7. Project Reports
The department undertakes a wide range of projects. The purpose of these is to maintain and develop the IT services and infrastructure delivered for the collegiate University. They range from ‘proof-of-principle’ projects – for example EIDCSR (Embedding institutional data curation services in research), to projects to develop a pilot service – for example the Core User Directory, to projects which deliver full mission-critical services – for example Groupware. The vast majority of these are funded from outside the University.
This section summarises the OUCS projects that are currently underway; many link with earlier parts of the Annual Report. The Core User Directory (7.2) links with ‘Access Management Services’ (6.3); EIDCSR (7.3), eIUS (7.4), Erewhon (7.6) and Scoping Digital Repository Services (7.20) link with ‘Research Technologies Service’ (6.9); ISBP (7.9) and PGP (7.14) link with ‘IT Security’; LDSE (7.11), OpenSpires (7.15), Steeple (7.16), SACODEYL (7.19), Thema (7.21) and VLE Service Development (7.23) link with ‘ITLP’ (6.11).
The British National Corpus (BNC) is a major linguistic resource, developed at OUCS and widely used by language learners and teachers worldwide as a unique snapshot of British English at the end of the 20th century.
During the year 2008-9, distribution of the BNC and of BNC-baby has continued stable, with about 250 new licences sold worldwide. The number of support queries handled has also remained fairly steady, varying between 10 and 30 a month. There have been two upgrades to the software, but no change in the corpus itself, access to which is now also available from several other sites on the Internet.
In April Lou Burnard gave an invited keynote speech on using the corpus in second language learning at the Taiwan National University of Technology.
The Core User Directory (CUD) Project, operating under the aegis of ODIT, is developing a pilot directory service, aiming to make available a minimal set of attributes and a unique identifier for any individual who has a defined relationship with the University. The work of the project is directed by the CUD Working Party, with representation from across the collegiate University.
- a data reconciliation service, which can be used to link data attributes concerning the same person but held in different data stores;
- a data provision service, which provides a useful subset of all the information known about a person directly from the CUD;
- a foreign key service, allowing data providers to store pointers to their own data within the CUD for use by others.
The CUD pilot implementation consolidates and reconciles personal data dynamically from five major central data sources: the University Card database, the Oracle Student System, the OUCS Registration database, Staff Records, and University Telecomms. As proof of concept, the CUD also includes data feeds provided by two University departments (DPAG and Earth Sciences), and by a college (New). All the data is refreshed daily.
The usability of the system was evaluated against a range of use cases, proposed when the project was initiated. The final report on the pilot (available from http://www.ict.ox.ac.uk/odit/projects/coreuser/Pilot/finalReport.xml) describes the conduct of the project in more detail and proposes a successor service to continue it in the future.
The EIDCSR project is funded by the JISC from April 2009 until September 2010 and builds on the work undertaken as part of the ‘Scoping Digital Repository Services for Research Data Management’ project. The project aims to scope and address the research data management and curation requirements of two collaborating research groups in the University of Oxford that generate and share data.
The project is an intra-institutional collaboration led by OUCS that brings together the Cardio Mechano-Electric Feedback Group, the Computational Biology Group, OULS, OeRC, and Research Services. IBM are also contributing to the project.
The e-Infrastructure Use Cases and Service Usage Models (eIUS) project operated from 1 April 2007 to 31 July 2009. The project documented, though use cases and videos, how e-infrastructure is being used to facilitate research across a variety of subject areas. In total, sixteen subject areas including archaeology, bioinfomatics, electrical engineering, and organic chemistry have been documented with experience reports, use cases and short videos.
The overall methodology employed by the eIUS Project was designed to capture authentic examples of e-infrastructure usage. The use cases serve to demonstrate the ‘normality’ of using advanced IT within research, by anonymising the scenarios and focussing on the processes rather than the technologies per se. The eIUS videos are intended as ‘research trailers’ lasting from 3-5 minutes, viewable online via a dedicated youTube channel, and provide a visual means of engaging researchers with the possibilities offered by e-infrastructure.
Both the use cases and the videos proved to be attractive outputs for the participants in the project and the methodology, especially for the creation of use cases, was used by other projects within the lifetime of the eIUS Project. The creation of authentic ‘stories’ the substance of which can be traced back to experience reports (in turn derived from interviews) is a viable means of engaging with different communities, especially in order to give recognisable form to the unfamiliar.
