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  • FE blog

    Ultimate Steal - just 22 days to go


    The Ultimate Steal offer for students, closes in just 22 days on 30th April. Which means that by the time students get back from their break, they'll have just a few days to buy themselves a legal copy of the latest and most comprehensive version of Office 2007 for £38.95. (More details at www.theultimatesteal.co.uk - students must have a .ac.uk email address)

    If you're one of the colleges that have promoted this to students (or even if you're not) we've created some resources to help you let your students know about it online.

    The Countdown Clock

    I like this bit - a buzzy little Countdown Clock to pop onto your VLE or portal pages. The website guys sent me the code, and told me that "any web person will know how to use it". Well, I'm not a "web" person (by their definition), so I had a crack at putting it into this blog. And lo and behold, I pasted a few lines of HTML code and here it is...

    Basically I put the following line of code into my blog:

    <embed name="sticker" pluginspage="http://www.macromedia.com/go/getflashplayer" align="right" src="http://www.theultimatesteal.co.uk/Counter_UK_CN.swf" width="370" height="230" type="application/x-shockwave-flash" allowfullscreen="false" bgcolor="#ffffff" wmode="transparent" quality="high" mce_src="http://www.theultimatesteal.co.uk/Counter_UK_CN.swf">

    If you want, you can download the code for the Countdown Clock on this link below:

    The Student Email

    If you're sending an email to your students, to remind them that it's their last chance, then feel free to borrow from our template. It's got a snazzy header.....(ta-da)


    ...and some standard text. If it's too dull for you, or just not your style, then feel free to take any bits you want (like the header above). Here is the whole email in Outlook .msg format.


  • FE blog

    Ultimate Steal - good news for staff


    With only three weeks to go, I can imagine this blog post could create some howls...but better late than never.

    We have just managed to convince all the powers-that-be that staff should also qualify for the Ultimate Steal. Until today, if members of staff in your college wanted a copy of Office, they could either buy the "Home & Student" version in a shop/online (at about £80-90), or use Home User Rights (if you allowed them, and you'd both agreed to the terms), or various other convoluted routes. But now we've managed to get the lawyers and licensing teams to agree to include staff into the Ultimate Steal offer.

    What does this mean?

    Staff can now purchase, for their own use at home, a copy of Office 2007 Ultimate Edition, for £38.95, via www.theultimatesteal.co.uk

    What's the qualifying criteria?

    The lawyers insisted there should be some qualifying criteria (after all, they argued, what happens if somebody is employed as a tea lady - do they qualify?) and so we created some with them. Hopefully it is easy for all of your staff to qualify - including the tea lady. There are just two simple criteria:

    1. Staff must hold a valid email address at a UK, Jersey, Guernsey or Isle of Man educational institution, ending in either ‘.ac.uk’, ‘ac.im’, ‘ac.gg’ or ‘ac.je’.


    2. You must be employed at an education institution geographically located in the United Kingdom, Jersey, Guernsey or the Isle of Man, for at least an average of 8 hours per week or 4 teaching hours per week

    Do we have to do anything?

    Nothing other than letting your staff know they've got 3 weeks (and counting) to take advantage of the offer. If you want an email template, take a look at this post

  • FE blog

    Ultimate Steal - Guernsey, Jersey and the IoM


    I forgot to blog this last month. If you're a student in a Jersey, Guernsey or Isle of Man college with an email address ending in ‘.ac.uk’, ‘ac.im’, ‘ac.gg’ or ‘ac.je’ then you're now eligible for the Ultimate Steal offer (Office 2007 Ultimate edition for £38.95). You'll have to act quickly - the offer ends at the end of 30th April.

  • FE blog

    Free Project 2007 Seminars


    Driving Successful Projects with Microsoft Office Project 2007

    I hope that you're not like me - I'm a pretty awful project manager, because I record all of my deadlines, actions and projects in a 101 different places. On my various "To Do" lists, I'm sure I've written "Create Single To Do List". And I look at colleagues with amazing project management skills, and think "I wish I could work like that..." But I don't.

