3. Review 2011-12
This section of the report details our services and the impact they have been making on the University and its IT needs. Wherever possible we have tried to 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.
Support for the chassis of our backbone routers, which had recently celebrated their 10th birthday, was due to be withdrawn by Cisco after 30th November 2012. As these are a key part of the University network, we had to get these replaced before their "End of Support" date. This was an enormous challenge to replace all 13 chassis over the summer while keeping the downtime to an absolute minimum. It was rather analogous to the F1 racing car pits stops. Indeed the team got their times down to levels that even McLaren or Ferrari would be proud of! The work is now complete.
The sudden jump in numbers shown in the graph above, is partly attributable to the increase in the number of devices that individuals have and partly an artefact as mobile devices repeatedly connecting/disconnecting to the system as users move around.
This year we continued to grow the wireless service adding 30% more access points, taking our total from 670 wireless access points (WAP’s) to 874. In addition many colleges and divisions have their own provision.
The OWL, eduroam, and OWL Visitor Network services continue to be well used. Increasingly, wireless is the a primary means of network access. The total number of clients (per month) shown in the graph below clearly demonstrates this point, as well as showing the termly variation.
|Year||Daily Messages||Data Volume (GB)|
Our mirror service (http://mirror.ox.ac.uk/) 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 by 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|
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 24 mentioned above are listed below).
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.
|Year||Registered users at |
end of reporting period
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).
|Year||User time connected (Hours per month)|
|Total||Average (per user)||Maximum|
A substantial overhaul of OUCS’ web hosting services is planned for 2013. In 2011 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|
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.
|Internal clients||External peers|
|2011 (July only)||162||25|
|2012 (September only)||110||17|
OUCS provides a service enabling manual, and scheduled, wake-on-lan for registered hosts. This enables IT Support Staff, end-users and the HFS Backup Service to switch computers on remotely. A web interface provides machine registration, wake-up, schedule configuration, and other options to end-users. 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.
Following the completion of the infrastructure upgrade project in early 2012, a subsequent project involving NSMS and Estates Services has enabled the roll-out of centrally funded gateway devices across University departments.
Coverage and take-up of the service has grown substantially with the new system in place, and is now more than double the peak deployment of its predecessor. The project aims are being met in that single gateways are serving multiple networks, VLANs, and IP subnets. Work on the EEM system - especially the web interface - is continuing as increased usage has surfaced requests for extended funtionality. The old (WoL) system components have now been decommissioned.
|Year||EEM-enabled gateways||EEM-enabled networks|
The reduction in number of active client devices (device which received at least one wakeup) shown below is likely to be due to the fact that during part of this reporting period, both systems were running, but only data from EEM was collected.
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 25GB) 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.
In last years report, the Total size of files uploaded was reported as an instantaneous snapshot of data stored on the server. This year the reported figure relates to the cumulative size of all files uploaded, which provides a more useful indicator of usage.
|Year||Folders||Files Added||Total size of files uploaded||Average folder size|
|2011||1394 (May-July)||3458 (May-July)||N/A||187 MB|
|2012||10004||35651||3.24 TB||550 MB|
IT Services provides a range of identity and access management (IAM) services to the University. WebAuth, Shibboleth, Kerberos, Oak LDAP, Core User Directory (CUD) and the registration database. These services 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, the IAM team have engaged in a variety of communication and development activities associated with our services. These have included CUD training sessions, presentations at ICTF and UAS Conferences and providing sessions about the user lifecycle, status and entitlements.
CUD became a production service at the end of June 2012, receiving, matching and consolidating data from OSS, OpenDoor, Congregation, DARS, Card, Registration and Telecomms. CUD has proved an invaluable tool to assist with data migrations, data consolidation and data delivery and has been involved in the following projects and services:
This year, with the move from OpenDoor to HRIS, CUD has been used in data matching and cleaning of the OpenDoor records. Work is ongoing to ensure that the data held and presented to users is accurate, clean and presented in a timely manner.
As many of you will know we have retired the text files previously provided to ITSS. Registration data feeds are now provided by CUD, using a number of different interfaces, mostly using the CUD client which uses kerberos to authenticate. Previously access control was restricted by individual IP Addresses, which was difficult to maintain and was only available to "public" addresses.
This year we have completed a platform upgrade of the underlying infrastructure supporting our Kerberos Key Distribution Centre (KDC) cluster. Work to perform a complete platform upgrade (operating system and application) of the underlying infrastructure supporting our Webauth cluster started earlier in the reporting year and is still ongoing. In addition, work is also underway to update and rebrand the Webauth website interface, which, in part, should prove more friendly to small and mobile devices.
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.
However, we have not been able to fully implement SAML2 due to a small number of service providers not being fully compatible. We are seeking to address these issues as a matter of urgency as we wish to be able to use some of the additional features offered by SAML2.
This has been a very interesting project, originally set up to enable collaboration between OUCS and BSP staff to integrate a number of UAS applications with Oxford SSO. The applications integrated so far include SITS, x5 Agresso, Oracle UPK (finance training system), and Tableau. Also in scope for integration are HRIS, DARS NetCommunity and the replacements for ADSS and ADMIT for which a solution has been identified but is currently not operational.
As part of the UAS AM project, work is now underway to assess how the University might move forward with extending SSO to leavers and prospective staff and students. This is likely to include further discussion about how to better manage the user lifecycle and additional verification.
The Groupstore Project 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.
Janus was a pilot project which looked at providing a means to submit exam papers via WebLearn. The additional verification method selected was SMS messages. The end of project reported a successful outcome. The Examinations School have made a recommendation that the pilot be extended and developed to provide the means for all papers to be submitted in this way. In addition a project proposal has been submitted to seek further funding to provide additional verification services for other use cases.
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%, releaving 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 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.
The core user directory stores data about people who have a relationship to the University. CUD collects, matches, reconciles and consolidates data from many University sources. Some of that data is released to registered CUD data consumers according to the attribute release policies set by the data controllers.
CUD became a production service in June 2012 and is now providing data to 175 ITSS and 10 non ITSS (end September 2012). CUD offers a web based interface for simple search, simple matching and recording unit affiliations. As use of simple search has grown more attributes have been added to facilitate building queries.
- CUD user interface was accessed by 127 people.
- 117 ITSS with rights over 248 units in total use the user interface
- 10 non ITSS access the web interfaces.
- 42 servers access data from the CUD webservice, from a total of 17 DNS sub-domains, reflecting the number of CUD clients, and other non-user interfaces.
