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CloudBase

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CloudBase is designed specifically for schools​.

Advancements in education have always stemmed from innovation and it is with this in mind that CloudBase has been designed to support the development of skills for now and the future. By using CloudBase as a tool for communication and collaborative work, the mode of learning in your school is much more connected to innovative practices of business. It simplifies how users find and share information and work with others in an online environment. CloudBase enables you to collaborate using tools which mirror familiar social media but also empowers you with the ability to facilitate safe and appropriate information sharing and ways in which users can interact without the need for draconian control or creating an unmanageable chaotic system. CloudBase also acknowledges that mobile learning is not only on the rise, it's inevitable.

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We pride ourselves on a thorough understanding the needs of schools in terms of effective teaching and learning and operational practice and the technology available within Office 365. This enables us to use online planning and training resources to deliver CloudBase specifically tailored towards your priorities and vision. Our CloudBase platform is a suite of core Microsoft products that are delivered to schools through the Microsoft Office 365 platform.  These products combined with Civica's planning, training and support packages allow schools to create an online environment to support students, staff, parents, governors and other key stakeholders.  One of the core advantages of this platform is the flexibility it provides and we have seen a lot of success with schools using the platform in a wide range of scenarios.  Many are using it to enhance learning for students, others focusing on saving staff time through automated workflows and some even working with us to recreate portions of their Management Information Systems that just didn't fit their needs!

As a result of this work we were delighted to be invited to Microsoft's Worldwide Partner Conference 2014 to share our experiences of how we configure and customise Office 365 for schools, and specifically how we integrate data. Schools are increasingly data rich and we have listened to their requirements and heard that what they want is simplicity of input and meaningfulness of output. Teachers need to be able to use data as they see fit, to track student progress and plan interventions; Parents need to be able to access data in a format that is easy to understand, free of jargon and enabling engagement; most importantly students need to be able to use data to take control of their own learning. We are finding that Office 365 ticks many of these boxes and will continue to work with schools to develop our services and support in this field.

Civica have had great support from Microsoft with respect to our work on Office 365 in schools. The WWPS Education Vice President at Microsoft, Anthony Salcito, provided a fabulous testimonial:

"At Microsoft, we are committed to supporting a community of partners who share a similar passion for making a difference in students' lives.  Civica has developed one of the most comprehensive Office 365 based solutions for schools and in doing so has demonstrated a unique and powerful understanding of education and how delivering school insights drives educational outcomes"

 

Working online

The current generation of students' starting point for information and engagement is not printed materials such a book or a newspaper but online social platforms such as Google, Facebook, YouTube and Twitter. Students' learning needs to capitalise on this new form of literacy. It is important for students to be able to keep engaging with learning outside of class in a medium which is not only accessible but actually engages them. As CloudBase is built upon Office 365, the interface for editing resources is immediately familiar and a specific website design skillset is far less of a necessity to produce even enriched online resources with text, images, videos and links – if you can use Word, you can create online learning materials using CloudBase.

Work can be submitted to a teacher through CloudBase and is visible to only teacher and student for review. All submitted work automatically has an indication of the time and date of submission. You can even share documents with parents or other external stakeholders via a secure hyperlink.

CloudBase acknowledges that computers are no longer the only way of accessing the internet and has made huge steps towards becoming the place for creation rather than just storage. The features of CloudBase are more device agnostic - for example you can now create Office documents such as Word, Excel and PowerPoint on an X-Box!

With the SharePoint NewsFeed app (currently available for Windows 8, Windows Phone, iPhone and iPad), staff and students are able to use their mobile phone to take and upload photographs which could be used to evidence or record the learning that really can happen anywhere at any time.

Online resources

Resources such as presentations and guidance sheets can be centrally stored, maintained and accessed online in CloudBase. Documents can be uploaded to CloudBase using a quick and easy drag and drop method and organised inside folders or using tags.

In order to accommodate the flipped classroom approach to learning, documents and video can also be directly embedded onto pages of CloudBase alongside. This means that teachers can design online resources which students can work through at their own pace, reviewing sections wherever required at times other than during timetabled lessons

Assignments and assessment

CloudBase enables students to submit their work to the platform for their teacher to mark and comment on. It is also possible to give other students access to work for peer to peer assessment and/or joint assignments if required.

