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October, 2012

  • FE blog

    Blackpool and The Fylde College “College in The Cloud”

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    Working with Microsoft and a leading Microsoft Partner, a large regional Further Education College deploys Microsoft technologies to bring about significant improvements in its services to staff and students that amount to a “College in the Cloud”

    We’re increasingly reporting stories of enterprising Microsoft Partners working with Microsoft to provide creative, competitive, effective and replicable solutions for customers – which, in education, means learners and staff. As Microsoft UK Strategic Partner Lead Mark Stewart explained at a recent conference, “We’re a technology provider and we couldn’t do anything without partners, who make what we do relevant”.

    A great example of this – remarkable for a number of reasons – is just coming to fruition at Blackpool and The Fylde College, in a project involving the College, Microsoft and Microsoft Partner ‘Collabco’.

    What’s happened – and is happening – at Blackpool and The Fylde can best be described by the London 2012 slogan ‘Bringing it all together’. This is a College where, as in all HE and FE institutions, students habitually use a range of technologies, logging in and out of them as required. But as Deputy Head of IT Services Simon Bailey explains, fragmentation of experience between a range of IT products produces obstacles that today’s students, arriving with high expectations of their IT experience, aren’t always willing to tackle.

    “More and more they’re looking for a single click straight into what they want,’ he says. ‘For at least five years, I’ve wanted to provide an easy entry into a collection of IT services that would enhance the learner experience…”

    Now, with Collabco’s ‘Hub Metro’, branded ‘My Hub’ within the College, that ‘single click’ offering is coming to life.

    Collabco’s product is a ‘Hub’ in two related senses. Firstly, it’s a ‘gathering together’ hub that provides access to the various education technologies that students and staff want to use day-to-day, making all necessary and useful data and information easy to reach anytime, anywhere.  Secondly, it acts as an active management hub from which users can organise their time, keep on top of coursework, communicate and collaborate with others. All this is handled from a single sign-on ‘My Hub’ landing page which is a gateway to everything the user needs, including the College’s Moodle VLE, email, documents, assignments, calendar, and library services.  This aligns with our aspiration to offer a Complete ‘College in the Cloud’, delivering the improved user experience and reduced costs associated with a cloud approach.

    Two key Microsoft technologies in particular make this one-stop offering possible. One is SharePoint 2010, which is at the heart of Hub Metro. As Collabco’s Sales Manager Max Holden puts it, “We effectively take the SharePoint product and make it more visually appealing than SharePoint out of the box – customising it for a specific purpose.” (Exactly in line, of course, with Mark Stewart’s earlier remark.)

    The other significant element is Office365, which brings to the mix a comprehensive cloud offering with email and Office web apps.

    The whole Hub Metro package, retaining the established Moodle VLE, and adding globally recognised Microsoft tools for collaboration and communication through Office365, was irresistible to Simon Bailey when he was first introduced to it by Microsoft UK FE Business Manager Mike Morris and key people from Collabco.  “It was a consolidated approach that I couldn’t ignore.” he says,

    The significance of that ‘couldn’t ignore’ statement lies in the fact that on the day that Mike Morris introduced Simon to the Collabco/Microsoft package, 7th June 2012, the College was on the verge of signing off on nearly a year’s preparation for the rollout in early August of a Google cloud package with document sharing and student email (staff were to stay with on-site Microsoft Exchange). Starting over with a different product and hitting the same end date was a daunting task but as Simon says, once they’d seen the Microsoft alternative, the comparison was too striking to put aside. What Collabco and Microsoft offered was a fully integrated environment all available from within ‘My Hub’. With Office365, students would have a cloud email system, and would be using the Office technologies they’d meet in their working lives. Simon describes his train of thought on that day in June like this,

    “We use Moodle as a VLE. It’s incredibly successful as a learning environment, but the student experience would be so much better if they had email, calendar appointments and assignments in the same place at the same time on a single page. That, in essence is the sell that was presented to us with Office 365 embedded. The deadline was tight, but I couldn’t walk away from that.”

