3. Which Tool for Which Activity?

Members of the Nexus and WebLearn teams are often asked which tools should be used for which type of activity. Other universities have faced the same issue. An extract from a University of Amsterdam blog12 states:- My basic statement is that the conceptual design behind SharePoint is completely different compared to Sakai. Although there are areas of overlap between Sakai and SharePoint, there are well-documented differences. Sakai is designed for and built by the educational environment, and in Oxford we have used this as our tool for learning and teaching support to supplement our face-to-face activities. MOSS has been designed for supporting workflows within collaborative research and committee management; most of the leading research Universities now have some implementation of SharePoint.

Both Nexus and WebLearn are still under development in Oxford, and preferences may evolve with use, but in answer to the question of what each should be used for is, our recommendation is:

3.1. Primary role for WebLearn:

WebLearn is the service of choice to support teaching and learning. There has been a considerable amount of investment to tailor it to the environment in Oxford and support is available to ensure it is used effectively. WebLearn offers:

  • Course sites and course events
  • Lecture notes and Handbooks
  • Teaching presentations
  • Reading lists and bibliographic tools
  • Online assessments
  • Plagiarism detection
  • Student feedback surveys
  • Course announcements
  • Learning related discussion forums and chat areas
  • Learning wikis and blogs
  • Tutorial bookings
  • Student support and management (complementing the Student Systems and with links to existing facilities such as OxCort, Oxam, etc.)

3.2. Primary role for Nexus:

Nexus is the service of choice to support online communication, document sharing, research groups, and administration. When requirements for the Groupware service were being specified it was clear that there was a need across the collegiate University to hold and share documents. It offers:

  • Email, with a rich set of features
  • University-wide calendars
  • Global address book and shareable contact lists13 and address books
  • Workflow for processes14
  • Resource booking
  • Personal profiles/websites
  • Committee administration (web pages15, document management, wikis, calendars etc)
  • Research group administration (web pages, document management, wikis, calendars etc)
  • Club administration (web pages, document management, wikis, calendars, handbooks)

There are points of interface which require further development. Both WebLearn and Nexus have, and need, calendars (termed a scheduler for the former). It will be essential that these interoperate dynamically. It will also be necessary for both services to interoperate with other applications, both within and beyond the University; and both will need to interoperate with a diverse range of platforms, including mobile devices. Both services will interoperate with the OUCS OAK read/write group store later this year. This will mean, for example, that distribution lists created in Exchange could be used in WebLearn, and an ad hoc group made in WebLearn could be used in Nexus.

Up: Contents Previous: 2. Groupware/Nexus and WebLearn Next: 4. Conclusions

Notes
13.
.. and directory of groups (for example, members of a particular unit )
14.
This will be offered in later phases of the Groupware programme.
15.
Similalry, web pages will be offered in later phases of the Groupware programme.