6. Project Reports
The research projects running during the year from 1st August 2010 to 31st July 2011 include both longer term projects some of which have had long histories and a varied group of new projects. Some of the new projects were short pilot projects while others were more substantial.
- CUD implementation 2
- Evaluation tool
- Listening for Impact
- Nexus Exchange and SharePoint
- OER Impact Study
- Rave in Context
The funders for these projects included JISC, joint JISC and other funding agencies, ESRC, and the European Commission. Two European projects, CLARIN and DARIAH were moved over to OeRC as they had a better fit with their research profile, although work with Europeana is being done within this department.
The direct costs from grant income from external funders were approximately £790,932 and the overheads on these £325,028 making the research income of £1,115,960 for the year. This figure will be increased by additional funding under FEC.
A series of bids were made to organisations which were not successful, which would have added additional income although it should be remembered that it was always unlikely that all these bids would be accepted. Several of these bids have been re-used and have subsequently been funded. The bids also involve staff within OUCS, and their current workloads impose a limit on the amount of additional work that can be taken on. The policy of widening the range of funders outlined in the OUCS Research Strategy has meant that more funders have been approached, but several of these bids have been unsuccessful, although some were shortlisted. Developing further expertise in applications for these funders may result in higher success rates. This wider group of funders have included the Technology Strategy Board, AHRC, EPSRC, combined JISC and other research council bids and the EU.
In this short JISC-funded project, OUCS, in collaboration with JM Consulting, looked at the considerable problem of how to properly cost IT services as part of JISC's Flexible Services Delivery Programme. Through a series of interviews and desktop analyses a toolkit was produced that applied the principles of TRAC (Transparent Approach to Costing) to IT. TRAC is widely used and understood by academics (if not universally liked) and thus seemed the appropriate model to apply. We produced a generic toolkit that took users through a step-by-step approach to applying TRAC to IT services, and then road-tested this on three services within OUCS (WebLearn, HFS, and the help desk) and an Exchange instantiation in a college.
The results were interesting. Firstly it revealed that the existing way we cost IT services within OUCS is good, but could possibly be modified slightly. Secondly that if we fully employed TRAC by including all central overheads, the true cost of a service would be a lot higher. Combined, this resulted in three levels of costings - our current way of doing things, a partial employment of TRAC, a a full employment. Most importantly it revealed the difficulties in costing IT services due to the interdependencies across them.
The Core User Directory (CUD) stores and releases data about people who have a relationship to the University. CUD harvests, matches and reconciles data from many University sources. Some of the data held is released to registered CUD data consumers according to the attribute release policies set by the data controllers.
The Core User Directory implementation project commenced in January 2011. CUD is now in an early adopter phase prior to transition to full service in June 2012. The following primary data providers are supplying regular feeds to the CUD:
There are 4 Colleges and 3 Departments scheduled to be provisioned as CUD data consumers during Michaelmas 2012. For more information or to apply for the early adopter programme contact firstname.lastname@example.org
The project aims to help members of the collegiate University employ best practice within information security. This is achieved by consolidating existing University policies on information security into one document and developing an online toolkit to compliment the new policy. The project receives valuable technical expertise from the OxCERT team and is guided by the ICTF's Information Security Advisory Group.
The project is progressing well and is now 12 months into its 18 month schedule. A new policy on Information Security has been drafted by the Information Security Advisory Group in consultation with Legal Services, Council Secretariat and the ISBP team. The policy was recently approved by the PRAC ICT Sub-committee. The ISBP team are now working with Council Secretariat to finalise the wording and begin the process of submitting it to Council. The latest draft of the policy is available at: http://www.oucs.ox.ac.uk/network/security/ISBP/ispolicy.xml
The ISBP team are also developing an online toolkit which will support the new policy. The toolkit will be a resource for everyone. It will provide suggested technical solutions and example policies to help units of the collegiate University follow the new policy. The toolkit's progress can be seen at: http://www.oucs.ox.ac.uk/network/security/ISBP/toolkit/
The aim of this project was to migrate the Nexus services from Exchange 2007 and SharePoint 2007 to the equivalent 2010 platforms. SharePoint was successfully migrated to SharePoint 2010. The Exchange upgrade was moved to a subsequent project, the Nexus Exchange 2010 Upgrade (Phase 2) project, due to deliver in Hilary Term 2012.
- long term savings on storage infrastructure
- to cement utility in a central groupware service available to all members of the collegiate University
- management (back end benefits)
- cross-browser compatibility and general performance
The SharePoint service was upgraded to SharePoint 2010 and taken live (available to all members of the University). The service is supported by a set of documentation (within SharePoint itself) and courses are now delivered termly by ITLP at OUCS. As well as a good deal of Oxford-specific documentation, a Service Level Description, Governance Policy and Acceptable Use Policy are in place. Templates and good practice exemplars for Committee Sites were produced and it is envisaged that this approach will be continued.
Due to issues relating to cost, complexity of implementation, and problems with our existing storage, a 'phase 2' project was agreed by the University. This includes a large contribution from Hewlett Packard and most Exchange 2010 deliverables will be forthcoming under that project. A large amount of ground work regarding storage and implementation options for Exchange 2010 was completed, paving the way for a successful transition to Exchange 2010 in the next reporting year 2011/12.
- investigate and implement some features within WebLearn and Nexus that allow users to easily transfer data from one to the other (e.g. to support existing workflows)
- investigate and implement available technology to manage any overlapping or shared functionality for the benefit of users
- (initially) build up requirements to clarify the scope of the above two objectives.
- develop demonstrators for an iterative approach of requirements and design with active users.
- help to clarify to users how these two systems can be used together most productively as part of teaching, learning and research
- Research into requests from users regarding integration functionality
- Follow-up requirements gathering via interviews with such users
- Technical research into the feasibility of development in various areas to enable integration
- Consultation carried out at events including WebLearn User Group, Groupware Programme Development Panel and the SharePoint Early Adopters Show and Tell, in order to test out exemplar use cases
- Use cases developed with local champions, who are currently using WebLearn
- Exemplar of first functionality: that of Outlook users picking up read-only copies of their WebLearn calendars
- Development begun on iCal event notification output from WebLearn which can be loaded into Nexus calendars
- Some groundwork begun on preparations for the later work on workflow design
6.6.1. Sir Louie - System for Integrating Reading Lists within the Oxford University Information Environment.
This project enhanced both WebLearn and the University's library search interface SOLO, (based on Ex-libris Primo,) to provide a much improved experience for both students and lecturers in the area of reading lists. The improvements targeted the searching of library catalogues and the displaying availability information with a reading list.
