The Oxford University Computing Services department has striven to facilitate world-class research, teaching and learning, and administration, through the delivery of production quality, innovative and reliable services for its users. This final OUCS annual report, covering the period 2011-2012, summarises and celebrates OUCS’s staff activities to support the evolving Information Technology needs of the collegiate University, to adjust to new and increasing demands, and to deliver effective and efficient services. In fulfilling these objectives OUCS is grateful for the productive partnership it has enjoyed 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 external income, and, the consolidation of OUCS with two other central IT departments: Business Services and Projects and the ICT Support Team. From 1 August 2012, OUCS will form part of a new consolidated IT Services department.
The University Shared Data Centre (USDC), constructed within the new Oxford Molecular Pathology Institute, opened for business on 1 August 2011with 24 racks of space available for use by the collegiate University. The initiative was in direct response to a recommendation from the Internal Auditors to offer greater resilience for enterprise-wide services and to address 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. Over its first year of operation just under 50% of available space has been allocated. In addition, a Private Cloud service was launched that provides a self-service environment for the provision of virtual machines on which services can be run.
Demands on OUCS’s services have continued to increase. The Nexus SharePoint service has grown rapidly since its launch in April; the Nexus email service has also continued to increase - there are now 37,000 active users of with over 49,000 mailboxes. The new OxFile service, launched in May, attracted over 500 users in its first week of operation and has had 47,000 users since the start (including recipients). The IT Learning Programme offered 562 open sessions courses - covering 199 topics, and 55 closed sessions - covering 52 topics; these have been attended by 4,200 people with 1343 attending three or more courses. The demand for chargeable services has increased and the NSMS team has expanded, with an annual turnover of £850k. More than 140 services use the OUCS access management stack, the Core User Directory became a production service in June and is providing data to 185 units, and there are 41,000 users of the Shibboleth access management service. Backbone traffic increased by 52% and the volume of data backed up increased by 27% compared to the previous year. Since October 2008, when the podcasting service was launched, there have been 18 million downloads from iTunesU, 4,200 podcast items processed and 3,480 academic speakers and contributors. An Information Security team has been created and a new University Information Security policy was endorsed by Council in July.
In this final annual report, I would like to take the opportunity to thank OUCS staff for bringing their dedication and experience to bear on the services we have provided; they have served with initiative, enthusiasm and professionalism, and in the last year have made essential contributions towards the consolidation of the three departments into IT Services. The next twelve months will bring fresh challenges as the new IT Services department beds in; I am confident that our staff will contribute vital expertise, skills and knowledge, and will continue to play their part in delivering excellent services and developing new facilities for the benefit of the collegiate University.
Professor Paul W. Jeffreys
Director of IT
Head of Department
Welcome to the last annual report for OUCS, before the department merges into the new consolidated IT Services department. It was felt that a final report was necessary though to record the use and demands on services previously served by OUCS which will form part of the greatly expanded portfolio of IT Services. To this end then we report on each of our services, and the extensive list of projects undertaken or still ongoing.
Dr Stuart Lee
Director of Computing Systems & Services – OUCS (2005-2012)
Deputy CIO, IT Services (2012 -)
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.
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.
The backbone continues to operate reliably with traffic levels still rising and only the rate of growth slowing slightly, from around 156% per annum to 152% pa.
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.
Our now resilient JANET connection of 10 Gbps can cope with the increased traffic levels at the current rate of growth for a number of years yet, barring something new and unexpected.
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.
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.
|Year||Daily Messages||Data Volume (GB)|
Note: These are averaged, smoothed numbers.
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).
N.B: the 2010/2011 report contained an inaccurate figure for estimated volume served which has been removed from the table 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).
|Top level mirrored site|
The following mirrors were added or removed:
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/.
Usage data has been collected since 2011, however the service has been operating in its current form since 2002.
|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|
Some preparation for an upgrade of the underlying infrastructure began in June (editor’s note: this work was completed in early October).
Usage data has been collected since 2011, however the service has been operating since 1996.
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.
As a non-critical service, records needed to generate usage data beyond the previous month have not been routinely collected.
|Internal clients||External peers|
|2011 (July only)||162||25|
|2012 (September only)||110||17|
|Year||Number of posts by University users|
|2011 (July only)||271|
|2012 (September only)||283|
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.
|Year||Registered Users||Registered client devices||Active client devices|
|2011 (WoL)||549||1303||948 (May-July)|
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.
|Year||Total Users*||External Users|
* = including recipients
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|
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.
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.
Development activities include a range of system and service upgrades, detailed under the relevant sections below.
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 change has revealed just how many processes were being run to generate cleaned reconciled data offered by registration.
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.
To facilitate integration of these applications into the SSO stack, a modular, pilot test stack has been developed for the lifetime of the project.
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 outcome of this piece of work will be a document that makes the business case for extending SSO (if it exists) and, if appropriate, a project proposal to implement recommendations.
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.
