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  1. #31
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    I saw the NCC solution today and I'm not very happy about it.
    It is just sharepoint, nothing else, even the creation tools were the free ones supplied by microsoft. I can only see that we are expected to pay for external hosting. But with only 2Gb provided we will inevitable need more storage space and no one is telling us how much that will cost. So from next march we'll have a minimum of £6000 plus storage fees on top, which could be anything.
    Collaboration is hardly worth mentioning, each school has their own site with their own resources, it would only benefit students who have to move between schools, but they still have to log on to the portal. Hosting sharepoint internally they can go straight on.
    Speed was also an issue which we witnessed during the demo and from comments from other schools, if it's slow now, what will it be like when the whole county is on?
    NCC should have produced their own, cheaper more manageable and faster.
    Or even better I think the schools should get together and create their own, several schools banding together, sharing resources would be far better financially and benefit the students and teachers too, then schools wouldn't be creating the same resources which are available in another school already.
    Some people in schools tend to forget that sometimes the most expensive option is not the best and just because everyone else is doing it doesn't mean its right. It is worth considering all the options however I cannot recommend NCC's solution to my school.

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    webman (30th January 2008)

  3. #32

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    I saw the NCC solution today and I'm not very happy about it.
    It is just sharepoint, nothing else, even the creation tools were the free ones supplied by microsoft.
    ...
    Speed was also an issue which we witnessed during the demo and from comments from other schools, if it's slow now, what will it be like when the whole county is on?
    I know exactly what you mean, this all sounds very familiar but I can't think where.

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    Quote Originally Posted by monty View Post
    I saw the NCC solution today and I'm not very happy about it.
    It is just sharepoint, nothing else, even the creation tools were the free ones supplied by microsoft. I can only see that we are expected to pay for external hosting. But with only 2Gb provided we will inevitable need more storage space and no one is telling us how much that will cost. So from next march we'll have a minimum of £6000 plus storage fees on top, which could be anything.
    Collaboration is hardly worth mentioning, each school has their own site with their own resources, it would only benefit students who have to move between schools, but they still have to log on to the portal. Hosting sharepoint internally they can go straight on.
    Speed was also an issue which we witnessed during the demo and from comments from other schools, if it's slow now, what will it be like when the whole county is on?
    NCC should have produced their own, cheaper more manageable and faster.
    Or even better I think the schools should get together and create their own, several schools banding together, sharing resources would be far better financially and benefit the students and teachers too, then schools wouldn't be creating the same resources which are available in another school already.
    Some people in schools tend to forget that sometimes the most expensive option is not the best and just because everyone else is doing it doesn't mean its right. It is worth considering all the options however I cannot recommend NCC's solution to my school.
    Collaboration within the site is a bit more extensive that you think at first look. Due to the way the hierarchy of the sites is built you will be able to share resources at a higher level as well as giving selecting users from other schools access to sub-sites within your site. The whole permissions thing is hard to do in a single day.

    Yes, we only have free tools at the moment, but trying to find *any* seriously decent tools that are free or that are simple enough for the bulk of teachers to use is hard. Opus Pro is nice but can work out very expensive, and is just another cost to pass on to schools.

    Unfortunately NCC does not have the resources, in either data centres or staffing, to sit down and build it's own solution. Having sat and gone through the Becta LP Framework you would have a pretty similar issue as you have mentioned above about tools for creation.

    The speed ... yes, we know about it and are working on it.

    We will be encouraging schools, once they have made a start on resources, to share them with other schools. For some schools this is a touchy subject as they don't like sharing ... others see a learning platform as a perfect way of sharing.

    There are other resources coming online too, those from ShirelandLearning.net, and we are looking at for other content that can easily be put on. The NEN has put out a request for bids for creation of Digital Learning Resources and details of how schools can go for this will be in the NCC factsheet this week. If you don't get access to this I will send it on as requested by NCC schools.

    I did not manage to make it down today due to school commitments but if there is any specific area you want to talk about please feel free to PM me, or I can pop over to have a chat. I will also raise any concerns you have at the team meeting on Friday.

  5. #34
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    a bit more

    Before you read this, please note I am not against VLE's at all, but I do want my school to get the best it can for all areas of the school. So I'm not getting at anyone, I'm just puzzled really at the decisions made and the costs involved.

    Quote Originally Posted by GrumbleDook View Post
    Collaboration within the site is a bit more extensive that you think at first look. Due to the way the hierarchy of the sites is built you will be able to share resources at a higher level as well as giving selecting users from other schools access to sub-sites within your site. The whole permissions thing is hard to do in a single day.
    I still can't see many instances where you would want someone from another site to access yours and the fact that it is external and does not use the students own document area or internal email stops collaboration within the school which is eminently more important. We also lose the ability for admin staff to collaborate effectively because this solution only encompasses teaching staff and students, the school is bigger than that and needs something that ties us all together rather than puts in more separation.

