like gas and electricity – you use as much as you want, and pay for what you use. And just like the electricity company, it’s our job to make sure the capacity is there when you want to use it. It also allows you to convert capital expenditure into resource expenditure – because you aren’t buying big fixed capital infrastructure – just simply renting the capacity you need, when you need it.

    Where to find out more



    Microsoft Dynamics CRM Online

    This is a cloud-based customer relationship management service that can be accessed through Outlook or an Internet browser, and has rich integration with Office applications – Word, Excel and Communicator. It’s a comprehensive service which includes marketing automation, sales force automation, and customer service and support capabilities, as well as integrated workflow and business intelligence. In education, this is most likely to be valuable to independent schools, colleges and universities.

    The beauty of this cloud service is that you can start a deployment in a small way, without having to build your own infrastructure, and then grow it as you need to. The cloud system is built on the same code as the on-premise system, so you can move between deployment options in the future.

    How do you buy it?

    It’s so easy that you can simply sign up for a subscription, using a credit card. But the majority of education customers will choose to work with a Microsoft partner here in Australia to get the system setup and configured for your needs – and there are already a bunch of partners who offer education products (eg student recruitment systems) based on Dynamics CRM.

    Where to find out more


    And yes, there’s a free trial (available on the link above)

  • FE blog

    New Cost Savings in Education eBook


    Running until the end of September 2012, we have partnered with the Guardian to offer access to a range of great value-add assets via their vibrant Teacher Network communities.


    We will be blogging about the work we are doing with the Guardian more extensively over the coming weeks, but one of the core elements of the work we are doing with them as part of this project is focused around launching an update to the cost savings eBook we produced a while back.

    The new eBook will be exclusively available via the Guardian until the end of September and is packed full of great stories and advice from institutions across the sector. We are delighted with the outcome, especially when there's genuine impact not only on school budgets but on the learning experience of children and students, also.

    The eBook can be viewed/downloaded directly from the Guardian's Teacher Network. We hope you like it and would love to hear your thoughts and feedback in the comments below.

  • FE blog

    Group Projects Made Easier with SkyDrive–A Students Perspective


    Originally posted on the Windows Blog.

    Ela Nguyen is an upcoming graduate of New York University and founder of Surviving College, a blog dedicated to helping students navigate the ins and outs of college. She is constantly on the lookout for nifty tools that will make a busy (and poor) college student's life much easier. A self-proclaimed interior design junkie, Pamela also runs the interior design blog, Redesign Revolution.


    I can hear a collective groan throughout campus when a professor utters the phrase "group projects." You might recall the graphics and memes depicting the expectations versus reality when faced with a group project that is worth 50 percent of your grade.


    Image 1: Snapshot of one of my marketing classes at NYU.

    As a business student at New York University, I have had more than my fair share of group projects. Last semester alone, I had three back-to-back group presentations that followed up with group papers all in the span of two weeks. No fun. What I've learned is that doing collaborative projects where formatting is incredibly important - the combined power of Google Docs and Dropbox just wasn't cutting it. Attempting to create Microsoft PowerPoint presentations, budgeting reports, or 50-page-long papers via these avenues always ends up failing for me.

    What are the problems I have with Google Docs?

    • Formatting is compromised whenever you switch between Google Docs and to the desktop version of Microsoft Word and Microsoft PowerPoint.
    • Google Docs is essentially a bare bones version of any Microsoft Office app, with little capability to deal with flashy things (sometimes you need flashy things in your PowerPoint presentation!).
    • You never knew what was edited when you opened up a collaborative document.


    Image 2: One of my PowerPoint slides on the desktop application vs. Google Docs conversion.

    What are the problems I have with Dropbox?

    • It is so easy to use up the 2GB limit, though I have a 4GB limit from referring my friends.
    • The problematic number of conflicting files your group can generate from working on the same document simultaneously.
    • You can't collaborate on a project live.