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):
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 19. Services using Kerberos and cross-realm trusts.
|Year||Services using Kerberos||Cross-realm trusts|
Our Shibboleth service enables Oxford University to participate in federated access management. This enables 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.
Table 20. Growth of Shibboleth service since 2008 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 31st August 2012. 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.
During the year 2011/12, Oxford Nexus consolidated its SharePoint 2010 service and migrated the Exchange service to Microsoft Exchange 2010. (This was a major project and is reported in 4.7.1. Nexus Exchange 2010 Upgrade (Phase 2) Project.)
In July 2012 (2011), there were 37,000 (36,000) active users (those who had used the service within the previous 90 days) and over 49,000 (47,000) mailboxes on Nexus. An average mailbox contained over 6,500 (5,000) items with a size of 597 (411) MB.
Note that last year we reported a growth rate of 70% (from Aug 2010 to July 2011) in the size of the average mailbox. This year that figure is 32%. This year’s rate is probably more realistic for longer term planning as no large-scale migrations have taken place. In 2010/11 we migrated in many mailboxes from long-standing groupware services (Lotus Notes and GroupWise) and these mailboxes were generally larger than the Nexus average at the time.
The largest five thousand Nexus mailboxes directly consumed 10.0 (8.8) TB of storage (without including data duplication required for data integrity purposes) whereas the remaining 44,268 (42,228) mailboxes consumed 13.5 (9.7) TB of storage. The average size for a 'top five thousand' mailbox was 2.0 (1.8) GB, thus dwarfing the 0.3 (0.2) GB for the "others". 1% of users currently consume 10.8 (9.9) % of the storage allocated to Nexus Exchange.
Table 22. Hand held clients connecting to Nexus Exchange below is guide as to the most common mobile or hand held clients which connected to Nexus Exchange over a 30 day period. The guide is rough as 200 devices could not be identified and some misreporting goes on (e.g. HTC Desire phones often report as "HTC Bravo" and many report as simply "Android"). For conciseness, only clients with a count of 50 or above are listed.
As of mid-July 2012 (2011 values in brackets), there were 119 (66) site collections with a total of 925 (330) sites. These are currently consuming 45.3 GB (6.3 GB) of storage. There are now 223 (89) My Sites using 5.4 GB (2.1 GB) of storage.
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 service's popularity is increasing as client numbers continue to grow to over 6500. Of particular note this year has been the steady rise in server-level clients throughout the year. Such clients naturally have larger datastores to secure and present the HFS with a constant challenge of meeting and absorbing the growth in the backup and archive requirements of an ever-increasing number and size of client machines around Oxford. The table below illustrates this across all four major HFS service areas:
|Desktop Backup||Server||Groupware Backup||Archive|
|N Files||Data||N Files||Data||N Files||Data||N Files||Data|
In line with previous years, the figures suggest that files are getting bigger, as growth in data exceeds growth in file numbers. For the desktop service, there was almost no growth in file numbers, yet a 23% rise in total data. Server Backup and Archive services showed the same trend (the Groupware service has migrated to a new backup method that rendered any comparison with previous years invalid).
The total amount of data secured by the HFS (lighter line against right axis in graph below) has grown from around 1185TB to just under 1500TB (1.5PB) in the last year. The total number of files (darker line against left axis) has risen from a little over 1.8 billion to over 2 billion.
Major activities in the past year have centred around the HFS Managing Capacity Phase 2 project – which itself followed on from the successful migration of TSM database architecture and SAN infrastructure in Phase 1. Phase 2 commenced with a successful bid to PICT for a replacement for the ageing HFS tape robot. This had seen 16 years active service and was now capacity constrained, long out of production and based on old technology that was increasingly no longer supported by IBM. A replacement entailed the following:
- Construction of a secure module within the SDC to house the tape library in a suitable temperature environment.
- Installation and commission of the new tape library within the library module.
- Configuration of the tape library and tape drives across a stretched SAN between the Banbury Road site and the SDC .
- Migration of existing HFS backup / archive services to the new tape library.
- Decommission the existing tape robot.
The project officially started on 01 Jan 2012 and the first three elements were completed by June this year. The main tape library has been in full production since then and it is task 4, the migration of data that is now taking the time. This, however, is well in hand to complete before the scheduled completion at the end of 2012. At the same time, a small tape library has also been installed at the Banbury Road site for the offsite copies to be made to tape and then transported away.
The major benefits to be realized from this project are already apparent – increased performance allows more data to be committed to tape. This allied to increased capacity gives us a growth path that should enable the service – with appropriate upgrades - to meet demand for the next 10 years.
In tandem with the two above, the HFS has been a key partner in the Dual-Site-Resilience project. This seeks to provide a solution to key services by providing co-location within the state-of-the-art SDC and thus provide second-site resilience to services at Banbury Road. The progress of the project has been dependent on a considerable amount of preparatory infrastructure work but is now well underway. Soon half the HFS disk storage will have been relocated to the SDC – but will remain accessible to hosts at both sites on a stretched SAN between the two sites. Thereafter half the host servers will move. Taking advantage of native virtualisation technologies within AIX will allow us to move services between physical locations quickly (within 15 minutes) with almost no interruption to service.
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 in their hour of need when they need to recover lost work and data.
Work on the Dual-Site-Resilience project will continue to the end of the year and, following on from that, two server hosts will need replacing. Pilot projects are either underway or planned to investigate the following;
- The possibility of performing in-line de-duplication of Nexus exchange backups.
- The possibility of offering a fully integrated, full backup service of Vmware guest machines from within the vCenter environment.
- An investigation into a lightweight, tiered backup solution that may be offered to a wider client estate – possibly involving shared access to clustered disk and backed by tape backup.
The past year has been a busy one for the Network Security Team. For the second year running, the overall number of incidents handled has decreased slightly, to 1156. This total, however, masks a continued shift towards more incidents requiring more of the team's time to resolve, particularly spam runs and SQL injection attacks.
There has been a big decrease in the number of malicious code incidents observed; indeed over half of them arose in April. This was the biggest malware outbreak OxCERT have seen in many years. The Flashback trojan hit several hundred Apple systems across the University. It highlighted several issues, including widespread perception that "Macs don't get viruses", Apple's sloth in addressing known security vulnerabilities, and their short product support lifetimes. OxCERT's blog posts Musings on mac malware and Apple security support, gained considerable external attention, though it remains to be seen whether Apple make any fundamental changes to their working practices.