The work undertaken here enables the SOLO search interface to be invoked from within WebLearn's reading list tool and be used to find items to be sent back to the VLE for automatic inclusion in the reading list. The data is transferred using the standard OpenURL encoding.
In addition, the project developed a method of augmenting all reading lists with real-time availability information of books and journal articles when viewed in WebLearn. The means that the reading list contains links to 'full text' versions of journal articles and a list of (Oxford University) libraries where the item can be found.
This kind of integration between Oxford's VLE and Library systems was formally requested of the University by the Oxford University Student's Union (OUSU) in order that students can save valuable time when dealing with their reading lists.
The tool works in conjunction with a course or module database known as DAISY which is being developed by the Social Sciences Division with help from MPLS. DAISY currently contains over 350 graduate training courses; the MPLS Graduate Academic Programme started using the system in Michaelmas Term 2010, and Social Sciences will use it for their doctoral training programme and related masters' training from 2011-12 onwards.
All available courses can be browsed via the SES tool within WebLearn and students are allowed to request a place on one or more courses. The request is passed along to the course administrator who can either reject the application or accept it in which case the student's supervisor is contacted and asked to give their blessing. If a student is accepted then they will receive a confirmation email. DAISY will take care of inter-departmental billing but this facility is not operational this academic year.
The 'student' interface presents a hierarchy of divisions and departments and the courses that are offered (see screen-shot). This can be browsed or all courses can be searched; both course title and description are searched. Students can also see a list of current, upcoming and past courses but as WebLearn does not collect attendance data, this list has no official status.
There are interfaces for course administrators and supervisors, these show a list of course requests and the current status of the application. It is also possible to bulk register students; this facility is typically used by the host department to pre-register their own students before advertising to others.
The GTimes project was designed to meet the needs of the MPLS and Social Sciences Division and produced a basic system to manage the enrolment of students in graduate training programmes being provided across both divisions.
- Enhance functionality for the existing users: students, academic staff, and administrators
- Develop the inter-operability of the system, to enable data to be transferred to other systems, and to enable the WebLearn front-end to interact with other databases should that be required in the future
- To provide for the particular needs of the Humanities and Medical Sciences Divisions, so that all divisions can adopt the SES as their enrolment tool for suitable training and teaching
- To provide for most of these needs from Michaelmas Term 2011, until such time as the needs are fulfilled as part of the Student Systems replacement project
- To document the technical requirements and processes of phases I and II, to provide a blueprint, based on the experiences of both phases, for a future Student Enrolment System as part of the Student Systems replacement project
The University Shared Data Centre is the first general-purpose period, the data centre construction phase was finished (end of January) and the space handed over to OUCS to transform from a shell to a fully operational data centre by August 2011.
The data centre is now complete and ready to house IT equipment from across the University in any of the 34 cabinets that have initially been provisioned. Equipment housed in the data centre benefits from the enterprise-class resilience, including dual power feeds, dual power protection systems (UPS) and redundant environmental control systems. The data centre is also a highly secure space, designed to be operated 24/7 unmanned. It features biometric access control for entry to the room and each cabinet of computer equipment is individually protected by proximity reader lock systems. This is combined with a full CCTV setup and audit logging so every access is recorded – knowing who came in, who went out, what they did and when, within the data centre.
The data centre was designed holistically with the building - trading heat with the other occupied spaces. This green philosophy has continued in the fit out of the data centre space with the physical separation of hot and cold air and extensive environmental monitoring. This should enable the data centre to meet its 70% efficiency design target when fully occupied. For reference, the current OUCS data centre is about 50% efficient and small server rooms can be worse.
Built upon the physical foundations of the data centre, OUCS is also building a private cloud for use by the University. This allows both IT service providers and researchers access to infrastructure (servers and storage) on demand. The heavily virtualized platform drives up equipment utilisation providing more computing power for each unit of energy supplied – in line with the green ideals of the data centre. This platform is in development and is partly aligned with the VIDaaS Project.
Both these elements form the start of a set of Shared Infrastructure Services for the University. These cost-recovered services allow the University to benefit from pooling resources and expertise in infrastructure; whilst still maintaining local services supplied by IT staff at the most appropriate part of the institution.
The following are a selection of case studies on InfoDev projects looking at work done on a service (Oxford Text Archive), developing new IT infrastructure (Linked Open Data), research support (William Godwin's Diary), and external advice (UWIC: MSWord-to-XCRI).
This year was a momentous one for the Oxford Text Archive (OTA), one of InfoDev's oldest projects, marked by the retirement of Lou Burnard, who founded the OTA in 1976, and was the driving force behind it for the decades which followed. Lou's initiative to promote the sharing and reuse of scholarly electronic texts was well ahead of its time and has played an important role in shaping the digital research environments of today.
The OTA continued to be heavily and widely used with 17,992 downloads of resources from the OTA last year, a healthy continuation with only a very small dip from last years's 18,183, with users right across the globe, representing a wide range of academic disciplines, as well as language learners, independent scholars and other interested members of the public. We welcomed the deposit this year of the VU Amsterdam Metaphor Corpus, the result of a significant research project into the nature and distribution of metaphor across various text types in contemporary English. Numerous other text and corpus creation projects which have received advice and support from InfoDev are nearing completion, and we look forward to the deposit of their outputs in the near future.
InfoDev and OTA staff taught a course on corpus linguistics in Hilary term, as well as running a campus-wide special interest group for those interested in creating, using electronic data in linguistic research. We also coordinate and manage licensing linguistic data from other archives and providers for use in the University, helping to get maximum value for money from licences and promoting sharing and collaboration across department - more information on the OTA website.
The OTA was in receipt of funding from JISC for the Discovering Babel project, as part of the 'Infrastructure for Resource Discovery' programme, allowing us to carry out technical enhancements to make it easier for users to find and identify resources, and to facilitate interaction with research infrastructures, and the knowledge and expertise achieved will be shared with the community.
