Table of contents
- 1. A letter from the Director of IT
- 2. Introduction to Oxford University Computing Services (OUCS)
- 3. Executive Summary
- 4. Strategic Issues and Development
- 5. Review 2010-11
- 5.1. University Network
- 5.2. Identity and Access Management Services
- 5.3. Mirror Service
- 5.4. GNU/Linux Shell Server
- 5.5. Web Publishing Services
- 5.6. Network News
- 5.7. Wake-On-LAN
- 5.8. OxFile
- 5.9. Nexus Service
- 5.10. Hierarchical File Server
- 5.11. OxCERT
- 5.12. Help Centre
- 5.12.1. Help Desk
- 5.12.2. Computing Services Online Shop
- 5.12.3. Hardware Repairs and Upgrading. Apple Warranty Services.
- 5.13. Computer Hardware Breakdown Service
- 5.14. Registration Services
- 5.15. Information and Support Group Development Team (InfoDev)
- 5.16. InfoWeb
- 5.16.1. Web statistics
- 5.17. WebLearn (Virtual Learning Environment) Service
- 5.18. The IT Learning Programme (ITLP)
- 5.18.1. Summary of ITLP Activity
- 126.96.36.199. New Courses and Initiatives
- 5.18.2. Course Support Systems
- 5.18.3. Other Activities
- 5.18.1. Summary of ITLP Activity
- 5.19. Learning Technology Group Services
- 5.20. Software Licensing
- 5.21. OUCS Data Centre Operations
- 5.21.1. Printing Services
- 5.22. Network Systems Management Services
- 5.23. Mobile Oxford
- 5.24. WebEx
- 5.25. IT Support Staff Services (ITS3)
- 5.26. Marketing
- 5.27. Human Resources and Administration
- 5.28. Report on Open Source Contributions at OUCS
- 6. Project Reports
- 6.1. Research Projects and Research Funding
- 6.2. Flexible Services Delivery: Costing IT
- 6.3. The Core User Directory Implementation Project
- 6.4. Information Security Best Practice Project
- 6.5. Nexus projects
- 6.6. WebLearn Projects
- 6.7. The Shared Data Centre Project
- 6.8. InfoDev Projects
- 6.9. INTUTE – into ARCH project
- 6.10. CLAROS and Metamorphoses
- 6.11. Project Hagen
- 6.12. Learning Design Support Environment (LDSE)
- 6.13. Modelling4All
- 6.14. Open Education Projects
- 6.15. JISC Open to Change project
- 6.16. Rave in Context
- 6.17. RunCoCo: How to Run a Community Collection Online
- 6.18. Europeana 1914-1918
- 6.19. Woruldhord
- 6.20. Embedding Institutional Data Curation Services in Research (EIDCSR)
- 6.21. Supporting Data Management Infrastructure in the Humanities (Sudamih)
- 6.22. Virtual Infrastructure with Database as a Service (VIDaaS)
- 6.23. Text Encoding Initiative
- 6.24. OSS Watch
- 6.25. UCISA
The Oxford University Computing Services department embodies the themes of production quality delivery, innovation and cost-effectiveness. This annual report for 2010-2011 summarises and celebrates the continuing efforts by OUCS staff to deliver effective and efficient services, to support the evolving Information Technology needs of the collegiate University, and to innovate and to adjust to new and increasing demands. In fulfilling these objectives OUCS is grateful for the productive partnership it has with local IT staff across the collegiate University.
The year in review saw new IT services commissioned, new facilities built, year-on-year growth in demand, increased income from external funding agencies, and the start of a process to consolidate OUCS with two other central IT departments: Business Services and Projects and the ICT Support Team. From 1 January 2011 OUCS became part of University Administration and Services (UAS).
The University Shared Data Centre (USDC), constructed within the new Oxford Molecular Pathology Institute, opened for business on the 1 August 2011. The initiative is in direct response to a recommendation from the Internal Auditors to offer greater resilience for enterprise-wide services and to a requirement specified in the University’s ICT Strategic Plan. The USDC is a state-of-the-art facility with a focus on energy efficiency to reduce power usage and minimise greenhouse gas emissions. It ensures capacity, resilience and energy efficiency for business-critical ICT services. As its name suggests, it provides a shared service for divisions, departments and colleges which require server or application hosting facilities.
An allocation of £1.2M to from the University Modernisation Fund, through the VIDaaS project, has contributed to our development of a private cloud. This heralds an exciting new way of sharing services within the collegiate University. Infrastructure is shared on the private cloud, whilst units retain their autonomy by being able to manage their services. This new form of shared delivery brings benefits of economy, reliability and resilience provided through common infrastructure – whilst enabling local control to be retained. In addition, it offers a managed gateway to the public cloud.
Demands on OUCS’s services have continued to increase. There are now 36,000 active users of the Nexus email service with 47,000 mailboxes, and the Nexus SharePoint service has rapidly grown since its launch in April; the new OxFile service attracted over 500 users in its first week of operation; the ILTG offered 509 open sessions courses which were attended by 2,272 distinct individuals; the demand for chargeable services has increased and the NSMS team has expanded; more than 140 services use the OUCS access management stack; the volume of data backed up has doubled compared to the previous year; and the 12 millionth download from iTunesU was made.
Further information about all our activities is available in our Five-year Strategic Plan which lists OUCS’s priorities for coming years. I would be very pleased to receive comments on this Annual Report and the Five-year Strategic Plan, and hope that you will find both documents stimulating and informative.
Finally, I would like to take this opportunity to thank OUCS staff who have brought their dedication and experience to bear on the services we provide; they continue to respond with initiative, enthusiasm and professionalism. The next twelve months will bring new challenges, in particular as the three central IT units are brought together, but I am confident that our staff have the expertise, skills and knowledge to continue to deliver excellent services and develop new facilities for the benefit of the collegiate University.
Professor Paul W. Jeffreys
OUCS Department Head
Director of IT
Welcome to the annual report of Oxford University Computing Services for 2010-2011. In keeping with previous formats we have attempted to write a report that is informative and approachable to allow our users to get a comprehensive view of OUCS’s performance over the last year. This is our way of reporting on our services, and how we have attempted to meet the demands of the collegiate University.
The mainstay of this publication is a set of performance reports that once again demonstrate the year-on-year growth in demand for OUCS’s services, and the increasing portfolio we have been asked to cover. Wherever possible we have shown the level of use of OUCS’s services broken down under the Academic Divisions, OUDCE, College-only users, and other central units. We also include a series of reports from the various Research Projects OUCS has led or been part of over the year. This aspect of OUCS is fundamental to our taking services forward for the University, both financially and strategically. We bring in about £1m per annum from external funding agencies, which in 2010-2011 contributed nearly £350k in FEC, allowing us to progress our shared data centre and cloud-based services.
This is a time of change in the University - especially with central IT services. Discussions began in 2010-2011 about the bringing together of the three central IT units - OUCS, BSP, and ICT ST - and we envisage this will be a major task in 2011-2012. Despite this OUCS has launched a variety of services - Sharepoint 2010 and OxFILE (for large file sharing) to name but two - and is upgrading or further developing our core services. 2010-2011 also saw important moves in Information Security, virtualisation, secondary authentication, mobile developments, and open educational resources. Furthermore we were engaged in lengthy discussions with the colleges in terms of a possible contribution by them to the cost of OUCS's services.
Over the year we have sought, and received, guidance from the OUCS Management Sub-Committee. This was chaired for some time by Professor William James, but due to his new position as PVC for planning and resources, this role will be taken on by Dr David Popplewell. We would like to thank Professor James for all his support and help over the years. Finally, it should be noted that this Annual Report forms only part of the information OUCS provides. Here we attempt to indicate how we have performed over the year; but we also produce a five-year strategy looking forward (revised each January), a research strategy, and various briefings for the University.
I hope you enjoy reading this report and find it informative,
Dr Stuart D Lee,
Director, Computing Systems and Services,
In section 5 we look at the performance and use of the range of services offered by OUCS throughout 2010-2011. Different services will report in different ways, but wherever possible we have tried to also break down usage according to the academic divisions and other units within the University, in line with the implementation of the Type 123 funding model.
In summary we would like to highlight the following major trends and findings:
- the size and use of the network continues to expand - traffic has risen from 14.5 TB/day in 2007-2008 to 22.3 TB/day in 2008-2009 to over 55 TB/day (see 5.1. University Network);
- 140+ services across the University are now successfully using our access management stack (See 5.2. Identity and Access Management Services);
- our new OxFile service has attracted over 300 users at its peak (see 5.8. OxFile);
- there are now 36,000 active users of Nexus with over 47,000 mailboxes - and in 2010-2011 University Administration and the Medical Division joined the service (see 5.9. Nexus Service);
- demand for the HFS continues to increase and we are currently over 1.2 PB (see 5.10. Hierarchical File Server);
- 20 web projects were undertaken by our team of developers for colleges, departments, and research groups and advice has been given to numerous others (see 5.15. Information and Support Group Development Team (InfoDev));
- during the course of the year we presented 509 open sessions (1487.5 teaching hours, 2727 distinct individuals) covering 199 topics, and 63 closed sessions (238.5 teaching hours, 732 distinct individuals) covering 47 topics (see 5.18. The IT Learning Programme (ITLP));
- this year saw the 12 millionth download from iTunesU;
- all our services are witnessing increased usage including our help centre and Weblearn;
- all the divisions make substantial use of our services, but they are also heavily used by the Colleges and central units;
- the demand for additional services provided by our NSMS service continues to grow as many faculties and departments seek to offload some of their IT support issues to OUCS (see 5.22. Network Systems Management Services);
- requests for support for learning, teaching, and research are on the increase and projects such as the iTunes U service have attracted considerable support interest.
In section 6. Project Reports we report on the numerous additional activities we have undertaken over the year. These are absolutely key to the future of OUCS as they provide external funding at a time when resources are severely stretched, allowing us to take forward the development of key University services and explore new possibilities.
OUCS is responsible for delivering reliable, resilient and efficient core IT services for the collegiate University, in alignment with the institution’s wider strategic goals. This includes:
- planning the capacity and growth of existing services to meet predicted changes in demand;
- ensuring the cost-effectiveness of current provision, including considering and managing out-sourcing where appropriate;
- enabling the collegiate University to benefit from new opportunities arising from developments in technology;
- responding to user requirements for new services or improvements to the existing portfolio.
In order to fulfil these responsibilities we must:
- meet agreed performance levels as set out in our Service Level Descriptions with the Divisions;
- maximise efficiency at a time of financial constraint, including improving our energy efficiency, and assisting the rest of the University in achieving similar goals;
- keep abreast of the changes in the wider IT sector with respect to increased internal interdependencies, and external shared services, outsourcing, etc.
Additionally, as a centre of excellence for IT in the University, we work in partnership with colleagues in the academic departments and faculties, administrative units, other central IT departments, and the colleges on both day-to-day and more strategic aspects of IT provision.
In 2010-2011, OUCS undertook a number of key projects and activities. Highlights include:
- delivering the University Shared Data Centre for use by the collegiate University to offer resilient, reliable, high quality and cost-effective co-location and virtual infrastructure services. These complement services delivered from Data Centre based in OUCS to provide additional resilience, in line with current best practice;
- planning the replacement of the backbone network as the technology and equipment currently in use approaches end of life;
- planning and executing extensive work on the University backup and archive service to safeguard the University’s digital assets through a series of phased projects;
- developing a private cloud using external funding from the University Modernisation Fund, which provides a managed gateway to the public cloud for users across the collegiate University;
- developing our suite of collaborative tools into a seamless experience for staff and students, interoperable with other key services (Nexus SharePoint/Exchange, WebLearn2, Identity and Access Management, Student Systems, etc);
- developing a single trusted source of core information about all the users in Oxford and their groupings via the Core User Directory and Groupstore projects, and coordinating access management for services delivered through UAS;
- continuing development towards ubiquitous networking through the roll-out of the Wireless service; and exploiting the opportunities offered by Voice over IP (VOIP), and through a new project to merge network services and telecoms;
- monitoring new directions in underlying and emerging technologies, e.g. starting work on the move to IPv6, developing mobile provision, and exploiting podcasting via iTunes U;
- further developing and promoting services and policies to reduce energy consumption and carbon emissions across the University in conjunction with the Environmental Sustainability Unit (e.g. a revised Wake-On-Lan service);
- pooling knowledge and expertise, and working in partnership, with other IT providers and support staff to offer academics and students a seamless experience.
