11. Meeting Strategic Objectives VI: Academic and Student Services

This section is of direct relevance to OUCS as it focuses on service provision. We have already noted earlier that a key priority of OUCS is to maintain its core service provision and to expand (wherever possible). Here we look at specific targets for the next five years.

With reference initially to the Corporate Plan, sections §101 and §102 outline some key objectives for OUCS:

Corporate Plan Objectives Comment
Assist in the development of the University's ICT Strategy This is now complete. If the ICT Strategic Plan is ratified, OUCS will be heavily involved in its implementation.
Contributing towards the establishment of a common computing environment (now termed the ‘enhanced computing environment’) OUCS is assisting in this project (aka the ECE project) and this is now being led by a team separate to OUCS, the ICT Support Team.
Develop and support high quality infrastructure services (especially the network backbone, e-mail, web servers, backup, security, and training) Ongoing — see specific objectives below.
Developing new services Ongoing — see specific objectives below.
Improving network connection Ongoing — see specific objectives below. This will also be facilitated by the agreement to fund an extra post in the Network Support Team from 2007-2010.
Working on wireless and mobile access, Ongoing — though unless there is more central funding for hardware, OUCS's role can only be to give advice to departments. This will also be facilitated by the agreement to fund an extra post in the Network Support Team from 2007-2010.
Working in a federated environment with the distributed IT Staff Ongoing. OUCS will also be working closely with the proposed ICT Forum (a new association of University IT Staff).
Foster effective use of IT in all disciplines Ongoing, especially through our Learning Technologies Group and Research Technologies Service (see above, 6 and 7).
Provide training and tailored courses Ongoing. OUCS courses currently attract over 13,000 attendees per annum.
Support and promote the Virtual Learning Environment Ongoing. Funding for the development has now been secured until 2010.
Develop reusable and centralised e-learning resources Ongoing. Focus has also shifted to repositories to hold this material.
Promote research e-infrastructure (VREs, escience, etc) Ongoing, see especially section 6 above.

In addition there is an overriding need to make sure that developments in these areas, and others, meet the needs of academics and students (§104, §105, and IIf), facilitating bottom-up developments, and form a coherent structure. To do this OUCS has set up a central client relations team, and a series of formal and informal links with colleges and departments via our OUCS Reps system.

Undoubtedly over the next five years the landscape of IT will change dramatically. We constantly strive to be aware of the changes in underlying technology, the changes in the demographic of the user, and the changes in the patterns of use. We note, for example, the rise in IT literacy across staff and students, and at the same time an integration of computing technology and access to information across a range of easy-to-use devices (such as the new generation of mobile phones). OUCS will aim to be in a position to tap into these new opportunities, but also recognises that this may shift the balance of IT support from user help to areas such as integration and interoperability.

In terms of underlying hardware we recognise the demands for wireless technology, roving access, and mobile learning. With the advent of the FroDo project, and the new network potential coming with SuperJanet 5, the University is in an excellent position to take forward all of this provided sufficient funding is made available. Changes are also taking place with telecoms, and OUCS (now in charge of Telecoms) is monitoring the progress of such initiatives as Voice over IP.

Specifically therefore, over the next five years OUCS plans to do the actions listed in the next section12. These will be the responsibility of several groups across the department; notably the Information and Support Group which contains the Information Systems team, Registration Services, the Research Technologies Services, and the IT Support Staff Service; the Infrastructure Group which includes Networks, System Development, Telecoms, and the HFS; our Technical Support Services, which contains our Network Systems and Services Team (NSMS); and our Learning Technologies Group, in charge of training, the VLE, and e-learning research and development.

All of the following specifically target VIc and VId of the Corporate Plan.