The OTA also worked closely with projects in the Oxford e-Research Centre, such as the CLARIN, which are conducting research and development work into technologies and architectures for building research infrastructure.
The distribution and management of the British National Corpus also came under the remit of the Oxford Text Archive in 2010. Sales of licences for the British National Corpus (BNC) also continued at a healthy level, with 125 sales of the full licence, 42 for the BNC Baby, and ongoing sales via the agent in Japan, Shogakukan.
OxPoints aims to provide full and accurate geolinking information for aspects of the University of Oxford. The OxPoints dataset consists of names, postal addresses, web addresses and co-ordinates (latitude and longitude) for all the departments, colleges and other buildings or units of the University, and much more, along with some of the relationships between them.
OUCS has recently released its OxPoints dataset under the Creative Commons Zero license. This allows others to use and remix the data for any purpose with absolutely no restrictions. We hope that this will encourage greater reuse and integration both within the University and beyond as a common source for such data. There are currently about 1,900 objects geo-located within OxPoints, with each resource containing information not only about its location but supplementary metadata on its relationships to the various aspects of the University, what units might occupy that building, photographs, etc. With the introduction of an web-based OxPoints Editor, ITSS and other nominated individuals can keep data up-to-date in an easy manner. For more information about OxPoints see http://oxpoints.oucs.ox.ac.uk/.
The OpenMeters project was a collaboration with the Estates Department to publish energy consumption information as linked data to aid awareness of the University's environmental sustainability responsibilities. The graph visualizations of this are now available for any similar meter whose data is stored in the data.ox repository.
InfoDev is also working with other parts of the University, including the Bodleian Libraries to ease the publication of linked open data. Much of this information is being made available through a single linked data repository, http://data.ox.ac.uk. We are slowly adding more datasets to data.ox.ac.uk and are increasing the number of example visualizations and documentation. If you have a dataset you are interested in making freely available contact InfoDev at: email@example.com
The William Godwin's Diary project has transcribed, edited, and annotated 48 years of William Godwin's diary from 1788-1836. The diary is a resource of immense importance to researchers of history, politics, literature, and women's studies. It maps the radical intellectual and political life of the late eighteenth and early nineteenth centuries, as well as providing extensive evidence on publishing relations, conversational coteries, artistic circles and theatrical productions over the same period.
One can also trace the developing relationships of one of the most important families in British literature, Godwin's own, which included his wife Mary Wollstonecraft (1759-1797), their daughter Mary Shelley (1797-1851) and his son-in-law Percy Bysshe Shelley (1792-1822). Many of the most important figures in this period of British cultural history feature in its pages, including Anna Barbauld, Samuel Taylor Coleridge, Charles James Fox, William Hazlitt, Thomas Holcroft, Elizabeth Inchbald, Charles and Mary Lamb, Mary Robinson, Richard Brinsley Sheridan, William Wordsworth, and many others. The resource, which includes complete images and detailed full-text transcriptions, is freely available at http://godwindiary.bodleian.ox.ac.uk/
OUCS's InfoDev team was involved in planning the funding bid for the project, helped specify the technical components of the bid and assisted in specifying technical solutions that were both appropriate and feasible. This was a collaborative inter-departmental project between Politics, OUCS and the Bodleian. The bid was successful in receiving funding from the Leverhulme Trust.
One of the appropriate technologies for marking up such texts are the Guidelines of the Text Encoding Initiative. TEI P5 XML is a de facto standard for the encoding of digital text which over the last couple decades the University of Oxford has become international leaders in the support and development in their role as a TEI Consortium host. Two members of InfoDev are fortunate enough to be elected members of the TEI Technical Council and so help to shape the ongoing developments of this important set of recommendations. The InfoDev team provided a couple days training to the project both in a subset of the TEI Guidelines customised for the project's specific needs, as well as a version control system called Subversion. This latter technology allowed InfoDev and all of the project staff to collaborative and simultaneously edit the files in different locations while storing all previous revisions.
Throughout the life of the project the InfoDev team was on hand to provide technical advice and support. This ranged from guidance on the use of TEI P5 XML, further constraints or modification of their customisation of the TEI, and a wide range of other forms of support. It has proved invaluable to the project to include in the original bid a level of ongoing consultation for the duration of the project.
The InfoDev team implemented the website based on the needs and directions of the project. This involved the installation and customisation of the eXist native XML database that powers the site, the construction of a wide range of queries to extract data, building a zooming image browser, creation of analytical tools, and implementation of the website itself. The team also liaised with the Bodleian who host the site on behalf of the project. These tasks formed a work-package which the project was not able to undertake and out-sourcing it to InfoDev left them free to concentrate on the task of detailed editing of the diary.
The InfoDev team has helped the project use sustainable methods for the construction of the digital edition and provided preservation copies of the materials for long-term storage in the Oxford Text Archive. All the images, texts, and other materials are freely licensed with a Creative Commons Attribution Non-Commercial license which makes them immediately available for further scholarly research across the globe.
The InfoDev team provided advice to the University of Wales Institute, Cardiff, on methods for converting course summaries from MS Word into XCRI-CAP format. As a component of this work, we also assessed the quality of sample output from the MS Word-to-XCRI convertor being developed for JISC by the Musket Project at Middlesex University. Although the planned work did not go ahead, the knowledge and experience gained is being factored into an upcoming JISC bid to provide XCRI course data from our data.ox.ac.uk platform.
The Intute is a free online gateway to internet sites which have been reviewed by subject experts and provided as an easy-to-use and up-to-date reference point for students, teachers and researchers in UK Higher Education. The service stopped in July 2010 as funding for the project was withdrawn by JISC.
The Arts and Humanities section of Intute was led by the University of Oxford with staff at Oxford, Manchester Metropolitan University, and the University of the Arts, London. The service was primarily funded by the JISC. As there was some under spend on the project account a new project ARCH was proposed but this was not agreed until redundancy payments had been completed and it started in September 2011. The University of Manchester continued to maintain the resource catalogue until the end of July 2011, whilst other Intute services such as the Virtual Training Suites and Informs were funded until July 2011. Although the Intute catalogue will be maintained in its current state until 2011, no new content will be added. Many UK universities have integrated Intute into their websites, and the Intute integration tools continued to work throughout the 2010/2011 academic year, although detailed technical support is no longer available.