Finally, OUCS made a significant contribution to the ICT Central Coordinating Programme to consolidate activities across the three central IT units into a single department.
This section of the report details information about our services and the impact they have been making on behalf of the University and its IT needs. Wherever possible we have tried to also break down usage according to the academic divisions and other units within the University, in line with the implementation of the Type 123 funding model.
The backbone continues to operate reliably with traffic levels still rising and showing no sign of abating. At the current average growth rate of about 150% per annum there is sufficient bandwidth to cope with the projected traffic levels for the coming year.
Note on graph: The red trend line shows an exponential growth rate. The green trend line shows a linear growth rate. The actual growth rate is somewhere in-between.
Our JANET connection of 10 Gbps can continue to cope with the increased traffic levels demanded of the link at the current rate of growth for a number of years yet, barring some significant new development.
* = Projected values
This is a well-established service and the growth rate is tapering off as we reach most of the available 'likely user' pool.
As has been fully documented (see firewall firefighting) we have had a number of failures as the Firewall became saturated, leading to, usually, brief disconnection from the Internet. We do regret this interruption of service and the team have been working very hard both to restore service and to understand the causes. However this has taken time as the vendor of the equipment has been slow to disclose all the pertinent facts.
Work to improve the resilience of our Internet connection, a completely separate project from the above item, has started and is progressing albeit slowly due to factors outside of our control. We have now managed to lay the requisite cables and JANET (our service provider, in effect) will be upgrading portions of its network to allow for us to connect the extra link soon.
This year saw the completion of the three year OWL Phase 2 project. We now have coverage in most of the public spaces using a total of over 670 wireless access points (WAP's). In addition many Colleges and Divisions have their own provision.
The OWL, Eduroam, and OWL Visitor Network services continue to be well used as wireless becomes a primary means of network access for new and existing members alike. The total number of connections (per month) is shown below. Despite the termly variation, clearly shown, the overall trend is strongly up (as the trendline indicates).
Note: This is NOT 'unique' clients. It is the total number of connections per month.
Operation of the email relay systems continues to be business-as-usual this year with no significant changes to the service. The following table shows the growth of the service from 2006 to present.
|Year||Daily Messages||Data Volume (GB)|
Note: These are averaged, smoothed numbers.
This year started with the completion of the move of the New Bodelian MDX room to the new MDX room in The Indian Institute. Approximately 60% of the voice and data for the Collegiate University passes through these duct routes and over 90 cables (both fibre and copper) were cut, appended and re-directed to the new room. Extra resilience was included in the Broad Street and Turl Street areas simplifying the existing network and enabling further resilient connections to be made in the future.
The second part of the year saw the near completion of the duct network ring around Oxford with additional ducts being laid by Scottish and Southern Electricity as part of the new electrical supply to the Science Area. This ring should finally be completed in 2012. We continue to add locked security covers to our network to protect the cables from theft.
OUCS provides a range of identity and access management (IAM) services to the University. WebAuth, Oak LDAP, Kerberos, and Shibboleth are available for general use by ITSS who wish to implement access control for their own resources and services, as well as being used for centrally hosted facilities.
In addition to delivering the services described below, OUCS has engaged in a variety of communication and development activities associated with IAM services. These have included an overview of IAM services and project, and representation at the 2010 MIT Kerberos Consortium. Development activities include a range of system and service upgrades, detailed under the relevant sections below, and projects.
- The Core User Directory Project
- The project began in earnest in January 2011 with the appointment of a Project Manager and Lead Developer. This project will initiate a production service offering a single authoritative source of identity information for Oxford University, with a very broad scope for data subjects.
- The Group Store Project
- This complements the CUD by providing a central repository for information about groups of identities. This can be used to share groups across multiple consumers (e.g. a centrally defined group of users can be used to create a mailing list, control access to a Nexus SharePoint resource, and appear in WebLearn), and will support groups whose membership is based on organisational structures / roles as well as ad hoc groups that can be controlled by individuals and applications.
- Project Janus
- This is a joint OUCS / Student Administration project, will shortly deliver a pilot implementation of a WebLearn site that requires multi-factor authentication (MFA). MFA addresses some of the more common security problems such as user passwords being compromised, and provides sufficient assurance of the user’s identity that it can be used to secure access to sensitive resources - the pilot will use MFA to protect University examination papers during their preparation.
- Project Maddox
- This is a short-term project (c. 4 months) aimed at evaluating possibilities for central Active Directory support. This will clarify the technical scenarios in which Microsoft Windows-based network services can support use of the Oxford SSO username and password. Furthermore, it is intended that a central Active Directory service will be initiated if this is found to ease the integration of Microsoft Windows systems with central SSO.
WebAuth is a web single sign-on (Web SSO) system enabling authentication and identification of web visitors, who identify themselves using their Oxford SSO credentials. Subsequent visits to other (Oxford) WebAuth sites do not require further login. The Oxford WebAuth service is based on the Stanford WebAuth system, but includes additional facilities for account activation, and password change/reset.
WebAuth is used extensively within the University, and take up continues steadily with around 40 services adopting WebAuth each year. Additionally, analysis of authentication log data suggests that there is a “saved login” count of approximately 49%, saving the user from needing to authenticate more than once while browsing websites and services that implement WebAuth. The following chart shows the increased take-up of the WebAuth service by the wider University ITSS community.
Oak LDAP provides a convenient directory of person-based information that can be used as the basis for authorisation decisions, mapping between multiple identifiers for a person, and the retrieval of naming and contact data. In addition to underpinning several OUCS services (including WebLearn and Shibboleth), the service is used by departments and colleges throughout the Collegiate University, some of which run multiple Oak LDAP-enabled services, as shown in the following chart.
A key development in 2010/11 was the development of an integration path for the Bradford Campus Manager (BCM) appliance with central access management services. OUCS worked with St Hugh’s College, developers from Bradford, and technical staff from Khipu who distribute Bradford appliances in the UK, to identify and document an out-of-the-box solution enabling BCM to authenticate users via their remote access account, and authorise them for network connection based on affiliation and status data provided by Oak LDAP. This removes the need for a separate authentication server, which was a problematic overhead in several Oxford colleges.
The Kerberos service is the fundamental means by which users (and systems) can authenticate. It implements the Kerberos protocol which supports single sign-on by design, and offers a high degree of network security by eliminating the transmission of passwords or password-derivatives over the network. Kerberos is the preferred method of authentication in Microsoft Active Directory environments, and is the authentication infrastructure behind WebAuth.
|Year||Total Unique user principals to date||Active user principals|
Service providers can use Kerberos to provide a single sign-on experience for users. The number of non-OUCS 'Kerberised' services, above those integrated purely for WebAuth or Oak LDAP are as follows (figures based on the approximation that each issued service principal has been used to Kerberise one distinct service):
|Year||Services using Kerberos||Cross-realm trusts|
A special case is where the 'Kerberised' service is itself a provider of Kerberos authentication - for example a local Active Directory Domain Controller. In this situation an arrangement of cross-realm trust is established where user authentication against the central Kerberos service (using Oxford username and password) can be used to access local services without a further login. The number of service principals issued to support non-OUCS cross-realm trusts (including Active Directory integration) is shown in Table 5. Services using Kerberos and cross-realm trusts
The following chart shows the year-on-year increase in services consuming Kerberos as an authentication mechanism.
Our Shibboleth service enables Oxford University to participate in federated access management. This enables Oxford University members to access resources provided by other organisations, including many of the bibliographic and other electronic resources that the University subscribes to. It also supports the possibility of making Oxford-hosted resources available to members of other registered organisations, such as other UK universities.
As described in last year’s report, a major upgrade to the infrastructure offering this service was completed earlier in the year. This has provided a range of enhancements to Oxford’s Shibboleth service, including the ability to support SAML2 profiles, configure per-SP session lifetimes, and integrate multi-factor authentication. Additionally it ensures that Oxford receives continued security updates and support from the software supplier.
The table below shows a count of the number of distinct users identified by our Shibboleth service - this approximates to the number of Oxford University members accessing Shibboleth-protected resources. We have continued to report a separate figure (in parentheses) that shows the result excluding access to the Oracle Student System which, as it is mandated for use by all students, could cause a significant increase in the number of distinct users authenticating via Shibboleth.
|Year||Distinct users identified by Shibboleth service|
The number of services where Shibboleth is used to provide access for Oxford account holders ('service providers') has grown as shown in the chart below. The figures include only active service providers - as of 2011-07-31. There are in fact a further 9 registered Shibboleth service providers within Oxford University for which no activity has been recorded. It should be noted that growth in the number of Shibboleth service providers is a result of other (internal and external) parties' choice to use this technology and does not reflect directly on the work of OUCS.
Our mirror service provides up-to-date local copies of a number of internet sites holding primarily technical resources. The portfolio of mirrored sites include several Linux distributions and other open source projects such as CPAN and CTAN. It ensures that Oxford ITSS and other users have high-speed access to these resources whilst also reducing bandwidth utilisation on our JANET connection. Each mirror is accessible by HTTP, FTP, within the Oxford AFS cell, and rsync from Oxford networks (access via AFS or rsync is not considered in the figures below).
|Year||Mirrored sites||Volume of mirrored data||Estimated volume served|
|2011||26||4.1 TB||3.7 PB|
Mirror sites occasionally become obsolete or deprecated, at which point they may be removed from the mirror service, as happened this year. Below is a list of the top-level mirrored sites (some sites are sourced from multiple sub-sites and due to this fewer than the 26 mentioned above are listed below).
|Top level mirrored site|
OUCS provides a general-purpose GNU/Linux computing environment for use by University members. A large selection of software is available for use, including several packages designed for specific academic purposes and some Oxford-specific features. A full GUI desktop is available in addition to command-line shells, with access to personal filestore and network printing from both.
The service also provides access to a users web filestore which can be published as a web site under http://users.ox.ac.uk/.
Collected accounting data suggests that the service is constantly in use, and in some cases with multiple concurrent sessions per user (leading to cases where a user appears to be logged in for more than 31 days per month). Records needed to generate year-on-year statistics relating to the use of the service have not been routinely collected, with only the previous months figures available as a matter of course; suitable records are now being kept to support presentation of figures in future reports.
|Year||Registered users*||User time connected (Hours per month)|
|Total||Average (per user)||Maximum|
A substantial overhaul of OUCS web hosting services is planned for 2012. Earlier this year we conducted a survey to assess demand for central web hosting, and to identify the key characteristics of such a service. This has confirmed that significant demand exists, but that meeting these requires a complete replacement of the current infrastructure and a radical change in the range of features available to web site managers.
The result of this work is expected to be a range of service offerings, designed to meet the needs of colleges and departments, research and project groups, clubs and societies, and individuals wishing to establish a personal online presence. Each of these will offer modern web publishing capabilities, whilst retaining key aspects of the current service (such as an .ox.ac.uk domain name and support from the OUCS Help Desk).
The Network News service provides reliable, high-speed access to a wide range of Usenet newsgroups, including a number of Oxford-specific groups that are only available through this service. Further Oxford-specific groups can be created on request.
|Year||Newsgroups available||Oxford Specific||Posts by University users|
The service is accessible by any computer connected to the University network (including through the VPN) using the NNTP protocol which is supported by several standard email clients (e.g. Thunderbird). Suitable clients are also available on linux.ox (the GNU/Linux service mentioned above), e.g. trn or slrn.