The project outputs, including a detailed final report, are available from the eIUS Website. The project was one of three projects funded by the JISC within its Community Engagement strand and was undertaken in partnership with the National Centre for e-Social Science (NCeSS) in Manchester.
OUCS is a project partner on the EU-funded project ENRICH. RTS staff working on this are Lou Burnard, James Cummings, and Sebastian Rahtz, with assistance from Elizabeth Solopova in the Bodleian.
The objective of the ENRICH project is to create a base for the European digital library of cultural heritage (manuscript, incunabula, early printed books, archival papers etc.) by integration of existing but scattered electronic content within the Manuscriptorium digital library.
- completing the profile of the Text Encoding Initiative schema, with documentation and training materials;
- running a workshop at Oxford in July 2009, with a day concentrating on manuscript description;
- specifying how to work with non-Unicode characters and setting up a TEI glyph metadata repository;
- working with the University of Poznan on a generic web service to manage conversions between different formats (eg Word to TEI XML, Master XML to TEI XML, etc).
The final project meeting was in November 2009.
- implementation of a geolocation data model, syndication interface, and API for organisational resources;
- provision of location-aware applications;
- adaptation of selected Sakai tools for use on relevant mobile devices;
- guidelines on effective use of mobile devices in UK HE/FE.
- created a new data model for geolocating resources, implemented using an RDF triple store with a web service front end (this software is hosted on Sourceforge at http://gaboto.sf.net);
- converted and enhanced all the material previously collected by the OXPOINTS experiment at OUCS, and added information about new datatypes (libraries, carparks, rooms, etc);
- provided a consistent and efficient API for applications to query the data and retrieve JSON or RDF feeds;
- searching contact lists, and access to common phone numbers;
- location-aware map display of a wide variety of objects (libraries, museums, post boxes, etc), using the OXPOINTS data and other sources, including Open Streetmap;
- search of the library catalogue;
- live data feeds from local bus companies;
- webcam display from Oxford traffic hotspots.
Erewhon has a staffing of 3 FTE within Information Services at OUCS.
Groupware is software that helps users to work collaboratively within groups, and includes: email, on-line calendar, shared documents, workflows, web pages, shared contact lists and on-line collaborative tools.
The importance of a Groupware solution for the collegiate University was identified in the 2005 onwards IT Strategic Plan (http://www.ict.ox.ac.uk/strategy/plan/plan.xml?ID=S5). The Director of IT was asked by the University to establish the requirements for a Groupware solution for the collegiate University, and to coordinate the deployment of the subsequent Groupware service. By June 2008 a selection panel drawn from across the collegiate university had decided that Microsoft Exchange and Sharepoint could offer the best route for establishing a service. By January 2009 the PRAC ICT sub-committee had approved the design of a dual-site resilient system and the project was handed to OUCS to implement.
A high priority throughout the Groupware exercise has been to engage the collegiate University and to make all processes, documentation and decisions accessible. (Full documentation is available at: http://www.ict.ox.ac.uk/odit/projects/groupware/.) Throughout the project a Project Board representing the wider university has been determining the strategic objectives for the project.
The system design included maximum redundancy and resilience. Space was procured at Begbroke Science Park to provide a dual site failover capability, with some machinery being placed at the Churchill Hospital to allow for automatic detection of system or power failure and allow a complete handover to the site which is still running. Equipment was procured with the help of the Purchasing Office through a reverse tendering offer, taking into account the total cost of ownership of the system over a prolonged period. Additional capacity for the HFS service was purchased to provide a regular backup system once the likely capacity was determined.
An extensive programme to determine which facilities could be migrated from Herald to Nexus established that there was no way of holding Flags or Tags from the old system. In addition certain cases were established where migration would fail due to discrepancies between the systems – for instance the old system being case sensitive while the new system was case insensitive. Extensive communication with users and IT Support Staff enabled many users to rectify potential problems in advance of their migration.
Discussions were held with units who currently host their own mail servers with a view to assisting them to migrate to Nexus at a time convenient to them and their users. Extensive consultation with IT Support Staff established the most convenient windows to migrate their users with regard to other activities.
Extensive testing was undertaken with a wide range of email clients, and documentation written to enable all to interact with the new system. Full online documentation explains the system functionality and a FAQ allows users to assist themselves when problems arise. A wide-ranging Traing Plan was produced enabling multiple paths to training including online material, videos, Oxford user specific documentation and face-to-face briefings.
