1. Apples at OUCS

Photo of Opening of Mac Teaching Room

1.1. Launch of the Mac Teaching Room

Many creative professionals in the world today use Macs in preference to PCs. With a Mac you can forget that you are in front of a computer and concentrate more fully on your actual creative work. Someone once said it was the best breakthrough for the creative artist since the invention of paper and pencils! In keeping with the growing use of Apple Macs in the University, OUCS is increasing its provision for Macs within it services and also creating new programmes to teach the best and most creative uses of the special features of Macs. In addition, we have created an Apple Mac Teaching Room in our Thames Suite.

The Apple Mac Teaching room was formally opened on Friday, 11 December 2009. Peter Thompson, the Manager of Apple’s UK and Ireland Education Business; and Stuart Lee, Director of OUCS, jointly cut the ribbon to make it official. Brenda Brierley, Apple’s Programme Manager for Authorised Training Centres for Education, then cut a cake to launch a new initiative of creativity in the OUCS IT Learning Programme’s courses.

During the event there were short talks on the design of the room, its involvement with the University’s iTunesU programme, and an update on Mobile Oxford.

The room was designed in collaboration with Apple, Colebrook-Bosson-Saunders (a work space furniture design company) and Merlin Presentation Solutions. Together we feel we have created a teaching space that is flexible, accessible and stimulating for teaching and learning. The room has been in use since May 2009, and has received many compliments both for its look and feel and for the fact that we once again have a dedicated room for Apple Mac based courses.

1.2. We’re an AATCe!

Photo of Opening of Mac Teaching Room

We now have the status of an Apple Authorised Training Centre for Education (AATCe). An AATCe meets Apple’s highest standards in all areas including: facilities, instructors, course delivery and infrastructure. With AATCe status we can offer Apple-certified courses and certification to University members with the following key benefits:

  • Providing the opportunity for staff and students to achieve an internationally recognised Apple certification
  • Access to Apple’s course resources
  • The convenience and cost savings (such as travel and accommodation) of being able to attend an AATCe at Oxford University itself

To run the AATCe we use external trainers who are recognised nationally and internationally as experts in their fields.

In Michaelmas 09 we ran two Apple Certified courses:

  • An Introduction to Final Cut Pro (3 days)
  • An Overview of Aperture (1 day)

We have also run a Documentary Film Making 5-day workshop in conjunction with the Oxford Academy of Documentary Film. Some of the documentaries produced were on view at the launch.

The ITLP has also run a number of its own courses:

  • Test drive a Mac – where members of the University can try out a Mac computer with help at hand Switching from Windows – for University members that are moving from Windows to Mac OSX
  • Security and Maintenance – guidance on setting up a Mac correctly and looking after it
  • Adobe Dreamweaver
  • Adobe Photoshop
  • Adobe Indesign

All of the courses have received enthusiastic feedback from attendees, praising both the teaching and the room. They will continue to be available and our course list will be extended even further.

We can now support and train academics and others who would love to embrace new technology and become media-wise and creative in support of their teaching, research and outreach.

1.3. New Creative Courses

make: podcasts advert

At the launch event, Melissa Highton, Head of OUCS’s Learning Technologies Group, described the new creative strand to be embedded within the ITLP teaching programme that will run over the next two terms, culminating in the annual OxTalent Awards ceremony in the summer.

This strand will be called make: and will include within it opportunities to see the creative potential in a number of different areas, currently:

  • make: audio
  • make: images
  • make: music
  • make: open
  • make: posters
  • make: presentations
  • make: together
  • make: videos
  • make: websites

make: open will emphasise the Open Educational Resources initiatives being addressed in the University, whereas make: together will emphasise the synergy that exists between the different creative disciplines.

We will not only provide our own courses, workshops, lunch time sessions, and competitions but we will also tap into some of the creative activities in which academics and students are already involved to get them to come along and share them with the rest of us.

We hope you will spread the word and think about taking advantage of this new opportunity to develop creative skills through modern technology! No longer is the making of videos and podcasts, digital images, posters, and music the realm of an exclusive few willing to toil over technical software and hardware. The tools are now available that can release the creative potential in anyone and these tools are becoming easier and easier to use.