    Typically the way my group project collaborations have gone in the past has been like this:

    1. Create a barebones PowerPoint presentation on Google Docs.
    2. Fill out the basic information on Google Docs.
    3. Download the file.
    4. Format the file on the desktop version of Microsoft PowerPoint.
    5. Share file on Dropbox.
    6. Get multiple conflicting files when everyone decides to edit and save at once.
    7. Sigh collectively.
    8. Resort to editing and emailing back and forth for the subsequent hours right before the PowerPoint presentation is due.

    And when you have to resort to emailing back in forth in groups of 4-8, you can't help but wonder if there's another option out there that can override these issues. Lo and behold: this is where Microsoft SkyDrive comes in.

    Why I couldn’t resist signing up for SkyDrive:

    • With 7GB of free storage space in the SkyDrive, I wouldn't have to be careful about moving around other files to make room for my multiple group projects.
    • SkyDrive has Microsoft Office fully integrated online through the Office Web Apps (Microsoft Word, Excel, PowerPoint, and OneNote), so I wouldn't have to worry about formatting issues when switching between the cloud and my desktop.
    • People can work on papers simultaneously, no conflicting files involved.
    • On the Microsoft PowerPoint Office Web App, there aren’t those annoying formatting errors that you get with Google Docs.
    • When someone makes an edit, you are notified of that edit the next time you save/update your document.
    • You don’t have to make a new account when signing up for SkyDrive – just register your Gmail or Yahoo account, no problem!
    • You don’t have to have the latest version of Microsoft Office, and you won’t have to save your files in other formats for others who have older versions of Microsoft Office - now they can use the Office Web Apps in SkyDrive!


    Image 3: My same presentation on Skydrive’s PowerPoint Web App.

    Frustrations, be gone! I can only rejoice about the hours saved with my latest PowerPoint presentation, now that I no longer have to format and re-format between Google Docs and Microsoft Office. Now, if only I can get my group project peers to make the switch…

  • FE blog

    Cloud for education: Microsoft Private Cloud Infrastructure and Office Web Apps

    To follow on from our recent post Windows Azure and Microsoft Dynamics CRM post, the next post in this series includes a summary of Microsoft Private Cloud Infrastructure and Office Web Apps

    Originally posted by Ray Fleming
    Microsoft Online Services and Education

    imageWe’ve made a public big shift in our emphasis towards cloud-based services; but behind the scenes there have been very big changes going on for years to get ready for the day that cloud takes off right across the world.

    I’m going to use ‘Cloud’ to represent all of the Internet services that users and institutions might be using. It might be a mix of desktop and web-based software, or an entirely web-based service. Either way, it’s something that involves a web-service as part of the IT delivery.


    So here’s my summary of the cloud-based services that Microsoft do that may be directly relevant to education, and the essential differences. .

    Microsoft Private Cloud Infrastructure

    This is a set of resources, products, and management tools that allows you to run your own private cloud (or contract another organisation to do it for you), using the best practice techniques that we have developed for our cloud infrastructure. It enables you to dynamically pool, allocate, and manage resources to deliver flexible/agile Infrastructure as a Service (IaaS). Capabilities like self-service portals let your end-users rapidly consume IT services by self-provisioning (and decommissioning) infrastructure on a shared server fabric, virtualised by Windows Server Hyper-V and managed by System Center. Departments are thus able to deploy their applications with a lot more speed and agility. This allows your own IT team to focus their time on solving business problems rather than worrying about keeping the basic infrastructure running. It provides a less complex, more agile and more efficient infrastructure, in-house. And there’s also a hybrid model, where you contract a service hoster to provider a ‘virtual private cloud’, perhaps as a top-up to your in-house infrastructure.

    How do you buy it?

    Well, because it is based on a set of best practice advice, you’ll find that the key components are being built into the products you already have – like Windows Server 2008 and Hyper-V – and the Systems Management Server products. And in addition, we’re releasing free toolkits – like the Dynamic Infrastructure Toolkit for System Center and the Dynamic Data Centre Toolkit for Hosters.