As a non-critical service, records needed to generate usage data beyond the previous month have not been routinely collected. Suitable records are now being collected to support presentation of figures in future reports.
|Internal clients||External peers|
|2011 (July only)||162||25|
OUCS provides a service enabling manual, and scheduled, Wake-On-Lan (WOL) for registered hosts. This enables IT Support Staff, end-users and the HFS Backup Service to switch computers on remotely. The service is accessed via the OUCS registration web pages using the University Single Sign-On (WebAuth) login. In turn, this capability allows for savings in utility power usage due to the fact that computers can be powered down when not in use, such as outside normal working hours, but remotely powered back up on schedule and ready for use the next day.
Due to the nature of wake-on-lan technology (being bound to layer2 protocols), managed gateway devices are needed on a local subnet for a client to receive WOL instructions.
Long term logs are not currently archived for the WOL service, however, medium term data suggests that the service is well utilised.
|Year||Registered Users||Registered client devices||Active client devices||WoL gateways|
Project Vertigo, funded through PICT, is developing the infrastructure supporting this service to enable a much wider and more cost-effective roll-out across Oxford. In particular the revised systems can support multiple networks (including VLANs and IP subnets) from a single gateway, are much easier to install and use, and record / provide better information to ITSS who need to diagnose unexpected behaviour. The new system will be available from November.
OxFile, which was launched in May 2011, is a web service that supports the exchange of large files with people inside and outside of Oxford University. It is simple and fast to use, and any member of the University can setup a file exchange for immediate use.
The key features of the service are that it can accept large files (up to 25 GB) that are difficult to exchange, due to their size, by other means. It is easy to use, and self tidying as files are automatically removed after a user-selected period of up to 31 days. Additionally, notifications can be sent when files have been up / down loaded. The service also offers some assurance of security, in that file transfers can be encrypted, and users have a degree of access control over files they wish to share.
The service went live in May 2011 so the reported figures are not for a full year.
|Year||Folders||Files Added||Total size||Average folder size||Total Users*||External Users|
|2011||1394||3458||142 GB||187 MB||5543||1182|
The following chart illustrates both the number of active uploading users per month, and unique users who have uploaded files since the service was launched.
During the year 2010/11 Oxford Nexus consolidated its Exchange service and took SharePoint from a pilot to a service available to all University users. Major migrations were performed across University Administration Services and the Medical Sciences Division, bringing in users to Nexus from the old Lotus Notes and GroupWise services, respectively.
In July 2011, there were over 36,000 active users (those who had used the service within the previous 90 days) and over 47,000 mailboxes on Nexus. An average mailbox contained over 5,000 items with a size of 411MB (showing a growth of 70% from the previous year). The high rate of growth must be skewed by the migration in of accounts belonging to heavy email / calendar consumers.
The ITSS registration interface was further expanded to allow ITSS to find out more about their users and to change settings such as Out of Office for their users.
The largest five thousand Nexus mailboxes directly consumed 8.8 TB of storage (without including data duplication required for data integrity purposes) whereas the remaining (42,228) mailboxes consumed 9.7 TB of storage. The average size for a 'top five thousand' mailbox was 1.8 GB, thus dwarfing the 0.2 GB for the 'others'. 1% of users currently consume 9.9% of the storage allocated to Nexus Exchange.
The table below gives a rough guide as to the most common mobile or hand held clients which were used to connect to Nexus over a 30 day period. The guide is rough as around 200 devices could not be identified and some misreporting goes on (e.g. HTC Desire phones often report as 'HTC Bravo'). For conciseness, only clients with a count of 50 or above are listed.
|Samsung GT-I9100 (Galaxy S2)||182|
|Samsung GT-I9000 (Galaxy S)||108|
|Test ActiveSync Connection||57|
The Oxford Nexus SharePoint service moved beyond its pilot stage and went live to the University on 27 April 2011. The service is still primarily targeted towards Committees, Research activities, Clubs/Societies and My Sites. Publicity surrounding the new service has been modest in order to stimulate growth which can be supported in the early phase of the service.
As of 31 July 2011, there were 66 site collections with a total of 330 sites. These consumed 6.3 GB of storage. There were 89 My Sites consuming a total of 2.1 GB.
The Hierarchical File Server (HFS) service provides large scale central backup amd archive services to the University community. The HFS runs IBM's Tivoli Storage Manager (TSM) software and supports a backup service for both desktops and departmental and college servers, a remote backup service over VPN and a long-term data repository service for the University's digital assets. It also provides the backup service to the University's Groupware service.
The constant challenge for the HFS is to meet and absorb the growth in the backup and archive requirements of an ever-increasing number and size of client machines around Oxford. The table below shows data growth across all four major HFS service areas:
|% Change||Desktop Backup||Server Backup||Groupware Backup||Archive|
|Nos Files||Data||Nos Files||Data||Nos Files||Data||Nos Files||Data|
In line with previous years, the figures suggest that files are getting bigger, as growth in data exceeds growth in file numbers. The drop in desktop file numbers is a result of the continuation of policies to exclude operating system and non-restoreable files from the desktop backup. As can be seen, from this table and the graph below, total amount of data stored has risen, with Groupware backup data increasing by more than 60% to over 325 TB of backup data. Client numbers also continue upwards with a general increase of c, 10% across the entire service suite.
The total amount of data secured by the HFS (lighter line against right axis in graph below) has grown from around 900 TB to just over 1200 TB (1.2 PB) in the last year. The total number of files (darker line against left axis) has fluctuated between 1.5 and 1.8 billion and has, as a result of the aforementioned policies of excluding operating system files, dropped slightly. This is seen on the following graph where the files stored line shows an intial drop before rising throughout the rest of the year.
Usage of the HFS extends throughout the University as illustrated below with proportionate total Backup/Archive data stored (excluding Groupware data), broken down by division.
Maths, Physical & Life Sciences and Medical Sciences account for almost two-thirds of all storage between them, with other large users including Academic Services and Colleges both also growing.
Major activities in the past year have followed on from the successful HFS bid to PICT to upgrade the service infrastructure in the Summer of 2010 (HFSManCap project). Phase 1 of this programme consisted of the following elements:
- A full migration of the server database to TSM V6 and a DB2 architecture.
- An upgrade of elements of the SAN infrastructure to 8Gb/sec speed
- An addition of a new host server and upgrades to two existing host servers to allow the full virtualisation of our service.
- A pilot study into the feasability of disk-only based on-line backups.
All four elements were completed successfully on-time and within budget. The major focus was on Task 1 as this involved the migration of several databases managing in total over 1 petabyte (PB) of data, to both new hardware and a new database technology (DB2). Tasks 2 and 3 were precursors to this and the whole migration was completed successfully over one weekend in October.
This was a major project that has brought great benefits to all areas of the HFS service: The DB2 database scales significantly larger to allow us to manage more data effectively. It also allows some database management tasks to be done concurrently and online where previously such work required a major service interruption. The move to a fully virtualised environment now allows us to manage our hardware resources independently of the servers providing the backup / archive service. Thus, for example, we are now able to move a backup server from one failing host machine to a functioning host machine with a pause of around only five minutes. In summary, this entire phase 1 of the infrastructure upgrade has been a major step forward in resilience and performance of the HFS service.
Other aspects of the service continue to grow and reach more users. The Wake-on-Lan service is now an integral component of ensuring desktop machines around the University are powered-up to run a scheduled backup only when needed. The 'Backup over VPN' facility has now successfully moved from its pilot phase into a fully-fledged service. It continues to attract users whose work takes them away from the University network, but whose data requires securing and retention within the University. As the University's Groupware service has grown, so has its backup requirement and earlier this year, the dedicated tape library was upgraded with 5th generation LTO tape drives and media to provide continued growth for this service's voracious backup requirements.
Away from the headline activities the team continues to develop and support the client backup software for a large number of client systems and to provide important support to clients when in their hour of need when they need to recover lost work and data.
Earlier this year, OUCS put together a bid towards increasing resilience of its core services through utilising the Shared Data Centre (SDC) as a second site. As part of this bid, the HFS is currently planning a schedule of work that will allow it to locate some of its hardware infrastructure in the SDC and to essentially 'straddle' this site and the OUCS machine room. Utilising a stretched-SAN architecture in combination with the full virtualisation of our service should mean that, just as we now can move services seamlessly across different hardware within a single site (the OUCS machine room), we should be able to do this across different hardware at different sites. This should allow our services to be more resilient in the event of local disaster or, in a planned scenario where, for example, major building work at one site is planned.
It is also our intention to pursue phase 2 of the HFS Infrastructure upgrade program in the coming few months. This focuses on the replacement of the HFS Tape Library Robot – now 15 years old – and which has underpinned the entire range of HFS services. The current robot has fully proved its investment many times over but is now long since out of production and increasingly difficult to maintain. It is also close to its physical capacity. Replacement is no small undertaking, but a modern robot would once again allow the service to scale to meet the inexorable demand for backup and archive storage from the University. Modern generations of tape drive and media offer speed and capacity improvements in multiples of 2.5 and 5 respectively, over current equipment and with definite upgrade paths in the future that will build on these improvements.
The service is also keen to explore the possibilities of increasing system limits on the daily amounts of backup sent to the service by any one client and also to raise the absolute limits of backup storage for any one account. These aspirations are, however, heavily contingent on the above phase 2 upgrade being in place.
We have begun investigating how a dedicated IBM TSM backup client can be employed to protect virtual machines by offloading backup workloads to a centralised server and enabling near-instant recovery. We are also involved in designing a backup solution for the Exchange 2010 servers that the University Mail and Groupware service is migrating to in the near future. Finally, we will aim to continue to offer first class support to our ever increasing number of users throughout the next year.
IT security has continued to feature in many news stories over the past year, with much publicity of Wikileaks, the actions of the "Anonymous" and "Lulzsec" groups, and major compromises at Sony and RSA. While the University has been subjected to many of the same types of attack, our incidents have thankfully remained lower-profile, although the actions of past members of the team back in 2006 eventually resulted in the conviction of one of the attacks in November 2010, reported in the national press (Computer expert jailed hacking webcams - Guardian).
The team have dealt with nearly 1400 incidents over the past year. This appears to be a decrease from the previous year, but in terms of our own workload has been a significant increase, as many incidents have been significantly more complex and taken longer to resolve. The distribution of incidents over time is shown in the following figure.
The major increase observed has been in terms of attacks against webservers, in particular SQL injection attacks, in which incorrect handling of user input can result in unauthorised database access. Unfortunately the worst cases have resulted in the loss of some personal data. We are keen to stress the obligation to report the data breach as soon as they are discovered - the Information Commissioner may now impose significant financial penalties when dealing with cases of negligence or failure to follow proper procedure.
Information-stealing malware such as ZeuS and SpyEye remain major threats to University systems and data, and are commonly propagated through exploitation of software vulnerabilities, especially in common applications such as web browsers and plugins such as Java and Flash, Adobe Acrobat/Reader, and Microsoft Office. The team's series of security bulletins inform of the latest threats of specific interest to the University; almost 200 were posted during the past year.
The other major category of incidents of concern is the battle against password "phishing" attacks. Despite all attempts at user education, far too many users continue to fall for what, to us at least, appear unconvincing attempts to trick users into supplying their passwords. Commonly, accounts compromised in this way are used for spamming, which may have effects on the University's reputation and ability to conduct legitimate business by email.
In October 2010, a fourth team member joined OxCERT, the post funded from the Information Security Best Practice project. Despite the increase in staff resources, the increase in incident workload has meant that we have not progressed as far as we had hoped with some of our other work. In particular work on our Malware Analysis Laboratory project has suffered owing to other priorities.