    The actual rollout of ‘My Hub’ at Blackpool and The Fylde College is in two phases. To begin with, there is the embedding of Office365 with email and Office Web Apps, and the strong internal communication features of ‘My Hub’. Moodle will also be firmly present in the mix, with a Moodle summary on the ‘My Hub’ landing page.

    The second phase, later in the Autumn, will include more features. Some are still under discussion, which underlines just how well the product can be customised and extended beyond its initial remit. There’s likely to be, for example, actual course timetables available to students. As Simon explains – “They’ll be able to log on with a mobile device or a PC to see what classes they have that day, and we can let them know of any last minute room changes.”

    Another feature that’s likely to be there in Phase Two is one that will pick up the necessary data from Moodle enabling individual students to go to their personal ‘My Hub’ site and quickly check their progress against course overall targets.

    “I know how popular that will be,” says Simon. “Students like stuff in a browser and on a single button – a ‘skim’ summary.”

    That phrase – ‘in a browser and on a single button’ is essentially what Hub Metro is all about, and what pleases Simon Bailey is that it chimes so well with his own idea of what kind of IT environment a college should be providing for its students. It’s possible, he says, that given time his team could have created their own integrated offering, but, he goes on,

    “This one was there already, Collabco has a good vision that matches ours, and there’s no point in reinventing the wheel.”

    At the start, I suggested that this project displays some remarkable features. More than anything, I suppose, I had in mind the way that it was developed in two months from the moment that Simon Bailey saw it for the very first time.

    Many lessons were learned along the way in this extremely tight design and implementation schedule. To launch such a big project from scratch in just two months, which is not normal best practice for a project of this size and complexity, is an achievement that speaks volumes for the technical and management skills at work between the College and Collabco, and also about the resilience and quality of the product itself.

    And the benefits? As the system beds down there’ll be a gradual, but ever-increasing, return in terms of ease of communication and collaboration. Students will be better informed, more likely to collaborate and communicate, less likely to miss deadlines or lectures. Perhaps most importantly, students will have the kind of comfortable, flexible and responsive IT experience that lives up to their expectations. It’s reasonable to assume that this will have its effect not only on student achievement and overall College performance, but on the ever-present issues of recruitment and retention in a highly competitive environment. 

    Pauline Waterhouse OBE, Principal and Chief Executive says - “We see the potential for the My Hub/SharePoint/Moodle and Office 365 solution to contribute to making learners more autonomous and responsible for their own learning – by virtue of, for example, their ability to check progress against their individual targets.  In this way, the facility will be contributing to our quality improvement agenda and really helping to support high levels of attendance and retention”.

    In the Future when SharePoint 13 comes out we will be able to add Enterprise Social Networking into our solution, making it even more compelling for students and the College

      

    The College. http://www.blackpool.ac.uk/

    Blackpool and The Fylde College is recognised as one of the top colleges in the country. A Beacon College, we are also a member of the prestigious 157 Group, which aims to drive forward standards in further education. Our provision is extensive, allowing learners from a variety of backgrounds to access a growing range of vocational and academic programmes at the appropriate level. We are also the UK's third largest FE provider of HE, offering degree courses that are validated by Lancaster University, ranked in the top 1% of universities globally. We work extensively with employers both in a training provider capacity and to ensure the vocational relevance of our programmes. The College is currently undergoing an extensive programme of refurbishment that will create a state-of-the-art learning environment for years to come.’

    The Partner. www.collabco.co.uk

    ‘Collabco is a specialist Microsoft Partner focused on SharePoint, Dynamics CRM, Lync, UAG and Mobility delivering a portfolio of services including: 

Technology and consultancy, 

IT strategy consultancy and development, 

project implementation, 

support and training. 

Our mission is to build products and deliver projects that are of the highest quality and best user experience.

  • FE blog

    Preparing for our future – the need for critical thinking

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    Guest post by Dave Coplin, Director for Bing UK, Microsoft.