    Where to find out more


    Office Web Apps

    The Office Web Apps are online companions for Word, Excel, PowerPoint, and OneNote. Office Web Apps provide quick viewing of Office documents and basic editing capabilities. There are three methods of accessing Office Web Apps.

    • Individuals (eg your students off campus) can use the Web Apps in Windows Live, and the files are stored online in their webspace on their SkyDrive.
    • For institutional use, they can be hosted on premise on your SharePoint 2010 or they can be hosted with Microsoft Online. In this mode, files are stored within your infrastructure. It is mainly intended as a companion to the full Office suite, but available over the web when you don’t have Office installed, or when it speeds up sharing and collaboration.
    • Office Web Apps is included within the Live@edu and the Office 365 for education services (see above)
    How do you buy it?

    Individuals can access it on Windows Live using their Windows Live ID. For institutional use, every licence for Office 2010 under a volume licence scheme (such as a Select licence) includes an additional licence for Office Web Apps.

    Where to find out more


  • FE blog

    Cost Savings in Education


    As part of the government’s drive to control the nation’s finances, public sector spending is being significantly reduced across the board. Funding for ICT is no longer ring-fenced. Yet schools express a belief in the importance of ICT, and are determined to ensure that students have the quality of access to technology that they need in the 21st Century.

    In October 2011 a briefing by the Institute for Fiscal Studies said that after a decade of growth, ‘Public spending on education in the UK will fall by 3.5% per year in real terms between 2010-11 and 2004-15.’ http://www.ifs.org.uk/publications/5732

    The impact of spending cuts on schools will not be even, and current school-level spending will be the least affected. However, there will be, and are already, visible school budget reductions.


    At the same time, by contrast, we’re told by the latest annual research on ICT in schools from the British Educational Suppliers Association (BESA) http://www.besa.org.uk/research that schools are anxious to keep ahead of the game with technology, with more and more pupil-time engaged with ICT.

    To support this, schools want better digital content, better training and better broadband. Demand grows across all fronts. The conclusion for school leaders and ICT managers is clear. If ICT is to work within reduced school budgets, while at the same time supporting rapidly increased use of technology for learning, then decisions must be driven by cost-effectiveness and value for money.

    Our mission here is to help you make those good decisions, and reap benefits from the extensive efforts being made by Microsoft® to provide products for education which are both affordable in themselves, and also capable of contributing to across-the board spending.

    To assist with this, and as part of our on-going series of eBooks, we have partnered with the Guardian to make our new 'Cost Saving in Education' eBook exclusively available within their Teacher Network until the end of September 2012. The eBook can be viewed/downloaded directly via the Guardian's Teacher Network download centre.

    We would love to hear what you think!

  • FE blog

    Queens Park Rangers Football Club Community Study Centre


    Guest post from Gerald Haigh, Freelance Writer. Gerald writes regularly for the Microsoft Education Blogs.

    Towards the end of April, I was invited to the home of Queens Park Rangers Football Club, Loftus Road. The event was the re-launch of the Club’s on-site Community Study Centre which forms part of the wide-ranging work across West London of the ‘QPR in the Community Trust’ . Microsoft, together with other friends of the QPR Trust, including Lenovo UK, now support the Centre with technology, software, expertise and a large amount of goodwill, hence the re-launch.


    I didn’t know what to expect in advance, but it was a really excellent event – positive, relaxed, leavened by the presence of schoolchildren and other young people. It was also good to be reminded that Microsoft, a global organisation and very much a premiership player in its own field, can also be a responsive and relatively low-key friend and supporter of an urban community project that makes a real difference to the lives of some good and deserving people.

    There was food, and some good speeches, and a video that underlined the sheer extent of the Trust’s work which includes classes and activities for the elderly, and a range of football-related coaching and recreational sessions. There’s a strong emphasis on inclusion, whether defined by age, mobility, ability or gender. Within that broad picture, the Study Centre itself is a compact classroom, under the stands, with space and laptops for about fifteen learners. As well as running catch-up and enrichment sessions for children from local schools, the Centre is home to an over-55 IT Learning Course and an employability course for 18 to 24 year olds that’s having success in getting people into jobs. That’s only part of the story, though, because the the Centre is very much a learning hub and a driver of outreach programmes that extend its reach many times over.