The team have attended FIRST conferences in Barcelona and Vienna, and have worked with various groups in the UK, including a project to define standard incident categories with the aim of comparing meaningful incident statistics with other universities. In addition to the monthly reports, the team have recently started a OxCERT security blog in order to distribute information more widely and in a more timely manner.
It has been a year of increases in work for all the Help Centre services. The Hardware Repair Service has fixed more machines than ever before, the online shop has processed 25% more orders and the help desk has answered 284 more emails than during the previous record year.
After the huge boost in emailed enquiries to the help desk the during 2009-10, the level has remained high and even increased moderately. With no change to the staffing level of the Help Centre, nor any additional resources going into supporting the increased work load on the help desk, service improvements have remained frozen for another year.
A side effect of the introduction of pre-arrival account creation last year is that OUCS now has much better records of student's non-Oxford email addresses. Matching queries against these recorded non-Oxford addresses as well as the usual Oxford variants has allowed us to attribute a much higher percentage (60%) of emailed queries. Last year it was only 42%. It should, however, be borne in mind that the doubling of queries from undergraduates, postgraduates and leavers is largely due to our improved ability to attribute queries rather than a real increase.
Something which does not stand out very clearly in Table 17. Help Desk Usage, but is a little more obvious in Table 18. Usage of the Help Form by Division, is the amount of effort the Help Desk expends on helping University members OUCS is currently not funded to support. In this category are college staff, undergraduates and leavers. Although Table 17. Help Desk Usage lumps all staff together, the number of queries from college staff during the reporting year was actually 586, making the total number of unfunded enquiries 1,869 or 27% of all attributed enquiries.
With a total of 32, the number of appointments for complex operating system problems is so small that it is no longer worth analysing the data. This decline is partly due to the Help Desk's increased ability to deal with such problems directly and partly due to a loss of high level expertise in operating systems within OUCS. In depth knowledge of Windows is now predominantly found in the ICT Support Team and Mac OS expertise is within NSMS's remit. As a result the help desk can no longer offer Mac OS appointments, although Windows and Linux are still available.
This year saw only 43% of queries submitted via our electronic form compared to last year's 50%, but a slightly higher overall percentage than last year, 40%, was usable for analysis. The barcode information we have from the forms allows us to attribute queries to academic divisions via primary affiliations. As in previous years the colleges and divisions hold the top 5 ranks in number of queries, accounting for 87% of the total. The colleges, who do not currently contribute to the funding of OUCS, are topping the table for the first time since 2006-07 and their 22% of help form queries does roughly tally with the 27% apparent from analysing email addresses.
|Maths, Physical and Life Sciences||594||13||4||576||13||5||440||13||4||247||12||5||413||15||4|
|Other Related Bodies||15||0||9||7||0||10||25||1||9||4||0||11||11||0||9|
The types of queries the Help Desk handles show a similar distribution to last year. There are some notable differences in that percentage-wise the queries about email and accounts have both fallen slightly while the software and malware queries have increased. As malware enquiries tend to be quite time consuming, with the requirement to run scans and check results, the extra staff time spent is probably higher than the increase in query numbers would indicate.
During the reporting year the Online Shop has processed 4,887 orders for goods and services (a 25% increase over last year and a 30% increase over the year before).
Last reporting year, 9,904 licenses were acquired from the Online Shop across the University for use on personally owned or departmentally owned machines. This reporting year, 15,714 licenses have been acquired, a 63% increase from last year.
Across the divisions, the Medical Sciences bought and/or acquired the most licenses (41% of the total). This is a 9% increase in Medical Sciences' share compared to last year. Maths, Physical and Life Sciences and the Colleges were joint second place each obtaining 15% of the total licenses.
|University Administration and Services||2%||1%|
The Online Shop was upgraded from version 3 to version 4. Changes include the ability to display product variants which allowed for greater functionality and ease of use for customers, more comprehensive reporting and statistics tracking, and the option to add Google Analytics.
Examining data from January 2011 to 1st August 2011 (when Google Analytics became available) there have been over 15,000 visits, 98% coming from the UK. Given that the OUCS Online Shop is only accessible through the University network this is not surprising.
Further, the most popular days for accessing the Online Shop are weekdays, with around 2,000 visits per day, while weekend visits are dramatically lower, again possibly due to the fact that the OUCS online shop is only available via the University network and only a minority of people have access to the network at the weekend. Interestingly, the number of transactions per day is around 200 per week day, suggesting that for every 10 visits, only one transaction occurs.
Finally, the University licensing team managed to negotiate a deal with QSR International so that the University could provide the statistical package, Nvivo Version 9 to both staff and students free of charge, saving students £110 and staff £360 each. The software has proven popular with members of the University, with 115 personal licenses and 116 licenses for Departmentally owned computers being registered with the online shop between its launch (4th April) and the end of the reporting year (31st July).
The hardware service is led by Darren Rochford (Hardware Services Manager). Darren has recently added to his Apple and CompTia qualifications by completing an Open University ICT degree. Mark Simmonds assists part time with administration and also co-ordinates the work we send to our repair partners Equinox. The trial with Equinox as our second hardware engineer has proved useful during the current climate of job cut backs within the University. It is hoped that one day a second engineer on site would become possible as this would without doubt be the best option for the service in the longer term and to significantly reduce the turn-around times.
A recent visit to the new premises of Equinox was beneficial to both parties in understanding the way we currently work together and how we can continue to do so in the future. The Hardware Manager has attended useful events where he has made contact with a number of suppliers and industry leaders. This keeps us up to date with current and future technologies and helps us to plan how we can best support the University and its member's Hardware needs.
The Apple warranty provider status continues to be highly sought after and valued by the collegiate University. A new server system has been put in place which communicates directly with Apple. This speeds up testing and helps to ensure that correct tests are performed in conjunction with emerging issues from Apple on an individual machine basis.
This year the service handled 337 machines which is an increase of 22 machines when compared to last year. This is despite the service having to be closed completely on one occasion due to staff holidays and medical requirements unavoidably clashing.
Of the manufacturers, Apple continues to be the largest in the numbers presented at approximately 178. Of these 91 were in warranty machines. The remaining 159 machines were PC based. A large number of these were sent to Equinox but some hard drive and memory upgrade work was carried out on the premises.
A breakdown of the nature of repairs is shown below. Often a particular machine is subject to more than one task. For example, a badly corrupted operating system may require data recovery prior to re-installing the system. Overheating, which is generally caused by ingress of dust, may also be accompanied by the requirement to replace the cooling fan. Laptops with fatally damaged system boards normally have their data retrieved unless the owner has been very conscientious in making frequent backups.
The service has continued to repair and upgrade a wide variety of laptops and desktops, and by adapting to the requirements of emerging technologies, we are able to approach the latest machines with confidence. Below is a breakdown of machines repaired by manufacturer.
The Hardware Service is looking forward the next 12 months of supporting both existing and emerging technologies for the collegiate University. It is hoped that the impending centralisation of ICT services will benefit the service by increasing demand and subsequently attracting funding to return all services in-house.
The Computer Hardware Breakdown Service offers a very economically priced breakdown service for personal computers and their peripherals such as printers. It is available to University institutions, colleges, and associated institutions. It is also available to University members, including students, on a personal basis for their privately owned equipment. In essence, for a modest fixed fee, the service provides for an engineer to visit on-site, anywhere in the mainland UK, by the next business day after a fault being reported; the fault should be fixed within a further 8 working hours, or an equivalent item of equipment will be offered as a loan until the repair is completed.
OUCS monitors call-outs and reports of unsatisfactory service, and the service (offered by an external company) has been extremely good. The number of items registered has fallen slightly (468 machines in total) compared to the previous year; we assume that this continues to be caused by a general trend in the industry of providing at least three-year warranties as standard coupled with machines being replaced once these warranties have expired and the current economic climate faced by higher educational institutions. The decrease has been mainly in departmental computers and printers.
The table below shows the numbers of different types of equipment registered, and their ownership.
It has again been a busy year for registration. The registration RT queue now only covers the specialized registration services e.g. name changes, project accounts, generic address creation - the majority of the general registration queries are now handled on the Help Centre queue. Specialised queries however, still remain high. Major changes in the services delivered have contributed to this. The continuing development of the Nexus service new types of accounts - mailbox only and resources accounts, delegation, setting vacation, quotas, several deparments and colleges moving from departmental/college servers to Nexus and high number of mail domain changes.
|Reporting Year||No of RT Tickets|
An SSO account gives access to many applications such as OxCORT tutorial reporting, GSS Graduate Student System, Student Records, library e-resources, etc as well as the OUCS services. Secondary accounts can be created for additional roles, e.g. administration. The 'mailbox only' accounts where access is granted by 'delegation' are proving very popular, especially for shared accounts, as a second password does not need to be managed.
|Year||Total||Percentage activated||Mailbox only accounts|
In the next table, a division is assigned to a user based on the department specified on their University Card. Undergraduates (in brackets) are listed under colleges, irrespective of who runs their course. The length of many student cards have been shortened this year (so fewer are current on 1 Aug).
|College||14,450 (9,499)||16,318 (12,141)||15,903 (12,155)|
|Visiting/Recognized and Other Students||461||510||457|
Remote access accounts (VPN and OWL) are used for access to the popular OWL wireless network and Eduroam. It is no longer need for accessing library e-resources when not in Oxford.
|Year||Number of accounts|
|Visiting/Recognized and Other Students||25||191||108|
OUCS now allocates email addresses for all 45 colleges of the University and 178 departments out of 195. This involves mail domain creation, email mail address management and wind-down.
Over the last year the following domains have been created:
- @oiprc for Oxford Intellectual Property Research
- @martin for Oxford Martin School
- @oxltd for Oxford Limited
- @spi for Social Policy and Intervention
- @phc for Primary Health Care Sciences
- @dph for Department of Public Health
- @oncology for Department of Oncology
- @kennedy for Kennedy Institute of Rheumatology
- @george for the George Centre for Healthcare Innovation
The following domains have been removed or are winding down:
- @socres (formerly Applied Social Studies)
- @medonc (formerly Medical Oncology)
- @rob (formerly Radiation, Oncology and Biology
- @clpharm (formerly Clinical Pharmacology)
- @21school (formerly James Martin 21st Century School)
Old library addresses are due to end March 2012:
We also hold the mail addresses for people who belong to units for whom OUCS do not manage their mail, so those addresses are available to University processes 2,994 (2,912 in previous year). There are 8,441 (7,845 in previous year) generic unit address e.g. enquiries@
Student Information now do mailings to students on behalf of the Proctors. We still do occasional targeted mailings on behalf of other central services e.g. Personnel, and as a backup for the Vice-Chancellors mailing or Proctors, but the bulk are related to the management of OUCS services, e.g. wind down of @herald and Sophos updates.
|Year||Number of mailings|
Registration creates and deletes most EZMLM mailing lists. (Chemistry and University Admin largely manage their own). The numbers below are for the total number of lists by division.
|Maths, Physical and Life Sciences||1,025||967||864|
|University Administration and Services||2,348||2,088||90|
|Societies, Other and Companies||32||84||81|
Two major areas of activity continued this year, creating increased demands on the Registration team.
As in previous years, BSP kindly provided a list of applicants in May, and those identified as current students, had their accounts extended until 12 Nov to cover the gap.
Building on developments of previous years, new students starting 2011/12 were provisioned automatically as soon as they had returned their signed University Contract agreeing to abide by the Rules, and their University Card record created. This started from the 1st July when the Card Office started processing the forms. Details were emailed to the student's address held in OSS. Colleges were very helpful in letting Student Information know of any email address changes so that OSS has the best addresses possible. The accounts were created each night as the Card record became available and emailed to the student 2 days later - the gap being put in place to allow the username information to get both to the activation process and back to OSS. Because the students have signed the Contract, they are fully provisioned with SSO and email address at that time. Visiting and Recognized students are now included in the data feed from OSS and in the automated process.
