2. Groupware/Nexus and WebLearn
The Groupware Project was launched on 15 October 2008 at an event attended by the Vice-Chancellor and Gordon Frazer, MD Microsoft UK. A 'Letter of Understanding' was signed by both parties marking a new degree of collaboration. The new service has been named Nexus5, which emphasises its communication and group working aspects, and is based on Microsoft Exchange 2007 and Microsoft Office SharePoint Server6 (MOSS). It includes7 a service which is available to all staff and students offering: email, shared contact list, shared calendaring system, task listing, document sharing, document management, workflow and more.
The current Groupware Project is the first phase of long-term development in Groupware. Migration of Herald users began during August and September and will continue in mid-October 2009. The project will complete by the end of March 2010 resulting in the Nexus service. It is intended to build on the foundation laid down with the MOSS software, in particular, through a series of future projects. One possibility being considered, for example, is the building of a virtual research environment using SharePoint as the foundation8.
The University has had a centrally-provided virtual learning environment since January 20039. It is a collection of online tools brought together for learners and teachers to use in creative ways to facilitate learning and teaching support at both undergraduate and graduate levels, and is widely used. The system is highly flexible and has been developed over the years to complement Oxford’s existing teaching practices – notably the tutorial system.
Over the last year the virtual learning environment has been radically overhauled. Although it still has the same name, the underlying software has changed, and it is now based on Sakai10. The Sakai Project began as a $6.8 million community source software development project founded by the University of Michigan, Indiana University, MIT, Stanford, the uPortal Consortium, and the Open Knowledge Initiative11. It is now used by Cambridge, and most of the major US Universities (including Yale), its popularity reflecting the fact that it was developed by world-class research-led Universities.
The new WebLearn service had a pilot phase lasting a year and was launched on 30 June 2009. In addition to organising learning support materials, it offers an extensive (and developing) set of tools developed with the Oxford teaching model in mind.