The CUD project has demonstrated the need for a consistent well governed set of affiliation data. It is hoped that the Groupstore project will address this need.
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.
|Year||Non-OUCS Webauth Services|
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.
In addition the following interfaces are beginning to prove popular: SQL push, LDAP push, CUD client.
Currently (as at 24 August):
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|
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 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 the following paragraphs, the figures for 2010/11 are given in brackets to serve as a comparison.
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.
|Samsung GT-I9100 (Galaxy S2)||182||466|
|Samsung GT-I9000 (Galaxy S)||108||102|
|Nokia Email family of handsets||106||91|
The Oxford Nexus SharePoint service has grown steadily over the last year with the establishment of an active user group (SharePoint Nexus User Group – or SNUG).
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.
Over the last 365 days, the SharePoint portal gives the following statistics:
|Total Number of Page Views||1,317,481|
|Average Number of Page Views per Day||3610|
|Average Number of Unique Visitors per Day||111|
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.
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 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 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:
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;
As usual, we will also continue to support backups on latest O/S releases while also continuing to support thousands of clients on older, legacy machines.
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.
|Total Enquiries||Advanced/lengthy Enquiries||Percentage of total|
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%.
|Maths, Physical and Life Sciences||498||13||4||594||13||4||576||13||5||440||13||4||247||12||5|
|Other Related Bodies||34||1||9||15||0||9||7||0||10||25||1||9||4||0||11|
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|
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.
|University Administration and Services||2%||1%||2.5%|
The Online Shop was upgraded from version 4 to version 4.11. Changes include the greater functionality with finding transaction reports and increased functionality with how products are displayed.
Due to the University-wide policy on cookies, all University Online Shops have had to turn off Google Analytics for the reporting year.
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.
This year the service once again increased its machine throughput to 367 machines, which is an increase of 30 machines on the previous year.
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.
The diagram below shows the breakdown graphically.
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 Apple hardware diagnosis server link continues to be a valuable asset to the repair service.
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.
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. 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.
|College||13792 (8796)||14450 (9499)||16318 (12141)|
|Maths, Physical and Life Sciences||5095||5689||5535|
Remote access accounts are used for access to the popular OWL wireless network and Eduroam.
|Year||Number of accounts|
|Maths, Physical and Life Sciences||3567||3882||3523|
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.
Over the last year the following domains have been created:
The following departments have been wound down or are in the process of being wound down:
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).
Mass mailings are now delegated to service providers. Very few mass mailings were handled by Registration in 2011/12.
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).
|Maths, Physical and Life Sciences||1069||1025||967|
|University Administration and Services||2481||2348||2088|
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.
A change was made to University cards for Retirees. The previous single status (FS) turned into three:
These three statuses had to be modelled in the Registration database.
Members of the team have also been involved in:
Working with other units and projects
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.
The aim of InfoDev is to:
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.
InfoDev’s main activity breaks down into three areas: development for OUCS, projects outside of OUCS, and providing advice, support and consultancy. Examples of these are provided below:
InfoDev have undertaken approximately 50 Web projects over the past year including:
InfoDev provides consultancy and training in various areas to support University members in their activities:
In most cases, advice and limited consultancy has been provided free of charge. Bespoke training for individual projects is charged on a cost-recovery basis, as is any significant development work.
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.
A second GSA, acquired in 2012, serves as both a hot backup for the primary GSA and for development.
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.
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:
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 vast majority of visits to the OUCS web site are from the UK and Oxford in particular, but we do receive hits from around the world too.
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.
Since old WebLearn is winding down, we will present statistics mainly about the new service.
There are now a total of 3243 sites – this is an increase of 654 sites compared to last 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||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||162||11,422||11,584|
|Bandwidth in GB||11.55||16.24||69.98||42.96||70.89||42||40.5||82.5||19.7||91.62||111.32||11.8||175.64||187.44|
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.
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 218,684 files resident in new WebLearn, this is an increase of 60,094 compared to 2010-11.
WebLearn offered a variety of courses during the reporting year:
|WebLearn: Fundamentals||98||1 per month|
|WebLearn: Making your site work||26||Twice (once per term)|
|WebLearn: Migrating your content||Online course book for self study|
|WebLearn: Tools to support Teaching and Learning||13||Once per term|
|WebLearn: Surveys||20||Once per term|
|WebLearn: Using Mobile Oxford||26||Once per term|
|WebLearn: Tools for creating interactive online resources||5||(new course) Once per term|
In addition we also ran a number of tailored sessions within departments or colleges. A total of 21 people attended such events.
The WebLearn team was also available during ITLP's Computer8 drop-in surgery session which ran every Friday morning during term time.
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:
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.
There have been a number of development initiatives over the course of last year. Virtually all of which have been within new WebLearn.
All the development work to enable migration to take place is complete with the exception of the ability to create and reuse custom groups which is dependent on the proposed groups Store project.
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.
Around 4200 people attended our courses this year; with 1343 people attending 3 or more courses. 3060 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:
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.
