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News and views from the Microsoft UK Education Team
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  • FE blog

    A free tool for creating SCORM learning materials yourself



    Have you heard of the free Microsoft Learning Content Development System? We’ve just updated it to version 2.5, which now supports more complex content, and is Firefox and Silverlight 4 compatible. It is a free tool that lets you create high-quality, interactive, online courses, and publish them in SCORM 1.2 packages (exactly what your Learning Platforms/VLEs like to consume!).

    It allows you to publish e-learning courses by completing the easy-to-use forms that seamlessly generate highly customised Silverlight-based content, interactive activities, quizzes, games, assessments, animations, demos, and other multimedia. And you can create a course structure that is easily rearranged at any time.

    It’s the system we use internally to create all of the courseware for our various Microsoft qualifications, including the Microsoft IT Academy courses, and we also make it available free of charge for customers to use.

    If you are looking for ways for your staff to create structured courses for their curriculum materials, and make them available on your learning platform or SharePoint system then it is worth investigating. And you can also use it to create standalone learning packages, that can be distributed on websites, CDs or memory sticks.

    Here’s the link to find out more and download the Learning Content Development System. If you want to talk to others about their experiences, and to connect with other users, there’s a user forum here

    It’s another one of those free bits of software we make available, that very few people know about – and which I think could be incredibly useful to colleges.

    imageQuickly find all the other Free Stuff posts on this blog

  • FE blog

    Windows 7 deployment advice for college IT managers


    Sometimes we publish so much information on a subject, in so many different places, that it’s tricky to find the wood from the trees – and that problem is as big for me as it is for people outside of Microsoft. So I’m always happy to find a resource where somebody applies an editorial approach – making judgements about the key resources to publish, and structuring them together, so that you can easily find the right needle in the haystack.

    Which makes the TechNet Springboard site for Windows 7 definitely useful. If you’re thinking about Windows 7 in any way (either because you’re going to deploy it in the next couple of years, or because you’ve already deployed it), then this is a site to add to your bookmarks. Not only does it contain the definitive guide to resources for IT management teams, it also groups them into three key stages:

    Which means that you can easily find the resources that apply to you at the moment, whether your planning for the future, getting ready for an imminent deployment, or want resources to help you manage an existing Windows 7 network.

    And on the home page, you’ll also find some key introductory documents, such as:

    Find out more about Springboard for Windows 7

    Windows 7 Resource Banner
    Discover and Explore Windows 7 Resource Banner Pilot and Deploy Windows 7 Resource Banner Manage Windows 7 Resource Banner
  • FE blog

    Remote IT Solutions webinar - Optimise your desktop–Wed 15th Sept



    Those clever people at Remote IT Solutions, one of our certified partners, are running a webinar on desktop optimisation –  where you can learn about the different components of the solution, and how it can help you to reduce your technical support and management costs for your college infrastructure. The webinar is hosted by Dave Moore, a Datacenter and Virtualization Technical Specialist who has been involved with complex projects for a range of organisations (and I think that given the range of applications and user scenarios in FE, it is likely that your scenario would count as “complex”!)

    The seminar is Wednesday 15th September, from 10:00 – 11:00, and will include live demonstrations, and includes:

    • How the solutions fit together
    • Application and Hardware Compatibility
    • Operating System Migration
    • Application Virtualisation
    • Enterprise Desktop Virtualisation
    • Citrix & Microsoft Better Together


  • FE blog

    Kingston University starts virtualising the desktop experience for 25,000 students and staff


    I’ve just been reading a press release from Quest, about Kingston University’s project to to give staff and students virtual access to their university desktop and learning resources from any location, on a wide range of devices, at any time. With 23,000 students, and 2,000 full-time staff to serve, their project is aiming to create a ‘university without walls’, so that their users can access their files and applications from any of the 9,000 university PCs or from users’ own personal computers – wherever they are.