CloudBase includes a tool which enable teachers to design short auto-marked quizzes of different question types and assign a score for correct responses. There is also a self assessment template which gives a student an indication of their level and targets based on their own judgement of their achievement. Third party online resources (such as Socrative) can also be easily embedded making CloudBase an ideal way to bring together all the excellent pracitce which innovative teachers may have alreayd discovered in the wonderful world of the web. There is also a self assessment template which gives a student an indication of their level and targets based on their own judgement of their achievement.

Surveys and feedback

With the survey tool, teachers can create a mechanism for capturing feedback with branching which is driven by the answer given to previous questions. This tool exports data directly to Excel and will also retain a live connection, enabling responses to be anlaysed in real time. This is a useful tool for example for checking understanding of a lesson's content, as the results can highlight areas that have not been fully understood.

Personal online storage & organisation

Every CloudBase user has a OneDrive in which to store their documents securely online. This gives users a minimum of 25GB of secure online storage for images, videos and documents which can then be accessed on a range of devices including smartphones, tablets and desktops. Documents can stored within folders and easily be shared with other users as editable or read only versions. With the online versions of Office inside CloudBase, Office documents can be created on any device with a web browser, irrespective of whether it has Office installed on it or not. This online version of Office enables multiple users to collaborate on a single document simultaneously.

Personalised learning

With CloudBase, users are truly able to personalise their learning through choice. Students are able to 'Follow' sites which they are actively involved with and this not only gives them a personalised navigation route into each of these sites, but it also allows for information to be 'pushed' to devices so notification of any activity in their online learning spaces is immediately received. By doing this, students take initial responsibility for designing their own learning profile and then receive relevant live information so there is no longer a need to keep constantly checking for changes and updates.

Evidencing and reviewing progress

Students are able to work and record activities directly through CloudBase and it is possible to analyse these to detect performance difficulties at an early stage and inform how to tailor teaching to be appropriate for the students' abilities.

Teachers are able to given immediate feedback on work which has been submitted via CloudBase and both the work and feedback is automatically archived. This enables students to revise their own work periodically in order to improve it and also retrospectively for exam preparation. Work may also be shared with other students for comments. This is a powerful function, and in direct conflict with the traditional situation where bookwork was privately completed, assessed by teachers and was the only source of study for revision and reflection.

Every user has a blog within CloudBase which can be used as an online journal to record their academic and extra-curricular activities and reflections on their progress. When the blog is used in this way, it can serve as a very useful tool for teachers responsible for providing relevant pastoral support. Blogs can also be created for a group of users, such as a class blog.

Communicating with users

CloudBase uses Outlook Web Access for email which includes the functionality to send to individual users, multiple users and defined groups. Each user has a presence status which allows other uses to see when they are online. There is an instant messaging feature in CloudBase which can be used to send short messages to other online users.

The way in which electronic information is given and received has changed significantly and CloudBase reflects this very closely, referring to the modes of familiar social media which means that users are immediately able to engage with it. Social media users will immediately recognise the way in which information can be 'posted' onto 'Newsfeeds' as well as being able to use functions such as 'Like'. This gives a good educational opportunity to provide feedback in a familiar context and make it easier for students to quickly and easily demonstrate their interaction with materials using a mechanism which is highly likely to already be part of their everyday life.  It can also be used as a way of acknowledging having accessed a post or document.

'Hashtag's can be used to quickly and organically group together communications. This means that students can sort through the 'piece of hay in a needle stack' collection of information by natural filtering using this contemporary categorising technique which they are likely to immediately recognise.

With the communication tool Lync, teaching can be delivered by tutors in another location via video conferencing in which students are able to see, hear and interact with them and their screen in real time.

eSafety and developing social responsibility

The use of digital technology has been completely normalised and it is now fully integrated into students' daily lives. They are increasingly referred to as 'digital natives': citizens born into a digital world, who grow up surrounded by and emerged in the technology of the digital age. Their confidence and skills in using this technology are typically high, but their knowledge and awareness of the inherent issues, risks and dangers is usually very low. It is important that children understand the world of online interaction and know how to use it responsibly. Children and young people need to be empowered to keep themselves safe.

Ofsted is increasingly looking for schools to move from locked down systems to systems that allow schools to teach about the risks and dangers that can be part of social media.   With CloudBase, schools can manage the transition from locked down systems to more managed systems to help students understand how to manage risk; to provide them with richer learning experiences; and to bridge the gap between systems at school and the more open systems outside school. As such, CloudBase provides a safe environment in which to teach children about technology and particularly the etiquette of online interaction as each student can be clearly and personally identified in any of their activities within it. Where there is a potential for inappropriate behaviour, there is a feature to report content to a moderator after which it can be reviewed by a designated person.

