1. Primary Roles for WebLearn and SharePoint

Members of the Nexus and WebLearn teams are often asked which tools should be used for which type of activity. Although there are areas of overlap between WebLearn and SharePoint, there are well-documented differences. WebLearn 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. SharePoint was designed for supporting work flows within collaborative research and committee management; most of the leading research Universities now have some implementation of SharePoint in addition to a Virtual Learning Environment based on another platform.

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

1.1. 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
  • Electronic assignment submission with automatic plagiarism awareness
  • Student feedback surveys
  • Course announcements
  • Learning related discussion forums and chat areas
  • Tutorial or seminar bookings
  • OXAM database of past exam papers
  • Discovery of researcher training opportunities
  • On-line courses such as Plagiarism Awareness, Research Integrity and Professional Development (for researchers)
  • Student support and management (complementing the Student Systems and with links to existing facilities such as OxCort, GSS, etc.)

1.2. Primary role for Nexus SharePoint:

The Nexus SharePoint service is aimed primarily at research groups, administrative bodies, clubs and societies. Therefore SharePoint offers:

  • Authoring and sharing documents and data
  • Work flows for 'business processes'
  • Personal profiles/websites
  • Committee administration with 'best practice' templates for good committee web pages and document libraries, including document management, wikis, calendars etc)
  • Project or group activities outside those of teaching and learning
  • Research group administration (web pages, document management, wikis, calendars etc)
  • Club administration (web pages, document management, wikis, calendars, handbooks)

2. Conclusions

The University does not mandate a particular system for any specific activity. Users should choose the service which best meets their needs and is easiest to use. However, both services have been designed to help facilitate specific processes in the University, and IT Services is funded to provide user documentation and service development within the agreed scope of each service. WebLearn has been designed to support teaching and learning, and its focus is to meet the needs of teachers and to offer a first class environment for students. SharePoint was deployed, and continues to be developed, for the benefit of researchers, administrators, project teams and clubs.