     

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    We live in incredible times.  Today, many of us walk around with more computing power in our pockets than used to sit on our desks just a few short years ago. We are more connected, more engaged and more in control of our lives than ever before and yet, incredible though it is to believe, we are still right at the very beginning of our society’s journey with technology.

    We have learned to love (or in some cases, tolerate) the power of social media and the increasingly real-time nature of our world. The power of the internet and mobile technology has enabled us to live with and access an incredible range of data, information and services that offer us the capability of augmenting all of our real-world experiences, joining the digital and analogue worlds together, in order to help us to become greater than the sum of our own parts.

    There has been much discussion in the UK recently about the importance of getting the right approach to the role of technology in schools.  Many have used this as the opportunity to reinforce the need for greater emphasis on the STEM fields (Science, Technology, Engineering and Mathematics) with further focus being given to the need to create a new generation of “kids who code”.  Whilst this on its own is an incredibly important initiative, it is vitally important to continue to remind ourselves that it is still just a subset of the overall duty of care we have as technologists to ensure that every single aspect of society is empowered by technology.  Yes that means having great software, and as such brilliant computer scientists, but more importantly it means ensuring that every single member of society knows how to make the best use of technology whatever their societal role – this is our modern equivalent of a “PC on every desk”.

    Over the next twenty years, the increasingly connected nature of every action and every “thing”, combined with technological developments like the incredible prevalence of screens, e-ink and display surfaces and natural interfaces (those that use a range of human interaction from typing and mechanical devices like the mouse through to more natural methods involving gestures, speech and even thought), will take us to a new level of reliance and integration of technology. However, there are still some crucial obstacles that remain in our way, blocking our ability to take advantage of the advances on offer.

    Some of these challenges exist at a cultural level, with privacy being perhaps the most fundamental of all such sociological debates. However, often hidden beyond such issues are significant barriers pertaining to the spread of knowledge and literacy that, if left unheeded, weaken the very foundations of our society (and economy).

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    None of these challenges are new, in fact a great deal can be learnt from our past. As such, the four key challenges we face should be familiar:

    • Helping others exploit the potential of access to unlimited knowledge
    • Providing equality of access
    • Curating the wisdom of others
    • Preserving our knowledge heritage

    Within our brave new digital world, one of the most important skills we must learn is “critical thinking” a concept that rather incredibly, dates back to Socrates over 2000 years ago, but after being “recently” updated in the 20th century for a modern society by many great scholars, it provides a powerful framework for our internet age as every single day we are bombarded by millions of signals of data, information and content, and the quantity of information we are exposed to grows exponentially.  These days we are still looking for the needle, it’s just that now it’s in one of a billion haystacks.

    Most of us use critical thinking every day and for most of the time, we are barely aware of it.  Every time we read a newspaper article, watch a documentary or look something up on Wikipedia we are aware of a whole range of biases, influences and emotions that may interfere with the validity, accuracy and overall conclusion of the content and, if we’re doing our job properly, we take all of that into account as we parse the information, reflect on it drawing in a range of other context and ultimately use it to draw conclusions and make decisions.

    Fortunately for many of us, we’ve had years of practice and experimentation to get this right but in this new digital age, where children and young people have so much access to an incredible world of information but have yet to develop the skills to know how to deal with it becomes something we simply cannot take for granted.

    From an early age, we need to ensure that anyone using the internet are able draw upon critical thinking skills to:

    • Search efficiently and effectively – depending not solely on the search engine’s view of relevancy but able to navigate and adjust the query to ensure the most appropriate results.
    • Distinguish kinds of sources and analyse a source’s validity and reliability – from basic differentiation of primary vs secondary sources through to deconstructing domain names and URL’s to learn more context about the source.
    • Make a habit of cross checking facts, even from reliable sources – we know from experience that even “authorities” can mislead and experts make mistakes so wherever possible there must be independent confirmation of the facts.
    • Conscientiously and properly attribute the words and ideas of others – the internet has made plagiarism a lot easier, but thankfully, easier to spot. Students need to know the basic rules about when and how to quote others’ words and how to properly attribute the ideas that are not their own.
    • Stay safe on the internet – these are some of the most important skills of all, from not giving out personal information through to taking care about the kind of conversations they enter into on-line, staying safe is absolutely paramount
    • Interact with others online honestly, respectfully, fairly and clearly – the anonymity, immediacy and lack of proximity presented by the internet can lead to anti-social behaviour, sometimes with devastating consequences. Learning how to speak honestly, fairly, and with respect, clarity and brevity along with understanding why this is important in a society, especially a democracy, is crucial.

    Where we need help now is not in the squabbling on the frontline of the digital/analogue boundary debating about which tools we should be teaching but is instead around the core principles of extending knowledge and literacy in a modern society, ensuring that, like our ancestors before us, our greatest knowledge assets (both digital and analogue) do not succumb to the ravages of time; that people can find relevant information in a vast ocean of content – ultimately finding a needle in a billion haystacks; ensuring that our children and every other member of our society are equipped with the cognitive capability and skills that enable them to harness the incredible potential that technology brings us. It should not just be a case of feeding them with the basic tools that will become obsolete tomorrow, but instead teaching them to “fish” in a growing digital pool and ensuring that every single member of our society, regardless of location, background, skills and wealth, can benefit from all that is on offer.

  • FE blog

    Eastleigh College work with Microsoft to deliver an E-portfolio Strategy that has improved their OFSTED Rating and student completion

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    Eastleigh College’s Computer Sciences lecturing team wanted to provide an up-to-date and highly vocational experience to their students, whilst having an easy solution for sharing notes and PowerPoint slides to the class. Microsoft OneNote and the Microsoft Interactive Classroom add-in for PowerPoint were found to be a very beneficial system for the staff
    and students to easily collaborate on work. A combination of Office Web Apps and SkyDrive, a set of services and software that enables users to manage their files online in a simple yet secure repository for resources, was chosen for its level of integration with other Microsoft products.

    Business Needs

    Eastleigh College, based in Hampshire on the south coast of England, is a Further Education (FE) college which provides post school education in a wide range of vocational areas.

    In 2010, the Computer Science department were using Moodle, a Virtual Learning Environment (VLE), which is used throughout the college. Moodle provided a system that enabled resources to be shared with learners both in college and from home, a facility the college makes great use of. However, the Computer Science staff found Moodle 1.9 to be limited in some respects and in particular the work flows for assessment were causing problems for staff and students. Under the old department system, a learner would submit written assessments by uploading them into Moodle. The lecturer would assess, mark and provide feedback via a form on Moodle, which the learner could then read to gain feedback. If, however, the lecturer asked for changes or additional evidence to be submitted, the student had to upload a completely new document and the lecturer had to complete the feedback form again. In some cases this destroyed the previous still relevant valuable feedback.

    So although many of the features of Moodle are valuable to Eastleigh College, the Computer Science department were looking for an easy solution to improve the ease of use and comprehensiveness of assessing, allowing the Lecturers to share notes and PowerPoint slides to the class.

    Solution

    Microsoft OneNote was chosen by the department as an electronic portfolio system. OneNote 2010 notebooks, shared via SkyDrive, enabled learners to organise their notes, embed evidence files, including video and other formats, all in one central location. When this was shared with the lecturer, comments and feedback could be written directly onto the OneNote document adjacent to the evidence. The learner would then see these comments as soon as they opened their OneNote portfolio, and the feedback would be in context with their supplied evidence. Students could therefore adjust their work immediately as directed, without having to re-share or upload a new submission.

      

    The Computer Science department trialled a number of systems with students, including Google Docs, SkyDrive, iCloud and Ubuntu One, but ultimately made the decision to go with SkyDrive due to its level of integration with a range of Microsoft products. The college found that SkyDrive provided a simple yet secure repository for resources that could be shared to both individual students and whole groups with ease. The students could share their documents with one or more lecturers or even other students when group work was required.