    If you're the kind of person that gets involved in longer-term projects (aah, that'll include this summer's network upgrades!), or you have colleagues in college who do, do you/they use Microsoft Project? With the release of Office 2007, you may not be up-to-date with the latest capabilities, and how it can be used to support any kind of project work. We're putting on a run of free, half day seminars on Driving Successful Projects using Microsoft Office Project 2007. The interactive seminar will combine slide and hands-on presentations addressing:

    • Drivers for Successful Project Management
    • How to work with your teams most effectively and share information
    • Understanding your stakeholders
    • How to use Microsoft Office Project 2007 for successful project delivery

    An academic licence for a single user in a college is typically under £60, so it isn't even going to break the bank.

    Driving Successful Projects with Microsoft Office Project 2007

    Date April 9th, April 18th, May 14th, June 10th

    Time: 14:00 – 17:00

    Location: Microsoft, Cardinal Place, London or Microsoft, Thames Valley Park, Reading


    ·       What’s new with Project 2007

    ·       Get Productive quickly with Project initiation and management 

          o Quick Start Guide

          o Templates

          o Tools

    ·         Effective Sharing and Communication of Project Information

          o Leveraging predefined reports

          o Charts and diagrams

          o Project views through Microsoft Office programmes

    ·       Understanding and controlling Project variables 

          o Issues source tracking

          o Understanding the impact of change

          o Assigning and controlling cost

    ·       Moving to Enterprise-wide Project Management

    Click or Call Now to Register!

    Apr  9th - London - Telephone # 0870 166 6680 ref 9610

    Apr 18th - Reading - Telephone number is 0870 166 6680 ref 9608

    May 14thLondon  - Telephone # 0870 166 6680 ref 9609

    Jun 10thReading - Telephone # 0870 166 6680 ref 9613

  • FE blog

    Extending business management systems



    With the rapid changes happening in the FE sector, and the challenges that brings for colleges, there has been more focus on the use of business systems to help run FE colleges. We're working in partnership with Business Insights Group, a Microsoft Gold partner, who specialise in the implementation and support of business management and financial systems. Over the last 7 years they've developed insight4Education, a finance and administration application designed specifically for education. The solution successfully integrates and provides:

    Microsoft Dynamics GP, Student billing software, Microsoft Office Suite, Student records systems, Support for SORP, EPOS systems, Simplicity, Accountability and reliability, Single point of support

    The content is specifically for university & college finance staff or bursars

    Agenda Tuesday 13 May


    Arrival and Registration

    10:00 Microsoft Introduction
    10:15 I4E Introduction (Why Microsoft Dynamics)
    10.30 Dynamics GP I4E
    11:10 Coffee Break
    11:30 Education Relationship Management
    12:00 Extending the reach with Microsoft Technologies
    12:15 Oxford University Case Study
    12:30 Roundup and Q&A
    12.40 Lunch


    Microsoft London (Cardinal Place), 100 Victoria Street, London, SW1E 5JL


    Reserve your space by emailing Simon Farrell

  • FE blog

    Event - Creating Dynamic Diagrams with Microsoft Office Visio 2007


    Do you, or colleagues, want join us for a free, half day seminar in London on creating the right diagrams quickly and effectively for all your communications needs? It's an interactive seminar which will combine slide and hands-on presentation addressing:

    - How to analyse, visualize and communicate information

    - Where visual data can enhance decision making

    - Increasing personal productivity

    - Hints and Tips for users

    An academic licence for a single user is typically under £30, so it isn't even going to break the bank.

    Driving Successful Projects with Microsoft Office Project 2007

    Dates: April 9th, May 14th

    Time: 0900 – 12:30 (arrival from 08:30) or 14:00 – 17:00 (arrival from 13:30)

    Location: Microsoft, Cardinal Place, 100 Victoria Street, London, SW1E 5JL


    • What’s new with Visio 2007
    • Templates for Departmental applications
      • Including Business Process Mapping, Timelines, Web Templates, Marketing Shapes etc
    • Using Visual data to Enhance Decision Making
      • Including Pivot Tables, Automated HR reporting, Networking Diagrams, Linking back-end Data
    • How to Analyse, Visualize and Communicate Information
      • Including scaling and layering made easy, Shapesheets, Exporting diagrams to other MS Office applications, hyperlinking

    Click or Call Now to Register!