The amount of malware observed on Windows systems has meanwhile dropped markedly. There have been notable victories against some of the major botnet operators through the combined efforts of Microsoft, security researchers and law enforcement across multiple countries. Nevertheless the team struggle to devote sufficient resources to detection of new malware variants. Infections frequently exploit vulnerabilities in common software such as PDF readers, web browsers and plugins. Not only do IT staff face a continual battle in keeping applications up-to-date, but other applications may introduce conflicting demands between security and functionality.
Attacks against webservers, especially SQL injection, remain a major problem, and have resulted in significant server downtime and data loss from University systems. It is important to be aware that the consequences of a major data breach can extend far beyond the IT staff. There is the possibility of major reputational damage and the imposition of significant financial penalties by the Information Commissioner, as has happened at other institutions.
The year has seen over one hundred incidents in which University accounts have been used to send large volumes of spam, typically as a result of the account owner falling for a "phishing" spam and divulging their login credentials. E-mail transmission frequently depends on the "reputation" of the sending server, and a major spam run can significantly affect the reputation of University systems. This can be extremely disruptive if it happens with a major commercial provider. Additional countermeasures have been introduced to reduce the likelihood of such events, but it is very difficult to avoid them entirely without also affecting legitimate email traffic.
A major upgrade has substantially improved the team's monitoring on the University's 10GB link to JANET, and a second system purchased as part of the project to make this resilient. Additional equipment has been purchased in order to achieve dual-site resilience for the team's supporting infrastructure.
One team member has moved to be the University's Information Security Officer. While this move has temporarily left a vacancy within OxCERT, the new role and other developments in information security are absolutely critical to the University. OxCERT will be working closely with the Information Security Team, and hope that, in time, many of the problems highlighted as a result of major security incidents can be addressed.
OxCERT remain active in the wider security community, attending events in Malta and Rome as well as numerous meetings in the UK, and sharing information with partner teams where appropriate. In co-operation with two other UK university security teams, a set of standard incident categories has been devised. After taking the size of each institution into account, this allows the number of incidents at different universities to be compared, and for the first time we are able to use these categories in this Annual Report see Figure 11, Security incidents over the past year.
The upcoming merger of OUCS into the new IT Services department has already had a noticeable impact on the Help Centre and its services even though most changes are still just at the planning stage. For instance the help desk has fielded more queries that would previously have been directed to other service desks. Questions of overall software licence management within the new department and beyond are having an impact on the online shop, while the hardware repair service is starting to consider how it can develop within the new departmental structure.
This year has seen a very small drop in the number of emailed enquiries the help desk team have answered. It is interesting to see that there is a much sharper drop in enquiries from undergraduates ( 32%) and postgraduate (38%). By contrast enquiries have increased from staff (5%), senior members (20%), academic visitors (71%) and retired staff (62%). We do not have sufficient data to explain these changes and can only speculate that support for students has been improved in departments and colleges or that a higher percentage of the student body are now sufficiently IT literate to require less support.
This is the first reporting year in which we have been separating queries which are either more time consuming or require more specialised knowledge. The separation is done manually and is not particularly rigorous, so the figure of 710 queries out of the 11,540 total is probably on the low side. The separation does make it possible to evaluate what percentage of the queries from each group require a higher than average amount of time to resolve, shown in Table 26. Percentage of lengthy or advanced queries. This illustrates that although the numbers of queries coming from academic visitors and retired staff are much lower that other groups, they still represent a significant resource requirement from the help desk team. It is likely that the lower availability of local IT staff to these two groups is a factor in the longer enquiries.
Only 33% of our queries were submitted via our electronic form and were also usable for analysis. This is a marked decrease from the last few years and is probably due to our email address being more widely circulated and being used in preference to the form. This is regrettable as the barcode information we have from the forms allows us to attribute queries to academic divisions via primary affiliations. The colleges and divisions again hold the top 5 ranks in number of queries, with a very slight increase in the percentage of the total to 88%.
Compared to last year the percentage of account related queries have fallen by 2% while email questions are up by 5%. Network queries increased by two percentage points and moved from rank 7 to 4. This year was the first time we have enough queries about wireless networks to merit a separate category. Malware, on the other hand has dropped 3 percentage points and is now rank 7 whereas last year it was 5th. To some extent phishing attacks have taken the place of malware problems.
During the reporting year of 2011-12, the OUCS Online Shop has processed 4541 orders for software; this is a 32% increase from last year (Table 28. Type and number of shop orders).
|Total Software related Transactions*||1783||3131||4541|
|Total transactions including services**||3997||4887||4900|
- *Note: Total transactions exclude poster printing, PC/Laptop Maintenance and Blackberry Enterprise licenses.
- **Note: Includes poster printing, PC/Laptop Maintenance and Blackberry Enterprise licenses.
- ***Note: The data above does not include non-shop related transactions – ad hoc license acquisition
Across the divisions, the Medical Sciences bought and/or acquired the most licenses (39.7% of the total). This is a 1.3% decrease in Medical Sciences' share compared to last year. The colleges, taken as a whole, acquired the second most number of licenses (19.5% of total share). Please see Table 29. Share of division purchasing for 2010, 2011 and 2012 for details.
The Online Shop also successfully increased user functionality by changing nearly all (where appropriate) of its products into variable products. This means that the shop now has all associated products for software (including license variations, installation DVDs, etc) grouped together, allowing for greater ease of use by customers.
Finally, the University Software Licensing Team managed to renegotiate its deal with QSR International so that the University could provide the statistical package, Nvivo Version 10, to both staff and students free of charge, saving students £110 and staff £360 each. Further, the Online Store has also increased its product range by adding new versions of Adobe Software (Creative Suite 6), SQL 2012, Microsoft Systems Centre Configuration Manager 2012, Endnote X6, SPSS 21, Microsoft MapPoint 2013 and Arc GIS from ESRI software which was successfully negotiated by the Software Licensing Team to provide free licenses to Staff and Students.
The hardware service continues to be led by the Hardware Services Manager assisted by one administrator who looks after the coordination of equipment sent off site to our repair partner Equinox. Service staff continue to increase their skills and experience by undertaking training and have achieved Apple Authorised Service Provide status and 10.7 Lion support professional this year as well as studying towards an Open University degree.
Progress in end user PC technology has been relatively quite this year compared to others. Technologies such as USB 3.0, 3D and touch screens are still emerging slowly. Tablet format units and smart phones have however, seen significant development and sales.
