29 June 2016

100 % Online Education

SharePoint iconIn the middle of June I held a one week course in Stockholm on SharePoint Server 2013 Core Solutions. If all goes according to plan, that was my last lecture where I was actually standing eye to eye with my students, who are mostly IT-professionals. From now on I will focus on online teaching and books.

Rewarding student input
I have been teaching in periods from 1989, and since I left Skype in 2010 I have been able to meet the demand for my lectures to a higher extent than before. I like to teach, and I have found the student input very interesting and informative.

The on-premise teaching however has a drawback that has been increasingly troublesome: the travelling that has kept me away from my home and office for weeks and disturbed my engagement in the products and services. That is the reason I have decided to stop lecturing.

Tips section and YouTube channel
YouTube iconIn parallel with my teaching on advanced IT courses, I have recorded video demonstrations. They are published on the YouTube channel, and in the Tips section of the website, and they have proved very popular. I will certainly continue producing more such demos.

The YouTube channel has nearly 7000 subscribers when this is written. Even more people prefer the Tips section, where they not only find the demos but also step by step instructions and more info about the subject for the demo.
SharePoint Online from Scratch cover           Excel 2016 from Scratch cover
Since last year I have published two books in Kindle and paperback format: Excel 2016 from Scratch and SharePoint Online from Scratch. They have sold well, so it is evident that there is a demand for these kind of books that start with the very basics but also include information for advanced users.

It is my ambition to write more books, and the next ones will probably be about the SharePoint features Flow and Power Apps. They are both new Microsoft products, and so far there is very little documentation on them out there.
Kate Kalmstrom image             Rituka Rimza image
Clever assistants
I am not doing everything on my own. Valuable help is given by my mother Kate Kalmström and by Rituka Rimza at the office in Indore, India. They edit my demos and books and write the Tips pages, and without them none of it would have been as good as it is.

I look forward to concentrate more at the work I do from home, but I will still travel to meet customers and hold workshops when requested. These are part of the Services, and I surely don't want to miss them.

To stop lecturing has not been an easy decision, but now when it is taken I feel confident that sticking to online education will make my work with the SharePoint and Outlook products more focused and still satisfy my teaching vein!

By Peter Kalmström
CEO and Systems Designer Business Solutions

22 June 2016

Study Manager for SharePoint V2 Released

Study Manager banner Last week I told you about the new features in Study Manager V2, and today I am happy to announce that the new version of our tuition solution for SharePoint has been released.

SharePoint learning management system
Many teachers and instructors create their own study material. With Study Manager they can present such material in a structured way in SharePoint, and a group of teachers can collaborate around a subject and give students a set of exercises with self correcting tasks. They can also see statistics on each student's progress.

Image task type, test option, show answer
As I wrote about the new Study Manager features in the earlier blog post, I will not repeat that description here. On the website you can find a lot of documentation on Study Manager, like manual, slideshow and video demonstrations. Below is a video version of the slideshow.

Instead of talking about the new features once more, I will mention one of our services: installation assistance.

The development of  Study Manager V2 has been sponsored. A sponsorship gives the sponsor the requested features at a low cost, because takes on part of the development cost. In return we get a better product to sell, so a sponsorship is a win-win for both parties.

12 installations
Most products have standard fees for one installation, but at sponsorships and multiple installations we set the fee for each customer, depending on the requirements. In this case the sponsor wanted 12 installations, so that each subject could have its own Study Manager site collection.

You may of course ask for an installation quote even if you don't sponsor development. We know exactly how to do, so we can install our products much faster than anyone who is new to it. Time is money, so you might very well gain from it!

Free upgrades are always included in the download iconSubscriptions, and we recommend current users to upgrade Study Manager. There are only four steps to perform, and they are of course listed on the Study Manager upgrade page.

Try Study Manager
Do you want to create a SharePoint learning center? Do your students want to study from home, or are they in another location? Study Manager is suitable for schools, businesses, yes, any organization that uses SharePoint and needs to educate students or employees. download icon You are welcome to try Study Manager for 30 days without any costs or obligations. Install Study Manager in a new SharePoint site collection, and it will become a center for learning, cooperation and discussion.

By Peter Kalmström
CEO and Systems Designer Business Solutions

13 June 2016

SharePoint Study Manager V2 With Test Option

Study Manager for SharePoint logotype We are currently developing version 2 of our learning platform for SharePoint, and today I can give you a glimpse of the new features. The release will hopefully come later this month.