    Quote Originally Posted by GrumbleDook View Post
    Yes, we only have free tools at the moment, but trying to find *any* seriously decent tools that are free or that are simple enough for the bulk of teachers to use is hard. Opus Pro is nice but can work out very expensive, and is just another cost to pass on to schools.
    No problems at all with free tools, I was talking about having to pay for something that we can get for free and being told that we are getting something special which this is not. And digital workshop, who produce Opus, will do a deal if a few schools get together, we did one with them a few years ago.

    Quote Originally Posted by GrumbleDook View Post
    Unfortunately NCC does not have the resources, in either data centres or staffing, to sit down and build it's own solution. Having sat and gone through the Becta LP Framework you would have a pretty similar issue as you have mentioned above about tools for creation.
    I don't profess to know anything about NCC funding, but a managed server at an ISP does not cost too much even with sharepoint already installed and it's likely that this is what NCC's solution is doing. We did have a look at creating a school sharepoint, encompassing a VLE last year and were quoted £8000-£9000 for a professional solution, once created can be used with any number of schools. Even a couple of techs to support are not expensive. Comparing those prices to the 300+ schools that would be paying for NCC's current solution is so much more cost effective for NCC to create their own.
    If we work it out at secondary school prices of £7-£9 per person, we could be looking at between £9000 and £23000, band 3 or 4 schools together and you have full time technicians looking after a managed solution that fits the schools, is cheaper, and can provide more storage space.
    Can NCC not see that they are not buying any product, they are buying a layout, which anyone can create, and server hosting an a high price. I could understand it if was 1 schools managed VLE, but a whole county choosing it is just not sensible.

    Quote Originally Posted by GrumbleDook View Post
    speed ... yes, we know about it and are working on it.
    Thats the problem with a solution you do not manage yourself, and how long are they going to take to fix it?

    Quote Originally Posted by GrumbleDook View Post
    will be encouraging schools, once they have made a start on resources, to share them with other schools. For some schools this is a touchy subject as they don't like sharing ... others see a learning platform as a perfect way of sharing.
    Most schools will already have scorm compliant resources which could be shared. I know there are difficulties getting teachers to share, I don't understand it myself techs share resources and information all the time and it makes life much easier.

    Quote Originally Posted by GrumbleDook View Post
    are other resources coming online too, those from ShirelandLearning.net, and we are looking at for other content that can easily be put on. The NEN has put out a request for bids for creation of Digital Learning Resources and details of how schools can go for this will be in the NCC factsheet this week. If you don't get access to this I will send it on as requested by NCC schools.
    Yea we could add these resources to our own VLE.

    Quote Originally Posted by GrumbleDook View Post
    did not manage to make it down today due to school commitments but if there is any specific area you want to talk about please feel free to PM me, or I can pop over to have a chat. I will also raise any concerns you have at the team meeting on Friday.
    My biggest concern is financial, and what we actually get for the money. Why do we still not have a definite pricing structure when we are expected to start using it in a few weeks? My school has been seduced by the free years usage, I do not want us to get stung with a big bill because we have started using this VLE, even the free years usage just seems like a bit of a snare. It feels like SLT's have been targeted and techs pushed to the side because it's known that we would have arguments that need solid answers.

    I don't really know what your position is GrumbleDook and how much input you have had to this. I'm willing to be convinced, but I need, and speaking to other schools, we all need a lot more information about this. Teaching staff are more easily swayed by a demonstration because they haven't seen anything like it before and dare I say a little ignorant of what is available. I know what a sharepoint front end looks like so I need to know different things about this VLE. Specifically cost,space,training and support and to be honest I don't think we are asking too much to be told, any company that we get in would be asked the same questions.

    Have a nice day anyway and I'm a nice guy really.

    Monty

  6. #35

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    I'm the Director of IT of one of the other secondary schools in Northants, I am also seconded to work for NCC on a number of areas including tech consultancy. I was part of the working group that looked at solutions and have been part of the group on the EMBC procurement.

    I wish it was just a case of the costs you mentioned ... but once you put software licences, SLAs, support contracts into it all then it gets damned expensive.

    For those not from NCC it is worth explaining that the council did have a central support team, but sold it to Capita ... so we now have no central support. The ICT in Schools team have drafted a variety of people wot work with them to make sure they have the expertise on the various things they are doing, but when you have 330+ schools you can't please everyone.

    Some schools are using their own, and this is intended to be complimentary to that ... but I am always happy to chat with people about it all.