The ARCH project will develop a community interface to allow a community of academics, researchers and librarians to continue using and updating the calalogue, it will create demonstrators for an academic Wikipedia and for a virtual museum/house structure to house the collection and it will encourage community involvement as well as producing guidelines and information on suitable software and tools.
CLAROS is an international research collaboration using modern computing technologies to enable simultaneous searching of major collections of cultural heritage material in university research institutes and museums. It is led from Oxford (Classics, OeRC, Zoology, OUCS, Engineering Science, and Ashmolean Museum), with partners in France, Germany, and Greece.
The Fell Fund have supported work for CLAROS at OUCS which is creating a geolocation co-reference service, to link disparate data together by means of common place names, and links those place names to standard gazetteers and locations. This Metamorphoses project started in October 2010 and runs to October 2012. This work is delivering the mapping and geosearching component of CLAROS.
The team have also contributed to the development and stablisation of the main CLAROS system, which was formally launch in May 2011 by the Chancellor of the University. At that point, CLAROS exposed more than 20 million records (RDF triples) from five geographically different European content providers, fully interoperable and mapped to CIDOC CRM - an ontology standard which was created for the International Council of Museums and is now becoming widely accepted in the cultural heritage and archaeology fields.
Many software works and pieces of electronic content generated within UK HE institutions are currently left undistributed because they do not fit into familiar sustainability or exploitation models. In this way many opportunities for advertising the expertise of UK Higher Educational institutions are being missed, along with their associated opportunities for consultancy, bespoke additional development or generation of value through reuse in the public and private sectors. OUCS has many years experience of advising academics and knowledge transfer staff across the sector on open licensing and where and when it is appropriate. The JISC-funded, OUCS-based advisory project OSS Watch has been supporting the sector since 2003, and the OpenSpires and Ripple projects have successfully made a business case for the release of open content by Oxford and are in the process of transferring that knowledge and experience to other academic institutions. This project aims synthesise the knowledge gained from these projects and to help unlock the potential of undistributed assets by providing the web-based tools knowledge transfer professionals need to drive open innovation.
In the LDSE project six institutions  are collaborating on an intelligent online tool that will allow lecturers to experiment with innovative approaches to the curriculum and the creative possibilities opened up by digital technologies. During 2010-2011 we worked on a fully featured prototype application called The Learning Designer. We have evaluated this application in walkthroughs and workshops with over 30 academic staff and learning technologists, including members of the LTG. These have explored the extent to which The Learning Designer supports design at different levels (module and session); the role that it might play in the professional development of early-career lecturers; and the value to teachers of generic learning design 'patterns' that separate the form of a design from its function and thus, in principle, can be more readily transferred across disciplines.
Members of the Oxford-based team have been active in disseminating the research findings from the project, including three presentations and a workshop at conferences in Oxford, Nottingham, Manchester and Toronto, and a promotional video about the project. We have also contributed to events organised by the umbrella TLRP-TEL programme. An article by Liz Masterman and Marion Manton, 'Teachers' perspectives on digital tools for pedagogic planning and design', covering the LDSE project as well as the earlier Phoebe project, was published in Technology, Pedagogy and Education, vol 20., no. 2, July 2011.
The project received permission for a three-month extension until the end of November 2011, to allow further opportunities for evaluation of the tool's intelligent component which we hope will lay the ground for applications for follow-on funding.
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. Using only a web browser, users assemble model components, run interactive simulations of their models, and analyse the results. All of this is tied together within a Web 2.0 community where models, components, guides, and tutorials are shared.
- Together with the Zoology Department, we developed an online guide for biology students to build models of epidemics that spread over social networks. The students built different models of epidemics, executed the models, and collected results in a single practical session.
- Together with the Said Business School we developed an online guide for building and studying an artificial society called Sugarscape. MBA students and MSc students with no programming experience built a series of models in from the book Growing Artificial Societies by Joshua M. Epstein and Robert Axtell. The students' understanding of the process of computer modelling was deepened by having a first-hand experience building models.
- We have run both introductory and advanced agent-based modelling courses open to the University and designed a customone-day course for Anthropology. We co-organised university-wide meetings on agent-based modelling.
- We have closely collaborated with the Explaining Religion Project members in the design and construction of a model of the dynamics of divergent modes of religiosity. We co-authored a journal paper on this work.
- We have provided support and training to Professor Cindy Skach in her efforts to build a model of the possible dynamics resulting from a ban on wearing Burkas in public. Together we wrote a pending proposal to the ESRC on enabling domain experts to build models of the Arab spring rebellions.
- We have had meetings with many other Oxford University researchers to provide guidance in building agent-based models.
- We built upon our web-based tools an Epidemic Game Maker and displayed it at the Royal Society Summer Science Exhibition in collaboration with the Zoology Department. This software permitted visitors to build models and games (models with interactive interventions to counteract the epidemic) in just a few minutes. During the exhibition over a thousand epidemic models and games were created by visitors that ranged from Royal Society Fellows to young children.
Between October 2010 and March 2011, with the support of funding from the JISC's Digitisation and eContent programme, the Listening for Impact project studied user engagement and impact of the University of Oxford's podcasting activities. The project adopted a dual approach to studying impact, employing both user surveying and web-log analysis. In addition to these activities, the project team also examined alternative methods of promoting the University's podcasting output.
- Oxford podcasts are popular globally and that their popularity is still growing
- Oxford podcasts benefit both current students and external learners and teachers
- The University's participation in Apple's iTunes U programme brings large quantities of traffic, and that analysis of that traffic is made significantly harder by its size
- 15% of accesses to Oxford podcasts come directly from mobile devices
- Promotion via Twitter is non-trivial
- Tools within the Virtual Learning Environment(WebLearn) were adapted to better integrate podcasts
- The Oxford podcasts web portal was altered to incorporate better search and individual landing pages for each podcast series
The OER Impact Study was conducted between November 2010 and June 2011 by a joint team from the LTG and TALL. Its remit was to investigate University lecturers' and students' use of open education resources (OER), and to inform the higher education community of the current impact of OER from the perspective of use rather than production. Specifically, we addressed the following questions:
- What benefits can OER offer to educators and learners in HE in the UK?