In June 2009 beta-tester mailboxes users were migrated across from Herald to ensure an efficient process and check for real-world problems and estimate time to provision users. The system became a supported service on 16 July 2009, when OUCS migrated as the first department, with selected volunteers from around the university the following week.
Intute is a free online gateway to the best websites for students, teachers, and researchers in UK higher education. It employs a distributed network of subject experts to find and review websites appropriate for academic use, which may then be searched and browsed via the website or searched via a Z39.50 server.
Intute: Arts and Humanities is led by the University of Oxford with staff at Oxford, Manchester Metropolitan University, and the University of the Arts London. The service is primarily funded by the JISC.
The most significant development in the services over the last year was the relaunch of the website in July 2009. The new site presents a more integrated service structure and a cleaner interface. Whilst previously each of the four subject groups had their own home page, the emphasis is now upon presenting the entire catalogue to the users as an integrated whole. The front page provides an entry into nineteen broad subject areas, such as the ‘humanities’, ‘modern languages and area studies’, and the ‘creative and performing arts’. Each broad section allows the user to drill down into specific disciplines, sub-disciplines, and topics of study. The metadata behind the service has been standardised and streamlined, and features such as the subject-specific virtual training suites have been updated and redesigned.
Other highlights of the year 2008-2009 included:
- Creating two ‘Critical Thinking’ tutorials to help develop students' academic and digital literacy skills;
- Producing eight new or updated Virtual Training Suites, for American Studies, Archaeology, History, Modern Languages, Performing Arts, Philosophy, Photography, and Religious Studies;
- Recruiting several new cataloguers to support modern languages;
- Adding to the catalogue new records for materials deposited with the former AHDS;
- Offering internet research training to students at the University of Oxford and beyond, via various workshops and presentations;
- Publishing a journal article on fostering the effective use of Web resources;
- Integrating the Arts and Humanities Group's modern languages and area studies catalogue with the Social Science Group's overlapping European studies catalogue;
- 7,284 records reviewed and updated; 3,481 new resources added to the database.
The ISBP activity was governed by the ICT Forum's Information Security Advisory Group (http://www.ictf.ox.ac.uk/siaags.html), supported by the Office of the Director of IT and OUCS, and endorsed by the PRAC ICT Sub-committee (PICT).
The ICT Forum's Information Security Advisory Group was tasked with producing a Self-Assessment Questionnaire, which asked units to assess their own approach to Information Security against a set of best practice recommendations: http://www.ict.ox.ac.uk/odit/projects/ISBP/selfassess/questionnaire.pdf. The questionnaire was based on the two policy documents written by the Office of the Director of IT: Conditions for Connection (http://www.ict.ox.ac.uk/odit/ITgovernance/conditionsforconnection.xml) and Security of Information (http://www.ict.ox.ac.uk/odit/ITgovernance/securityofinformation.xml). These documents complemented reports produced by the University’s Internal Auditors. They address the issues relating to effective and secure operation of services across a devolved ICT infrastructure (such as exists within the collegiate University).
The questionnaire was designed to help units within the University to assess their approach to IT management, security and operations. Returns were received from 60 units: 18 Colleges and Halls, 32 Departments/Faculties and 10 Central Service providers and Museums. Each of these units will receive a confidential report based on the answers provided, to help that unit identify its strengths and weaknesses. (Information provided remains confidential and is anonymised within the reports.)
An individual report shows a unit’s responses as compared with the responses of similar units (e.g. Colleges and Halls, Departments/Faculties or Central Service providers and Museums) The report focuses on areas where further resources may need allocating and is intended to be the first step in helping units to identify and deploy such resources.
When the self-assessment exercise began, the Director of IT committed to supporting units that identify where resources are required. The extent of that support is dependant upon the resources made available from PICT. The possibility of this follow up support was brought before PICT at its meeting in Michaelmas term 2009); PICT were supportive of a follow up activity which gave further support to units. The Budget Sub-committee have therefore been asked to consider funding in this area whilst PICT considers the appropriate framework for the follow up activity.