      

    Benefits

    OneNote provided Eastleigh College with the ability to submit evidence in an electronic portfolio, as is required by the new level 2 BTEC Diplomas. This made the process of OFSTED easier for the department, with the college recently receiving an outstanding from the authority. On occasion, outside authorities like examination bodies ask for samples of student’s work which has been assessed. This national sampling criterion can also be easily met by simply sharing the One-Note document with the examiner.  
       
    SkyDrive automatically synchronises files and documents between the shared parties, which made group collaboration possible, and enabled the department to operate
    team projects with ease. With the addition of the new SkyDrive desktop application, this movement of files has proved easier still.

      

    The combination of SkyDrive and OneNote also enabled the department to share calendars, which were used to record the timetables of all learner groups and lecturers in the department. As SkyDrive can be accessed anywhere in the world and using any internet enabled device, such as Windows Phone 7, iOS devices and Windows 8 tablets, learners had no excuse of not being aware of any timetable changes.
      
    Microsoft Interactive Classroom add-in allowed Lecturers to create PowerPoint Decks, start a session in the add-in, and allow students to join the session from the academic tab. All the slides from the deck are visible to the student in separate OneNote pages and the students are able to take notes directly onto the OneNote page containing the current slide in the presentation.

    If a Lecturer writes on the interactive whiteboard, this text is also visible on the OneNote page, meaning students get a copy of all the notes available during a lecture. This is then available to the student in his/her OneNote portfolio for later revision while writing assignments or uploading evidence.

      

    Lecturers are able to create Question slides in PowerPoint through the add-in. Lecturers can start a poll during the session and get students to answer questions live. When the poll is stopped, the answers are shown in graph format on screen and are saved in the student’s version of OneNote for future use.

    Using this electronic portfolio system and the Interactive Classroom add-on, Eastleigh College’s Computer Science department has seen a greater uptake of note taking during lectures, plus overall work submitted has improved, as students do not lose notes taken in class. Students enjoy the fact that marked work is immediately available to them through SkyDrive and students are happy to use Messenger to contact Lecturers with questions about their work. This means that time is not wasted trying to locate a lecturer and the students can work on their assignments when they want to.

    Lecturers are not limited to marking work while sat in front of college systems and are able to view, comment and mark work wherever there is a connection to the Internet. Planning and lesson preparation can take place at a time and location best suited to the job at hand.

    Conclusion

    The combination of Moodle 2.0, OneNote, SkyDrive, Office Web Apps and the Microsoft interactive Classroom delivers an intuitive and easy to use learning environment that joins great teaching with robust assessment and digital search.  This has not only improved the student experience but made demonstrating outcomes to Ofsted quick and easy. In fact Craig Chambers, Course Manager at Eastleigh College observed;

    “I genuinely think that Microsoft Technologies have contributed to the improved completion rates achieved in our BTEC ‘Computer Science’ courses”.

  • FE blog

    Microsoft Investments in Further Education and Skills

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    With technology becoming ever-more important for the economy’s progression, it is imperative that students gain the necessary skills to obtain those jobs which are essential to the new, technological economy of the 21st century. Microsoft's investments into education offer the opportunity to deliver this change, and ensure that Further Education students continue to graduate with the relevant skills to help develop the economy.

    In order for Microsoft to deliver the best experience of its technologies, it needs employees with the right skills and understanding of those technologies. While these can be applied user skills, the skills to support our implementations, and to develop creative and relevant new applications, are also important. 

    The main role of Further Education is to deliver relevant educational skills into the economy. As most students go to college in order to learn skills that will give them a better future, they rely on FE, Microsoft, and other businesses to work together to provide the necessary skills.  This partnership has worked well in the past, but changes need to be made in order to deliver the necessary 21st century skills to ensure continued success.  This means that there is an opportunity to change what we do together to be even more successful both now and in the future. 