- What are the pedagogic, attitudinal, logistical and strategic factors conducive to uptake and sustained practice in the use of OER; conversely, what are the impediments?
We collected qualitative data from a total of ten participants with strategic responsibility for OER, 25 participants in teaching roles and 17 students. In addition, quantitative data were collected from 101 searches undertaken during two workshops that investigated the reality of searching for, locating and evaluating online resources.
- Enabling resources to be seamlessly integrated into students' learning environments
- Saving teachers effort, through enabling them to offer their students learning materials and TEL activities where they lack the skills or the means to create these themselves
- Benchmarking their own practice in terms of content, approach and general quality
- Enabling them to teach topics that lie outside their current expertise
- Stimulating networking and collaboration among teachers
Students demonstrated little awareness of OER; nevertheless, it is clear that they appreciate the 'walled garden' of online resources provided by their teachers, particularly as these tend to be more up to date than printed matter. However, reluctance to make work they produce for assessment available on the Web suggests the need for caution in undertaking initiatives for student-generated OER.
- Factors conducive to uptake include relevance of content and fit to the lecturer's current purpose; granularity (a preference for individual images, short audio or video clips, or readings rather than complete lessons or sequences of lessons); and rich media resources accompanied by transcriptions.
- A positive disposition towards the reuse and sharing of learning resources, together with an essentially collaborative outlook, are essential prerequisites for teachers' uptake of OER. However, teachers lay great emphasis on the authenticity of their personal 'teaching voice'.
- Lack of a critical mass in some subject areas, inadequate search engines and the requirement to register with a site before downloading a resource can all act as obstacles to engagement with OER.
- Universities can foster networks of OER users through, inter alia, implementing an institution-wide strategy to consistency in OER use, or identifying teachers who already voluntarily use OER and co-opting them into a more organised strategy for diffusion.
Open Spires, was a one-year project funded by the JISC and HEA which finished at the beginning of this reporting period. It was a successful initiative to establish a sustainable set of policies and workflows that would allow departments from across the University of Oxford to engage with releasing teaching material online as open content for global educational reuse. The project focused on audio-visual recordings and supporting resources as this had an existing cost-effective content creation process. The success of the project was due to a clear workflow process for department support staff to follow which minimised academic support time. Positive feedback of usage of the material by leaners for the material was tracked and collated by the Listening for Impact project. A steady stream of positive feedback has encouraged the academics involved and helped with the impact agenda of their departmental activities.
- Hundreds of audio and video podcasts released as open educational resources (OER) for re-use and repurposing under a Creative Commons licence
- A standardised licence for all podcasting activities at Oxford making open release an easy option
- A sustainable workflow embedded within current institutional working practices so that material could continue to be released as OER in the future
- 8 complete Oxford lecture series
- 30 sets of research seminars, interviews, conferences, presentations and panels
- All material is free to download by anyone, without restrictions or registration.
- All material is clearly labelled with the popular Creative Commons licence.
- All material can be discovered through all University distribution channels including the web, iTunesU, the Oxford VLE and the mobile portal http://m.ox.ac.uk.
Open Spires continues to have a sustainable and significant impact with over a third of all podcasts now labeled with a Creative Commons licence that allows the material to be reused in education worldwide. The Open Spires work has led to two further initiatives – Triton working with the department of Politics and International Relations, and Ripple working with two local universities to study the benefits of releasing open educational resources.
Ripple has 'made a difference' and brought our partners to a state of readiness for more widespread OER release: 'it has given us huge confidence at this end… The name of the project is very apt – it is like throwing a stone into the pond and seeing the ripples bouncing back and forth… Many more ripples have gone out than I can name here…"
"We were right not to think of it as a project to produce OER, but to stimulate the process. The value lies in direct influence on infrastructure and processes… The project has accelerated the pace of development both on workflows and infrastructure for wider scale release of OER… The main way has been learning from others – a range of experts through the workshops who have been through this process – not only Oxford but also the Open University, Coventry, etc."
Promoting the sharing of good practice and staff training was seen as the key project engagement activity – 'The Ripple Effect' – and it reached a large number of staff. The collaborations and working alliances that have been developed through Ripple will last beyond the life of the project.
The Ripple project was a successful initiative to support two partner institutions, enabling them to explore the issues, processes and policies for open educational resources (OER) release. Using a workshop-based approach involving a broad range of experts and enthusiasts Ripple provided the opportunity to engage in wider partnerships, empowering participants to develop their own vision. The project did not develop a service, a task which will be handed over to an operational team.
- Five workshops successfully delivered covering key aspects of OER release
- Unique reusable OER training resources from workshops released for the benefit of the wider community:
- Four instructional videos released in an OER toolkit for reuse and remixing
- 15 collections released as OER by our partner institutions
The aim of the Triton project was to bring high-quality open educational resources (OER) closer to the politics and international relations subject community through new tools developed around a cross-institutional blog http://politicsinspires.org. By 'discovering' hundreds of open materials and linking these to new scholarly politics articles, the new site presents a wealth of learning resources for the subject community and the wider public audience.
OER resources are often hidden from the casual internet search and the project has assessed how easy it is to use various OER aggregators to compile thematic sets of material. These thematic sets are continually updated ('dynamic') and are categorised so they can be linked to any relevant site resource.
- Dynamic collections – building directories of OER material that can be displayed in a variety of topic-based collections. These collections are dynamically harvested from major OER aggregators and have community tools to rate material. Subject specialists can easily create new collections and these are automatically populated with online resources of different media types (learning packages, blog posts, audio, video and images).
- Learning path creator – a new bookmarking tool allows registered users to bookmark in their browser any online resource and deposit this within the blog framework. This bookmark approach quickly builds new groups of quality-controlled, curated OER which provide a structured list or learning pathway around a thematic topic.
- Tools and support resources - have been developed to improve the OER experience within the open source WordPress blogging environment including support for cataloguing, ingest of OER, image search and export to standalone documents. These tools have been openly released so that other subject areas can leverage this user-friendly environment for engaging with OER and disseminating new works.