The integration of Nexus into Registration processes is a major task and is still on-going. The major areas of development this year were devising ways to:
- Create a 'resource' account directly, i.e. an account used to manage bookings for a 'resource' such as a room, projector, etc.
- Convert a 'mailbox only' account to one with a password
- Setting a vacation message for absent users at deptartment/college request
- Ensuring the sending address on a Nexus primary account is current and valid
- Ensuring the sending address on a Nexus secondary account matches the Oxmail-held target for that address ( i.e. monitoring 'split routing')
- Parallelizing the interaction with Nexus to improve throughput
- Setting the flag to stop auto-forwarding being set up when people from deptartments where OUCS do not maintain the address, want to use Nexus
- Regular meetings with the Nexus team
- Helped in preparing addresses for the Oxford-Man's migration to Nexus
Quota related development:
- Assisting in providing data for Nexus quota billing
- Winding down quotas for Central Admin that had been upped for migration from Lotus Notes
- Making over quota information available to ITSS
- Sending mail warnings when paid-for quota is expiring
Members of the team have also been involved in:
Working with other units and projects
- Establishing new email domains in collaboration with Planning and Resource Allocation
- Administering the approval process for new top-level www domains
- Liasing with the Sports Federation and Proctors Office over access to resources for Student Clubs and Societies; including improved handling of the process for non-Sports clubs.
- Liaison with Academic Administration, Conference of Colleges, and IT Support Staff on the Registration processes.
- Implementing Proctors' decisions on rusticated students' access to resources
- Migration of @comlab to @cs - although neither domain is managed by OUCS, significant effort had to be put in to switch the sending address on the Nexus accounts, and changing the address held for passing on to others, e.g. to VC's mailing list
- Working with the Card office giving them lists of discrepencies between the card and payroll
- Working with BSP on new data feeds from the new HR system- this involves being able to handle XML data.
- Working with the CUD project
- Mailing people still using username.herald in IMAP client configurations (on going)
- Winding down use of @herald and as mail domain, e.g. on web pages, mailing lists
- Providing interface for registering TSM backup over VPN
- Reconciling of accounts for Linux and web provision
InfoDev provides data solutions, web projects, and research support and advice to OUCS, to the University, and also to external clients. This covers a wide variety of activities including the creation, management, analysis, visualisation and publication of digital information of all sorts.
- Give useful, consistent and free advice about IT problems in scholarly research
- Implement proposed the solutions, on a cost-recovery basis
- Help people with web site design and information architecture
- Build web sites for them, on a cost-recovery basis
- Develop (web-based) applications for OUCS
The InfoDev team now fully incorporates both the Web Design Consultancy and the Research Technologies Service:
WDC has continued to provide web design advice and development support to the University. With the aid of the wider skill-base provided by the InfoDev team, we have consolidated our Content Management System (CMS) service, providing a full hosting and maintenance package for sites we develop in Drupal, our CMS of choice.
The RTS has continued to provide a range of services to assist staff in planning and carrying out research projects, and in maximizing the impact and sustainability of the digital outputs of research. The RTS activities, such as the Oxford Text Archive and the British National Corpus, have been merged into the InfoDev team but still cover: the provision of advice and consultative support on funding bids before a research project has been funded; assistance in setting up a project once funded; ongoing support during the lifetime of a project; and support for the dissemination and sustainability issues at the end of a project.
InfoDev runs the University's Google Search Appliance (GSA) which indexes well over 800,000 public web documents and web databases from ca. 1000 web sites on the University network. New content on web sites is re-indexed daily to ensure search results are current (in contrast to the much less frequent indexing by public search engines). Very active web sites can be re-indexed more frequently, and busy servers can be checked less frequently, on request.
The GSA powers the search form that appears on the University's home web page, and on the web pages of many colleges and departments. The table below summarises the format of documents indexed by the GSA in July 2011.
|Format||Number of Documents|
|Others (incl Excel,Flash,RSS,RTF,XML)||31,794|
During the reporting year 2010-11, the GSA received approximately 3.6 million search requests for which it successfully returned results. The latency between query receipt and returning results was typically less than 0.2 seconds. The number of concurrent queries peaked in Michaelmas term at ca. 6 per second.
Following a review of competing enterprise search products in Autumn 2010, and favourable citations by consultants, the GSA licence was renewed in December 2010.
InfoDev is working with BSP to offer searches of secure UAS web documents held in Sitemanager CMS to authorized groups within the University.
InfoDev's activity breaks down into four main areas below:
- OxFile – provided input on design, usability and accessibility of interface.
- OUCS Blogs - developed Wordpress templates for OUCS blogs
- OUCS website – provided input into ongoing revision of OUCS homepage design
- Course Booking system – InfoDev develops and maintains the course booking system. Further development is currently on hold while OUCS evaluates the new HRIS system as a possible replacement.
- Computer Hardware Breakdown Service - implemented system for sending machine registrations directly to the Equinox database.
- Hardware Repair Service - developing interface that by-passes the online shop and provides the Help Centre with improved control of the service.
- Google Search Appliance (GSA) - maintaining the GSA to provide custom search results for many units across the University. Worked on the provision of new collections on the search engine and assistance with tailoring the results to integrate with websites.
- Status - InfoDev provides maintenance and development on status.ox.ac.uk adding new services to be monitored when feasible. The team is currently investigating the possibility of entirely rewriting this service to enable greater future development.
- OxItems - continued to provide development support , bug fixes, and security patches for this service. The team is investigating the possibility of developing a replacement for this service.
- OxPoints - ongoing maintenance and development has taken place for OxPoints, our geolinking server that is increasingly used as a canonical source of information about physical aspects of the University. In addition to updating of information this year has seen the development of a web-based editor for OxPoints data made available to ITSS.
- data.ox - the InfoDev team has been responsible for the creation, implementation, and ongoing development of the University's linked open data repository: http://data.ox.ac.uk/. Although a great deal of work has been undertaken on this repository the team will be further developing this and increasing the number of datasets of institutional available.
- OxGarage - initially developed as a tangential output to a funded EU research project, the OxGarage service provides multiple REST-enabled pipelined conversions of document formats and is made available as a demonstrator of the underlying technologies.
- OTA - the InfoDev team is responsible for the provision and maintenance of the Oxford Text Archive.
- Display Screen Equipment Self Assessment - the team has provided updates and security patches to the system it designed for self assessment of workstation health and safety.
- Template design – providing HTML/CSS mock-ups of a site or interface design for implementation into the clients system.
- Redesign of existing sites – providing design and or interface development input on an existing site to improve appearance, usability, accessibility, etc.
- Development of small scale sites for small units or research projects
- CMS development – designing, developing and maintaining a site in the Drupal Content Management System (CMS)
- Bangor Pontifical Project
- British National Corpus
- Bodleian Dictionary of Slang
- Bodleian ePubs
- Cantigas de Santa Maria
- CLAROS & Metamorphoses
- Corsi Stones project
- DAISY Research Information Push
- Digital Medievalist
- Digital Temple (George Herbert poetry)
- Discovering Babel
- Electronic Database of Poetic Forms
- Gaiji Bank of non-Unicode Characters
- Holinshed's Chronicles Annotation Project
- Livingstone Online
- Mapping Knowledge Transmission
- Middle Dutch Phonology
- Online Egyptological Bibliography
- Oxford & Cambridge Islamic Manuscripts Catalogue Online: OCIMCO
- Oxford Text Archive
- Podcast ePubs
- Poetic Miscellanies
- Stationers' Register Online
- Text Encoding Initiative
- Thomas Wyatt's Sonnets
- Tibetan Text Project
- UWIC: MSWord-to-XCRI
- Verb Semantics and Argument Realization in Pre-Modern Japanese
- Wandering Jew's Chronicle
- William Godwin's Diary
Several of these projects are reported separately in the Infodev Projects section.
- Free advice - InfoDev have provided free consultancy advice to well over 50 different units or projects inside the university.
- External pro bono work - The InfoDev team also has provided a limited amount of pro bono advice and support to those outside the University (e.g. in supporting the OxGarage service, or TEI encoding for the Livingstone Online project).
- Usability/Accessibility consultancy - InfoDev has provided in-depth consultancy on projects (e.g. the DataFlow and CLAROS projects)
- Technical input on research bids - InfoDev supplied technical proofreading and best-practice advice for numerous research bids from all areas of the university.
- Summer School - InfoDev team members organized, ran, and taught at the Digital.Humanities@Oxford Summer School 2011, a week-long parallel stream digital humanities workshop mixing practical technology teaching with more abstract best practice discussions and invited plenary speakers.
- Workshops - InfoDev members taught various one-off workshops either for individual projects (e.g. TEI XML for the Electronic Database of Poetic Forms), on specific technologies (e.g. XSLT), or at the request of specific departments (e.g. a Corpus Linguistics course).
- The InfoDev team also provided digital humanities tutoring for students displaced by earthquakes in New Zealand.
The InfoWeb team continues to oversee and manage OUCS's web presence. The team focuses on keeping content well-managed and up to date as opposed to the work of the InfoDev team which undertakes development of innovative services, often on a chargeable basis.
InfoWeb now consists of one full-time member of staff, a part-time manager and a part-time content editor/author. During the last year our technical officer has retired.
One of the major tasks of the team is to assists service providers in editing their user documentation. During the last year this, in particular, has entailed considerable work with the Nexus team to help them produce SharePoint 2010 documentation for both users and site owners. Further infoweb also coordinates the collection of material, collates and produces the annual report for the department. Work also continues to promote usable and accessible documentation for our end users across all managed sites.
In order to keep web pages current and keep track of them InfoWeb has a system in place that runs regular link-checks and ownership-checks of web pages on the sites for which it is responsible.
InfoWeb is responsible for:
- OxITEMS (with support from InfoDev)
- Status.ox.ac.uk (with support from InfoDev)
- The information displays in OUCS reception and the user refreshment area
There are many statistics that can be shown for web services. The Nexus information pages were the most heavily used in the reporting period with 25% of all visits being to the Nexus email pages and 13% being to other Nexus pages. It is noteworthy that only 6% of page visits were to the OUCS home page, this could indicate either that people find OUCS web pages by searching rather than via the home page, or that people use much more than just the home page on the OUCS web site.
The majority of visits to the OUCS web site are from the UK and from Oxford in particular; the top three browser/operating system combinations are Internet Explorer/Windows, Firefox/Windows, Safari/Mac; mobile access to the OUCS web site is about 2% of total activity with the iPhone being the most popular and Android running a close second. This is a significant change from last year when the iPhone was the most popular by a factor of five.
The academic year 2010-11 was once again a very successful one for WebLearn as the following quotes from our users show:
[The WebLearn Poll session via Mobile Oxford was] "much better than normal CAL as this can be a waste of time, would be better to have a poll quiz like this every week during CAL time."
1st year Undergraduate Medicine student, May 2011
We were impressed at how enthusiastic those students with internet enabled mobiles were for the Mobile Oxford interface and observed that students were clearly engaged actively in the session.
Helen Christian, teacher of 1st year Undergraduate Medicine, May 2011
"I have been pleased with the [Surveys tool] trial we did using WebLearn for lecture feedback last term. It saved me a great deal of time in processing the results for presenting to the tutors, as we carry out feedback requests to undergraduates for each lecturer each term. The different formats of report was also useful."
Elaine Sherrott, Earth Sciences
2009-10 saw the introduction of the new WebLearn service — this service is based on a piece of open source software called Sakai. This new service is due to run in parallel with the old service ('Old WebLearn') for 2 years until September 2011.
The majority of colleges and departments now use new WebLearn but there are still a few significant units using the old system.
Most of the WebLearn training courses have been very well attended (the exception being 'Migrating your Content' which has been cancelled three times this year due to lack of interest). We introduced one new course during the reporting period and the beginner's course continues to be held once per month during term time.