http://www.oucs.ox.ac.uk/greenit/index.xml?ID=desktop (detailed information about the service at Oxford); http://projects.oucs.ox.ac.uk/lowcarbonict/ (public project website)
- Develop a production-level institutional wake on LAN service
- Develop a prototype desktop power management monitoring service
- Host two open-invite conferences on the theme of green computing
- Conduct further research into low-carbon ICT (see eg paper by Noble, Curtis and Tang: http://www.educause.edu/EDUCAUSE+Quarterly/EDUCAUSEQuarterlyMagazineVolum/GreenDesktopComputingattheUniv/182037)
The final event organised by the team – Keeping IT Clean – was held at Said Business School in May 2009. It brought together experts from Higher and Further Education to discuss how educational organisations can reduce IT-related greenhouse gas emissions. This event built on a conference held in the previous year to stimulate discussion on the practical measures that can be taken to build ICT services that both reduce carbon dioxide emissions and mitigate the effects that higher energy prices have on our institutions.
During the course of the low-carbon ICT project, the team developed tools and techniques to reduce energy consumption and costs in networked desktop computing environments. By installing a ‘FiDo’ server software, IT support staff can plug into two new services:
The power management monitoring service (PMM) plots a graph of how many computers are switched on at any moment; as the expression goes, ‘if you can’t measure it, you can’t manage it’. This facility helps groups to see how many devices are consuming electricity during the day and night, which in turn supports the objective of reducing the number of devices that are switched on when they are not doing useful work.
At the time of the 2008 conference it was policy or simply common practice for most departments and colleges to leave desktop computers switched on all the time. This need no longer be the case: the tools developed through the project allow desktop computers to be powered down when not in use with, importantly, no inconvenience to the user nor to their IT support teams.
The Learning Design Support Environment (LDSE) project began in September 2008. Funded by the ESRC/EPSRC’s TLRP-TEL programme, it builds on previous research into ways to support learning design, including the Phoebe Pedagogy Planner tool developed by the LTG and TALL. Specifically, the project is researching and designing an online environment that will allow lecturers in HE to experiment with innovative approaches to the curriculum and the creative possibilities opened up by digital technologies. The aim is to make it easier – and more appealing – for them to draw inspiration from good practice by other teachers and to gain access to the fruits of research into teaching and learning. The conceptual design of the LDSE is underpinned by a model of online collaborative learning, with teachers developing their practice through reflection, discussion and sharing of ideas and materials within and across institutions.
OSS Watch is a JISC-funded innovation support centre. We provide advice, guidance and support to UK Further and Higher Education wishing to engage with open source software development and use. OSS Watch has been hosted by OUCS since its inception in 2003.
- producing content on issues relating to open source software;
- development support for open source projects;
- community engagement in open source projects;
- technology transfer guidance for institutions;
This year saw the introduction of strategic projects, which receive additional support from the OSS Watch team. This has been highly successful with, for example, the OpenCast community receiving grant funding from the Mellon Foundation and Wookie, from the University of Bolton, being accepted into the Apache Software Foundations Incubator.
In the last year we have published many briefing notes, conference reports, and case studies covering issues such as sustainable open source development, community management and engagement, IPR management, and commercialisation of open source solutions.
OSS Watch have also been successful in securing funding from the European Commission to extend their reach into teaching open source development practices within higher and further education.
- Project development
- project bid support; face-to-face project consultations; telephone and/or email consultations; a conference on procuring open source at the institutional level; multiple workshops; and representation at many third-party events (both national and international).
- Knowledge transfer
- engaged with a significant number of institutions directly plus engagement with services such as JISC legal, and ISIS Innovation.
- Liason and collaboration
- assisted a number of education focused organisations in their engagement with open source development, use or exploitation (including Research Services in Oxford).
The Oxford Text Archive continues to collect, archive, preserve and distribute literary and linguistic resources in electronic form, providing repository services not only for researchers in Oxford, but nationally and internationally as well. As well as access to the archive, scholars within Oxford can also benefit from advice and support in the planning, creation, description and use of electronic resources. The OTA works within the Research Technologies Service to support research within Oxford, and also to investigate and build the research support infrastructure. The key initiative in which the OTA is currently involved is CLARIN, the major pan-European research infrastructure for language resources and technologies. The OTA's current workplan within the CLARIN framework involves building the technical underpinnings for large-scale collaborative research with the many diverse datasets and tools in repositories and across across Europe and beyond.