The blog site developed as part of this project http://politicsinspires.org has been handed over to the Department of Politics and International Relations who will continue to maintain and develop it.
https://sites.google.com/site/jiscopentochange/ (working document as of Sep 2011)
- By improving the efficiency with which existing services are delivered. Many groups around the University have already started initiatives in this area, for instance, replacing old PCs with more efficient models, turning off idle PCs, virtualising web services when possible, and re-housing servers in more efficient data centres.
- By enabling staff and students to meet without traveling e.g. using digital communication technologies in place of taking a flight
There are many other technologies being developed to make the way we currently go about our lives more efficient  but improved efficiency does not necessarily equate to carbon reduction. As Jevons and later Khazzoom  pointed out there are many examples where efficiency leads to increased consumption.
The Open to Change project is making internet tools that fall within a relatively new field of research termed persuasive computing . Our goal is to show how finite resources can be re-represented and presented as common goods that groups strive to preserve. This short project is focused on reducing institutional electricity consumption (a key resource in the University's carbon reduction strategy because electricity is still predominantly made by burning coal.
Our approach is to publish electricity meter data online and to work with IT support staff to create compelling visualisations of the data. We aim to stimulate innovation by creating a web interface that employs number of heuristics to inform design:
- represent electricity as a monthly quota
- show how a group is doing in real time with respect to the quota
- represent any savings as real money
- provide tools that enable members of a group to vote on how savings are invested
- present a history of actions related to the groups energy-saving story
For more information about this project contact firstname.lastname@example.org
- For a comprehensive discussion about energy efficiency see Energy Policy (2000), volume 28, issues 6-7.
- See the Climate Group report for some examples: http://www.theclimategroup.org/publications/2008/6/19/smart2020-enabling-the-low-carbon-economy-in-the-information-age/
The Rave in Context is a short development project funded by the JISC within its Research Infrastructure Programme. The project will build a new user interface for the popular eScience tool myExperiment. The new interface will focus on usability, accessibility and adaptability to user experience and device form factor.
Furthermore, the project is building a uniform search feature across myExperiment, Simal and OpenDOAR repositories in order to make it easier for researchers to learn how to use these research tools together. All user interface components will be released as reusable W3C Widgets, allowing features of myExperiment to be embedded in other widget enabled tools such as Drupal, Wordpress, Elgg and Moodle. We expect the ability to embed discrete units of myExperiment functionality in common dissemination tools will help myExperiment expand its user community.
Crowdsourcing and community contribution of user-generated content is gaining momentum in several contexts, including academia and government. From January 2010 – May 2011 RunCoCo was funded by the JISC e-Content Programme - Institutional Skills and Strategy (Strand A) to offer advice, training, and open-source software to those interested in running a community collection online. RunCoCo supported projects interested in the changing relationship between professional experts and 'citizen contributors' (outside of traditional academic life), and the value and enthusiasm that crowdsourcing can bring to creating new knowledge through new resources or the interpretation of existing collections. RunCoCo provided a fresh and critical overview of this digitisation and engagement strategy that other projects could adopt, with an insight into the usage, impact, and value within the UK HE environment and beyond.
The RunCoCo project team have played a key role in supporting and promoting this new way of working with the public for impact, outreach and engagement at home and abroad. The outputs of the project are available on the RunCoCo website for free. These include guides, workflows, reports, training materials and open source software. The lessons learned have been distilled into a chapter of the e-publication 'Content Clustering and Sustaining Digital Resources'. RunCoCo's activity meant that the Strategic Content Alliance (SCA) asked OUCS to become one of their affiliate partners.
On 26 May 2011, this series of events culminated with the latest in the annual LTG 'Beyond' / 'Shock' conferences: Beyond Collections: Crowdsourcing for public engagement. A RunCoCo Conference, at the University of Oxford. Material from the events, including slides, handouts and video and audio recordings, can be found at the RunCoCo website. Some positive feedback from the RunCoCo events:
'A very practical day with well informed and enthusiastic speakers.'
'...it was a great event, inspiring but realistic...'
'V. inspiring event - I have masses of ideas to take back and think about. Super networking opportunity - many great links...'
University community collection manager
RunCoCo based much of its work on experiences made in 2008 during the The Great War Archive project. The workflows and systems OUCS developed for the pilot community contributed collection initiative have been developed further and are now made freely available. A new iteration of the Community Contributed Collection (CoCoCo) Web Software as well as the RunCoCo guidelines were tested by Woruldhord - a project run by Dr Stuart Lee, (English Faculty and OUCS). The small Woruldhord team collected over 4,500 free educational resources for the teaching and study of the Anglo-Saxons and Old English contributed by about 400 people or institutions. The material is presented online using the CoCoCo software, and can be freely downloaded and re-used for educational purposes under a Creative Commons Licence (CC-BY-NC-SA) via the RunCoCo website.
In addition to answering email and telephone enquiries the RunCoCo project team met face-to-face with projects to offer advice. The project worked closely to advise the Europeana 1914-1918 project to extend the work of The Great War Archive across Europe (2011-2015). See the Europeana 1914-1918 entry for more details.
'It was very good to meet you [RunCoCo project manager] - thank you for so generously giving your time both to meet me and to take such a thorough look at what we are proposing. I have a feeling that some of these really great ideas could make the difference between success and failure...'
Senior Educational Technologist, University medical sciences department
The workflows and systems developed for The Great War Archive (an LTG pilot initiative from 2008) have been re-used in different contexts, and the RunCoCo project has made these freely available for future projects to use, re-use and build upon. Community collection software, developed by Oxford University, is available and the system has been adapted for use by others. In particular RunCoCo has advised the Europeana 1914-1918 project to extend the work of The Great War Archive across Europe.
- advising an unsuccessful bid called 'Your Europeana' for the EU programme ICT PSP Best Practice Network 2.2 Enhancing/aggregating content for Europeana, 2010;
- advising a Europeana project ('Erster Weltkrieg in Alltagsdokumenten - Europas virtuelles Gedächtnis – Europeana') in Germany (2011- ongoing);
- advising a successful bid called 'Europeana Awareness' for the EU programme called ICT PSP for 2011.