A number of areas of new WebLearn have been actively developed over the last year with a small number of new tools introduced. The main enhancements have been the formal introduction of the very popular Surveys tool, the institutionally funded Student Enrolment System (see later), the integration of reading lists with SOLO, the addition of an interface within Mobile Oxford (as part of the Erewhon project), improvements to the end of year site copying process and integration with Oxford Podcasts (as part of the Listening For Impact project).
Prior to last year, this report has concentrated on the old WebLearn service, however, just as we did last year (because it is difficult to relate statistics between the two systems), we will mainly present statistics about the new service.
There is now a total of 2,589 sites (29 Colleges, 13 Humanities departments, 10 from MPLS, 15 from Social Sciences, 18 from UAS and 4 from ASUC; virtually all Medical Sciences Departmental sites are administered by the division so cannot be counted). This means 106 sites were created this year.
We have traditionally presented the number of unique logins during the first week of Trinity term, however, with users being spread over two systems and with some logging in to just one and others logging into both it is now not possible to present combined figures.
|WebLearn version:||Old||Old||Old||Old||Old||Old||New||Yr. Total||Old||New||Yr. Total|
|Requests / hits per 1000||1,020||1,831||1,999||2,104||2,307||1,364||4,291||5,656||384||6,781||7,166|
|Bandwidth in GB||11.55||16.24||69.98||42.96||70.89||42||40.5||82.5||19.7||91.62||111.32|
There has been a larger increase in bandwidth this year than in the previous two years, there has also been an increase in page hits. The figures for page hits are slightly misleading because each page served in new WebLearn contains more hits than for old WebLearn – this is probably due to the larger number of graphical elements on a new WebLearn page.
The following tables refer exclusively to new WebLearn.
|Type of user||Distinct users|
|Division||Number of sites|
|Division||MB Storage Used|
|Division||Number of files|
There are a total of 158,590 files resident in new WebLearn, this is an increase of 64,963 this year.
WebLearn offered a variety of courses during the reporting year:
|WebLearn: Fundamentals||105||1 per month|
|WebLearn: Making your site work||33||Twice (once per term)|
|WebLearn: Migrating your content||5||Once per term|
|WebLearn for Teaching (was: Learning and teaching: using technology tools)||3||Once per year|
|Plagiarism: WebLearn and TurnItIn||20||Once per term|
|WebLearn: Surveys||34||Once per term|
|WebLearn: using Mobile Oxford||8||Two in total|
In addition we also ran a number of tailored sessions within departments or colleges. A total of 84 people attended such events.
The WebLearn team were also available during ITLP's Computer8 drop-in surgery session which runs every Friday morning during term time.
A small number of new guides were produced for the new WebLearn service. These included a series of Case Studies and 'How To' guides in addition to the 'Step-by-Step' and 'Least You Need To Know' series.
All material is accessible via the WebLearn Guidance site: http://weblearn.ox.ac.uk/info.
The WebLearn team have produced a total of 44 video screencast tutorials demonstrating the use of some of the most important tools in WebLearn, this is an increase of 26 since last year. These videos are available on the WebLearn Guidance site listed as 'Video tutorials' under the 'Guides and tutorials' section and provide users with short 'just-in-time' visual demonstrations of particular tools. The topics have been subdivided into short sections covering two or three tasks within a particular tool, and lasting only two or three minutes.
The WebLearn User Group (WLUG) which takes place once a term is still proving to be very popular. The event always includes cream tea and scones meaning that booking is essential, see: http://www.oucs.ox.ac.uk/itlp/courses/detail/TOVD . Details also appear in the WebLearn area of the OUCS website: http://www.oucs.ox.ac.uk/weblearn/.
The User Group enables interested parties to come together to share ideas and practices and to hear about recent and future developments. Guest speakers are invited to come and give a short informal presentation about how WebLearn works for them.
Guest speakers over the last year included Rachel Woodruff and Victoria Brown from the Department of the History of Art talking about their use of WebLearn, Daniel Wilkes from the Manor Road Web Team talking about Politics' move from old WebLearn and Andy Cotgreve showing how he used the Tableau visualisation package to add value to WebLearn 'Site Stats' data.
The three meetings of the WLUG in the 2010-11 academic year were attended by about 35 different staff members, each meeting had about 25 attendees. For more information visit the 'WebLearn User Group' site: https://weblearn.ox.ac.uk/info/eas
The WebLearn blog is still proving popular: 90 posts were made over the course of the year and all were about WebLearn or Sakai (the software underpinning WebLearn). It is an invaluable resource for all WebLearn site owners.
A new blog called Sakai in UK Higher Education was set up last year to try to promote the adoption of Sakai in this country.
The OUCS Advisory Service is now the primary point of contact for WebLearn queries. Nevertheless the WebLearn team still answered 482 'RT' email queries in addition to a large number of private email and phone queries.
Members of the WebLearn team have presented at Oxford's ICTF and UAS conferences as well as at ALT-C and the Sakai 2011 conference in Los Angeles. Regular round-ups and induction seminars are given via the ITS3 network.
There have been a number of development initiatives over the course of the last year. Virtually all of developments have been within new WebLearn.
- New 'Survey Beta' tool added – this tool was previously called 'Evaluations' – over 60 bugs have been fixed over the last year but there are still a few issues with this tool hence its Beta status
- Users can now become members of 'Joinable' sites by simply visiting the site – previously one had to join via the 'Memberships' tool in 'My Workspace'
- Introduction of the Student Enrolment System – this tool has been updated since its introduction in September 2010 with every new WebLearn release
- WebLearn available via Mobile Oxford
- New version of Tutorial Signup tool
- Public voting via a mobile phone – this allows WebLearn to be used by the general public in place of 'clickers' (also known as Voting Pods)
- New tool called 'Oxford Podcasts' now available, this includes a wizard for browsing and selecting Oxford podcasts for inclusion on a site
- Integration of the Reading List tool (within Resources) with the Bodleian Library's SOLO search interface. Real-time availability information of books and journals are available within a reading list, however, the introduction of Aleph in July has affected the display of book availability.
- IMS Basic Learning Tools Interoperability (LTI) support has been added.
- When sites are copied, references are now automatically updated to point to the equivalent documents in the new site.
All the development work to enable migration to take place is complete with the exception of the ability to create and reuse custom groups.
It is difficult to estimate how many people have moved their material. As far as we can tell (looking at page requests and bandwidth above), the vast majority of users have moved. Old WebLearn will be made read only on 27 September 2011.
There is an ITLP course and a variety of guides available on migration via the WebLearn Guidance Site.
Around 3,400 people attended our courses this year. On average each person takes 3 courses, with one dedicated individual coming along to 65 different sessions! In addition, 2,500 people turned up to our special events and inductions.
The IT Learning Programme (ITLP) is part of the Learning Technologies Group (LTG). Its aim is to enable all members of the University to integrate good ICT practice into their work, and in doing so we take account of the diversity of learning styles, expectations and previous skill levels that exist. The small team of experienced teachers, event organisers and administrators have the following responsibilities:
- Delivering an open programme of IT related courses that benefit all members of the University.
- Providing closed courses for specific University groups.
- Organising courses delivered by external experts, both as part of our open programme and as closed courses.
- Supporting services offered by OUCS to the rest of the University by way of short, specially developed courses.
- Promoting the use of technology in teaching and learning by dissemination of best practice.
- Providing post-course support to course participants.
- Sharing our experience of teaching room design and provisioning with other departments around the University.
- Organising and hosting learning events in our fully equipped training rooms for local, national and international audiences.
During the course of the year we presented 509 open sessions (1487.5 teaching hours, 2727 distinct individuals) covering 199 topics, and 63 closed sessions (238.5 teaching hours, 732 distinct individuals) covering 47 topics.
The figures below show the demand by individuals for the areas of the programme broken down by course category and organisational area.
|Human.||MPLS||Med. Sci.||Soc. Sci.||Acad. Services||Colleges||Cont. Edu.||UAS||Ext.||Total|
|Communication & Collaboration||149||218||486||297||142||165||32||274||10||1,773|
Human. = Humanities; MPLS = Math, Physics and Life Sciences; Med. Sci. = Medical Science; Soc. Sci. = Social Science; Acad. Services = Academic Services; Cont. Edu. = Continuing Education; UAS = University Administration and Services; Ext. = External.
A similar breakdown is shown below for the other activities of the programme:
|Human.||MPLS||Med. Sci.||Soc. Sci.||Acad. Services||Colleges||Cont. Edu.||UAS||Ext.||Total|
|Breakfast at OUCS||10||18||34||18||7||11||1||18||5||122|
Human. = Humanities; MPLS = Math, Physics and Life Sciences; Med. Sci. = Medical Science; Soc. Sci. = Social Science; Acad. Services = Academic Services; Cont. Edu. = Continuing Education; UAS = University Administration and Services; Ext. = External.
† Also included in Table 38, extracted here for emphasis.
‡ Does not include 750 international students of indeterminate affiliation.
This year we have focused on strategies for reducing the number of attendees booking a course, but failing to turn up. We often have waiting lists and non-attendance deprives others of the learning opportunity. As a baseline figure for this year, the percentage of non-attendees (the difference between bookings and attendances) was 12% for closed courses and 28% for open courses. The higher value hides significant variations between different types of open courses.
We try to ensure that we address the IT learning needs of all members of the University. The chart below shows the demand by role, together with last year's data for comparison:
Similarly, here is the data presented by affiliation:
- Digital images: Sourcing, adapting and safe keeping
- Multimedia: Presenting and interviewing for podcasts and video demand
- Multimedia: Screen and audio capture for teaching
- Multimedia: Screen capture – assessing student learning
- Nexus: Essential features for email and calendars
- Nexus: SharePoint – An overview
- Nexus: SharePoint – A guide for site owners
- On-line Presence: A workshop
- Researcher services at OUCS
- Research information management: Organising humanities material
- Research information management: Tools for humanities
- Secrets of: Controlling Windows start up applications
- Secrets of: Firefox extensions
- Secrets of: Word – mail merge
- Secrets of: Word – shortcuts, templates and defaults
- Understanding user centred design
- WebEx Meeting Center - basic
- Relaunch of a number of programming courses
- New WebLearn courses
- Adobe Creative Suite workshops
- Skills Toolkit (see below)
- Digital Media Users Group (See below)
In collaboration with Andy Cotgreave of Administration Services we helped host two lunch time talks by internationally renowned communicators, each attended by in excess of 200 members of the University:
- Garr Reynolds – Presentation Zen
- Stephen Few – Show Me the Numbers: Designing Charts to Enlighten
During this year the ITLP team have worked with OUCS Information Development team to add extra features to our online booking system including:
- The facility to 'express an interest in a course'.
- Automated notifications about course availability.
- Integration with the OxPoints geolinking information service to display maps of training venues.
- Linking the online course catalogue with the ITLP Portfolio in WebLearn.
We continue to contribute to discussions about the specification of the new University HRIS system.
The ITLP Portfolio has become an integral part of the IT Learning Programme. It supports the range of ITLP taught courses by offering downloadable course handbooks, student exercise files and additional information such as 'how-to' videos. Over this year there were 2700 visits by 1194 distinct individuals, of whom 126 made four or more visits. A breakdown of visitors by Division/Unit is given below:
Our web-based participant feedback system, Indicate by Ostrakon, continues to allow us to maintain the highest level of teaching excellence. We routinely achieve a reply rate of 60% or more to our requests to participants for feedback, helping us to ensure quality, consistency and relevance in our programme.
|Booking and Administration||4.6||(4.7)||4.7||(4.6)||4.7||(4.8)||4.7||(4.7)||5.0|
Workshops in Information Skills and Electronic Resources (WISER) are short sessions hosted at OUCS with the help of ITLP and owned and presented by specialist librarians from the Bodleian Libraries. These aim to equip postgraduate researchers and others with the skills to make effective use of electronic and other library resources. These sessions remain popular with nearly 1,000 bookings this year.
make: is a series of lunchtime sessions were members of the University are invited to showcase their creative use of technology in teaching and learning. This year we hosted 11 sessions, with an additional 2 from other academic institutions. The topics included the use of iPads by academics, the implementation of an internationally acclaimed online exhibition, and an award-winning student prospectus in the form of a newspaper.
