5. Departments and Public/Business Engagement

Occasionally a department, faculty, college or other unit may be called upon to list its overall engagement programme. Again, this will be spread across a range of activities many of which will not involve IT. However, by way of example the following exercise outlines OUCS’s approach to this.

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First, it is useful to list your projects online thus alerting people (collaborators, prospective students, the media etc) to the range of work you undertake. OUCS maintains lists at:

Second, it would be useful to brainstorm some of the one-off, or ad hoc activities that you might wish to promote. Considering work undertaken at OUCS we would point to the following activities (listed in no particular order and many drawn from examples above):

  • Our development and promotion of software to facilitate community collection (or crowd-sourcing) under the RunCoCo project. This involves a simple piece of open source software that allows you to set up a website for people to contribute material to.
  • Supporting podcasting and iTunes U. This has allowed Oxford lecturers to reach global audiences with their lectures, interviews about their projects, guides to studying at Oxford.
  • Extending the backbone network across the city. Recently we have managed to develop our wireless facilities to be available in the City's NHS hospitals.
  • Leading the development of, and investigations into, Open Educational Resources through the OpenSpires and STEEPLE projects.
  • Developing software that is freely available to assist in computer modeling through our Modelling4All project .
  • Contributing regularly to open source products, which can then be used by other Universities and businesses.
  • Opening up some of our training facilities to non-University people – including running courses for OUP, our Alumni, and for local teachers through the NUT. We have also contributed to 6th Form Master Classes, and Access Programmes for Higher Education.
  • Making our teaching rooms available to local organisations such as BBC Oxford and special interest groups.
  • Offering internships, as well as work experience for local school pupils, and considering running apprenticeship schemes.
  • Developing the University's virtual learning environment - WebLearn - so that it can be opened up to allow access to visitors and indexing by Google.
  • Taking a lead on various Green IT initiatives, most notably our Low Carbon ICT project which allows users to power up machines remotely, rather than having to leave them on all the time.
  • Developing the Mobile Oxford service which is of use to anyone in the City - students, staff, citizens, tourists - promoting sustainable travel, bettering the learning experience, etc.
  • Hosting major national advisory services which are of benefit to UK HE, businesses, and Government. These have included: OSS Watch (national advisory centre on Open Source Software); Intute – cataloguing Arts and Humanities online resources; the Oxford Text Archive - the oldest electronic text archive in the world; UCISA - the major organisation for University and College IT units; Computers in Teaching Initiative Centre - advised UK HEIs on using IT in teaching; British National Corpus - major collaborative service of use to linguists and publishers; Text Encoding Initiative - major international organisation to develop text mark-up standards.
  • Running numerous conferences on IT and becoming a recognised world-centre of expertise in key technology fields.
  • Opening up our doors as part of the City's Artsweek festival to allow members of the public to see art created by OUCS staff, but also to learn more about the department.

Having compiled such a list we could then consider each of these activities under some key targets and objectives (as identified in A Vital Partnership).

5.1. Economic Impact/Knowledge Transfer:

Running iTunes U/Podcasting; Green IT (also helps vendors understand HE requirements); open publishing of OUCS documentation (usually licensed under Creative Commons licence); developing a model to cost IT services as part of a national project; launching the Mobile Oxford development platform as open sourcce; the British National Corpus is used extensively in English language teaching; etc.

In addition we would also highlight the work of OSS Watch under this heading, as it is a national service specialising in sustainable open source developments, the production of reusable software, and community building. The team connects projects and businesses in order to explore open innovation as a means to externalise and enhance work carried out in the academic sector. They also work with mentoring programmes such as the Google Summer of Code, which provides practical guidance and support for students exploring open source software and the OpenSE project which focuses on similar mentoring in both formal and informal education.

5.2. Bringing Learning Resources to a Wider Audience:

Running iTunes U and Podcasting; assisting and creating the proliferation of Open Educational Resources; opening up WebLearn; running Community Collections; hosting key events; opening up our training; assisting in or leading the creation of freely available Digitised Collections – e.g. First World War Poetry Archive, but also assisted with Vindolanda Tables, Roman Coinage, Pitt Rivers Pacific Pathways; hosting the free online Oxford Text Archive; working on building communities via new Web 2.0 tools such as Facebook, Twitter, Second Life, Flickr; etc.

5.3. Getting More People Interested in Learning and the University:

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iTunes U and Podcasting includes guides to studying at Oxford; mounting films explaining some of our projects on YouTube; running Community Collections; opening up WebLearn; using Social Media tools to reach new audiences(Facebook/Twitter); opening up OUCS Training; helping to run an area on Epidemics at the Royal Society Summer Science Exhibition ; participating in ArtsWeek; offering the Mobile Oxford service to the entire City; etc.

5.4. Attracting Students from Under-represented Groups:

Via iTunes U and Podcasting; WebLearn; Digitised Collections; offering Work Experience to local school pupils; developing an Apprenticeship scheme.

5.5. Environment:

Running major Green IT initiatives – especially the low-carbon ICT project; developing Mobile Oxford – promoting local public transport policies and cycling routes; advising on recycling of IT equipment; leading the development of Virtualisation facilities across the University to reduce power consumption; etc.

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5.6. Arts and Culture:

Participating in ArtsWeek; Podcasting on art (including Ruskin School) with increased accessibility to artistic works; running Community Collections that focus on literature and art; cataloguing arts and humanities online resources through Intute; running workshops on digital video and music, and hosting the annual Filming Literature Competition; etc.

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