    @monty
    PM me or email me, mine's the bottom email address on the 'enable' business card.
    Last edited by GrumbleDook; 31st January 2008 at 03:10 PM.

  7. #36
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    Quote Originally Posted by GrumbleDook View Post

    @monty
    PM me or email me, mine's the bottom email address on the 'enable' business card.
    I thought it might, I'll have to find it, left the card at home today.

    By the way is that picture of you?

    monty

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    GrumbleDook's Avatar
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    The avatar? Yes ... a sunny afternoon at London Zoo ... followed by a shopping trip down Regent Street looking like that.

    I like to make people smile.

  9. #38
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    Quote Originally Posted by GrumbleDook View Post
    I wish it was just a case of the costs you mentioned ... but once you put software licences, SLAs, support contracts into it all then it gets damned expensive.
    Just to point out that most schools already have sharepoint licences, certainly all that were at the meeting yesterday did have, or they can be added to a school agreement, last quote was £210 for the server. CAL's are included in backoffice CAL and any additional for external access can be purchased at about £1.20 depending on reseller.
    Most schools already have on site support and any ISP will give an SLA on a managed/hosted server. If there is an SLA in place why has the speed issue not already been addressed?
    I think the proof that it can be done is shown by the fact that many schools already have a functioning sharepoint or VLE.

    Were there many technicians who have direct experience of sharepoint consulted on this, or was it all done at a management level?

    Sorry it sounds like I'm having a go, I'm really trying hard not to.
    Last edited by monty; 31st January 2008 at 03:25 PM. Reason: Cos I don't want an argument

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    Quote Originally Posted by GrumbleDook View Post
    For those who remember uk.education.schools-it in it's OS war period I feel it is my duty to invite John Cartmell in to defend RiscOS as it isn't getting pushed enough on EduGeek!
    I didn't see that until today, but I must admit it raised a titter

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    Quote Originally Posted by monty View Post
    Just to point out that most schools already have sharepoint licences, certainly all that were at the meeting yesterday did have, or they can be added to a school agreement, last quote was £210 for the server. CAL's are included in backoffice CAL and any additional for external access can be purchased at about £1.20 depending on reseller.
    Most schools already have on site support and any ISP will give an SLA on a managed/hosted server. If there is an SLA in place why has the speed issue not already been addressed?
    I think the proof that it can be done is shown by the fact that many schools already have a functioning sharepoint or VLE.

    Were there many technicians who have direct experience of sharepoint consulted on this, or was it all done at a management level?

    Sorry it sounds like I'm having a go, I'm really trying hard not to.
    After meeting with Microsoft there were not significant enough schools on the Schools Agreement for that to be taken into account, but deals were done on a variety of things to reduce the cost. Originally the plan was not to include exchange in all of this, but cost savings on other areas allowed for it ... and yes, I know there are a number of secondaries with their own mailservers ... but there are many, many more primaries (who don't have the support) who were on Mirapoint or Easymail and desperate to get off!

    I wish it was the case that we could have a significant number of all the stakeholders involved at every point of procurement, but it is not feasible.

    the 'Meet the bidder' morning went well but could have been better supported with a few more taxing questions put forward but sometimes the information about these events don't get mentioned to the right people. A survey was done on here about VLEs that fed into the discussion ... but it was the educational benefits of each platform that was the crux of the discussions ... not the technical aspect ... and I hate to say it, but that is the key thing about VLEs and Learning Platforms.

    Back to the Schools Agreement stuff though ... one possibility that was raised was paying for it for all schools in the county without giving a choice. Believe me when I say that this would have been one of the most contentious things any LA could have done I am understating things ... especially with the possibility of the OFT not being happy about it all in the slightest.

    Sharepoint techies ... yes, schools already using were talked to, including those using WSS v2 and v3, as well as Sharepoint 2003 ... finding schools with sharepoint 2007 is hard so we had to look at other implementations.

    Most schools *don't* have on site support ... but the majority of Secondaries do have on-site support, but not very many with Sharepoint skills ... in fact I can only think of 4 that had any serious experience of it before September.

    The speed ... yes, it is being dealt with ... at a very major level. However, consider the history of Northants ... is the problem the ISP? is it the individual configuration of the schools (since so many of the secondaries are now outside of the standard network build)? Is it the Managed Service Supplier? ...

    It has been painful trying to iron these out ...

    I know it seems like I am just stood here on the defence and trying to knock the various points down ... I am not doing it to say it is perfect and will be all rosy ... I am just trying to say that the tip that a school NM generally sees about this sort of thing really is just the tip. For every point that you raise there are 4 raised by Schools Forum ... and that is before you even get Legal or Finance involved.

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    la la

    Thanks Grumbledook for trying to answer my questions and arguments. I'm sure you are looking for the best for all schools and perhaps we will have a clearer picture of the benefits once it is in use.