The 'Research Skills Toolkit' project is a collaboration between the Bodleian Libraries and the IT Learning Programme at OUCS. It offers postgraduate and post-doc researchers a range of transferable IT and Library Information skills and tools, that will support their research while at Oxford and in their future careers. This year we ran 15 subject-specific Toolkit workshops, tailored to the subject needs of 12 participating departments, and we substantially developed the Skills Toolkit website.
The distinctive feature of a Skills Toolkit workshop is that students learn by doing: they are given a range of hands-on computer tasks to carry out, which give them a view of how each tool or technique could support their research work. Expert staff are on hand at each task to offer guidance, and to suggest further resources.
Each session quickly developed a busy atmosphere, which encouraged discussion among students and with supervising staff. Students and staff commented that the Toolkit workshops provided good opportunities for students to meet their subject librarians and key IT staff. 77% of students found the event 'useful' or 'very useful' for their research, and 97% rated at least one task 'useful' or 'very useful'.
The Skills Toolkit website contains a substantial supporting resource with links to 'how-to' videos, taught courses and online information. It has proved popular with students - over 800 distinct individuals have visited the site this year.
In the fourth week of each term, we invite new staff for a short introduction to the services offered to the University by OUCS. It is an opportunity to meet members of the ITLP teaching staff and others in OUCS, and to discuss the different ways that we can help use IT.
With the help of other OUCS staff, the ITLP team provide a series of short talks to interested departments and groups at the start of each academic year. These talks are primarily to postgraduate students, and some undergraduates, and focus on how best to make use of the IT services provided by OUCS. The programme of inductions has grown steadily over the years and now reaches about 2,750 students.
All four modules (Databases, Spreadsheets, Word Processing, Presentations) of the Advanced European Computer Driving Licence certification are available at OUCS. Word processing and spreadsheets are the most popular with 73% of the total bookings. The pass rate across all modules is 73%.
Our Thames Suite of lecture rooms continues to offer high quality computer teaching facilities with continued technical support from the ICT team and NSMS teams.
The Thames Suite has been used by other sections of OUCS (ITSS and Information Services) and played host to the annual Oxtalent awards and the TEI Summer School.
The Thames Suite has also been hired by each of the four academic divisions, ASUC and UAS plus some colleges.
- Area Studies
- Bodleian Libraries
- Central Admin (Finance, Personnel, Student Admin)
- Centre for Evidence Based Medicine
- Earth Sciences
- Human Sciences
- Oriel College
- Oxford Internet Institute
- Physiology, Anatomy and Genetics
- Public and Primary Health
- Regents Park College
- Safety Office
- St Peter's College
- University College
- Wellcome Trust Centre for Human Genetics
- Wycliffe Hall
It has also been used by external organisations including:
- UK Serials Group
- Norges Bank Investment Management
Our Apple Teaching room has continued to be very popular, offering a wide variety of digital media courses. We have maintained our AATCe status, focusing on delivering Apple Approved training in the media industry's dominant video editing software: Final Cut Pro.
The ITLP have supported these services by developing and offering the following sessions as part of its programme.
- Byte-size and demonstration sessions providing overviews of Nexus and SharePoint
- Focussed courses showing how to set up meetings, manage calendars and mailing lists using Nexus
- Focussed sessions showing how to manage SharePoint sites
- One-to-one help at our weekly Computer8 sessions
In addition to our open schedule, ITLP also worked closely with IMSU to provide a tailored programme of courses for its staff migrating from Groupwise to Nexus. Between Sept 2010 and May 2011, ITLP delivered 12 sessions at the JR and Old Road Campus to 138 members of staff.
A closed session about using SharePoint to manage committee sites has also been delivered to Social Sciences.
The Digital Media User Group (DMUG) was setup in November 2010 and has held two termly meetings showcasing some of the projects that Oxford can be proud of. The purpose of the group is to allow practitioners in digital media an opportunity to network and learn what is happening in this area across the University. The production of media will become more efficient as people become aware of the different skillsets in the University. The group has been steadily growing and now has 93 members.
Learning Technology Group (LTG) Services provides the backbone to many LTG activities, offering advice on and expertise in the use of technology for learning and teaching to departments around the University. We have particular expertise in audio-video multimedia and we operate the University podcasting service. We also have expertise in learning design, systems interoperability, open education and gathering user requirements. The team is involved in many training sessions and outreach activities around media, content licensing and copyright. In 2010-11,externally funded projects included work around releasing Open Educational Resources (OER) at Oxford and researching the impact of this area. LTGS Services work regularly with departmental contacts on embedding technology in teaching and learning, including using the tools available in the institutional VLE software.
During this reporting period the team entered the third year of running the very successful Oxford on iTunesU service and a parallel web media portal - http://podcasts.ox.ac.uk. The podcasting service supports all departments to publish their public facing lectures, talks and conferences in a standardised way allowing material to be seen and downloaded by a global audience.
The iTunesU channel impact since launch in 2008 is impressive, with 350 different lecture sets containing around 3,000 items. These media channels attract a global audience, with over 120,000 podcasts being downloaded each week, and many popular Oxford talks appear regularly in the global top 10 iTunesU downloads.
Key facts since launch on October 8th 2008
- 12 million downloads from iTunesU
- 3,000 podcast items processed
- 2,700 academic speakers and contributors
Summary of statistics supplied by Apple Inc. for Oxford iTunesU
The usage statistics from the iTunes U portal showed a significant growth in usage in 2010. Podcasts have been downloaded 12 million times by July 2011, up from 4 million downloads the previous July. This steep rise in audience was due to an Apple iTunes upgrade in August 2010 that released iTunesU to a wider audience with full support for mobile platforms such as the iphone and ipad. In October 2010, Oxford on iTunesU was upgraded to support the delivery of ebooks in the epub format and a series of complimentary text resources were released including the entire first folio of Shakespeare's plays.
The section has continued to improve and expand the help, support and resources offered - including regular briefing sessions run fortnightly on the technical and legal issues of audio and video recording. Many more departments are now using the service to disseminate their public lectures and to engage with the public. Oxford's content was viewed by millions of people in an Apple iPad TV advert, which aired in winter 2010 across all major networks.
The advert features a few seconds of one of Professor James Binney's Quantum Mechanics lectures which had been recently added to Oxford on iTunesU.
To make sure all users can access the material, there is also a parallel website, http://podcasts.ox.ac.uk which meets the needs of those learners restricted to web only access. The main URL continues to be http://itunes.ox.ac.uk.
The team has also been successful in completing four large externally funded projects that covered this reporting period:
- Open Spires: Releasing high-quality Open Educational Resources for educational reuse
- Ripple: Developing a model to support other institutions to investigate OER release
- Triton: Making subject-specific OER more discoverable for the Politics subject community
- Listening for Impact: An analysis of the impact of the public Oxford Podcast collection
Please see the individual projects for more information about them.
The team also continued the Learning Design Support Environment for Lecturers (LDSE) project, which is developing an interactive learning design tool to support teachers who are moving to blended learning. The LDSE project (http://www.oucs.ox.ac.uk/ltg/projects/) is led by the Institute of Education, London and is funded by ESRC/EPSRC. These LTGS projects are discussed more fully later in this report.
LTG Services also plays a role in disseminating best practice in learning and teaching. Activities include: running IT and VLE training; occasional workshops such as copyright for teaching and learning; the annual 'Show and Tell' OxTALENT awards event; and a regular series on communication techniques for podcasting and iTunesU.
Finally, LTG Services lent its expertise to teach on and help support the Master's degree course in e-learning at the Department of Educational Studies.
OUCS administers a large number of software agreements for commonly requested software packages for personal computers. The University is thus able to make considerable savings against the individual purchase cost. A large proportion of centrally-licensed software is now hosted on the OUCS downloads site so IT Support Staff across the University can access it easily and provide it for their users as an alternative to purchasing media from the OUCS shop.
A Microsoft Campus agreement enables us to rent the most popular Microsoft products, e.g. Windows upgrades and Office Professional (both for Windows and Mac). Work-at-home rights are also included in this agreement. This year the cost for the Microsoft Campus rental was £346,019.
A Microsoft Select agreement, operated via the Computing Services Shop, allows for the purchase of other Microsoft products including servers and non-campus Client Access Licences. An Adobe agreement, again operated via the Computing Services Shop, allows for the purchase of the most popular Adobe products at educational prices.
The budget for site-licensed software used throughout the University currently stands at £101,295. Products include SPSS, EndNote, Exceed, MapInfo and Sophos (for which the following licences were added this year).
|Software||Licences applied for from:|
|NVivo (Since April)||112||103|
OUCS also administers various software contracts on behalf of groups of departments to assist in gaining more favourable pricing; this year software to the value of £59,155 was purchased and subsequently paid for by contributing departments and this represented a significant saving against purchasing the software separately.
The most significant event in the year was the acquisition of a new site licence for the NVivo software at a cost of £11,124. This had been in demand for some time and 215 licences for it were issued in the reporting period, representing a saving already of just over £80k compared to individual purchases or just under £60k had the licences been bought in packs of 15. So far, therefore, the cost of providing NVivo for each user is around £51 as compared to the standard £360+VAT unit price.This figure will decrease as more licenses are issued.
The OUCS Data Centre Operations Team manages the day to day running of the Data Centre located at 13 Banbury Road. The team monitors power distribution, temperature, humidity and all other environmental factors, as well as advising groups using the Centre on positioning of equipment and services.
The air conditioning continues to cause concern. The air conditioning units are obsolete and obtaining spares becomes more difficult. The units are becoming more and more unreliable (being 10-15 years old).
The reconfiguration of the air flow in the centre last year has resulted in overall temperatures falling. Environment monitoring is able to store up to 2 years of history via a network NAS (network-attached storage) drive so the team can quickly browse current environmental trends and past trends within the Centre.
A feasibility study was carried out earlier in 2011 to look at the possibility of refurbishing the live data centre. This study concluded that refurbishment would be very difficult as there are 20 years' worth of cables in the floor plenum. The study recommended building a new data centre in space located on the other side of the building, decanting equipment from the existing data centre and the decommissioning of the current data centre and converting it back to office space. This is due to take place subject to funding and senior management approval, during 2012.
The new University Shared Data Centre is now operational bar a few snagging issues which continue to be ironed out.
The Operations poster printing service continues to be popular. 800 A0 posters have been printed so far in 2011. An updated printer (an Epson 9800) has recently been installed and a 64-bit version of the raster image processing (RIP) software has been installed to take advantage of the extended memory addressing within Windows 7 64-bit.
During the past year the Network Systems Management Services (NSMS) team have successfully completed several projects that have enhanced or augmented the IT services that the collegiate University relies upon. To support the ever increasing portfolio of services offered by the NSMS group we have taken on an additional member of staff bringing our staff complement to twelve. We are intending to recruit two new staff over the next 3 months. Group turnover has grown to £779k.
In addition to the ongoing support provided to the group's existing clients, new projects that NSMS had some role in successfully completing last year are listed below:
- Established a ResNet (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/ResNet) for Graduate Accommodation.
- Designed and developed a resilient private Cloud (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Cloud_computing) based in the University's new Data Centre underpinned by VMware's latest vSphere software.
- Formed a strategic partnership with Vmware on their Activate project. This provided the University with valuable consultancy on how to establish and configure the private Cloud.
- Created a 'Database as a service' (ViDaaS) service running on virtualisation hardware in the new Data Centre.