The figures below show the demand by individuals for the areas of the programme broken down by course category and organisational area.
|Humanities||MPLS||Med Sci.||Social Sci.||Acad. Serv.||Colleges||Cont. Edu.||UAS||External||Total|
|Communication & Collaboration||153||174||276||260||76||113||35||218||8||1313|
|Pre/Post course support||19||33||45||50||8||38||3||42||2||240|
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.
The chart below shows how the demand for our programme has changed compared with last year:
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.
A breakdown of the other activities of the programme is shown below:
|Humanities||MPLS||Med Sci.||Social Sci.||Acad. Serv.||Colleges||Cont. Edu.||UAS||External||Total|
|Breakfast at OUCS||7||23||27||16||3||18||1||37||132|
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.
† Also included in table 47, extracted here for emphasis.
‡ Does not include 1100 international students of indeterminate affiliation.
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 the previous two year’s data for comparison:
Similarly, here is the data presented by affiliation:
During this year the ITLP team have worked with the OUCS Information Development team to include a keyword search facility.
We continue to contribute to discussions about the specification of the new University HRIS system.
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).
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||(4.6)||4.7||(4.7)||4.7||(4.7)||4.7||(4.7)||5.0|
H = Hilary term, M = Michaelmas term, T = Trinity term
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%
This year the team have supported a range of events including:
Our Thames Suite of lecture rooms continues to offer high quality computer teaching facilities with technical support from the ICT and NSMS teams.
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.
As well as our own programme, the Thames Suite has been hired by other sections of by the four academic divisions, ASUC and UAS, and some colleges.
It has also been used by external organisations including:
This year we joined Conference Oxford to market the Thames Suite facilities.
Our Apple Teaching room has continued to be very popular, offering a wide variety of digital media courses.
The ITLP have supported Nexus and SharePoint services by developing and offering the following sessions as part of its programme.
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.
Key facts since launch on October 8th 2008 (2011 figures in brackets)
|Content||Total number||Total running time||Average collection size|
|Video||129 (37%)||846 (23%)||19 days, 18:44:23 (23%)||6.5|
|Audio||221 (63%)||2592 (71%)||64 days, 21:41:25 (77%)||11.7|
|All||350||3666||84 days, 16:25:48||10.5|
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.
Series highlights at launch included:
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.
The web site compliments the Oxford on iTunes U service for those who do not wish to use iTunes software and is designed to rank high in Google searches.
Key features include:
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.
Together, the USDC and Private Cloud provide a secure and reliable foundation from which services and systems, virtual or physical, from across the collegiate university can be run.
During the past year the NSMS team have successfully completed several projects that have enhanced or augmented the IT services that the collegiate University relies upon.
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.
In addition to the ongoing support provided to the group's existing clients, new projects that NSMS had some role in successfully undertaking last year are listed below:
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.
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 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 has joined many recruitment panels across the collegiate University during the reporting period and has provided 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 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.
The Welcome to IT website underwent another major update and refinement to focus the information more clearly and make items easier to find.
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.
No suitable candidate available:
Response from managers and students was that it was a positive and enjoyable exercise.
During the latter part of the year with the impending merge of the three IT departments, a number of staff briefings were held and HR ensured they were present at each one.
The team from the former RunCoCo project continue to work on "Europeana 1914-1918" in a large consortium (of over 48 partners representing every country of the Union) called "EAwareness" (Europeana Awareness). EAwareness is a "Best Practice Network", funded for 2012-2014.
InfoSec (the information security project) is a continuation from the Information Security Best Practice projects (ISBP) based at OUCS. A new team has been put together under the Director of IT Risk Management responsible for helping the collegiate University to be compliant with a set of IS policies, to serve as a bridge to permanent information security (IS) activity for the University to be based in IT Services.
The project began in February 2012 and the InfoSec team’s major achievement to date has been to prepare an Information Security Policy which has been endorsed by University Council (on 9th July 2012).
An IS policy is a fundamental requirement for any organisation today and is essential in order to help the University and its members meet their legal obligations. This policy officially confirms that information security is a priority for the University, and the new IS policy has full divisional and college support, and is the product of consultation and research by the project team with staff from the Medical Sciences Division, the Computer Science Department, the Oxford University Cyber Security Centre, Legal Services, Council Secretariat and Personnel. The InfoSec project is driven in close collaboration with the Internal Auditors.
Jonathan Ashton (Information Security Officer) said: "Information security is not just about locking systems down, it is about making informed decisions and providing all members of the University with the tools needed to carry out their work efficiently and securely. Whilst everybody has responsibilities for security, the InfoSec team are here to help and responsibilities start from the top down. For example, heads of department are responsible for information security within their department."
While staff resource allocated is sufficient for the project objectives, these same staff members are experts who are responsible for advising the University on its response to business-critical issues. The University achieved compliance by the end of May 2012 with the new EU cookie law, (after The Privacy and Electronic Communications (EC Directive) (Amendment) Regulations 2011 (PECRs)).