Teacher controlled self-studies
Study Manager gives teachers, instructors and trainers a platform where they can create and manage self study material – texts, sound, images, videos, links – in SharePoint. Many standard SharePoint and Office 365 features are used, so Study Manager is easy to learn and work with ‒ or as a teacher in a subscribing organization expressed it: "All students, also those who are not used to computers, can work with the exercises, as Study Manager is so easy to use."

Get the right answer or not?
The students work online with exercises that contain various tasks to solve. When one task is solved, they click on a Next button to reach the next task of that exercise. By default, the next task is not displayed until the current one has been solved correctly. When a student fails at the first attempt, Study Manager automatically gives hints to help the student to solve the task and continue with the exercise.

In version 2 we will give the teachers two more options. For each task they can opt to give the correct answer after three failures, and for each exercise they can opt to let students continue with the next task even if the answer is wrong.

When an exercise is set to allow students to continue through all tasks without seeing the correct answer until the exercise is finished, Study Manager can be used for testing and evaluation.

Study Manager also gives teachers and students statistics on their progress, and teachers can see how much time each student has spent to perform a task and how many attempts were needed to solve it.

Exercises and tasks can be updated quickly, so if something turns out to be not optimal teachers can correct it without delay.
Study Manager for SharePoint Exercise
Task types
Version 2 of Study Manager will have seven different task types. This diversity makes work more interesting for the students, as each exercise can have various kinds of tasks. The task types span from self correcting tasks like multiple choice to work with documents.

Connect with image
One of the task types is new: "Connect with image". It shows the students two columns, one with images and one with text. The task is to drag and drop the right text to each image.

The teacher who creates a "Connect with image" task just have to give image links and words or phrases in the correct order. Then Study Manager will randomize how the text is shown to the students. Study Manager will also give the images a suitable size.

Subscriber suggestions
All these enhancements have been suggested by subscribers, and we are grateful for all input from people who really use our products. You are the ones who know best what is needed. We are the ones who can figure out how it should be implemented!

Peter Kalmström
CEO and Systems Designer Business Solutions

03 June 2016

Outlook HelpDesk With Kanban, Month And Pie Views

Folder HelpDesk logo Folder HelpDesk for Outlook V14 has been released! The new version can visualize support tickets in three colorful HTML views: kanban board, month and pie chart.

Mature add-in
Folder HelpDesk for Outlook was one of my first Outlook add-ins, created for a Swedish company more than 15 years ago. Soon after that I made Folder HelpDesk a standard product, and today companies and organizations all over the world use Folder HelpDesk to keep track of issues and support cases.

Tickets list in Outlook
Folder HelpDesk has a lot of useful features and can be highly customized, but the base is the ticket list in Outlook. When you install Folder HelpDeskin a shared mailbox or public folder, a team can cooperate on the tickets. These are created directly by team members, converted from e-mails or fetched from a web form. The demo below gives a general introduction to Folder HelpDesk.

Multiple views
Users can see the tickets in various ways. They can group the tickets by one of the ticket parameters, for example Caller, Responsible or Status, and have colorful overviews in the kanban, month or pie chart views.

The Month view can be displayed as a timeline or as a calendar. The image above shows the timeline. Both the timeline and the calendar show the tickets as time slots from start to due date, and the slots are color coded by either incident type or responsible.
Folder HelpDesk for Outlook Month view

In the Pie view, each incident type is represented by a pie chart, and each slice shows a status value. The size of the slice depends on how many tickets have this incident type and status.
Folder HelpDesk for Outlook Pie view
In the kanban view the tickets are displayed as color coded cards on a kanban board, where each status value is visualized as a phase. The tickets can be dragged and dropped from one phase to another, and the status value will be changed automatically. If you have added a custom field to the ticket form, the tickets can be grouped in lanes by this custom parameter.

Kanban Task Manager features
Kanban Task Manager for SharePoint logotypeSome of my readers have probably recognized the new views in Folder HelpDesk, because they are nearly the same as in Kanban Task Manager. Thus the developers did not have to "invent the wheel" again, as they could reuse much of the code from our project and task management solution for Outlook and SharePoint.

Upgrade upgrade iconSubscribers are welcome to upgrade Folder HelpDesk without any extra costs, and I recommend you to do it. The new views will give users an enhanced experience when working with Folder HelpDesk.

Try Folder HelpDesk download icon If you need a good issue tracking tool for Outlook and Exchange, I recommend you to download and try Folder HelpDesk . Please contact us if you have questions. Your e-mail will be well received!

Peter Kalmström
CEO and Systems Designer Business Solutions