      
      

    Right now, colleges are good at delivering a set of skills that was in demand in the past, but jobs are emerging in new areas.  Microsoft can help to make these new areas of the economy a success, but we can’t do it without the help of Further Education, which is why we invest in helping you make the necessary changes to be successful.  In the past, Further Education has done a great job of delivering application user skills into the Microsoft Economy, but today’s students are digital natives and come into college with these skills already in place. It is the skills of collaboration, remote communication, web design and app development that are now needed by employers, and so should be delivered by colleges.  Only focusing on traditional application user skills will not deliver graduate success.

    Infrastructure skills are in demand now, and we estimate that there are 60,000 job vacancies in the Microsoft Economy right now for colleges to focus on.  The problem is that courses teaching these skills struggle to attract students, as they can seem difficult or boring.  Up until now, the Microsoft economy has created little demand for gaming and application developers, but Xbox has recently become the number one by units platform both in the UK and worldwide. Furthermore, Windows 8, a single operating platform for PCs, tablets, phones and gaming boxes, will be launched in October, with the biggest application marketplace the world has ever known at its core.  The economic opportunity for graduates with the right skills that will emerge from the Windows 8 launch is incredibly large, and by focusing on delivering the IT creativity skills needed, not just in IT but across all curriculums, FE can really take advantage of this opportunity!

    As the main provider of vocational skills into the UK economy, Further Education should be accessing the many investments made available to education by Microsoft in the form of academic programmes, free software, competitions and other activities, which are all designed to make IT relevant and interesting to students.

    Free Faculty and Student programmes of interest

    Each of the following programmes can help to make academic staff, IT support and students themselves more informed, supported and motivated about acquiring the skills for the economy of the future.

    • IT Academy - A Microsoft annual membership program that helps academic institutions deliver IT training on topics ranging from desktop application skills to networking and developer technologies for IT professionals.
    • Imagine Cup - A Microsoft competitive event that encourages young people to apply their imagination, their passion, and their creativity to technology innovations.
    • Academic Search - Microsoft Academic Search is a free service developed by Microsoft Research to help students and researchers quickly and easily find academic content, researchers, institutions, and activities.
    • Faculty connection - A Microsoft web portal providing information, technical resources, training and software tools at no cost to teachers of computing or technical classes.
    • Partners in Learning (PiL) - An internal website sponsored by the Education Solutions Group (ESG), containing marketing information including best practices, tools, and reports.
    • DreamSpark - A Microsoft subscription service that provides high school, college, and university students with Microsoft software design and development tools at no charge.
    • Curriculum resources – A range of resources provided by Microsoft to help schools make the most of technology, including lesson plans, templates and ideas for class projects that help teachers integrate ICT with learning.
    • Microsoft Student blog and Facebook
    • Faculty connection blog and LinkedIn
    • Enrolment for Server Programme Academic, (ESPA) A way of getting as many Microsoft datacentre technologies and associated external connectors  as you want for a known fixed annual cost

     

    So as you can see, in order to make sure the workers for the Microsoft Economy are available to meet demand, and to help our customer to realise their vision of the future, we invest heavily in education.  The challenge that faces us all is how to put these investments together to deliver a meaningful outcome.  That’s where you can help!

    If you decide that you want to try and use these investments please contact the Further Education Business Manager for the UK, Mike Morris, (mikemor@microsoft.com)

  • FE blog

    Windows 8 in Education eBook - Now Available

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    Our new Windows 8 in Education eBook is hot off the press. Written by leading practitioners, the eBook can get you started and inspire you about many of the great features of Windows 8 from an education perspective.

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    The eBook is in sections. One is for hands-on educators, teachers and lecturers, while another is directed at network managers, the people who will have to stay one step ahead and make sure that educators and learners have the best Windows 8 experience. There’s also a section that covers ‘top Apps’. The Windows 8 Apps are key feature of Windows 8, and you’ll find quite a lot about them in various places in this eBook.