Information security is a broader issue than just IT and compliance won't happen overnight. In the next year all of the necessary guidance will be provided by the InfoSec team and they will start to educate staff to work more securely. Security awareness work begins with 'proof-of-concept' risk assessment activities within units in the University, identifying those whose informational assets are most valuable or most at risk. InfoSec will also undertake the work necessary to create a permanent enterprise-wide activity that will deliver best possible information security for Oxford.
For further information see http://www.it.ox.ac.uk/security.
Turnitin is an external (JISC supported) product for which the university has a site-wide licence. The Turnitin service is supported by the WebLearn team which provides a help desk, creates Turnitin instructor accounts (firstname.lastname@example.org), and offers consultation and training for staff and students.
The OUCS Help Desk (email@example.com) is the primary point of contact for Turnitin queries and handles the creation of Turnitin instructor accounts on request. Procedures have been put in place to check the credentials of requestors in order to comply with the Turnitin licence (which covers only the work of registered Oxford students). Over the reporting period 138 RT tickets were created and addressed, although this includes newsletters and notices from the national Turnitin service providers.
The TurnitinUK (direct) site contains detailed help and support materials in the form of user guides and video demonstrations. Where necessary, additional guides have been developed and made available in the staff support site in WebLearn (e.g. Quick Guide to GradeMark).
Case studies in the use of Turnitin at Oxford are being developed and made available in the staff support site (https://weblearn.ox.ac.uk/info/plag). Three case studies were completed during the reporting period:
Submissions can be made either to TurnitinUK (direct) or through the WebLearn Assignments tool. The WebLearn-Turnitin integration uses a single admin account, so no instructor accounts are reflected for WebLearn alone. The figures in the table below are presented in the three graphs which follow.
|Via WebLearn||[admin a/c]||607||1140||[admin a/c]||1093||2266|
(WebLearn uses a single admin account in the Turnitin interface)
Several courses on Turnitin and WebLearn assessment tools are planned as part of the SIPA project. The following courses were developed and offered for the first time during the reporting year:
|Plagiarism: Turnitin Fundamentals||14||Three-hour course, once per term|
|Plagiarism: Interpreting Turnitin originality reports||13||Lunch time session, once per term|
|Plagiarism: WebLearn and Turnitin||22||Lunch time session, once per term|
|Plagiarism: How to avoid it (for students)||27||Two-hour session, once per term, plus customised courses on request|
|Turnitin User Group||23||Two-hour session, once per term|
The Turnitin User Group was established and held its first meeting on 30 April 2012. The purpose of the User Group is to disseminate information about institutional policy and practice and to enable interested parties to come together to share ideas and to hear about recent and future developments. Guest speakers are invited to come and give a short informal presentation on their experience in using Turnitin. The speaker at the April 2012 meeting was Michaela Graham who shared the Blavatnik School of Government experience in piloting the separate product ‘Turnitin for Admissions’. As a result of the pilot, the University authorities are considering purchasing a ‘Turnitin Admissions’ licence to scan submissions from prospective students.
All divisions and units such as the Bodleian Libraries and the Proctors’ Office were approached and asked to nominate a representative to serve on the User Group. There is a site in WebLearn (https://weblearn.ox.ac.uk/info/plag/tiiug), which is open to any staff member who wishes to join it. There are currently 67 members of the group. The site includes a mailing list so that members can pose questions and share ideas with each other. Audio recordings of the presentations at the face-to-face group meetings are made available in the Podcasts tool on the site.
Pilot projects are underway to test the use of other products in the Turnitin suite, namely GradeMark (online marking and annotations) and PeerMark (student peer marking and assessment).
A new pilot project is planned for Michaelmas Term 2012 to test the new WebLearn Assignments2 tool, which has improved integration features with Turnitin. The improved Assignments2 tool will enable the WebLearn team to promote this route to using Turnitin, rather than the direct TurnitinUK route.
The Turnitin licence allows two staff members to attend the bi-annual, national Turnitin User Group meeting which is held at different institutions. Two team members attended the meeting at the University of Edinburgh in February 2012, and one representative attended the meeting in Newcastle in July 2012.
The Turnitin learning technologist attended the 5th International Plagiarism Conference in Newcastle during July 2012. A presentation is planned for the next conference (2014), when we will have some results to report from the SIPA project.
The Learning Technologies Group was awarded PICT funding to appoint a learning technologist on an 18-month contract running from November 2011, to focus on feedback and assessment practice across the University. The project includes support and training for Turnitin and allied products GradeMark (online marking and annotations) and PeerMark (student peer marking and assessment).
Training courses, and support materials have been developed. See 4.3.5. SIPA (Supporting Institutional Practice for feedback and Assessment) for details.
The SES II project is an extension to GTimes and was completed successfully in December 2011. The tool provides an interface for students to enroll in graduate skills training courses and guides courses administrators and tutors through the workflow associate with this process.