Of the manufacturers, Apple continues to be the largest in the numbers presented at 200. Of these 77 were in warranty machines. The remaining 167 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. Some machines have more than one failure type. The chart shows the main fault diagnosed. Hard drives and main system logic boards remain the highest failure type. Screen related problems have increased and are usually the second highest cost to fix after system board failures. A failure of both almost always renders the machine uneconomical to repair.
The hardware service continues to do all it can to provide quick, affordable and honest diagnosis and repair of machines. It is however running at full capacity with the resources it currently has and would require investment in a second engineer to improve turn around times. Quality is never compromised but during times leading up to holidays and during holidays, the service does suffer from delays. It is hoped that after the IT Services merger is completed, a full review of the Hardware Service can be carried out to determine future developments, including possible changes to the staffing model and improvements to turn around times.
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 (256 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.
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. Some items that were previously handed by back-office staff have been transfered to the Registration RT queue following the retirement of a member of staff in February.
|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 and library e-resources) as well as OUCS services. Secondary non-personal accounts can be created for additional roles. The 'mailbox only' accounts where access is granted by delegation remain popular. The number of these has increased by 43% since the provious year.
|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 1st Aug.
|Year||Number of accounts|
It has been a busy year for unit and mail domain management. In 2011/12 OUCS allocated email addresses for 45 out of 46 colleges and PPHs, and 243 departments out of 265. A further 14 departments are in the process of being wound down.
The number of departments has grown considerably over the last year, as the Registration database was brought into line with Payroll. 23 subunits were created in UAS, 15 in the Bodleian and 8 in Modern Languages.
- Nuffield Department of Clinical Neurology
- Centre for Neural Circuits and Behaviour
- nstitute for Science, Innovation and Society
- Oxford Vaccine Group
- Cantemir Institute
- Oxford University Consulting
- Interdisciplinary Bioscience DTP
- IT Services
- Radcliffe Department of Medicine & RDM Experimental Medicine
- nstitute for New Economic Thinking
- Oxford Network for the Environment
- Applied Social Studies
- Regional Liaison Unit
- Old Bodleian Library
- Clinical Pharmacology
- Health Care Epidemiology
- Exam Schools
- Clinical Geratology
- Indian Institute Library
- James Martin School
- Medical Oncology
- Pain Relief Unit
- Radiation, Oncology & Biology
- Lipid Metabolism Group
- Slavonic & Modern Greek Library
We hold the mail addresses for people who belong to units which manage their own mail, so those addresses are available to University processes. In 2011/12 there were 2899 (2994 in the previous year). We also hold non-personal email addresses. There were 8743 in 2011/12 (8441 in the previous year).
Registration creates and deletes most EZMLM mailing lists , apart for those belonging to Chemistry and UAS, who largely manage their own. The numbers below are for the total number of lists by division. A total of 6110 lists were managed on the central EZMLM server (5746 in 2010/11).
This year has largely been a time of consolidation. There were no major changes in user-facing services. The retirement of a long-serving member of staff in February 2012 caused some routine activities, which had previously been handled by the Registration database team, be transfered to Registation staff.
The process of creating accounts for new students, and emailing them their activation credentials, worked very well this year. As in previous years, some liaison with college admissions staff was needed where email addresses supplied by OSS turned out not to work.
There were few changes to the Registration interface to the Nexus service this year. It became possible to see if a mailbox had a vacation message attached to it. Where this had been set automatically on the expiry of a mailbox, it could now be identified and removed if the mailbox was reactivated.
- Use old departmental address (depending whether the holder's old department was prepared to sponsor them to continue to use their departmental email address);
- Use @retired email address;
- No email at all.
Working with other units and projects
- Establishing new email domains in collaboration with Planning and Resource Allocation
- 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
- 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
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
- … and then implement the solutions, on a cost-recovery basis
- Help people with web site design and information architecture
- … and then build web sites for them, on a cost-recovery basis
- Develop (web-based) applications for OUCS
As in previous years where InfoDev subsumed the Web Design Consultancy (WDC) and Research Technologies Service (RTS), during this year it absorbed the Mobile Oxford team of developers. This has enabled greater collaboration with the Mobile Oxford team, and assistance in developing numerous projects. InfoDev continues to provide the same services as the WDC and RTS did in previous years, but now with extra experience in mobile applications.
InfoDev 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 improved our Content Management System (CMS) service, providing a full hosting and maintenance package for sites we develop in the Drupal CMS.
The team has also maintained its 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. This includes 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.
- OUCS website – provided input into ongoing revision of OUCS homepage design
- Course Booking System – InfoDev develops and maintains the course booking system. In addition to basic bug fixes and maintenance undertaken pending any outcomes of the ICCP process, InfoDev moved the Course Booking System to its own server to protect it from changes to the OUCS website, and to adopt the new IT Services branding.
- Status – InfoDev provides maintenance and development on status.ox.ac.uk, adding new services to be monitored when feasible. This year the status system was upgraded to an entirely new infrastructure and front-end.
- Mobile Oxford – provides one of the world's leading HE mobile services. Many infrastructural changes, improvements, and developments to our open source "Molly Project".
- Computer Hardware Breakdown Service – implemented system for sending machine registrations directly to the Equinox database.
- Hardware Repair Service – developing an interface that bypasses 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. Provision of new collections on the search engine and assistance with tailoring the results to integrate with websites.
- 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 data available.
- Telecoms Self Service – Mobile Oxford team developed a custom voicemail management system for Telecoms and will be expanding this to other areas of telephone use.
- 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, including related projects such as the British National Corpus.
- Display Screen Equipment Self Assessment – InfoDev has provided updates and security patches to the system it designed for self assessment of workstation health and safety.
- Logo Design – InfoDev undertook a number of logo design projects inside OUCS.