    Finally, we include a short section on App development with Windows 8. As we know, this is going to be a key feature for education. Young people are great App users, but they don’t want to leave it there. They’re increasingly keen to develop their own Apps, and the way it can be done with Windows 8, the Windows Store, and Microsoft development tools, offers them an absolutely unrivalled opportunity to be ahead of the game, alongside professional developers. Teachers are going to seize this aspect of Windows 8 in a way that has the potential to transform and re-energise ICT teaching in schools, colleges and universities.

    The full eBook can be downloaded from our SlideShare account. Alternatively, the eBook can be viewed in full below.

  • FE blog

    Why Hyper-V? (New Whitepaper)

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    Virtualisation technologies help customers’ lower costs and deliver greater agility and economies of scale. Either as a stand-alone product or an integrated part of Windows Server, Hyper-V is the leading virtualization platform for today and the transformational opportunity with cloud computing.

    With Hyper-V, it is now easier than ever for organisations to take advantage of the cost savings of virtualisation, and make the optimum use of server hardware investments by consolidating multiple server roles as separate virtual machines that are running on a single physical machine. Customers can use Hyper-V to efficiently run multiple operating systems, Windows, Linux, and others, in parallel, on a single server.

    Windows Server 2012 extends this with more features, greater scalability and further inbuilt reliability mechanisms. In the data centre, on the desktop, and now in the cloud, the Microsoft virtualisation platform, which is led by Hyper-V and management tools, simply makes more sense and offers better value for money when compared to the competition.

    To learn more about Hyper-V and how it can make a difference within your institution, download our new ‘Why Hyper-V?’ whitepaper. Alternatively, the full whitepaper can be viewed in full below.

     

  • FE blog

    End of service for Windows XP and Office 2003

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    If you are using Windows XP and Office 2003 in your school, college or university, we wanted to make you aware that the support for this will end in April 2014.

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    Microsoft plans to end support for Windows XP SP3 and Office 2003 in 2014, and that will affect your education institution if you are using this software. On April 8, 2014, Microsoft will no longer provide hot fixes, product updates, and most critical, security patches for Windows XP and Office 2003. This could affect your internal network security and regulatory compliance and potentially expose secure employee and organisational information. That’s why we recommend that your school, college or university updates its operating system.

    There are so many benefits to the modern education desktop including increased security, easier networking, better features and cost saving opportunities, so upgrading Windows and Office will be likely to increase productivity in your institution. For education specifically, upgrading will give you access to education apps and resources such as Learning Suite. Learning Suite is a free set of innovative applications that, when combined with the power of Microsoft Windows and Office, creates a robust, flexible and collaborative learning environment for both students and teachers.

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    Also with the exciting approach of Windows 8 general availability launch on Friday 26th October 2012, there are lots of reasons to think about upgrading to the latest version. There are now over 220 education apps in the ever-growing Windows Store, and with a fresh, clean interface also comes significant new advantages and benefits of Windows 8 for education. Windows 8 for education now offers students a completely new experience, providing intuitive access to digital content alongside a fully functioning suite of learning enhancing tools that allow for more productive teachers, more engaged students and enhanced interaction and collaboration.

    So now is the time to gain the many advantages of upgrading your operating system in your school. While April 2014 may seem far away, we know that changing infrastructure is a time-consuming activity, requiring extensive planning and preparation. It’s important that your education institution has migrated from Windows XP and Office 2003 well before April 2014, and that you are using technologies like Windows 7 or Windows 8 and Office 2010 or the new Office, which are proven to be much safer, and also more economical to operate.

    Any change is requires careful planning, and moving from Windows XP and Office 2003 is no exception. By investing the time early to do this well, it will make things a lot easier. Microsoft and our partners have been helping schools, colleges and universities move to Windows 7 and Office 2010 since they launched and will do the same for Windows 8 and the new Office. A lot has changed in the decade since we released Windows XP; we have much better tools to help manage your environment (desktops, laptops, tablets, mobile phones, and even employee-owned devices), and help automate the migration process as much as possible.