    Monty

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    Quote Originally Posted by sahmeepee View Post
    I didn't see that until today, but I must admit it raised a titter
    Yes ... it was 10 years old in 2006 and was on the decline then ... from the hay days of 2003 to a paltry average of just ove a post a day last month ...

    I miss Dog and Fat Max, `p and Rob Moir (terrible lurker that he is!), Steve Rochford and not forgetting Covey ... guaranteed to bright your day.

    I don't even bother in the Staffroom anymore ... I wonder if Helen is still pinching all the biscuits!

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    Flippin' eck ... no sooner did I post but I get an email berating me for missing people out of that list ...

    At the risk of going OT ... I must remember that Dagza, Tosca925, SpuffMonkey, SteveT (and I know I have missed more) should all be remembered for stupidly high post counts and using more than one email address in their news client so they didn't appear to ohigh up in Dagza's stats table.

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    Quote Originally Posted by monty View Post
    Thanks Grumbledook for trying to answer my questions and arguments. I'm sure you are looking for the best for all schools and perhaps we will have a clearer picture of the benefits once it is in use.

    Monty
    No worries ... There are plenty of opportunities for people with ideas to come forward and pass them on.

    We *do* need to have a serious hands-on day for permissions and audiencing ... and that is where you learn about how the collaborative bit fits together.

    New thread posted about Sharepoint.

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    Quote Originally Posted by GrumbleDook View Post
    After meeting with Microsoft there were not significant enough schools on the Schools Agreement for that to be taken into account, but deals were done on a variety of things to reduce the cost. Originally the plan was not to include exchange in all of this, but cost savings on other areas allowed for it ... and yes, I know there are a number of secondaries with their own mailservers ... but there are many, many more primaries (who don't have the support) who were on Mirapoint or Easymail and desperate to get off!

    I wish it was the case that we could have a significant number of all the stakeholders involved at every point of procurement, but it is not feasible.

    the 'Meet the bidder' morning went well but could have been better supported with a few more taxing questions put forward but sometimes the information about these events don't get mentioned to the right people. A survey was done on here about VLEs that fed into the discussion ... but it was the educational benefits of each platform that was the crux of the discussions ... not the technical aspect ... and I hate to say it, but that is the key thing about VLEs and Learning Platforms.

    Back to the Schools Agreement stuff though ... one possibility that was raised was paying for it for all schools in the county without giving a choice. Believe me when I say that this would have been one of the most contentious things any LA could have done I am understating things ... especially with the possibility of the OFT not being happy about it all in the slightest.

    Sharepoint techies ... yes, schools already using were talked to, including those using WSS v2 and v3, as well as Sharepoint 2003 ... finding schools with sharepoint 2007 is hard so we had to look at other implementations.

    Most schools *don't* have on site support ... but the majority of Secondaries do have on-site support, but not very many with Sharepoint skills ... in fact I can only think of 4 that had any serious experience of it before September.

    The speed ... yes, it is being dealt with ... at a very major level. However, consider the history of Northants ... is the problem the ISP? is it the individual configuration of the schools (since so many of the secondaries are now outside of the standard network build)? Is it the Managed Service Supplier? ...

    It has been painful trying to iron these out ...

    I know it seems like I am just stood here on the defence and trying to knock the various points down ... I am not doing it to say it is perfect and will be all rosy ... I am just trying to say that the tip that a school NM generally sees about this sort of thing really is just the tip. For every point that you raise there are 4 raised by Schools Forum ... and that is before you even get Legal or Finance involved.
    I think that the issue of speed and reliability of a managed service is always contentious when an authority 'outsources' a solution. A large authority might have the data center, enough scalable storage, staffing and a sufficiently robust WAN to manage the solution themselves, in which case they can be in control of most of the cogs that can impact on how effectively the application performs. But even an authority with the abillity and funds to 'DIY' may hit a brick wall which is the design of individual internal school networks.


    A Local authority's management ends at the permiter typically - so the switching infrastructure of the school is beyond their control...an LA might find their WAN and data centre can run the managed application optimally, but a teacher connected to a fully populated hub four 100mb links down (albeit rare, i've heard such horror stories ) from the edge router could be experiencing performance problems that is attributable to poor performance on the school network, and not a WAN or central server issue. Ofcourse having the server as close as possible for each user at each school is the ideal - but for reasons outlined eariler a centrally hosted option has to be presented to schools.

    But if an LA do provide a hosted option the more in control an LA is of the managed service the better they can manage performance issues. By outsourcing to LP+ there's an additional SLA in the chain that has to be enforced. I'd imagine there's a lot of finger pointing and pass the parcel when you have this kind of setup.



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