    The Centre and its programmes are managed by a teacher, Jesse Foyle, who’s supported by a number of sessional tutors. Jesse points out that the link with football, and with the QPR brand in particular, is a strong motivator for bringing people to the various programmes.

    ‘It’s a major drawing point for people who might might not be motivated towards other programmes,’ says Jesse Foyle. ‘They’re more comfortable here.’

    On the evening of the launch the Learning Centre was being used by children from Greenside Primary in the nearby heart of Shepherd’s Bush, who were exercising their literacy and ICT skills to research the lives and careers of their favourite QPR players. (One girl, looking into the background of Argentinian midfielder Alejandro Faurlin, found herself being prompted from behind by the amiable Alejandro himself – a great first hand lesson in the reliability or otherwise of internet resources.)

    Greenside’s head, Julian Morant, was on hand with some of his staff and though he was busy with the children, he was keen to be supportive of the Study Centre’s work, and I talked to him on the phone a day or two later, when he explained that the work at the Centre is part of a general before and after school curriculum enrichment programme.

    ‘The Centre is one of our key partners. We use it with our Year Six children with the aim of maximizing the impact on their literacy, numeracy and ICT in their final year. It plays a part in our transition programme as we prepare the children for moving on to secondary school.’

    All Year Six children, he says, have the opportunity to take part.

    ‘We’re a very inclusive school, and our work with the Centre is accessible to all children whatever their physical or learning needs.’

    Everything the children do at the Centre, he says, is curriculum related.

    ‘So in terms of maths work it’s an opportunity to use and apply their key number skills – measuring, data handling. And in literacy there’s writing for purpose and writing for an audience, which are very important skills at the upper end of Key Stage 2.’

    And always, he emphasises,

    ‘Underpinning everything is the use of ICT as a tool for extending and applying knowledge and skills.’

    The children, he says, enjoy their sessions very much – something that was easy to see on the evening I was there.

    ‘They’re keen on going, and attend regularly. They respond to the structure and the high expectations and clear learning objectives. They like to engage with each other and other members of the wider community. It’s part of their lifelong learning.’

    The impact, he says, is clearly visible in the school.

    ‘It does make a real difference. The children are more confident, they can see the links between the skills and the application.’

    The world of professional football attracts its share of criticism, and there are those who are quick to see the community projects run by the big clubs as little more than window-dressing.

    All I can say is I’ve been to a few of these projects in recent years and always been impressed. In every case I’ve admired the serious intentions of the staff and seen how it’s possible to leverage the power of the football brand to the benefit of young people who are not always easily engaged by other programmes and initiatives. All of that is particularly in evidence at QPR, where there’s clear professionalism and genuine commitment. Much of that, undoubtedly, is down to the leadership – from Jesse Foyle at the Learning Centre, and importantly from the Club’s CEO Philip Beard and also from Andy Evans, CEO of the QPR in the Community Trust.

    Philip Beard spoke at the launch about the Community Trust’s ‘Vision and mission’ and of his belief in the the importance of football as a motivator for young people. That kind of support from the top of the club is obviously highly significant.

    Equally, the enthusiasm and dedication of Andy Evans, CEO of the Community Trust, is transparent. For him, the fact that the Stadium is in a deprived area of West London just adds to his sense of mission and determination to ensure that The Study Centre, and the many other Trust programmes can reach out into the City, taking learning, coaching, recreation and the sheer fun of sport to people who are more than ready to learn and take part.

    ‘We are willing and passionate,’ says Andy. ‘And we want to make a difference to the quality of life of the people in our immediate community, whether old or young. If we can contribute to their life experience then that’s something we should be doing,’

    As I wrote at the start, Microsoft is a global player, involved in some huge and far-reaching endeavours. It would be difficult, though, to find something more worthwhile and rewarding than its participation in this life-enhancing enterprise in West London.

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