This second phase of development was to:
The SES has been used since the start of 2010-11 by the MPLS Graduate Academic Programme (GAP) for all its graduate training. In Social Sciences, following pilots in 2010-11, it is being used by the ESRC Doctoral Training Centre for graduate training that is shared across departments, and by some departments for all graduate training. During 2010 -11, there were over 3,000 visits to the MPLS SES site and nearly 4,000 to the Social Sciences site. In 2011 -12, there have been 3821 and 5336 visits respectively. In Hilary Term 2012, SES was piloted by the Humanities division for their divisional training and by the Social Science Library for their DPhil research training workshops.
OxCAP is a JISC funded initiative to expose data (as an XML feed) about all graduate skills training courses available to graduates at Oxford – it is due to complete in March 2013. This project has the explicit backing of the PVC for Education and the Registrar.
Individual training providers across the University will supply details about their courses in electronic format (either via a Share Point site or as an XCRI-CAP feed or CSV feed) to the Oxford Open Data platform which is managed by IT Services. Information about the courses will be stored and made available as a series of data feeds; there will be an authenticated feed for internal use (via WebLearn’s SES tool) and a OGL licensed public feed (containing slightly fewer courses) which can be used by anybody that finds a need.
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 project will enable us to demonstrate the excellent training available to our graduates and help to attract the best students to Oxford from around the world.
The OXAM database of past exam papers has been rewritten as a WebLearn tool. It is an online repository allowing students and staff access to previous exam papers. Students can search by keyword in paper title, exam title or exam code; or by a drop-down search on examination title and year. The papers are retrieved as PDF files. The system has many thousands of requests per day during the pre-exam period in Trinity term.
The new service matches the functionality of the old service and importantly adds much needed improvements:
The new tool will go live in time for Michaelmas Term 2012.
The SIPA project (run by the WebLearn team) works with academic and administrative staff members across the University to investigate assessment and feedback practices and to invite user input. The project promotes and supports the use of the external Turnitin plagiarism detection and prevention service and allied products GradeMark (online marking and annotations) and PeerMark (student peer marking and assessment). Turnitin is integrated into the WebLearn Assignments tool (version 1) and system improvements will be recommended after piloting the new Assignments2 tool during Michaelmas Term 2012.
We are investigating current institutional processes and policy in terms of academic writing and plagiarism prevention in collaboration with the Education Committee, the Proctors' office, Continuing Education, the Bodleian libraries and the Oxford Learning Institute. A Turnitin User Group has been established, which meets once per term and has a site in WebLearn (https://weblearn.ox.ac.uk/info/plag/tiiug). Case studies and help guides are available in the Plagiarism (Turnitin) support site for staff (https://weblearn.ox.ac.uk/info/plag). A student support site has also been created (https://weblearn.ox.ac.uk/skills/plag) as part of the Skills Hub. It offers a collection of plagiarism tutorials, videos and useful links for students.
New training courses for academic staff have been developed, including ‘Turnitin Fundamentals’, and ‘Interpreting Turnitin Originality Reports’. The course ‘Plagiarism: How to avoid it (for students)’ includes guest presenters from Continuing Education and the Bodleian libraries. The course promotes academic writing and study skills and supports students in learning how to avoid unintentional plagiarism. It has proved to be very popular, and has been requested by particular departments as a customised course for their students.
A Turnitin Service Level Description (http://www.oucs.ox.ac.uk/internal/sld/turnitin.xml) has been developed, as well as a web page ‘About Turnitin’ (http://www.oucs.ox.ac.uk/turnitin/).
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 has completed the mapping and geosearching component of CLAROS, and established a gazetteer of c.7000 places, of which 5500 are geolocated, 4300 linked to the geonames resource, and 560 linked to the Pleiades ancient world gazetter.
A substantially new data interface was created for Claros, at http://data.clarosnet.org/, incorporating a SPARQL endpoint, mapping, free text searching, and browsing.
Members of the team worked on two large EU funding bids for CLAROS, neither of which were funded.
In the LDSE project six institutions* collaborated on researching and developing an intelligent tool, the Learning Designer, which was intended to enable lecturers to experiment with innovative approaches to the curriculum and the creative possibilities opened up by digital technologies. By the end of the project in November 2011, we had developed a working prototype of the tool and evaluated it with over 40 academic staff and learning technologists, including members of the LTG.
Members of the Oxford-based team continued to be active in disseminating the research findings from the project, including conferences and workshops in London, Birmingham and Sydney. A team member also participated in a Learning Design ‘summit’ at Macquarie University in Sydney. In terms of publications, LTG staff contributed to a collaborative article which has now been published in the Journal of Computer-Assisted Learning, and had data included in a chapter for the 2nd edition of Rethinking Pedagogy. At least two further journal articles are in preparation.
A slimmed-down research team, received additional funding from the Department of Business Innovation and Skills. In collaboration with the Learning and Skills Improvement Service we explored the potential value of the Learning Designer to teachers in Further Education (December 2011–April 2012).
Although the LDSE project did not result in a robust tool for everyday use, outcomes for the LTG have been:
* 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 members of the Zoology Department, we developed an on-line 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.