The OTA co-ordinates an informal network of people interested in working with linguistic corpora in Oxford, runs an OUCS course on methods in corpus linguistics in Hilary term, and also works closely with the Oxford e-Research Centre in developing research projects in the Humanities, in particular through the Digital Humanities at Oxford initiative. It is one of the key repository services within the emerging frameworks for research data management across the University. Through these numerous connections and ventures, the OTA seeks to constantly renew and revitalise its connections with research in the University, and ensure that it not only preserves the data in the archive, but makes its services relevant to the constantly evolving needs of scholarship in the digital age.
Following the progress report written in April 2008, a service level definition (SLD) detailing the conditions under which the trial should run was agreed with the Proctors in August 2008. Following the configuration of the server, an induction session was arranged at OUCS in October 2008 for IT support staff from the 4 volunteer units. With one unit dropping out on the day of the induction the numbers were reduced to 3 units taking part in the trial. Each unit was offered between 10-15 licences and, based on the induction session, the local ITSS were asked to assist with the rollout of the software within the unit. This would include assisting users with the installation process then providing local support to the end users. Support was provided on a best efforts basis to the IT support staff themselves. The ITSS taking part were asked to provide any results/feedback by the end of Hilary Term. Despite initial enthusiasm, the numbers of end users taking part in the trial has proved to be low with only 10 licences being used, in total, specifically for the exam papers project with an additional 7 licences being used internally for initial testing. Only the Faculty of Law provided a report at the end of the trial period. OUCS ran the PGP Universal Server for the management of policies and cryptographic keys.
The Units taking part and the number of users involved were therefore as follows:
Faculty of Law (4 licences)
Medical Sciences (4 licences)
Physics (2 licences)
This service is not currently being widely used, and decisions now need to be made on whether, and how, to offer the service. This could be solely for the use of exam papers in preparation, or it could be adopted by the Groupware programme in order to offer a more widely available encryption service. For the purposes of this trial the project is now complete and a full report will be posted to http://projects.oucs.ox.ac.uk/pgp/
In April 2008, the Learning Technologies Group received national funding from the JISC and HEA for OpenSpires, a one-year pilot project investigating the release of open educational resources.
The OpenSpires project will build upon the success of Oxford on iTunes U by releasing more audio and video material from Oxford as ‘Open Content’. This means that the material will be free to re-use and redistribute provided it is used non-commercially and the creator is attributed.
- increase the amount of audio and video content released from Oxford as Open Content Resources (OER);
- enable the University to investigate and disseminate the institutional implications of making some of this material available as ‘Open Content’
- making more high quality material openly available for teaching, learning and research;
- ensuring expert legal scrutiny - the complex licensing and IPR issues associated with Open Content will be overseen by Legal Services;
- improving support for colleagues in making informed choices for open content licensing and distribution.
On October 2008 the JISC agreed to support a collaborative project between the Universities of Oxford and Cambridge along with the Open University, to build on and disseminate their experiences of setting up a podcasting service for an institution. The overall aim of the project is to streamline processes involved in podcasting on an institutional scale and is largely a technical project. To that end, work packages have been created and distributed amongst the core partners on topics ranging from hardware and systems to legal policies and frameworks, institutional change, data aggregation systems, and more.
The success of the work has generated a wide community of UK HEI partners who are learning from and working with us to develop the project further. The project has also received further funding from the JISC to support a Benefits Realisation programme that is being led by the Cambridge partners. Within the next year, the initial project will have completed its objectives to document, report, and disseminate its findings and the BR programme should be reaching the end of its initial funding.
Reports, software and podcasts from the project are available at http://steeple.oucs.ox.ac.uk/
The Modelling4All Project is developing a web-based tool designed to support teachers, learners and researchers, including those with little or no programming experience, to build, share, and discuss computer models. From within a Web browser, users assemble model components. Biology students build models of epidemics that spread over social networks during a single lab session, Said Business School students build models of artificial economies. All of this is tied together within a Web 2.0 community. The project is funded by the Eduserv Foundation from August 2007 to July 2010.
On the 11th November 2008, the joint project between OUCS and the English Faculty went live – launching the web site of the First World War Poetry Digital Archive and the Great War Archive (http://www.oucs.ox.ac.uk/ww1lit). This was a two-year project funded by JISC (completing in March 2009) presenting free to the world, primary source material related to the poetry and history of the war for anyone to use. It also placed this in an historical context, and created a series of teaching tools. The project also created the Great War Archive which was an experiment in engaging the public in a University research project by contributing material they personally owned. Overall the site exposed over 12,000 objects consisting of digital images, audio, and video.