    Apr  9th - London - Telephone # 0870 166 6680 ref 9598

    May 14thLondon  - Telephone # 0870 166 6680 ref 9599

  • FE blog

    Open XML is now an ISO (Open) Standard


    It's been confirmed this week by ISO that the Open XML file formats have become an ISO standard, joining ODF, HTML & PDF as open document standards.  My colleague Jerry Fishenden is far more eloquent about what this means than me as his post shows.

    For a while I've been wondering when I should stop sharing files on this blog in Office 2003 format (eg PowerPoints as .ppt) and start sharing them as Office 2007 format (.pptx). So now, I think it's time to make the switch. It has, after all, been 18 months since Office 2007 was launched, and it is in widespread use in UK education. And if you are still using Office 2003, you can simply download a compatibility pack to read Office 2007 files. When I download others' presentations, I always want the PowerPoint version, because I can use the content with colleagues - if I download a presentation and it's in PDF format, I always feel a little cheated.

  • FE blog

    Unlocking the Secrets of Darwinian Research at Cambridge University


    It's always pleasing when the work of education establishments is held up as a shining example of best practice use of technology.

    And it was pleasing last month, at the Windows Server 2008 launch event, that there was a fascinating insight into the way that one of the research teams at Cambridge University is using technology to unlock information from data originally collected 150 years ago. Researchers knew that Darwin’s mentor at Cambridge, Professor J.S. Henslow, had been studying variation since 1821 and he'd actively trained Darwin from 1829 to 1831 to study variation—before Darwin ever set foot on the Beagle. Using Microsoft database software, the research team analysed the Cambridge Herbarium.

    The University team were involved in using the software when it was still in beta, via the Microsoft Community Technology Preview (CTP) programme. The researchers at Cambridge successfully developed a database that used the new spatial data types, and it wasn’t just the database that was important - the team wanted to visualise this data on a map, which they did by creating a 'mash up' - linking data from the database with Microsoft Virtual Earth.

    Mark Whitehorn, Research Associate, University of Cambridge, is the group’s database specialist, and his view was

    FirstquotesIn theory, we could have plotted the points by hand on a map, but to answer just one of our complex questions would have taken days of work. We wanted to ask questions and get the answers back in real time. The analysis we’ve already done with this software would have been impossible without the spatial data types and has already produced some very interesting Endquotesfindings.

    Professor John Parker, Director of the Cambridge University Botanic Garden and Leader of the Research Group, says:

    FirstquotesWe’ve always known that the collection was centred on Cambridge. But, we were very keen to understand the dynamics of the collection in more detail.

    Once we had the data in spatial data types, it was easy to plot the cumulative number of plants against distance from the site of the original Botanic Garden in Cambridge. When we did so, we were surprised to see that the result was clearly biphasic. In other words, there were two phases in the collection with an intersection at around 23 kilometres. We rapidly realised—and equestrian experts were able to confirm—that this represents a reasonable distance for a rider of a horse to travel out and back in a day, with some time set aside for collecting. In other words, the pattern of collection was heavily dependent on horsepower as the prevailing traEndquotesnsport system of the day.

    There is much more about this case study on the worldwide Microsoft case studies website.

    (The written case study is a little less easy to understand than the video I saw - mainly because the words 'biphasic', 'herbarium' & 'spatial' benefit from more context! The video's not yet been released, but I'm hoping to get a link to it soon)

  • FE blog

    A framework for strategic planning of


    Before making any journey, it’s important to know where you are before you set off in any particular direction, and your IT infrastructure is no different.

    You have an IT budget. You have a need to deliver strategic value. You must show a business benefit.

    But how do you ensure this is all delivered in the most effective manner?