We have worked with the Säid Business School to develop an on-line 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 offered introductory and advanced agent-based modelling courses to entire University community. We co-organised University-wide meetings on agent-based modelling.
We have closely collaborated with Explaining Religion Project members in the design and construction of a model of the dynamics of divergent modes of religiosity. We co-authored and submitted a journal paper on this.
We have provided support and training to staff in the Department of Politics and International Relationsefforts to build a model of the possible dynamics resulting from a ban on wearing Burkas in public. Together we wrote a proposal to the ESRC on enabling domain experts to build models of the Arab spring rebellions.
We have co-authored two research proposals with Anthropology staff.
We collaborated with the Stockholm Environment Institute on a project involving agent-based modelling to support artisanal fishers in the developing world.
We have had meetings with many other University researchers to provide guidance in building agent-based models. This includes a model of medieval populations by an archaeology researcher and a model of international migration with a researcher from the International Migration Institute.
Together with the World War One Centenary Project we built an agent-based model of the Spanish Flu Pandemic. We authored both student and teacher guides to this simulation.
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. We published a paper about the design and use of this software.
The Nexus Exchange 2010 Upgrade (Phase 2) project followed on directly from the Nexus Exchange and SharePoint 2010 Upgrades project that ran in 2010/11. The phase 2 project ran from August 2011 to July 2012 and involved replacing all of the infrastructure (storage and servers) underpinning the Exchange 2007 service and migrating mailboxes from Exchange 2007 to Exchange 2010.
The intended benefits of the project were:
From the end-users’ viewpoint the benefits were:
Our overall project objectives were to test and prepare the hardware infrastructure required for a move to Exchange 2010; and migrate the Nexus service from Exchange 2007 to Exchange 2010 with as little user disruption as possible.
We had design assistance from HP, as well as a great contribution towards the hardware cost of the project. A major benefit in terms of cost was the use of relatively cheap direct attached storage (DAS) in preference to a storage area network (SAN), something which Exchange 2010 is ultimately designed to take advantage of. Infrastructure was ordered in late summer 2011 and was largely configured by the end of 2011. However, there was a great deal of work to be done in order to ensure a smooth transition from Exchange 2007 to Exchange 2010 and to support the wide range of email and groupware clients used across the University. A great deal of testing was performed throughout the winter of 2011/12 and some strategic options given to the Project Board. Migration schedules were published to IT Support Staff in January for comments/amendment.
Migrations to Exchange 2010 began with a few early adopters in January and larger groups in February. There was noticeable impact to very small numbers of users of particular client software (Apple Mail, Davmail and NTLM in particular), but most people were notified of their overnight migration and presumably did not notice any change, apart from a vastly improved Outlook Web App (webmail) interface the following day.
The first mass migrations began on 4th March, averaging 2,500 mailboxes per night. By the end of March 2012 over 99% of Nexus mailboxes had been successfully migrated. We ended up with a few problem mailboxes (to be expected for a migration project of this size) but these were resolved gradually before the end of May 2012. Background work took us up to July to complete, including looking at service packs and considering anti-virus options, but the project was seen as a great success, given the extremely large scale of the migrations
The greatest challenges had been:
This project is funded for 12 months and began in June 2012.
The SharePoint Best Practice (Phase 1) project aims to:
The project began well in June and productive meetings with the Social Sciences Divisional Office and the Council Secretariat followed shortly after that.
Great Writers Inspire, a JISC funded Open Education project, is formally ending in October 2012. It brings together thousands of open literature resources which are made freely available for reuse, remixing and repurposing for the benefit of teaching and learning worldwide. Working with staff and students in English the project new and existing open educational resources (OER) have been curated into thematic collections.
Project blog: http://blogs.oucs.ox.ac.uk/openspires
SPINDLE – Using Automatic Speech to Text Technology to generate better cataloguing of our open media, has recently completed. It was funded by JISC as part of their Rapid Technical Innovation in Open Educational Resources strand. SPINDLE has released a series of 20 reports on Automatic Speech to Text cataloguing applications and a set of prototype software tools to help automatically generate keywords from media files, to batch generate captions and to correct text transcripts. The prototype software was successfully tested against the OpenSpires media repository at Oxford.
Project report: https://sharepoint.nexus.ox.ac.uk/sites/SSP/dige/
The investigation into the Student Digital Experience (DIGE) was carried out between October 2011 and May 2012, and was a collaboration between the LTG and the Student Systems Programme (which provided the funding). Our aim was to define the Oxford student online experience that appropriately supports Oxford’s traditional teaching methods, graduate skills expectations, and the social dimension of student life. We also sought to construct a vision for the systems and services needed over the next five years to ensure that our students enjoy a world-class digital experience worthy of their world-class academic experience.