- Built upon the ViDaaS project to provide an infrastructure-as-a-service (IaaS) offering from the new USDC to complement the co-location facilities. Examined the feasibility of moving the NSMS VM4Rent service into this new cloud infrastructure. Looked at cost models for the IaaS service.
- Undertook a pilot project to evaluate the optimal configuration of OUCS's MIT kerberos authentication infrastructure with college and Departmental Active Directories. This project assessed the viability of a central Active Directory for Oxford.
- Established a fully-managed IT support service for the Oxford University Students' Union and Oxford University Botanic Gardens Apple Macs.
- Took on an advisory and support role for the Blavatnik School of Government.
Since its creation in 2009, Mobile Oxford has grown in popularity and capability to be regarded as one of the world's leading HE mobile services. Integrating data and resources from a multitude of sources both internal and external to the University, it provides a range of interfaces that are available on any mobile device capable of browsing the web. This includes everything from location sensitive library searching, full access to Oxford's award winning podcast library and even real time bus andtrain information for the city.
Over the past year, the software that the Mobile Oxford team built to deliver Mobile Oxford has been developed considerably under the open source 'Molly Project'. Mobile Oxford has had thirteen new releases bringing in a range of new features such as train timetables, tutorial bookings, slippy maps and much more. The Molly Project has also expanded to include to new Universities - Bangor University and St George's Medical College, University of London.
In addition, the Mobile Oxford team has been involved in a number of other mobile/location sensitive projects including a time-use research project commissioned by the University's sociology department. This involved developing a system to deploy and monitor automatically reporting GPS devices and produce reports automatically on how and where volunteers spent their survey days.
WebEx is a web conferencing service that gives participants the tools to seamlessly collaborate and share information. With WebEx, you can share presentations, applications and your entire desktop with colleagues from around the world.
WebEx initially ran as a trial until July 2009, it then moved to be a cost-recovered service. There are currently over 40 WebEx accounts in operation. Promotion is on-going to attract more users to the service and to educate about how to use it.
Courses have been run along with ITLP which have been well subscribed, and it is anticipated that these will continue.
Meetings have followed this pattern:
Attendees have increased as follows:
The split between paid minutes and VoIP minutes is as below:
ITS3 was not at full-strength during the reporting period. One member of staff was working full time, and one half-time. The vacancy for Support Officer (50% FTE) was carried for 9 months as a cost-saving exercise. The Head of ITS3 continues to devote about 40% of his time to ITS3.
ITS3 continues to be the principal channel of emergency communication between OUCS and IT Support Staff (ITSS). ITS3 holds 187 alternative email addresses for ITSS and 199 mobile numbers that it can use to send emergency SMS messages.
The OUCS ITS3 twitter account that ITS3 uses in emergencies on for tweeting information about meetings etc. now has 93 followers. The ITSS Wiki has been updated152 times by 48 distinct people.
ITS3 has joined several recruitment panels across the collegiate University providing advice in recruiting, grading and staff management.
ITS3 continues to act as a broker for the Janet SSL server certificate service in conjunction with Comodo. Around 500 certificates have been have been issued in the reporting period saving Oxford in the several tens of thousands of pounds at average prices.
ITS3 continues to handle copyright infringement notices on behalf of the University with OxCERT and remains extremely grateful for the help provided by ITSS in dealing these promptly thus greatly reducing the risk to the University of litigation. 231 incidents were dealt with during the reporting period, representing a significant increase of over 80%.
Chargeable courses included VMWare vSphere, ISEB Certificate in Information Security, ITIL v3 Foundation, Mac OS 10.6 Support Essentials and a new partnership with JANET to deliver Computers, Privacy and the Law. Lunch and learn events were organised in partnership with Insight, Altman, Cisco and Aerohive.
The largest events organised during the year were the IT Suppliers' Exhibition in December 2010 and the 2011 ICT Forum conference in July. The conference was again held at The Kassam Football Stadium. 330 Oxford IT Staff and around 20 IT Support Staff from The University of Cambridge attended.
Social events have continued to be an important part of ITSS life in Oxford. Many of these are arranged by ITSS outside of OUCS. They include regular lunchtime and evening gatherings and are invaluable in terms of fostering skill and knowledge-sharing among ITSS. The last summer BBQ in September 2010 was well-attended as was an unofficial ITSS event to mark several of them entering their fifth decade in 2011.
Organisationally, there have been big changes for the OUCS Marketing section with the disbanding of the Marketing and Communications Group and changes to reporting structure. The Marketing Manager now presents reports for discussion to the User Services Team. Their minutes are widely disseminated and feed into Senior Management Meetings. An annual round of meetings with senior managers to discuss their section's marketing requirements and aspirations for the year has been established. Internal marketing web pages providing information, ideas and resources to OUCS staff has been considerably revamped.
The Welcome to IT website has been extensively developed and updated again and incorporates a major section on online security and privacy. Although integrated in the Welcome to IT web site, this is still accessible via the http://unwelcometoit.ox.ac.uk URL.
Results from the annual Freshers Survey were analysed to a new level of detail this year which proved very illuminating, was well received by a number of University committees and will be continued. The Freshers Survey has been a feature of Freshers Fair for six years and provides an excellent resource to guide the aims and aspirations of the department.
Leaflets, posters, web pages, Blueprint adverts, newsfeeds and banners continue to be important publicity tools and have been used within OUCS, at specific events and around the wider University. Newsfeeds are linked to the OUCS Facebook page and Twitter feed which have both seen a rising number of users. A podcast about OUCS has been developed and used successfully at Freshers Fair, the IT Suppliers Exhibition and other events.
To show some of the range of things OUCS do, we have also promoted ArtWeeks at OUCS and INGOTEC, a not for profit organisation offering IT services to charities and run by OUCS staff in their spare time.
OUCS regularly provides reports to University committees and groups, such as the ICT Forum. OUCS News continues to be produced once a term and distributed to all colleges and departments. Its distribution list continues to expand as more people become aware of it and want to ensure they receive a copy on a regular basis.
OUCS is very grateful for the continuing support, co-operation, and high level of expertise provided by distributed IT Support Staff in their dealings with users, their take up of OUCS-offered training and in disseminating information about OUCS services to their users as appropriate.
During the past year OUCS recruited 11 new members of staff and we had 21 leavers or retirees with a total of 249 years service between them. We also saw another successful batch of interns over the summer period, the introduction of a media apprentice and we hosted three work experience students.
During the year we saw the introduction of the new HRIS Core system for on line recruitment. OUCS became one of the last departments in the University to start using the system. It is evolving and HR are learning all the time eventually it will result in best practice for recruitment processes.
The ICT team that were housed and looked after by OUCS moved into Blue Boar Court with the rest of the ICT Team.
HR came to grips with new government legislation including new stringent requirements from the border agency when obtaining work permits for employees. Other legislation that came into force was the new Additional Parental Leave and the Equality Act. The new Parental Leave legislation allows parents to share maternity/paternity leave arrangements and pay. Whilst the Equality Act, harmonised and replaced some of the existing equality and discrimination legislation.
Oxford University and OUCS are taking a stronger line when it comes to monitoring staff absences from work. With this in mind SMG and HR have formulised sickness absence monitoring, managers are now encouraged to arrange back to work interviews for staff who have been absent.
Each year OUCS reports on staff contributions to various open source initiatives. Before any code is released, however, these are all approved by OUCS senior managers. In the course of 2010-2011 the following contributions were made:
- Bugfixes to Sakai - Section involved: WebLearn
- Netoptions - Section involved: Systems Development Team
- Idifutils - Section involved: Systems Development Team
- Packwant - Section involved: Systems Development Team
- Dropto - Section involved: Systems Development Team
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.
New projects started during the past year include:
- CUD implementation 2
- Evaluation tool
- Listening for Impact
- Nexus Exchange and SharePoint
- OER Impact Study
- Rave in Context
Work is continuing on a series of projects such as:
Projects that have finished during the year include:
- Open Meters
- Sir Louie
Further information on some of these projects are in subsequent sections of this report.
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 final toolkit and report will be made available by JISC in due course.
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:
- OUCS registration
- University Card
- Library Card
The following data sources are due for inclusion into CUD during September 2011:
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 email@example.com
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.
The intended benefits of the project were:
- 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.
The objectives of this project are to:
- 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
Progress and achievements in 2010/11 include:
- 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
Some functionality is scheduled to go live to University users of WebLearn and Nexus in Michaelmas Term 2011.
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 project was been funded by JISC within their Flexible Services Delivery programme.
The GTimes project (funded by the PRAC ICT committee, PICT) resulted in the introduction of a brand new locally written module registration tool known as SES (Student Enrolment System).
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.
SES II is an extension to GTimes and is due to complete at the end of 2011.
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.
This second phase of development will complete the development of a basic system for use by all divisions. The aims are to:
- 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
Many useful enhancements developed as part of this project have already been made live and the remainder will be available in time for MT 2011 and HT2012.
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 chart shows the number of objects in the database (in red) with the number of modifications made to existing files (in yellow) over the time of the reporting period.
During the reporting period there about been over 320 updates to the data providing around 470 new objects.
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: firstname.lastname@example.org
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.
- Institute of Education, Birkbeck University of London, LSE, Royal Veterinary College, London Metropolitan University, University of Oxford
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.
In summary, the project's findings were:
- 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
The project also made some changes to the way that podcasts are presented outside the Apple iTunes U interface:
- 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
Finally the project made recommendations for policy and process changes to better monitor impact in future:
- In future, hosting should be centralised, in part to better monitor access and measure impact
- Regular, standardised sampling of student opinion should be undertaken
- Engagement with contributors should include incorporate more activities designed to aid promotion and monitor impact
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.
The perceived benefits of OER to educators include:
- 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.
Enabling factors and impediments to the uptake and sustained use of OER include:
- 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.
Open Spires achieved:
- 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
The open material released in under a year included over 300 items (audio, video and slide sets) from 140 academics including:
- 8 complete Oxford lecture series
- 30 sets of research seminars, interviews, conferences, presentations and panels
Key points to note are:
- 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.
|Year 1 (end Apr 2010)||Year 2 (to April 2011)||% Change|
|Total Open items released||300||782 +||160%|
|Academics involved||140||394 +||180%|
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…"
Harper Adams Lead
"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."
Oxford Brookes Lead
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.
Oxford Brookes Lead
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.
Key achievements of the Ripple project:
- 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:
- 18 videos from key speakers
- 19 audio recordings of presentations
- 14 other workshop documents to support OER training
- Five workshop reports on the project blog
- Five workshop evaluation reports
- 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.
Contributors have benefited from engaging with the open culture movement to see the value of sharing materials, understanding IPR issues and contributing to "open academic practice".
Triton developed technical work in three key areas:
- 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)
The University has put in place an ambitious carbon reduction strategy . IT will play an integral role in delivering these goals in a number of different ways. In the short term this means:
- 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 email@example.com
- 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.
Finally, by providing open source widget templates for progressively enhanced user interfaces we intend to make it easier for future projects to build similar user interfaces.
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 outcomes and lessons learned can be synthesised into a simple A,B,C of advice for projects and groups who aim to 'crowdsource' with sustainable success:
- Aim for Two-way engagement
- Be part of your community
- Challenge your assumptions
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.
Among the project activities can be mentioned five workshops bringing together participants and speakers from UK academia and the public sector as well as public broadcasting and the private sector.
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.
RunCoCo was also on the academic advisory board contributing expertise to a number of JISC-funded projects. Some positive feedback from this academic support:
'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.
The RunCoCo project team (of the LTG) worked closely with three teams in continental Europe relating to:
- 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.
Other outputs that may be of broader interest include:
- 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.
Other aspects of VIDaaS include developing full documentation and training support for the service, and producing the tools needed for extending and monitoring the DaaS.
The VIDaaS User Requirements Report will be available from the project website shortly.
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 is on the steering group of the Learning Records Service initiative and has worked closely with the JISC on their Flexible Service Delivery programme.
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).