- Academic Projects
- Bangor Pontifical Project – Ongoing digital edition work
- British National Corpus – Supporting BNC users
- Cantigas de Santa Maria – Database and site development
- Castellanie – Critical edition format transformation
- CLAROS – Classical art on the semantic web
- Communication and Empire: Chinese Empires in Comparative Perspective – site building and migration
- Corsi Collection of Decorative Stones – Design and development of website, database, and digital edition
- Early Medieval Literature Online – Assisted with restructuring section of a Drupal site
- Electronic Database of Poetic Forms – Document transformation and Drupal website
- Farmer and Henley Slang Dictionary – Bodleian iPhone App
- OxCAP – Making course data open and online
- Stationers' Register Online – Custom XML schema, document up-conversion
- Teaching the Palestinian Revolution – Developing database of historical sources and teaching material
- Verse Miscellanies – bespoke XML transformations
- Wandering Jew's Chronicle – multi-witness critical edition
- Wycliffite Bibles – Online image database
- Information websites
(sites designed and implemented in Drupal)
- Bespoke systems
- Blavatnik School of Government iPad App – Departmental iPad Application
- Command and Control project, Security Services – business process analysis resulting in custom online system
- GSA Secure Searching project – developing Google searching of secure sites
- Research Facilities Database – Linked open data portal for catalogue of equipment
- Telecoms Self Service – Developing custom system for voicemail management
- Interface and graphic design
- Dataflow – Extensive interface and accessibility consultancy
- Department of International Development (QEH) – Template design for departmental site and blog
- Great Writers Inspire – Interface work, e-book generation
- Intensive Care Outcome Network (ICON) – Template design
- J.W. Jenkinson Laboratory for Evolution and Development – Template design
- Monumenta Asiae Minoris Antiqua XI – Interface and data mapping
- Oxford German Network – Banner design
- Politics Inspires – Interface consultancy
- Free advice
- InfoDev have provided free consultancy advice to well over 50 different units or projects inside the University.
- External 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, acting as reviewers for funding applications, etc.), as well as partnering with a number of external institutions for larger funding bids.
- Usability/Accessibility consultancy
- InfoDev has provided in-depth consultancy on projects (e.g. the DataFlow projects)
- Technical input on Research bids
- InfoDev supplied technical proof reading 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, a week-long, parallel stream, digital humanities training school mixing practical technology teaching with more abstract, best practice discussions and invited plenary speakers.
- InfoDev members taught various one-off workshops either for individual projects, on specific technologies (e.g. XSLT), or at the request of specific departments (e.g. Linguistics).
InfoDev provides maintenance and development for a number of ongoing services. Examples of these include the Course Booking System, the University's Google Search Appliance (GSA), the Mobile Oxford interface (m.ox), and the University Status system, among others. Notes on the work on the GSA and m.ox are provided below.
The University's Google Search Appliance (GSA) indexes up to 1 million 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 are re-indexed more frequently, and busy servers can be checked less frequently, on request. To minimise the load on web servers, most indexing takes place overnight.
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 2012.
|Document type||Number indexed|
|Others (incl Excel, Flash,RSS,RTF,XML)||16,631|
During the reporting year 2011-2012, the GSA received approximately 4.1 million search requests for which it successfully returned results. The latency between query receipt and returning results was typically less than 0.3 seconds. The number of concurrent queries peaked in Michaelmas term at ca. 7 per second.
InfoDev continued to work with BSP to offer searches of secure UAS web documents held in Site Manager CMS to authorized groups within the University. Following Google's advice to protect the GSA with a firewall before indexing secure content, we have investigated high performance firewalls.
Google's licence allows us to index a maximum of only 1 million web documents. We now advise the creators of large web collections to provide a local search facility, tailored to the specific needs of their collection, to which the GSA can refer callers.
This year the Mobile Oxford team was merged into InfoDev. Their work and collaboration had been invaluable in a number of InfoDev projects over the last couple years, and organizationally merging the team into InfoDev made a great deal of sense.
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 and is released as an open source framework. 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 and train information for the city.
In addition to expanding the functionalities of Mobile Oxford by integrating more University systems and functions, the Mobile Oxford team has taken on other projects including a sorely needed replacement to http://status.ox.ac.uk and a new web-based Telecoms self-service project providing a visual voicemail service, a conference call connecting facility and personal VoIP phone configurator.
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 has one full-time member of staff, and a part-time manager. The team often assists service providers in editing user documentation and in converting all type of web material to formats accessible to those using screen readers or other accessibility devices. InfoWeb is grateful to InfoDev for support in covering webmaster queries during busy times or times of absence.
- OxITEMS (with support from InfoDev)
- Status.ox.ac.uk (with support from InfoDev)
- The information displays in OUCS reception and the user refreshment area
During the reporting period a complete re-design of the front page of the OUCS web site was completed. InfoWeb’s main member of staff undertook considerable work to implement the new design. Before the home page was released extensive usability evaluation was undertaken using students and staff and this enabled many usability enhancements to be made before go-live in November 2011.
We also helped our WebLearn team design and develop their new guidance site which is used to help both staff and students get the most out of WebLearn.
In the final year of OUCS’s existence, much work has been done into investigating ways to deliver the OUCS web content using the Terminalfour site manager software and CMS that is in use in the rest of the UAS division of the University. In the latter part of the reporting period a large amount of effort from InfoWeb was diverted to the work of building a new website for the new IT Services department (http://www.it.ox.ac.uk/). This is the first of our sites to use HTML5 and principles of responsive web design. It was delivered on time and to a high standard.
The most significant change to usage of the OUCS web site was that hits from mobile devices jumped from 2% of the total to 5% of the total during the reporting period. The spread of mobile devices is also widening. The iPhone is still the most popular. Android devices are second with iPads very close behind. However by just combining iPhone and iPad results together clearly shows Apple devices dominate mobile visits (48.3%).
The OUCS web site continued to see a wide spread of different browsers accessing it throughout the reporting period. Internet Explorer and FireFox are still the dominant browsers but Chrome has gained in popularity over the last year.
The academic year 2011-12 was a busy and productive one for the WebLearn team. New WebLearn was upgraded a number of times and in September 2011, old WebLearn (Bodington) became read only. Please note that this year the Turnitin service has its own section in the annual report.
The recent WebLearn development and upgrade to Sakai v2.8 has resulted in significant enhancements to the system. Some highlights include: a short URL facility of any page or tool, the introduction of site templates, improved functionality of the Sign-up tool, an improved Forums’ user interface and ability to set open and close date for forums and topics, and improved external integration capabilities (for Forums).
The WebLearn team continues to provide generic and customised support at three levels: individual, group and department / college. Similar to last year, most of the WebLearn training courses have been well attended. We also introduced a new course called ‘Creating interactive learning resources’.
WebLearn development and support has contributed to a healthy uptake of WebLearn during the year. The majority of colleges and departments now use new WebLearn. WebLearn users are keen to share their experience and good practice with others. For example, 9 guest speakers from different departments presented their use cases at the WebLearn User Group meetings. Four academics won the OxTALENT awards in the WebLearn category due to their innovative use of WebLearn in teaching and strategic use of WebLearn across a department.