Information Support

[See also section 6 Research]

  • Continue to run a shared information environment for use of IT Support Staff (the ITSS wiki), as well as developing secure delegated services aiming to enhance the facilities available to IT support staff across the collegiate University. Target date: Ongoing.
  • Explain, promote, and support good practice in web site management for the University. Target date: Ongoing.
  • Promote TEI XML markup as a preferred archival format for digital texts in the University, by providing support, training and tools. Target date: Ongoing.
  • Test the use of the Ubuntu desktop system, using a prototype LINUX system. Help Centre provision is being evaluated against this in the wider context of the ECE. Target date: June 07.
  • Introduce web-based CMS for OUCS intranet. Target date: September 2007.
  • Investigate and, if appropriate, implement a further integration of OUCS's front of house services. Target date: April 07.

Infrastructure

  • Upgrade the University's backbone network. Target date: 08-09. Estimated cost: £1m13.
  • Continue the roll-out of the FroDo project, and promote guidelines for the Oxford Wireless service (OWL).
  • Seek University funding to promote the use of mobile access, via handheld devices and wireless technology. Target dates: 07-10. Estimated cost: £1.5m set-up; £150k recurrent cost.
  • Investigate and support the introduction of Internet Protocol Version 6. Target date: Ongoing.
  • Begin to eliminate the use of clear-text passwords, and migrate users to more secure systems. Target date: 08.
  • Plan and migrate University telecom systems to Voice over IP (VoIP). Target date: 09. Estimated cost: £3m.
  • Increase phase 2 of the storage and backup for the Herald mail facilities. Target date: 07. Estimated cost: £400k (money already received due to in-year PRAC grant).
  • Continue to develop and roll-out facilities authentication and authorisation services. Particular emphasis here is on the promotion of the Single Sign-on system, and development of registry services in collaboration with BSP.
  • Run and enhance HFS backup services by:
    - Upgrading drives.
    - Add SAN storage capacity.
    - Replace p650 servers.
  • Ensure resilience and security of the data on the HFS by acquiring a second tape library (with drives) in a separate location.
    * Replace the automated tape library, now ten years old.
  • Departmental backup servers might need to be unified. Target dates: 07-10. Estimated costs: £1.8m
  • Invest in a University filestore and repository system. Target dates: 07-10. Estimated costs: £2.7m.
  • Continue investigation into a Groupware solution. Finish analysis in 2007, with an aim to procurement/development of service in 2008.
  • Alongside the research projects into Shibboleth (noted in section 6), investigate, with the key personal data providers of the University, the development of a coherent, accurate, and timely Identity Management Service that will permit the provision of an effective Access Management service. Target dates: 07-08. Estimated cost: £220k.

Technology Support Services

  • Via our NSMS team, we will continue to provide IT Consultancy and Managed Services on a chargeable basis covering the following support areas:
    • - Auditing of IT facilities and requirements
    • - Consultancy on IT services and support
    • - Windows, Linux, Apple and NetWare server management services
    • - Firewall management services
    • - Webserver management services
    • - Research project support service
    • - Windows and Macintosh workstation support
    • - IT staff holiday cover
    • - Emergency cover support
    • - Exchange calendaring service

Learning Technologies

[See also section 7 ‘Learning and Teaching’]

  • Continue the development of the VLE system, bringing in new tools on a modular basis, linking up especially with such international projects as SAKAI. Target date: Ongoing.
  • Link the VLE to institutional-wide services wherever possible, such as ISIDORE.
  • Develop a Training Needs Analysis tool to point people at appropriate courses. Target date: 07.
  • Provide primer material to allow user awareness prior to attending courses. Target date: 07.

General Strategy

  • Assist in the development of the Enhanced Computing Environment by offering appropriate support to the new ICT Team and interface their activities with those in OUCS. Target date: Ongoing.
  • Assist in the implementation of the University's ICT Strategic Plan (if ratified). Target date: Ongoing.

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Notes
12.

It is also important to cross-refer this section with other key areas in this five-year plan, notably our strategies to facilitate research (section 6), and teaching and learning (section 7).

13.

Further details of some of the expenditure plans are also contained in Appendix A: OUCS 5-Year Plan: Major Capital Investments.