Discussion and encouraging participation

Using the discussion tools within CloudBase, teachers and students can have asynchronous dialogue which is visible to other users. The benefits of this can be seen when a student has a query which they need to ask the teacher about but during a time when they don't have direct contact with them. By posting the query on a discussion forum, this enables the teacher to respond at a time convenient to them and both question and answer can be seen by other students, some of whom may have had the same query.

The discussion element of CloudBase provides a space for learners to repeat what they learn in class later on with their peers, and makes it easy for teachers to improve students' learning and attainment by adopting the use of peer review. Educational research shows the very positive attitude that students have to peer review and the pedagogical models that emphasise what enhances the retention of key knowledge by students.

When posting on a discussion forum for others to see, students often consider more thoroughly what they write as they are aware that they have an audience of their peers. By reviewing their own posts as well as comments from peers and teachers, students have something to use to reflect on their own learning. There is much evidence that peer review aids the retention of information and enables students to recognise the improvement in their studies that comes from peer review.

CloudBase provides automatic 'rewards' in the form of points for participation – this encourages users to participate in learning. Students are encouraged to interact and provide feedback through an automatic accumulation of points, target levels to achieve and the issuing of 'badges'.

Accessibility

The use of mobile devices to access the web has been growing vastly as the capability of devices has improved and CloudBase has been designed to make the most optimal accessibility using a range of different devices. Menus acknowledge that the consequence of using a touch screen device is less precision than when using a mouse. Mobile views of pages can be used by mobile devices where there is limited screen estate.

Anytime anyplace learning 'given a push'

The idea that learning platforms provide anytime, any place learning is now a base expectation but the world of online communication has moved on significantly and there is now no longer just an expectation of being able to access information on demand but more a move towards information being sent to users on demand and CloudBase uses the 'push' technology of apps on mobile devices to utilise this. Push technology uses the principle that students can be sent information without having to specifically request or actively search for it. With this technology, once a student has followed a site, they no longer have the responsibility for actively looking for new information as it will be pushed to their devices whenever a teacher adds it. This technology is already likely to form part of a student's expectations having experienced it in updates to social feeds or to let them know when it's their turn in an online based game. This completes eliminates any possibility of frustration in finding that an area of the platform has not been updated as expected. Research shows that shows that push notifications are acknowledged three times faster than emails

Source: Push Response: Analyse push effectiveness to guide mobile strategy, Joy Liuzzo (2012)

CloudBase for administration and management

Key documents such as policies, handbooks or schemes of work can be centrally stored and maintained online in CloudBase so collaboration can be achieved but with better version control than for example emailing a document to lots of users. CloudBase enables these type of documents to be easily accessed by relevant users so that there is less of a need for individuals to save their own copy of documents which may quickly become outdated. When using one of the Online Office Apps in CloudBase, multiple users can work on a single document simultaneously. Documents can be uploaded to CloudBase using a quick and easy drag and drop method.

CloudBase takes full advantage of the way in which Office 365 integrates with InfoPath and Excel to provide a fully streamlined approach to administration. This means that online forms such as leave requests, trip approvals and Lesson Observations can be used to enter data centrally and therefore immediately available for processing and analysing. Live data can then be directly manipulated into graphical forms which will stay current for regular review.

When forms are submitted through CloudBase, they can be managed through workflows. This means that relevant users can interact with a form at particular stages of it being processed, so a form requesting leave could be submitted, this could then be approved by SLT and then a cover supervisor could be notified of the session requiring cover.

CloudBase uses an alerting system so that relevant approvers can be made aware of newly submitted forms via email without a need to constantly keep checking. The users who submit the form can also check the stage at which their form has reached in being processed so there is no longer a need to be chasing apiece of paper around school!

Embedding CloudBase into your school

We understand that the success of any system is dependent on users interacting with it which is why our planning approach covers policies and guidance and the training programme is based on adoption and personalised based upon individual users' current skill and confidence levels. 

Your CloudBase will initially be branded to reflect your school's aesthetic identity based on a number of customisable branding options.

Access to particular areas of your CloudBase platform can be specified by groups or even individuals.

Hosted and maintained by Microsoft

CloudBase is built on the technology of Microsoft Office 365 and utilises the tools which business uses to streamline and improve online activities in ways which are based on the needs of schools. You own and retain all rights to your data in Office 365 and none of it will ever be used by anybody other than yourselves. Microsoft's built-in security features are a result of over a decade of providing and protecting online services.