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.
There has been a larger increase in bandwidth this year than last year and 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.
|Type of user||Distinct users|
|Division||Number of files|
The WebLearn Guidance site, a ‘one-stop-shop’ for WebLearn users, has been redesigned with a much more user friendly interface. It is now easier to navigate to find WebLearn help information. Due to a major WebLearn upgrade this year (v2.6 to v2.8), a large number of help documents have been updated including WebLearn Case Studies, 'How To' guides, ‘Step-by-Step' and 'Least You Need To Know' guides.
The WebLearn Guidance site: http://weblearn.ox.ac.uk/info.
A site template facility has recently been added which means that instead of creating a new WebLearn site from scratch, one can now base it upon a template. These templates impose structure and good practice before any content is added, in other words, much of the planning and layout has been done so that one does not need to start from a blank site. It is hoped that use of a template will also benefit the students who ask for a commonality in structure and consistency across WebLearn sites.
Three of the proposed six templates currently exist: Template for tutors, Template for lecturers, and Template for content. There is more information about templates in the WebLearn guidance site.
The WebLearn User Group (WLUG) which takes place once a term remains 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:
- Dr Catherine Walter (Dept of Education):
- Using WebLearn and Turnitin with Education students
- Rev Dr James Robson (Wycliff Hall):
- Supporting students’ academic formation using WebLearn
- Dr Helen Christian (Dept of Physiology, Anatomy and Genetics):
- Experiments with WebLearn tools in Medical Sciences
- Damion Young and Jon Mason (Medical Sciences Learning Technologies):
- Adapting WebLearn for the Biomedical Sciences programme, and other tips from MSD
- Lettitia Derrington (Administrator, Continuing Education):
- Supporting Continuing Education programmes and modules using WebLearn
- Wulf Forrester-Barker (IT Manager, NDORMS):
- WebLearn with Green Fingers - is your WebLearn patch like weeds on bare ground, or is it organic and fertile?
- Ed Long (Blavatnik School of Government):
- WebLearn as a back end: BSG's iPad app project
- Mike Heaney (Bodleian Libraries):
- Copyright do's and don'ts
The three meetings of the WLUG in the academic year 2011-12 attracted about 74 people in total. Each meeting had about 26 attendees. For more information visit the 'WebLearn User Group' site: https://weblearn.ox.ac.uk/info/eas
The WebLearn blog is still proving popular: 80 posts were made over the course of the year and all were about WebLearn or Sakai (the software underpinning WebLearn). The most popular month (May 2012) saw 1050 people access the blog. It is an invaluable resource for WebLearn users and is linked to from various other areas such as Medical Sciences Division Learning Technologies.
The OUCS Help Desk is now the primary point of contact for WebLearn queries. Nevertheless the WebLearn team still answered 604 RT email queries in addition to a large number of private email and phone queries.
Members of the WebLearn team gave presentations at the following conferences last year: ALT-C 2011, Euro Sakai Conference in Amsterdam, Oxford's ICTF 2012 and UAS conferences. Regular round-ups and induction seminars are given via the ITS3 network.
- Student Enrolment System (SES)
- Building on the success of the Student Enrolment System (SES) project, further development work was carried out to extend and improve this area in the SES II project.
- Short URL:
- A short url facility can shorten the url of any page/tool in WebLearn.
- Site templates:
- Three templates available for creating WebLearn sites
- New features in Forums include an improved user interface, sortable threads, displaying author photos, setting availability for forums or topics, and linking to a message directly.
- Two major changes to Resources are the short URL facility and a more descriptive explanation of permissions.
- A large number of new features have been developed in the Sign-up tool, for example, adding a new ‘Categories’ field, enabling automatic creation of internal subgroups based on sessions, and manually emailing attendees.
- The new profile tool comes with a number of new features. It is much easier to add photos to your profile. The improved privacy settings enable you to specify what information in your profile is shareable. In addition, it has been integrated with a number of social networking tools including Facebook, Twitter, Linkedin, Skype and MySpace.
- Schedule (Calendar):
- My Workspace calendars can be subscribed to from within MS Outlook or other calendaring applications
- Email Sender:
- This is an improved version of the old Mailtool
- Ownership of templates can be changed and formatting problems with PDF reports have been fixed. Personalised rating scales can be created and email notifications now work properly.
- Reading lists:
- These have been updated to use Aleph reference indicators
- Site copy:
- A simple search and replace of references to the old site are replaced with references to the new site. (In the past links to documents in the new site would point to documents stored within the old site.)
It is difficult to estimate how many people have migrated their material. As far as we can tell (looking at page requests and bandwidth above), the vast majority of users have moved. There is an ITLP course and a variety of guides available on migration via the WebLearn Guidance Site.
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 562 open sessions (1589 teaching hours, 3809 distinct individuals) covering 199 topics, and 55 closed sessions (217 teaching hours, 749 distinct individuals) covering 52 topics.
MPLS = Mathematical, Physical and Life Sciences; Med Sci. = Medical Sciences; Social Sci. = Social Sciences; Acad. Serv. = Academic Services; Cont. Edu. = Continuing Education; UAS = University Administration and Services.
Two new categories of course are now identified: IT Services support and Pre and Post course support. IT Services include courses on the use of the HFS (Hierarchical File Storage) system, and WebEx. Pre- and Post-course support includes our new Beginners IT course and our Computer 8 post-course drop-in workshop.
MPLS = Mathematical, Physical and Life Sciences; Med Sci. = Medical Sciences; Social Sci. = Social Sciences; Acad. Serv. = Academic Services; Cont. Edu. = Continuing Education; UAS = University Administration and Services.
- ArcGIS Desktop and Explorer (in conjunction with the Bodleian Libraries)
- Beginners’ IT
- Campus MovieFest in association with Apple
- Digital Humanities Summer School
- Endnote for Mac
- Google Analytics
- LinkedIn and Twitter
- Office 2010
- Return visit from Garr Reynolds, author of Presentation Zen
- Scribus (open source desk top publishing tool)
- Search Engine Optimisation
- Sketchup (open source 3D modelling application)
We have also contributed to The OxCAP project, a JISC funded initiative which will provide an XCRI-CAP XML feed of graduate training opportunities at Oxford. When complete, this will mean that graduate students will have a ‘one-stop-shop’ (in WebLearn) of available training modules with a search facility and links to book a place.
