The Department of Further Education, Employment, Science and Technology (DFEEST) in South Australia provides public vocational education and training through TAFE (Technical and Further Education) SA institutes across the state. DFEEST needed a cost-effective messaging platform that would enable TAFE SA lecturers and students to communicate and share information cheaply and effectively. The department engaged Microsoft Gold Partner Dimension Data to deploy Microsoft Live@edu, a web-based messaging platform that provides lecturers and students with email, storage space, instant messaging and document collaboration services at no charge. As a result, DFEEST has saved what would have been a huge investment on an onsite messaging system and, in a straightforward deployment, has provided students with high-capacity, instantly accessible communications resources.
The Department of Further Education, Employment, Science and Technology (DFEEST) in South Australia provides public vocational education and training through TAFE (Technical and Further Education) institutes across the state. The agency is also responsible for workforce and skills development programs; improving the work development and planning culture in workplaces; and promoting innovation through science and information.
Prior to 2010, approximately 85,000 staff and students throughout South Australia’s TAFE network had two options for email and document sharing: they could use an existing Novell GroupWise messaging solution, or an external email service such as Hotmail, Yahoo or Gmail.
TAFE SA staff and students found the existing email setup to be unreliable and, and user take-up was low. Staff needed a much higher take-up rate because they saw email as the most effective way of communicating with all students. As a result, DFEEST started looking for an alternative messaging platform, preferably one that would help them share and collaborate on complex files.
One option was to deploy a hosted electronic messaging system. This solution was already being used by around 70,000 staff across various South Australian Government agencies. However, DFEEST determined that this solution would not be cost-effective.
“With the hosted option we were looking at a set cost per month for each mailbox, which was too expensive,” says Richard Rains, Manager, ICT Services, TAFE SA Adelaide North Institute, DFEEST.
Another option was to upgrade the legacy GroupWise system which was already onsite, but this would have involved a large capital outlay for new storage hardware, as well as ongoing costs for maintenance, upgrades and hardware.
Therefore, DFEEST started considering a third option: cloud-based solutions.
“We knew that a lot of educational institutes around Australia were taking advantage of cloud computing models being offered by Microsoft and Google,” says Rains. “These are services that are very easy to use.”
In May 2009, DFEEST started looking for a cloud-based unified messaging solution that would be used across all TAFE SA institutes.Solution
TAFE SA evaluated cloud-based email services, including ones from Google and Microsoft. Under a cloud computing model, the service is delivered to TAFE SA institutes from a centralised data centre. DFEEST would still have control over the creation and management of user accounts, but support and all infrastructure is provided as a service.
After a rigorous evaluation process, DFEEST selected Microsoft Live@edu and engaged Microsoft Gold Certified Partner Dimension Data to migrate all TAFE SA email services to the cloud with Microsoft Live@edu, an email and collaboration platform. These services are branded as ‘TAFE SA Connect’.
This suite includes several collaboration services: Office Live Workspace, a file-sharing application based on Microsoft Office SharePoint; Windows Live SkyDrive, which provides data storage at no charge; and Windows Live Spaces, which provides blogging and instant messaging tools.
Dimension Data engineers then set up a development environment to configure and test the Live@edu solution before moving it into production.
“We completed a system test to ensure the solution met the design and was ready for user acceptance testing,” says David Minnelli, Consultant, Dimension Data. “This testing was done onsite with DFEEST’s IT administration staff over a few days, where we put forward a range of test cases.”
Dimension Data then built a production environment and completed another round of testing before the solution was made available to staff and students.
“We were working to a tight 12-week timeframe to get this up and running,” said Martin Thorpe, Senior Project Manager, ICT Services, DFEEST.
“Dimension Data helped make sure that we exceeded this target by two weeks, bringing in extra engineering resources as they were required. They provided the skills that we didn’t have internally, and did a great job.”
The end deployment included ‘single sign-on’ user access. Because accounts are based on user identities stored in Microsoft Active Directory, lecturers and students can access all the platform’s web-based services through a single username and password while onsite.Benefits
Microsoft Live@edu gives students and staff at more than 50 TAFE SA campuses in South Australia access to multiple online communications anywhere and at any time. They can communicate and share ideas using a simple web-based interface.Access to workplace applications
Once TAFE SA students are enrolled through the Student Management System, they gain access to a wide variety of applications.
“Students and lecturers can take advantage of a range of hosted email and web-based collaboration tools,” says Rains. “Lecturers can post course information, lecture notes and students’ results online over a secure connection. Over the next 12 to 24 months, we expect that most TAFEs in South Australia will be using all these features not solely the e-mail functionality.”
Enrolled automatically provides students with a 10GB Microsoft Outlook Live mailbox and 25GB of additional storage through Microsoft’s Live SkyDrive. Students can also chat to each other or to lecturers using Microsoft Live Messenger, or collaborate on group assignments online using Microsoft Office Live Workspace, a file sharing application based on Microsoft Office SharePoint.
Once the full Live@edu service is released, students and lecturers will have access to the full suite of Microsoft Office Web applications, such as Microsoft Word, Microsoft Excel, Microsoft PowerPoint and Microsoft OneNote as well as other areas for blogs and forums, video sharing, photo publishing and message boards.Saved costs
DFEEST believes it has procured a service that would have been difficult to fund under traditional software purchasing models.
“If we had extended the existing hosted electronic messaging system to 85,000 students and staff in the TAFE SA network, it would have been cost-prohibitive,” says Rains. “The total implementation and management costs for Live@edu were significantly less, so there has been quite a substantial cost saving.”New services
Besides creating a better email service, Live@edu also provides staff and students with new ways to communicate.
The department has deployed a third-party solution to develop an SMS service that runs on Microsoft Live@edu. This enables any lecturer to send an SMS-based alert to any individual student or group if a class has been changed or cancelled, or to make any other announcement.
Microsoft Live@edu also allows users to be populated automatically into distribution lists for classes, departments and courses.
“As soon as students are enrolled, they are automatically provisioned with a Live@edu account. This occurs in the background seamlessly, without manual intervention. The business rules defined with the provisioning process ensures that staff and students are automatically populated within the correct groups and distribution lists,” says Rains.
TAFE SA can also use the Live@edu service to create its own internal pages or links to other institutions.
“The Microsoft Live@edu service doesn’t bombard users with advertising and other paraphernalia that users have to deal with when they use other free web-based email services,” says Rains.For More Information
To access information using the World Wide Web, go to:
For more information about Dimension Data products and services, call
1800 638 457 or visit the website at: www.dimensiondata.com/au
For more information about the Government of South Australia Department of Further Education, Employment, Science and Technology products and services, call (08) 8226 3821 or visit the website at: www.dfeest.sa.gov.au/This case study is for informational purposes only. MICROSOFT MAKES NO WARRANTIES, EXPRESS OR IMPLIED, IN THIS SUMMARY.