The project was divided into two broad areas: ‘Mapping the Architecture’ and ‘Mapping the Landscape’. In the first, we created and analysed an overview of the technical architecture – the interfaces and applications that make up the student digital experience. In the second, we gathered data from over 700 students and over 100 staff by a number of methods. This work was supplemented by an investigation into other universities and by a review of the use of technology in secondary schools in the UK.
Our findings show that Oxford offers a good range of digital services in support of teaching, learning, and administration. It provides online information throughout the student life cycle, from prospective applicants through the three main levels of study – undergraduate, taught postgraduate, and research postgraduate – to the alumni community, and underpins these services with an expanding set of infrastructure services that include the wireless network and Single-Sign On. The University strives to cater for the digital needs of students with disabilities and of an ever-growing number of international students. It has also made good efforts to provide support services such as IT training and mentoring to all students and staff. In some areas, Oxford provides services that other UK institutions either do not offer or are only just beginning to offer, such as Mobile Oxford and the podcasts released through iTunes U.
In summary, Oxford equals – and in some aspects outpaces – equivalent HE institutions in the UK, as well as some overseas ones. Nonetheless, our work with students and staff indicates some complexity, uneven distribution, and gaps in support: hence the 43 recommendations which are made in the project report.
The Education Committee approved the report and recommendations at its meeting in June. The LTG is currently preparing proposals to implement at least three of these: developing a portal-style gateway; enhancing students’ experience of WebLearn; and investigating how academic staff can best be supported to develop their IT skills and optimising the use of digital technologies in their teaching.
The OER Engagement Study was conducted between September 2011 and July 2012 as part of a SCORE fellowship. Its remit was to investigate the ways in which higher education institutions, individual faculties and academic support staff foster engagement with reuse of open educational resources (OER) among lecturers. Specifically, the following questions were addressed:
Qualitative data were collected from a total of 17 participants: a) promoters of OER engagement initiatives, b) lecturers who participated in training on OER, and c) faculty OER champions.
The major outcome of the study is the OER Engagement Ladder which models progression stages in lecturers’ engagement with OER. Each stage describes the barriers that lecturers are likely to encounter on the way towards the optimal level of OER engagement and the kinds of institutional support they might need to move things forward. The model is of high relevance to anyone who seeks to strategically encourage open practice in their institution. Main beneficiaries include: academic librarians, staff developers, learning technologists and staff responsible for implementation of graduate attributes into curricula.
Although funding for the RunCoCo project ended in 2011, the team continue to disseminate findings from the project (OUCS 2010-2011) about how to run a community collection online and The Great War Archive (OUCS 2008), in line with LTG strategy, and with expenses covered by conference organisers or on a consultancy basis, e.g.
In addition, the team continue to answer the frequent online and telephone enquiries about online community collections and the First World War Poetry Digital Archive (another OUCS site) and from the media on a best effort basis.
For further information please see http://runcoco.oucs.ox.ac.uk/.
The JISC-funded VIDaaS Project ran from May 2011 to March 2012 and involved the creation of ‘Database as a Service’ (DaaS) software designed to be hosted on Cloud infrastructure, specifically the VMware cloud infrastructure offered by Oxford’s new data centre.
The DaaS is an online tool that enables researchers to build, edit, search, and share databases online. We had already started work on a pilot DaaS during the earlier Sudamih Project, but this software was intended to be hosted on conventional servers, and was built as a proof of concept rather than a full enterprise-level service for researchers at the University. By March 2012 we had essentially completed the DaaS with its planned initial functionality but not with the requisite levels of security in place to go live.
The service based upon the DaaS will be called the Online Research Database Service, and will form part of the portfolio of services run by OUCS. The additional work to ensure that the service is fully robust and secure is now being undertaken by a follow-on project (The ORDS Maturity Project), and the service should be ready to go live by the end of 2012.
Besides developing the software, the project involved user requirements gathering, service design, and establishing the costs and benefits of the planned service. All of these aspects are covered in the VIDaaS final report, which is available from http://vidaas.oucs.ox.ac.uk/docs/VIDaaS_FinalReport.pdf.
Data Management Rollout at Oxford (DaMaRO) is a collaborative project involving staff from OUCS and the Bodleian Libraries working alongside researchers and research support staff from the academic divisions. It is creating a research data management policy for the University and the infrastructure to enable researchers to comply with it.
We will be taking the outputs of the various research data management projects that the University has been engaged in over the last few years and combining them into a better-integrated suite of tools and discovery mechanisms that will support researchers throughout the data life-cycle, from planning to re-use.
Of particular note is the 'DataFinder' tool that DaMaRO will be developing. This will enable the discovery of data hosted in various places around the University and beyond, including the Bodleian Libraries' 'DataBank', the Online Research Database Service (ORDS), departmental and other local data stores, the Web 2 research management network 'Colwiz', and hopefully the 'LabTrove' system developed by the University of Southampton. In time it will also connect this data with research papers and publications held in the Oxford University Research Archive (ORA).