    Well, we have a model called Infrastructure Optimisation which helps enormously. We work with SCC in all kinds of ways, and one of them is our work on Infrastructure Optimisation (IO). IO starts with a model, created by Gartner, which allows an organisation to look at their IT resources in a more strategic way, and where necessary move it away from being a "cost", to becoming a strategic business asset. I don't know what it's like in your college, but for many IT Directors, having an ability to control the strategic direction of their IT systems, to support the strategic goals, helps to support the long-term success of the team. We talked about IO with the 50 universities who attended the IT Forum event in November, and there was a widespread feeling that this could help their planning, so worth a look?

    SCC-IO SCC & Microsoft have put our heads together to bring you a day full of content to help you understand how the IO model can help you.

    The events are called "The Best Route To Ensure The Success Of Your IT Infrastructure", and they're being held over the next 6 weeks in Halifax, Birmingham and London.  I'll let the SCC team tell you a bit more:

    FirstquotesBefore making a journey, it's important to know where you are before you set off in any particular direction and your IT infrastructure is no different. You have an IT budget, you need to deliver strategic value and you must show a business benefit. This can all be done through Infrastructure Optimisation.
    Infrastructure Optimisation helps to drive a more secure, well managed and dynamic core IT infrastructure to enable organisations to help reduce their overall IT costs, make better IT resources and make IT a strategic asset for the organisation.

    By working with SCC and Microsoft and using this model as a framework an organisation can quickly understand the strategic value and business benefits to the organisation in moving from a basic level of optimisation, where the infrastructure is generally considered a "cost centre", towards a more "dynamic use". This is where the organisation's value of IT infrastructure is understood and viewed as a business enabler and asset.

    SCC in partnership with Microsoft are inviting you to attend one of our Infrastructure Optimisation FREE events to be held at various locations throughout the UK. The events are aimed at Chief Information officers, Chief Technology officers, IT Managers, Infrastructure Managers and other IT Industry Professionals in Education who are responsible for delivering budgets, in particular cost savings or green credentials and working practices.
    If you work in the education sector you can't afford to miss out on this opportunity to meet and discuss with SCC and Microsoft industry experts in your area.Endquotes

    The events are in HALIFAX on Wednesday 16th April, BIRMINGHAM on Wednesday 23rd April, and our offices in LONDON on Friday 9th May.

    To register, either visit the website www.scc-microsoft.co.uk/ioevent/public or call SCC on 0845 351 1157

    There's a PDF flyer available here

  • FE blog

    Brockenhurst College: Reducing a carbon footprint


    Brockenhurst College, in the New Forest, has a well-earned reputation for technological innovation. Their Beacon Technology Centre, opened in 2006, is a visual treat.

    They have been updating their IT infrastructure across the college, as part of a drive to reduce their carbon footprint. That's included being one of the first colleges in the UK to deploy Windows Vista last year. With 1,200 desktop computers, and a campus open 13 hours a day, they realised the potential to save significant energy, time and money from using better power management techniques. (According to a study by PC Labs, they could be saving between £23 and £46 per computer per year).

    It's probably fair to say that power management has come a long way since IT started appearing in colleges. As Dr. Robin Gadd, Head of Information Services at Brockenhurst College puts it:

    FirstquotesFive years ago, we used to have a big switch in the corner of the room. Teachers would get all the students to turn off their computers, and then they would turn the system off with the big switch.

    Windows Vista fits perfectly with our strategy for environmental sustainability, while helping us better meet the needs of our students.Endquotes


    The college is able to take much, much more control:

    • Adjustable power management settings and centrally configured policies that give administrators the ability to switch computers on and off remotely and make better use of power-saving features in Windows Vista.
    • Windows Vista “sleep” mode, an ultra-low power state, where only the RAM is powered and everything else is closed down. But when a user switches the computer  back on, it only takes a few seconds to get started again

    You can read Brockenhurst's case study on our global website

    Read more about energy & money saving in "Save £23,000 or Save the Earth...take your pick"

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