    What caught my eye was this quote from Daniel Bolton, who’s a technical analyst at the University:

    Kingston University has been researching Virtual Desktop Infrastructure (VDI) solutions for two-and-a-half years with the aim of providing our staff and students the best solution for flexible access to learning resources regardless of their location. Our aim of achieving a ‘university without walls’ when it comes to flexible virtual access has been truly recognised with Quest vWorkspace. We initially looked into Citrix and VMware solutions, but felt that Quest’s user environment management and personalization features were more advanced.

    The whole solution has been deployed on Hyper-V, which is part of Windows Server 2008 R2, and is now the largest planned deployment for both Quest and Microsoft to date. Phase one of implementation is due to complete in October.

    You can read the full release on Quest’s website. I’ll keep an eye out for updates as the project goes into implementation.

  • FE blog

    Webcast: How to deploy Windows 7 when you’re tied to IE6


    If you are one of the colleges that need to use Internet Explorer 6 to stay compatible with a specific application you use in some departments, then you may find it useful to know that there are options to help you to move your ICT infrastructure forward, whilst keeping IE6 support on your network for certain users.

    One option is to read the “Tools to make working with Internet Explorer 6 in Windows 7 easier” blog post

    An alternative is to put an hour aside to join the Springboard virtual roundtable on 30th September, at 5pm.

    Roundtable: Deploying Windows 7, but still running Web applications based on Internet Explorer 6?

    Join us live on Thursday, September 30, 2010 for a virtual, interactive roundtable discussion on migration strategies, standards, and support for organisations moving from Internet Explorer 6 to Internet Explorer 8.

    As organisations deploy Windows 7, many still depend on web applications that were designed for Internet Explorer 6. Will they still work, and what can you do when they don’t? Join a panel of IT Professionals, Microsoft specialists and technical experts to discuss best practices to simplify and accelerate the migration to Internet Explorer 8. Topics will include an explanation of the causes of and solutions for application compatibility issues (including policy, code, and virtualisation solutions), an introduction to tools, and a review of best practices.

    Ask your questions live during the event with our online tool - or submit your questions in advance to vrtable@microsoft.com

    imageFind out more, and register for the Virtual Roundtable

  • FE blog

    How to manage the risk of Internet Explorer 6


    If you’re still running Internet Explorer 6 (IE6) within your campus, instead of being on a later version, then you’re probably doing it for a very good reason – especially as many websites are reducing or removing support for IE6 (for example Google and YouTube both dropped IE6 support this year). And the good reason is that you probably have an application, or a key website, that only works with IE6 – often something that the management team need to use for budget or student management. But all the time that you’re using IE6 as your standard browser, you know that you’re slipping further behind.

    If you’re in a bind, you might find this white paper useful – Solutions for Virtualising Internet Explorer – which gives good advice on the options that you can choose to allow you to move to a later version of Internet Explorer as a standard, but still make IE6 available for users that need it.

    While virtualising Internet Explorer 6 isn’t simple, it does allow you to move your infrastructure management forward – and the process you use for it would also help in the future if you want to allow for multiple versions of web browsers for testing purposes (eg to allow you to run multiple browsers to test your college website or other web developments)

    imageDownload the Internet Explorer Virtualisation White Paper

  • FE blog

    SharePoint Saturday comes to the UK


    Just a quick note to point SharePoint lovers towards the SharePoint Saturday, being held on October 2nd in Birmingham.


    At a time when training budgets are shrinking, then you’ll be cheered up to know that it is free to attend, and is being run by a group of SharePoint enthusiasts, very focused on sharing their good practice. The agenda’s still being finalised, but if you’re free, and want to spend a day sharing tips with other SharePoint users, then consider registering now, as I’m sure it’ll fill up quickly.

    imageFind out more about SharePoint Saturday

  • FE blog

    The easy way to install WordPress


    Do you remember a couple of weeks ago I mentioned WebMatrix, which gives you an easy way to install a bunch of web applications – like WordPress, Moodle and Joomla! – on a standard Microsoft platform (which means you can more easily fit into the rest of your ICT infrastructure).

