ALT North East User Group

Attended the ALT North East user group today at Durham Castle* to network and share practice with learning technologists from universities and colleges across the region.

A representative from Jisc was there to provide us with an update on their Learning Analytics project, which continues to look ever more impressive every time I see it. This was followed by a demonstration and talk about Special iApps which have been created to help children with special educational needs. Then we had two sessions on the use and value of Microsoft Teams in education, one from a Microsoft representative and one from a colleague at Teesside who have been using it in the wild with good results. Finally there was a demonstration of the survey tool BluePulse via webinar.

* The castle was nice. Really nice.

Bootcamp Nightmare

Remember back in the days when Bootcamp was a fantastic utility that just worked and made installing Windows on a Mac easier than on a PC? Those days seem to be long gone.

Part of the problem seems to be the need to use a bootable USB flash drive now that we’re in the post physical media age. Today, trying to install either Windows 7 or Windows 10 on a 2013 MacBook Air running Sierra has been a complete nightmare. No matter what I tried, different ISOs for different versions of Windows on different USB drives by different brands, the Mac simply failed to recognise the drive as bootable.

In the end I was only able to get it working by abandoning Bootcamp and using Microsoft’s own utility on a machine already running Windows, the not terribly well named Windows USB/DVD Download Tool, to create the bootable USB drive from the ISO.

Then I had a new problem. Those bootable USB drives are always left with a hidden 200 MB protected partition which is ignored on Macs, so you don’t know it’s a problem, but on Windows that first 200 meg partition is all that is seen. No matter how you reformat the drive, on Windows or Mac, that partition is not removed and the drive remains pretty damn useless. I first discovered this problem a few months ago the hard way, after the last time I installed Windows on something. Removing the hidden partition to restore your flash drive to full functionality is another massive headache, but I have found this method that works on Windows.

Enhancing the Student Experience with Microsoft Lync

polycom_and_kit

At an event at Durham University Business School, Waterstons provided three case studies of how Microsoft Lync can be used in a teaching and learning context, following by a hands-on demonstration of some of the equipment that had been used along with the client software running on a number of different platforms: a Windows PC and Surface tablet, an Apple MacBook and iPad, an Android tablet and a number of smartphones.

Lync is the latest version of what was Office Communicator and includes a number of enhancements, adding video, screen sharing and collaboration tools such as a whiteboard to instant messaging and VOIP functionality.

The first case study was a boardroom exercise, a simulated assessed committee meeting for MBA students which was recorded using a Polycom video recorder, with the recordings then exported and uploaded to Blackboard. The second case study was of a BSc Accounting Programme where students spent a significant amount of time on placement with KPMG. Lync was used to host regular meetings between the university, KPMG and the students. The third case study was on how the Business School had further rolled out Lync following these successes to conduct Viva examinations, overseas student reviews and for general meetings.

In all of the case studies Lync was chosen over the in-house Blackboard Collaborate tool as it was less problematic, not requiring Java to run, and easily available to partners who did not have access to the VLE. Feedback received citied the ease-of-use of the software and hardware, and the quality of the video and recordings.

The case studies were followed by a live hand-ons demonstration with the Polycom video recorder which was used for the MBA boardroom exercises and a large range of mobile devices to demonstrate the client software in action, including a web client which does not require any software to be installed.

Finally we were given a quick overview of how Waterstons are developing the software to find new use case scenarios to further enhance the experience for students, including full Outlook and university timetable integration, VLE integration, and use as a lecture capture tool.

http://products.office.com/en-GB/lync

http://www.polycom.co.uk/products-services/products-for-microsoft/lync-optimized/cx5000-unified-conference-station.html

http://www.waterstons.com

Outlook Web App

outlook-web-app

So I had to access my email in a Windows virtual machine today which didn’t have any email clients set up, so I thought I would use the Outlook Web App. Much to my annoyance, this was stuck in the light version which doesn’t have all the features. Some Googling (not Binging…) found a solution, I had to manually add the University’s domain into the Compatibility View Settings (Tools > Compatibility View Settings). Once this was added reloading the OWA log-in page un-greyed out the light version checkbox. I shouldn’t have had to do this. This was a vanilla VM, Windows 7 and Internet Explorer 11, fully patched and up to date, accessing a Microsoft service. Integration should have been seamless. It just goes to show that however far Internet Explorer has come in recent years, it can still be a pretty – shall we say – problematic browser.