The ITLP Portfolio supports the range of taught courses by offering downloadable course handbooks, student exercise files and additional information such as 'how-to' videos. Over this year there were 2629 visits by 1318 distinct individuals, of whom 151 made four or more visits (a 10% increase in number of visitors, from last year).
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.
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 are increasingly popular with over 1100 bookings this year (an increase of over 10%).
make: is a series of lunchtime sessions where members of the University are invited to showcase their creative use of technology in teaching and learning. This year we hosted 18 sessions, with an additional 3 from other academic institutions. Topics included the creation of videos and podcasts, using databases in Humanities research, including mobile devices in teaching undergraduates and websites for outreach.
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 16 workshops: some tailored for each of the Medical Science, Social Science and MPLS Divisions, and some for departments in Humanities. The emphasis is on providing researchers with a hands-on experience of a wide range of different tools.
The Skills Toolkit is now a brand that departments recognise, and that academics can confidently recommend to their research students. In the feedback survey (55% replied), students were overwhelmingly positive about the event, its efficient use of their time and its value to their research (93%).
The Skills Toolkit website (www.skillstoolkit.ox.ac.uk) provides a substantial supporting resource with links to 'how-to' videos, taught courses and online information. It has proved popular with students - over 1200 distinct individuals have visited the site this year. An OUCS summer intern reviewed the usability of the site, and carried out user tests with volunteers from our target demographic. This has led to a set of recommendations which are informing the development of this and related websites.
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 3500 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 80% of the total bookings. The pass rate across all modules is 65%
As well as our own programme, 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 Digital.Humanities@Oxford Summer School.
- Area Studies
- Bodleian Libraries
- Continuing Education
- Human Sciences
- Primary Health Care
- Safety Office
- Student Admin
- 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 started a one year SharePoint Best Practices project to work closely with the Social Sciences Division and Council Secretariat. The project aims to provide a SharePoint solution to both parties, tailored to their needs. The sites will be used as exemplars to the wider University to demonstrate how SharePoint can be used to help manage the storage and dissemination of information within a Division and committee structure. This should increase expert levels across the University and uptake of these business process opportunities.
The Digital Media User Group (DMUG) is in its second year and has continued to grow. 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. It holds a meeting each term showcasing some of the digital media projects that Oxford can be proud of. Topics covered this year included online presence from an academic perspective, The Bodleian Treasures web site, working with the media and BBC commissioning of academic material.
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 open education and in audio-video multimedia and we manage the University’s media publishing services and Oxford on iTunes U. We also have expertise in learning design, systems interoperability, open education and gathering user requirements.
In 2011, major externally funded JISC projects managed by this team included work around releasing Open Educational Resources (OER) at Oxford relating to English Literature and ebooks – Great Writers Inspire, Speech to Text technology - SPINDLE and research on the impact of Open Education Resources.
Summer 2012 marks nearly the fourth anniversary of the launch of Oxford’s iTunesU site, featuring audio and video podcasts from across the University. It has been a great success – 18 million downloads so far, and currently reaching a worldwide audience of 185 countries. Oxford on iTunesU has grown from a very small corpus to more than 4,000 hours of material online – ranging from quantum states to welfare states, from Philosophy for Beginners to Quantum Mechanics.
Among summer 2011’s most popular downloads were items entitled Managing People, Managing Teams, Philosophy of language and mind, the Nature of Arguments, How is depression treated, Shakespeare and the Stage and Jane Austen’s Manuscripts Explored.
- 18 million downloads from iTunesU
- 4,200 (3,000) podcast items processed
- 3,480 (2,700) academic speakers and contributors
At the start of November 2011 the OUCS Podcasting Service launched a new web portal to showcase the three thousand audio, video and eBook items freely available for download at that time . By the end of the reporting period the material had increased to around 4,200 items.
Replacing the previous directory, the improved site presents a rich set of pages displaying podcast series and items. At a glance visitors can see the most recent items added to the site and the most popular. The new portal enables material to be found, grouped and reviewed in a new myriad of ways, including searching by media type, speaker, keyword or department. Each item has its own unique linkable URL, making it easy to link to resources from reading lists, in emails or share via social media channels.
The site is enriched with advanced features to improve the discovery of lectures and talks from across all University divisions. Students can now effortlessly create a library of lectures to be played online in the browser or via a media player such as an iPod or iPad.
- Alumni Weekend:
- A series of 80 videos from Oxford experts, this year concentrating on the great environmental and scientific challenges of the 21st century
- The New Psychology of Depression:
- Dr Danny Penman and Professor Mark Williams discuss medical approaches to dealing with stress, anxiety and depression
- The Elements of Drawing:
- Stephen Farthing R.A. presents eight practical drawing classes using John Ruskin’s teaching collections
- Pitt Rivers Museum:
- A series of audio podcasts from the Pitt Rivers Museum, which houses archaeological and ethnographic objects from all parts of the world.
- Centre on Migration, Policy and Society:
- a series on migration and societal change
- Approaching Shakespeare:
- A continuing lecture series with each talk tackling a specific play
Material is constantly added to the site from departments across the University through the podcasting workflow, all material is surfaced in parallel with the Oxford on iTunes service and the m.ox.ac.uk portal. A special area surfaces material that can be reused openly in schools and education under a Creative Commons license http://podcasts.ox.ac.uk/open.
- Material can be searched by department / college / speaker
- Keyword search for all Oxford material
- All Creative Commons material is available at http://podcasts.ox.ac.uk/open
- Short profiles of all departments and selected academic staff
The Software licensing team consists of a manager at 25% FTE and an administrator at 66% FTE. OUCS administers a large number of software agreements for commonly requested software packages in use around the collegiate University. 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 online shop.
A Microsoft Campus agreement enables us to rent the most popular Microsoft products, eg Windows upgrades and Office Professional (both for Windows and Mac). Work-at-home rights for staff are also included in this agreement. This year the cost for the Microsoft Campus rental was around £356,033.
A Microsoft Select agreement, operated via the online shop, allows for the purchase of other Microsoft products including servers and non-campus Client Access Licences. An Adobe agreement, again operated via the online 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 just over £101,295. Products include SPSS, EndNote, Exceed, MapInfo and Sophos. The following licences were added during the reporting period. It is pleasing to note that the uptake of the newest product on the list, nVivo, has continued to rise.
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 £59,550 was purchased and subsequently paid for by contributing departments and this represented a significant saving compared to the if departments purchasing software separately.