    For more information, please visit: www.microsoft.com/endofsupport, which contains additional information on the options available to you, as well as pointers to a variety of helpful resources.

    You can also contact one of education partners for more information about upgrading.

  • FE blog

    Windows Intune in Education Webinar – Introduction to Wave C

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    Great overview of Windows Intune and, more specifically, the new functionality within the latest version (Wave C).

  • FE blog

    New Lenovo Windows 8 tablets and laptops

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    Originally posted by Ray Fleming

    A month ago I wrote about a dozen new Windows 8 devices – laptops, tablets and All-In-Ones running Windows 8 and Windows RT – that were being previewed before the big day on 26th October when Windows 8 is officially released. It means that as a education user thinking about what devices teachers and students could be using for next academic year, there's a huge range of possible choices that are popping up. It means that you can choose your priorities based on each student groups' specific needs – for example, for younger students you might want tablets with great touch interfaces, and for older students you may want a traditional laptop design, and then for high-school and university students, perhaps you're looking for a convertible that's equally capable as both a touch tablet and a keyboard-driven laptop. And there's also choices available depending on what software choice you need for your users – for example, do you need to run all of your existing Windows software, or would your choice be to have a device that will only need to run the new Windows 8 software?

    Well since last month the news has continued to trickle out from other manufacturers about what's coming, and overnight it was Lenovo's turn to take to the stage with panache.

    Lenovo Convertible modesThey've announced a quartet of 'convertibles' – where the screens can flip around 360 degrees, so that you can run them in tablet mode, laptop mode, 'stand' mode and 'tent' mode. In a classroom, that would give lots of different ways of using them for individual students at a desk, on a table, or on their lap; collaborative learning tasks; or teaching small groups.

    And the other big news for education users is that battery life has taken a big jump – up to 16 hours on some of these new devices!

    The Lenovo IdeaPad Yoga has two different versions:

      Yoga 13 -  a 13.3" screen, with Intel i7 processors, and which runs full Windows 8. This has got a battery life of up to 8 hours.

        Yoga 11 – an 11.6" screen, and an ARM-based processor, which runs Windows RT. The battery life on this one is up to 13 hours.

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        And then there's the IdeaTab Lynx, which is a tablet and a laptop together – as a tablet, you have an 11.6" screen and an Intel processor, running full Windows 8. In this mode, you'd basically run in full touch mode. But if you add the keyboard dock, you've then got up to 16 hours battery life (because the dock contains an extra hidden battery) and a full keyboard – so you can run it as you would any normal laptop too.

        image

        You can read the Lenovo press release here, but for more product details, I'd recommend reading the product info on the Lenovo website, where they show the product features side-by-side, so that you can see all four models together on a single page.

         

        Learn MoreRead more about other new Windows 8 devices, from my previous blog post

      1. FE blog

        AoC Learning Technologies Report 2012

        • 0 Comments

        Posted on behalf of Mike Morris, Business Manager – FE, Microsoft UK.

        The Association of Colleges Technology Portfolio Group has just released the result of their recent survey on the use of technology in Colleges. The research suggests that where there are barriers to the implementation of policy, and the achievement of specific outcomes, the issues are less about particular technologies but relate more to effective management and planning processes. At Microsoft we see this all this time. New technology adoption has to be a whole college activity.

        Where Colleges are effective and confident in the use of technology, the following attributes are common: 

        • The ability to manage and plan for the strategic use of technologies
        • The ability to successfully compete for funding and of how to plan for sustainable development
        • Formal, structured, staff training in the use LT
        • College wide planning and engagement of all staff in the development of a whole organisation technology strategy
        • An understanding of the rapidly evolving technological environment

        Interestingly the Survey also found that Technology had the least impact in the following areas:

        • Widening participation
        • Reducing digital exclusion
        • Engaging students with disabilities and/or learning difficulties 
        • Improving retention and achievement

        This was a surprise to the AoC and is also at odds with our experience at Microsoft, where we regularly deliver solutions or run programmes specifically to address these areas.  What do you think of these findings?

         

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