- created a great amount of interest in the concept of ‘community collections’ with benefits for outreach and widening participation, with Oxford seen now as one of the leading sites of expertise;
- in turn this has led to extra funding for 2009-2010 to promote and develop this concept across a range of subject areas;
- considerable expertise in using Web 2.0 technologies for increasing the impact of a research project and also for education. This has including work with community sites such as FlickR and Facebook, developing timelines using MIT’s SIMILE system, mashups with GoogleMaps, Mindmaps using Tuft’s VUE software, and podcasting;
- developed a system to allow projects to offer an annotated path facility through collections;
- developed a simple system for collecting contributions online;
- working with teachers and lecturers through two focused workshops to create online learning resources;
- furthered our expertise in digitization, collection management systems (ContentDM), metadata, federated searching (via WorldCat), costs of sustainability, project management, copyright and licensing, managing the media.
The project now moves into a new stage – entitled RunCoCo (Running a Community Collection) – funded by JISC, to train and promote people in seting up online contribution sites to engage the public.
The aim of this three-year project, which concluded on 31 September 2008, has been to develop an ICT-based system for the assisted compilation and open distribution of European teenagers’ talk in the context of language education. The project compiled spoken corpora for seven European languages and made these available in text, sound, and video format, together with language learning exercises based on the corpora. Tools, methods, and techniques developed for the project are also made available to facilitate future creation and use of similar corpus resources.
The project was supported by the European Commission within the Socrates/Minerva scheme (http://ec.europa.eu/education/programmes/socrates/minerva/index_en.html), bringing together researchers from seven European institutions, led by the University of Murcia, Spain. OUCS played an important part in designing the strategies and methods for the corpus collection, creation and annotation and also created the English component of the corpus as well as a portion of the English language learning material.
This scoping study was performed between January 2008 and March 2009 with the overall aim to scope the requirements for services to manage and curate research data generated at Oxford. The project interviewed researchers and service units across the university and organized three internal workshops. In addition to this, the project contributed to the UK Research Data Service feasibility study and the JISC funded DISC-UK DataShare project.
The project was led by the Digital Repositories Research Coordinator, based in the OeRC, who reported to the Head of Infrastructure Systems and Services, OUCS and the Keeper of Special Collections (Associate Director), Bodleian Library. The project was funded by the John Fell Fund through the ODIT.
The Thema project (1st March 2007 to 30th November 2008) investigated the experiences of taught Master’s students at Oxford University in 2007-8, with specific reference to the role of digital technologies in supporting their academic and social lives. The project conducted a longitudinal exploration of the holistic experience of 23 students in order to uncover their learning strategies, the relationship between personally-owned and institutionally-provided technologies, changes in their use of technology and their significant learning experiences. The primary outputs from the project were 11 narrative case studies, supplemented by two online surveys gathering data from a larger sample of students on the same programmes.
- students know when to “e-” and when not to “e-”, blending the affordances of tools and interactions in the online and real worlds, and recognising the special atmosphere engendered when students and lecturers are co-present in the classroom;
- students’ perception of their proficiency in their use of digital technologies may be at variance with the range of tools that they actually use and their curiosity in finding out what is available;
- postgraduate students consider social networks inappropriate environments for formal learning.
Thema was funded by the JISC Learner Experiences of E-learning programme.
Oxford is one of the four host organizations of the Text Encoding Initiative (TEI) Consortium, an international project creating detailed guidelines and XML schemata for the encoding of texts.
The editorial support team at Oxford (Lou Burnard, Sebastian Rahtz and James Cummings) have guided and implemented the decisions of the TEI Technical Council, and prepared releases of the TEI in November 2008, February 2009 and July 2009. These staff are also elected members of the TEI's Board of Directors (LB) and Technical Council (SR and LB).
Eight two- and three-day courses on the TEI were taught by one or more of the above in France, Ireland, Russia and Taiwan, and a week-long summer school with over 30 participants was offered in Oxford in July 2009.
Working through the RTS, staff have given assistance to University projects in History, Politics, English, and Classics, and to the Bodleian Library’s Shakespeare Quarto project. Arno Mittelbach and James Cummings created a new tool for comparing two editions of Holinshed's Chronicles, and Sebastian Rahtz worked with the CLAROS project to produce RDF against the CIDOC CRM for the Lexicon of Greek Personal Names.