These activities have grown into Europeana 1914-1918 . As part of this work RunCoCo provided the German National Library and their partners with training, guides and instructions, the open source software, and expertise in digitisation, social networking (Twitter and Facebook) and community engagement, for the extremely successful initial activity in Germany (January-July 2011). The early reports from that collection are that attendance at public participation days was at least equivalent to the UK's interest in the Great War, but actual contributions on these days or uploads by the public to the website are significantly greater in Germany. In relation to the impact of this work we have taken a local, national and now international view for future work, seeing new Europe-wide opportunities for e-inclusion and digital literacy with The Great War Archive or Europeana 1914-1918 particularly in the run-up to 2014, and the centenary of the start of the First World War.
Taking forward our work in community collections and user-generated content, Project Woruldhord was an exemplar project as part of the RunCoCo wider initiative. Working with representatives from several faculties (English, Modern History, Archaeology) this attempted to see how easy it would be to take the model and software developed by the Great War Archive, to create a publicly-generated collection of open educational resources for the teaching of Anglo-Saxon studies. We used the CoCoCo software (open source) and followed the guidelines of RunCoCo, and in the space of three months we had collected over 4,500 open educational resources from 400 contributors across the world (academics, students, public, amateur societies, museums, and libraries).
All this material is available free of charge for reuse by anyone under a Creative Commons licence. As an exemplar project, this proved its worth. More interestingly though it allowed us to refine our work in Community Collections, and has assisted with the next stage of projects we are undertaking (the Erster Weltkrieg project with the German National Library and Europeana, and What's the Score? with the Bodleian Library).
The JISC-funded Embedding Institutional Data Curation Services in Research (EIDCSR) Project ran from April 2009 until December 2010. Working with an interdisciplinary group of researchers, EIDCSR sought to develop and join up elements of research data infrastructure at various points of the data lifecycle by improving research data workflows. This was underpinned by the development of a broader University Data Management Policy.
EIDCSR worked with researchers from the Department of Physiology, Anatomy, and Genetics, the Department of Cardiovascular Medicine, and Computing Sciences, who were together involved in a BBSRC-funded project to create three-dimensional models of hearts which could then be used for in-silico experiments. The process of creating the 3D models involved taking extremely detailed photographs and MRI scans of hearts, and then segmenting these images and building 'mesh' files upon which experiments could be simulated. The data generated during the project was well in excess of 1 TB, presenting a significant challenge.
A particular concern of the project was to explore how the research data being generated could be securely preserved and documented in such a way as to enable future access and re-use. This was to be achieved by ensuring that the research data itself could be archived to and retrieved from the secure Hierarchical File Server (HFS) hosted by OUCS, whilst the descriptive metadata could be stored and searched in the Digital Asset Management System (DAMS) being developed by the Bodleian Libraries. Although EIDCSR worked with specific research groups, the intention of the project was that the resulting infrastructure could ultimately be extended to other research disciplines.
In addition to developing a pilot version of a data description and archiving client, EIDCSR developed 3D image data visualization software (which will be released in due course under an open-source software licence) and built a central University data management portal, to act as a one-stop-shop reference resource for researchers (http://www.admin.ox.ac.uk/rdm/).
The Project was funded under the JISC's Information Environment Programme.
The JISC-funded Supporting Data Management Infrastructure for the Humanities (Sudamih) Project ran from October 2009 to March 2011. It looked at the data management needs of researchers in the Humanities Division at Oxford, considering in particular how researchers manage their research data at present and how these practices could be improved, both by streamlining the research process itself and by making it easier to preserve and re-use research data outputs over the long term – an issue of increasing concern to research funding agencies and universities. The two main outputs of the project were a suite of training materials designed to be of direct benefit to humanities researchers, and the development of a pilot Database as a Service (DaaS) software tool.
The training materials developed during Sudamih consisted of slide packs intended for use in induction sessions, which outline the importance of good data management and direct new researchers to existing data management services at Oxford and elsewhere; course booklets (with practical hands-on exercises) for use in face-to-face training sessions; a data management factsheet and leaflet; and a number of short articles offering data management hints and tips or concerning particular software tools that can help researchers keep on top of their data.
These have been integrated with the Research Skills Toolkit developed and maintained by the IT Learning Programme (ITLP) team at OUCS. The training materials have all been trialled with researchers and were very well received. All of the major training outputs from the project are available from the 'Project outputs' page of the Sudamih website.
The pilot DaaS was successfully developed during the Sudamih Project and publicly demonstrated at the JISC conference. By the end of the project users could import existing databases into the DaaS, create and structure new databases from scratch using a purpose-built drag-and-drop graphical interface, add and edit data, and filter results. Further functionality and an improved user interface are now being implemented under the follow-on VIDaaS Project.
- the Researcher Requirements Report [pdf] , which details current data management practices in the humanities
- the benefits study [pdf] and the Training Business Case [pdf], which present an approach to costing the benefits of data management training
- final report [pdf] which highlights the lessons learnt during the project.
Besides the many humanities researchers who helped us better understand the needs of the departments or who participated in the training sessions and provided feedback, Sudamih worked in particular with the Oxford Roman Economy Project. The OxREP Project team helped inform the priorities for the DaaS and assisted with the benefits analysis stage of the project.
The Project was funded under the JISC's Managing Research Data Programme.
Virtual Infrastructure with Database as a Service (VIDaaS) is a project of two halves. The DaaS part will further develop the pilot software produced during the Sudamih Project, letting researchers build, edit, search, and share research databases online; the VI part involves the development of an infrastructure enabling the DaaS to be run within a cloud computing environment. Ultimately the DaaS software should be available across the UK HE sector, generating significant cost savings and facilitating data-driven research throughout the data life-cycle.
The DaaS will have a number of advantages over existing systems for researchers. It is an online service accessed via a web interface, so researchers can work on their data from any computer with an internet connection. Collaborating with other researchers will also be easier, as multiple editors can work on a single database. The system also enables existing databases to be imported and exported in common formats (such as Access), as well as making data publication and sharing straightforward. If a researcher wishes to share his or her research data with colleagues, or even the general public, they can open the data up with a click of a button. A simple generic search interface will enable anyone to query a database without needing to know a full query language. Because the DaaS will be provided as a central service, data can be securely backed up, and restored in the event of disasters.