The 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. 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 of the live data centre would be very difficult in view of the fact that there are 20 years’ worth of cables in the floor plenum. The Data Centre rebuild is currently in abeyance as the final location has yet to be decided. Two potential sites at 13 Banbury Road and the Oxford Science Park at Begbroke are being considered.
Two of the Isovel air conditioners in the networking section of the data centre have been decommissioned and are to be salvaged and used for spares for the remaining four Isovel units. Two GEA Denco downflow units have been installed, in a project which took place during August 2012, to take the place of the decommissioned Isovel units and an additional floor plenum has been constructed to enable the networking area to run with downflow units. The remainder of the data centre space uses the four Isovel upflow units. Estates Services have provided the Operations Section with a number of spares for the Isovel units onsite so in the event of a critical failure we have a number of the most important spare parts onsite and ready.
The Operations poster printing service continues to be popular. 850 A0 posters have been printed so far in 2012. The older Epson 7600 has been removed as the lease arrangement ended and returned to Repro Repairs. The Epson 9800 continues to provide a very reliable service. Several fabric materials are to be introduced for use during 2012/13 to allow posters to be printed on this fabric and folded for packing with luggage.
Shared Infrastructure Services provide two services to the University on a cost-recovery basis. The first of these is the University Shared Data Centre (USDC) - a state-of-the-art, secure and resilient environment in which computing equipment from across the University can be housed. The USDC opened on 1 August 2011 with 24 racks of space available for use by the collegiate university. Over its first year of operation just under 50% of these initial racks have been allocated and are in use for equipment directly linked to research groups, colleges and departments as well as equipment providing core IT services to the entire University. A further set of racks are now also being provisioned, doubling the initial capacity.
The second service offered by Shared Infrastructure Services is the Private Cloud. This provides a self-service environment to provision virtual machines, upon which services can be run. The Private Cloud became available slightly later than the USDC as one half of the equipment which underpins the service is located in the USDC. As with the USDC, the Private Cloud hosts virtual machines for research groups, departments, colleges and central services.
NSMS has recognised that the previous structure of the team no longer suited the wide range of activities undertaken. To address this, over the past twelve months, NSMS has restructured introducing a dedicated first line support team. Starting with two full time staff this has quickly grown to three permanent full time staff and a number of contract staff, bringing a more responsive service to our clients. NSMS ended the financial year with 18.5 members of staff and over £850k turnover.
- Delivered the complex and advanced requirements of the Blavatnik School of Government, providing a complete end-to-end IT solution with on-site support for staff and students using Windows PCs, Apple Macs and iPads.
- Developed a vCloud Disaster recovery solution with VMware for the University Private Cloud, leading to NSMS staff presenting on the subject at VMworld San Francisco
- Migrated existing VM4Rent customers to the University cloud and initiated the migration of managed service customers.
- Significant re-engineering and deployment of the Managed Mac Platform (MMP), exceeding the target of 100 macs in the first twelve months connected to this ground breaking management solution for OS X systems.
- Further expansion of the ResNet (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/ResNet) for Graduate Accommodation.
- Delivery of the virtual infrastructure for the Students Systems Replacement Program and X5 projects.
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 and 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.
ITS3 organised 43 events during the year, including 19 courses, 21 meetings and 3 social events. ITS3 was particularly pleased to be able to host a talk about a free digital society given by the world-famous Richard Stallman. The sessions given represent 2041 person-hours of courses and 2008 person-hours of meeting, not including the July Conference or the December Exhibition. 36 of the 43 events delivered were free of charge to attendees and those that were chargeable averaged £21.78 per hour.
ITS3 has continued to be the principal channel of emergency communication between OUCS and ITSS. ITS3 holds 198 alternative email addresses for ITSS and 258 mobile numbers that it can use to send emergency SMS messages.
The ITS3 twitter account for use in emergencies and for tweeting information about meetings etc. now has 128 followers. The ITSS Wiki has been used at a comparable level to the previous year and has found extensive use in sharing technical information among IT Staff including how to activate software, information about network outages and information on obtaining SSL certificates.
ITS3 continues to act as a broker for the Janet SSL server certificate service in conjunction with Comodo and this service remains at a high level of use. The first wildcard certificate has been issued to a division and security was increased from 30 May 2012 by the addition of a challenge email system to verify control of the domain for which the certificate was being requested.
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. 177 incidents were dealt with during the reporting period, representing a pleasing decrease of nearly 25% on the previous year.
The largest events organised during the year were the IT Suppliers’ Exhibition in December 2011 and the 2012 ICT Forum conference in July. The conference was again held at The Kassam Football Stadium. The summer conference attracted around 350 attendees and included a conference dinner for the first time this year. Guests were greatly entertained by Colin Dexter’s after dinner speech. Total expenditure was £39.5k, with income of £46.5k leaving a healthy £7k to fund ICT Forum activities throughout the next reporting period.
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 2011 was well-attended as was the Christmas dinner at Christ Church in December 2011.
This year was a steady year for marketing initially with OUCS News, leaflets, posters, web pages, Blueprint adverts, newsfeeds and banners continuing to be important publicity tools within OUCS, at specific events and around the wider University. The OUCS Facebook page and Twitter feed continued to be fed from RSS feeds and saw their readership rise still further.
For the second year, all results from the annual Freshers Survey were analysed by division and split into UG and PG student categories so we now have trend data to a finer level. This is proving useful to both OUCS and the wider University. The Freshers Survey has been a feature of Freshers Fair for seven years and provides an excellent resource to guide the aims and aspirations of the department.
During the later part of the year, Marketing has been heavily involved with the ICCP, particularly on the Communications, and Branding and Identity workstreams. Work has been done on new logos, stationery designs, web sites and a communications strategy.
OUCS carried out 31 recruitment exercises during the period which has resulted in 21 new members of staff (some recruitment campaigns were hard to fill and so were re-advertised of which five are still on-going and five remain unfilled). It has proved hard to find staff with the relevant skills and experience to fill some of the more technical posts this year. We also said goodbye to 11 members of staff.
We had another successful internship programme which involved an Oxford student working alongside a service or project at OUCS for a maximum period of 8 weeks over the summer vacation. We advertised seven internships and managed to recruit five for the following projects.
- Analysis of Course feedback
- Linux Systems Development and Administration
- Speech to text
- LTG Case Study Strategy
- Intrographics and reporting Project Developer
No suitable candidate available:
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