Besides software development, the DaMaRO Project will develop data management training and documentation for researchers, expanding and adding to the materials developed during the Sudamih Project and the other projects funded by the JISC Managing Research Data Programme. A long-term business plan for providing and maintaining the DaMaRO enterprise environment will also be developed during the course of the project.
The Text Encoding Initiative (TEI) Consortium is an international project creating detailed guidelines and XML schemata for the encoding of texts. The University of Oxford is a partner of the Consortium, through 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 2011-12. 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. James Cummings was appointed Chair of the Technical Council in November 2011.
The TEI 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 100 delegates in Oxford in July 2012, which included substantial coverage of TEI, and included teaching by staff from OUCS, OeRC, Bodley and OII.
All the TEI conformant texts in the Oxford Text Archive are now being made available in XML, HTML, ePub, Kindle and plain texts formats using locally developed tools.
OSS Watch is a JISC-funded service providing advice, guidance, and support to UK Further and Higher Education on using, developing and contributing to open source software. OSS Watch has been hosted by OUCS since its inception in 2003.
We offer support to open source projects on three levels. This work ranges from reactive support, consisting mostly of replying to queries, to full hands-on guidance on open development projects. This year we're working with a range of projects, including Rogo and Xerte at the University of Nottingham, DataFlow at the Bodleian, BeBop at the University of Lincoln, as well as looking to work soon with new projects such as ORDS here at Oxford. The Openness Maturity Model (aka Openness Rating) developed at OSS Watch is also now well established as part of our project support process.
In 2012 we produced a lot of new briefing notes, particularly on open source communities, governance and processes, aimed at helping projects establish the structures and practices they need to put in place to become more sustainable. In the next year, we plan to publish further high quality briefing content, however, we will focus more on the procurement of open source solutions and helping institutions evaluate open source alternatives when procuring software systems.
We are developing new resources, training and consultancy based around the Software Sustainability Maturity Model (SSMM) developed by OSS Watch in partnership with several external companies as a core part of this work. This will also form the core of our engagement with other public sector agencies and government departments.
Last year saw the creation of a spin-out company from the OSS Watch services, Open Directive. This year we've been working in close partnership with OpenDirective, and also with other companies active in promoting open development, including running a training course for CENATIC in Spain. We also worked with OpenDirective on the VRE Synthesis Project for JISC.
We started a programme of extending our work with further education colleges through the network of JISC Regional Support Centres; this will be a particularly important audience for information and services relating to procurement.
Last year we again ran our successful Open Source Junction events, focussed on bringing together academia and business and identifying potential partnerships for open innovation; we held two events, on mobile and cloud computing, with participants from both industry and universities well represented. In the coming year we'll hold two more of these events; the first of these, on Open Source Hardware, will be in March.
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 membership is institutional and has almost 100% coverage within the higher education sector in the UK. UCISA also has over 90 corporate members. The Association is based in Oxford and is hosted by OUCS.
UCISA's aims are to promote best practice through events, awards, and publications, and to represent the interests of its members through lobbying, responding to consultations, and building relationships with other groups (typically through UCISA’s active involvement in committees and working parties).
UCISA ran 20 events last year. These ranged from one-day seminars on encouraging academic use of technology enhanced learning, the increased presence of mobile devices in higher education and the implementation of customer relationship management systems, to multi-day 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, and an information security toolkit which 15 universities have used to derive policies from.
During 2011-12 UCISA represented the community in discussions with Government departments and agencies. UCISA staff and UCISA special interest group members were called on throughout the year to advise many different groups from the Student Loans Company to Universities UK’s panel on Modernisation and Efficiency. UCISA’s Corporate Information Systems Group contributed to initial review work on admissions processes, and informed the response UCISA submitted to UCAS on the technical considerations required for a post-awards qualifications system (UCAS’s Admissions Process Review consultation). On this occasion UCISA also championed the interests of suppliers of student records systems alongside higher and further education institutions. UCISA’s special interest group for networking liaised closely with Janet, the UK’s research and education network, to produce guidelines for dealing with standard copyright infringement notices. The group also worked with Janet to promote the use of eduroam throughout the academic sector.
In the coming year UCISA will continue to invest in resources that help members to demonstrate the strategic value of IT in their institutions and put information technology at the forefront of the student experience.
In January 2012 the Learning Technologies Group was awarded a grant under the JISC World War One Commemorations Programme to develop an Open Educational Resource (OER) to support new directions in teaching the First World War and challenge existing misconceptions about the conflict.
World War I Centenary: Continuations and Beginnings is an open-access online platform that provides materials for free reuse under a Creative Commons Attribution Non-Commercial Sharealike Licence. Materials are presented through thematic collections that have been developed by an academic steering panel.
The project was led LTG staff and worked closely with a team of academics and student ambassadors from across the country in the selection and development of content. To embed the resource in Oxford, in September 2012 the project hosted a workshop attended by academics, librarians and teaching graduates from across the University. Together with a series of interviews the workshop fed into an evaluation report which, whilst specifically addressing the projects value, also has wider relevance for the use of OER in teaching and learning in the Higher Education sector.