During the VIDaaS Project, we will be looking at the costs and benefits of the DaaS and calculating the savings that might be gained by using it as a centrally-provided service. Besides the anticipated reduction in costs, adopting the DaaS will enable universities to keep better track of their data assets and potentially simplify technical support.
Significant user testing is planned during the lifetime of the project to ensure it meets actual user needs. The DaaS is being developed as open source software, and it is hoped that a developer community can be built around the software to continue development work and enhancements beyond the end of the project itself.
OUCS is working with VMware to build a suitable private cloud infrastructure at Oxford upon which the DaaS and other Software as a Service (SaaS) tools may be hosted. During the project we will also migrate the DaaS to the UK HE cloud being developed by Eduserv and work with Eduserv and the Digital Curation Centre to ensure long-term sustainability.
The VIDaaS Project is being funded under the HEFCE and JISC University Modernisation Fund Shared Services and the Cloud Programme.
The Text Encoding Initiative (TEI) Consortium is an international project creating detailed guidelines and XML schemata for the encoding of texts. Until December 2010 Oxford was one of the five host organizations of the Consortium, and provided editorial support to the development of the TEI Guidelines.
From 2011, the TEI Consortium no longer has formal hosts, but instead has ‘partners’, who undertake to support the Consortium and offer in-kind services. The University of Oxford was established as a partner, which is led from 2011 onwards by the Oxford e-Research Centre. Martin Wynne at OeRC is a member of the TEI Board of Directors, and represents Oxford's interests.
The TEI experts at OUCS have supported, actively participated in, and helped to implement the final decisions of, the TEI Technical Council (of which they are elected members) during 2010-11. They have taken a particular lead in work on the family of XSL stylesheets for processing TEI documents and helping to maintain the TEI's technical infrastructure.
The team have presented and taught TEI and related topics at a number of conferences and meetings around the world. A number of bespoke TEI-training workshops were taught for research projects within the University. They also organised a more general week-long Digital Humanities summer school with nearly 60 delegates in Oxford in July 2011, which included substantial coverage of TEI, and included teaching by staff from OUCS, OeRC, Bodley and OII.
Members of InfoDev, working as the RTS, have given advice and assistance on text encoding to Oxford University projects in History, Politics, English, Classics, Linguistics, Oriental Studies, and the Bodleian Library. Some best-effort advice has also been given to academic projects outside the University where deemed beneficial.
Using texts from the Oxford Text Archive and the Text Creation Partnership, staff at OUCS have considerably enhanced the conversion of TEI to ePub. With the help of a summer intern, Adam Obeng, successful experiments with multi-media and dynamic ePub versions of TEI texts were produced, and will form the basis of 2011-12 of work with Oxford teachers.
OSS Watch is a JISC-funded service. 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.
This year we have developed our support to open source projects into a more formal support plan structure, providing support on three levels. This work ranges from reactive support, consisting mostly of replying to queries, to full hands-on guidance on open development projects.
The more active support work has resulted in bringing together three major code bases from different institutions from the US and the Netherlands, who are now working together on one project called Apache Rave (Incubating). OSS Watch is bringing together partners from the UK academic community to engage with this project, reduce duplication of effort and profit from this co-development work which is built on the OpenSocial and W3C widget standards. OSS Watch also provide these hands-on support services to projects that specifically allocate funding for OSS Watch's involvement, which is the case with the DataFlow project, part of HEFCE's UMF programme.
This year saw the creation of a spin-out company from the OSS Watch services. Former OSS Watch manager Ross Gardler started OpenDirective with another OSS Watch alumnus Steve Lee. Working closely with OSS Watch, they engage the business sector for open source software projects where there is a clear business opportunity for the software being developed, thereby helping the longer term sustainability of the projects.
OSS Watch co-organised another successful edition of the TransferSummit conference which drew a wide range of attendees, both from the UK and around the world. With participants from the academic sector, the business sector and the public sector there were many interesting conversations and exchanges of experiences at the event, focussing on the collaborative development of software across all types of organisation through the adoption of open innovation techniques.
In the next year, we plan to publish further high quality briefing notes, conference reports, and case studies covering issues such as sustainable open source development, community management and engagement, and IPR management. We will also focus more on the procurement of open source solutions, helping institutions evaluate open source alternatives when procuring software systems.
Furthermore, we are developing training sessions on relevant topics like the legal aspects of open source and the in-house developed software sustainability maturity model. We are also engaging with HM Government to help them engage with open source suppliers and assist them in their process of levelling the playing field for open source. These activities are indicative of OSS Watch starting to develop more into a competency centre on open source, looking for opportunities to make our knowledge and expertise on open source available to a wider audience.
UCISA, the Universities and Colleges Information Systems Association, is a membership organisation representing those responsible for delivering information management systems and technology services in universities, colleges and other institutions. UCISA is hosted by OUCS.
UCISA membership is institutional and there is almost 100% coverage within the higher education sector. UCISA's main aims are to promote best practice through events, awards, and publications. UCISA represents the interests of its members through lobbying, responding to consultations, building relationships with other groups, and by contributing to various committees and working parties.
UCISA ran 22 events last year. These ranged from one-day seminars on, for example, shared services, cloud computing, and managing the IT help desk to conferences for directors of information services, heads of corporate information systems and user support staff.
Resources produced by UCISA include a briefing paper on cloud computing aimed at non-technical senior managers, case studies on wireless provision, and a methodology for assessing the impact of the loss of key IT services.
During 2010-11 UCISA represented the community in discussions with a number of Government departments and agencies. The implementation of the points-based immigration system continued to be a key topic during the year, with UCISA championing the interests of higher and further education institutions, as well as suppliers of student records systems.
UCISA responded to a number of consultations on behalf of the community including the proposals for changes to information published by institutions (and the resulting Key Information Set). UCISA submitted evidence to the Department of Culture, Media and Sport's inquiry into the Digital Economy Act. The inquiry has been suspended in the light of ongoing court action concerning the provisions of the Act.
UCISA carried out a survey to canvass views on options for the funding of the JANET network and to explore the potential impact of an increased charge for the network. Subsequently, a position paper was circulated to highlight UCISA members' belief that JANET should be protected as an essential element of the sector's teaching and research infrastructure. These views were reiterated in UCISA's formal response to HEFCE's review of the JISC (the Wilson review).