    Well, I just read an article on PC Pro (who sometimes enjoy being mischievous about the downfalls of technology) where David Moss talks about how easy it was to install WordPress in six simple steps. I’m not a WordPress user, so I haven’t tried it myself, but it’s a nice endorsement to get for our “let’s make websites easier to setup” initiative.

    Still unsure? Well, jump over and read the article “Microsoft Web Platform: the easy way to install WordPress
    to learn how David did it.

  • FE blog

    Want to hear us talking about security and our roadmap?


    Every year, we get lots of feedback from our customers, through a variety of different routes:

    • we conduct an annual customer satisfaction survey, which gives an overall picture
    • we deal with individual customers through our support, customer care and partner management teams
    • we see literally millions of product reports (every time you hit the “send to Microsoft” button)
    • personally, I get plenty of useful feedback from blog readers like you, as well as comments and discussions via my @rayfleming Twitter account

    It means that we can use that feedback to improve things around here (and also in many ways that you’ll notice in products and services we deliver). This year we thought we’d go a step further for all of our customers, and run some specialised events around the country. The events are for our largest IT customers. Although they aren’t specifically aimed at customers in education, all of the content except the licensing workshops will be useful for education customers.

    The Microsoft experts are hitting the road across the UK in the coming months to deliver half-day briefings on a range of topics including our software roadmap and security.

    These briefings are packed with information, delivered by presenters who know the topics inside out and each session is limited to a small group of customers to provide the maximum time for interaction and engagement with the experts delivering the content.

    The topics covered in the current programme of briefings are:

    • Future (Microsoft) vision and product roadmap
    • Making the most of Software Assurance (SA) benefits
    • Trustworthy Computing and Security
    • Understanding Software Asset Management
    • Licensing 101 – this will cover commercial licensing, and not education licensing
    • Licensing products – this will cover commercial licensing, and not education licensing

    The briefings are taking place in the following cities between August and November.

    • Birmingham – 21st October – 28th October
    • Bristol – 3rd November
    • Edinburgh – 28th October
    • Leeds – 18th November –24th November
    • London – 25th August - 30th September – 27th October – 23rd November
    • Manchester – 22nd September
    • Reading – 24th August – 30th September – 26th October  - 24th November

    All the dates above exclude the licensing events. Unless you plan a career in big-business-IT, then you won’t want to attend any of the licensing events, as they will only focus on our commercial software licensing schemes.

    You will find much more information about the where, when and what of these Microsoft briefings here together with instructions on how to register to participate in any of the briefings.

  • FE blog

    How do I get a job at Microsoft?


    You may not be surprised to learn that it’s a frequent question that I get asked. And in the summer holidays I know that people’s thoughts often turn to their future, so I thought it was time to share the answer more widely.

    imageThe answer is partially straightforward – you watch http://careers.microsoft.com/, which is where all of our permanent jobs are posted. It allows you to search in different parts of the world, or different specialisms, or on key words. I think the keyword search is important, because many of the jobs are described in Microsoft-centric language (with references to internal acronyms etc) – so if you want to find a job related to education, I’d recommend that you use the keyword search first!

    We also hire quite a lot of people into contract posts – and they will often be dealt with by local employment agencies. The links are all on the careers site too.

    But, of course, finding a job advertised, and actually getting that job are two different things – because there’s the screening and interview process to get through too. The Xbox team have done a great job of describing some of the things you can do to help with that process in their blog post “How do I get a job at Xbox”, which also links to some of the recruitment team’s Career Communities on Facebook, LinkedIn, and Twitter.

    As an aside, if you’re into gaming, the Xbox Engineering Blog is brilliant for detail behind the scenes of the gaming world. Like the post on “Xbox LIVE Avatar Technology” which talks about the science behind creating dynamic avatars in games.

    And finally, your students may be interested in finding out about the graduate and internship schemes. The graduates join on our specialised scheme, which takes candidates who’ve graduated with a 2.1 or above. And each year we take just under 100 interns into our placement scheme in the UK. These students are normally in between their second and third years at university. More information on the Microsoft graduate and placement schemes can be found on this link.

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