Sebastian Rahtz and Arno Mittelbach worked from April 2008 to November 2008 with the central secretariat of the International Standards Organisation to define a TEI profile for authoring ISO standards, and developed tools for conversion to and from Microsoft Word 2007. This resulted in a successful proof of concept system demonstrated to other standards bodies, and a second stage pilot was commissioned for delivery in October 2009.
From August 2008 to July 2009, the VLE team has been developing two separate systems: the pilot WebLearn Beta service (based on the Sakai CLE) and, to a minimal extent, the current WebLearn service (based on Bodington VLE).
Enhancements to the current service have included a few bug fixes and user requests, as well as the introduction of new tools to allow content and user group information to be moved to the upcoming new service.
Enhancements to the pilot service have centred on configuration, adding functionality to replicate facilities already available in the current service, services to aid the interoperability between the old and new WebLearn services and adding features that have been requested during user pilots or are required due to the unique nature of Oxford University.
Examples of work undertaken include: the further development of the hierarchy service to support the devolved IT model used at Oxford; integration with the OUCS Oak LDAP “people” service; integration with the JISC’s Turnitin plagiarism detection service; basic integration with OLIS; secure https access; the introduction of a Tutorial Sign-up tool; the ability to restore deleted files; and general bug fixes and improvements.
There have also been a number of initiatives on the user support side. A formal ITLP training course called “WebLearn Fundamentals” has been developed and successfully run several times. Two sets of user guides have been produced covering the majority of new WebLearn’s tools. These are known as “Step-by-step” and “Least You Need to Know” guides. All the guidance and training is coordinated through a combination of the completely revamped WebLearn area of the OUCS website and the “WebLearn Guidance” site hosted in the new WebLearn service. The latter site also contains case studies, showcase sites and information about accessibility, copyright and plagiarism detection.
Throughout the pilot year approximately 40 units or individuals were involved in the WebLearn Beta pilot program. The pilots have been drawn from each of the four academic divisions and cover both graduate and undergraduate courses. The pilot year has been judged a great success and has provided valuable feedback to the central team.
The new WebLearn production service was formally launched by Dr Stuart Lee to an invited audience of senior University staff on 30th June 2009; this service comprises old and new WebLearn running in parallel and will last for a two years at which point the old WebLearn system will become read-only for a year before being decommissioned.
The Universities and Colleges Information Systems Association (UCISA) is hosted by OUCS. UCISA represents those responsible for delivering information systems and technology services in universities, colleges, and related institutions. UCISA’s main aims are to promote best practice amongst its members through events, awards, publications, and a network of contacts; and to represent the interests of its membership through lobbying, responding to consultations, relationships with other groups, and taking part in appropriate working groups and committees.
UCISA ran sixteen events last year. These ranged from one day seminars covering subjects as diverse as the implementation of the points based immigration system, supporting users with disabilities and electronic document and records management, to three multi-day conferences for directors of Information Services, heads of Corporate Information Services, and user support staff. The second leadership forum for heads of service was held in January.
UCISA published the results of its survey on technology enhanced learning in September 2008. The survey has been cited in publications by the Department for Innovation, Universities and Skills, HEFCE and the JISC.
UCISA represented the community in discussions with a number of Government departments and its agencies during 2008-09. The implementation of the points based immigration system was a key topic during the year with UCISA representing the interests of both the higher and further education institutions and suppliers of student records systems. Work on shared services has continued during the year continues to top the agenda with UCISA being represented on the HEFCE Shared Services Advisory Group and taking part in discussions with suppliers. UCISA is on the steering group of the MIAP (Managing Information Across Partners) Programme and has worked closely with the JISC on their Green ICT and Flexible Service Delivery programmes.
Finally, UCISA responded to a number of consultations on behalf of the community on various topics including HEFCE’s sustainability policy, the Digital Britain paper and the proposals for legislation for addressing illicit peer to peer filesharing (Department of Business, Innovation and Skills) and the Inquiry into Higher Education launched by John Denham.
XAIRA is a text searching program originally developed at OUCS for use with the British National Corpus (BNC) and subsequently revised as a general purpose open source XML search engine, usable on any corpus of well-formed XML documents.
At the end of this year, we announced a new stable release of the system. Version 1.25 fixes several outstanding issues and has been updated to work with the most recent versions of the underlying ICU and XERCES-C libraries.