1.4. Want to know more?

If you would like more details of the room, or you are interested in contributing to our make: programme, please contact: Grazyna Cooper (grazyna.cooper@oucs.ox.ac.uk), Head of the IT Learning Programme. Courses information.

1.5. Apple Warranty Repairs

The OUCS Apple Warranty Repair service is up and running well. For details and how to use it see www.oucs.ox.ac.uk/helpcentre/pcsupport/hardware-service.xml.

This service is carried out by the same engineers who also provide hardware repairs and upgrades (described on the same web pages). Please remember that although the Apple Warranty repairs have a somewhat tighter turn-around time, the hardware repairs still generally take 5 to 10 working day to complete and we do not have the resources to provide on-the-spot repairs.

2. m.ox.ac.uk – Version Two

m.ox display on a mobile phone

Version 2 of Mobile Oxford is now available. Mobile Oxford is a relatively new service offered by OUCS aimed at mobile phone users in the University (including iPhones and PDAs). From your phone (or a desktop machine) go to m.ox.ac.uk and you can:

  • search for a library book and be guided to the libraries that have it in stock
  • look at a map of Oxford to find colleges, departments, libraries, and the nearest pub, cafe, post box, etc.
  • get a live feed for bus stops in Oxford telling you when the next bus is arriving
  • get access to the University’s podcasts
  • quick search for phone numbers and email addresses of staff and students and lots more.

Updates in Verson 2 mostly concentrate on supporting more phones, consistent styling and significant improvements in speed. We’ve also improved the “universal” search (at the top of the front page) significantly, so you can now enter in bus stop numbers, ISBNs, ISSNs and it’ll take you straight to what you want.

We support all smart phone platforms with our shiny interface and you’ll hopefully notice a significant improvement in loading times.

Feed back would be most welcome, either by e-mail to:mobileoxford@oucs.ox.ac.uk or the little feedback form at the bottom of every page of m.ox. The latter will automatically give us some contextual information which is particularly useful for fixing bugs.

3. Nexus

3.1. How to Access

Nexus can be accessed through a client installed on a computer. Outlook 2007 gives the optimum performance. Supported clients are listed at www.oucs.ox.ac.uk/nexus/email/clients.xml

Nexus can also be accessed through a web browser, Outlook Web Access (OWA) Premium (from Internet Explorer 6 or above) or OWA Light from other browsers. OWA Premium, similar to Outlook, gives more facilities than OWA Light with improvements in calendar views and better access to the address list. See www.oucs.ox.ac.uk/nexus/email

3.2. Logging on and Logging off

When logging on to Nexus through a web browser options are presented for working on a Public or Private computer. Public computers log out quickly after no activity, while Private computers are set for a longer period. To protect your data, it is important to remember to log off and close down browsers once finished on a Public computer.

3.3. Passwords

Passwords can be re-set at: https://webauth.ox.ac.uk/password.

With an Outlook Anywhere connection we do not know of a simple way of stopping the password prompt each time Outlook is started.

3.4. Need Help?

There’s lots of Nexus documentation to help you to diagnose and solve problems at: www.oucs.ox.ac.uk/nexus/help. It now has a set of quick links at the top for the most asked issues. Otherwise, consult initially with your local IT officer.

3.5. Nexus case study

A new case study exploring how the ITLP embraced Nexus calendaring and improved their efficiency and communication has been released at /www.oucs.ox.ac.uk/nexus/casestudies

3.6. Top Tips for the Calendar

Photo of a handshake and women chatting
Discovering free periods
To arrange a meeting at a convenient time, use the Meeting Request function in Outlook or OWA. Use the Scheduling Assistant to show convenient times for selected users, and avoid times showing as conflicting.
What is Autodiscover?
Autodiscover allows for quick setup of accounts in Outlook and the ability to lookup items in the Global Address List (GAL). Contact your local IT Support Staff if autodiscover does not work. They may need to make changes to system settings. Calendar information is not displayed for addresses where unit autodiscover is not set. Offline address books also will not automatically be downloaded. Without autodiscover it is not possible to set Out-of-office properties in Outlook 2007. An easy work-around is to use OWA.
Sharing Calendars
If you get the error "Calendar sharing is not available with the following entries because of permission settings on your network" when trying to share calendars in Outlook, click on the To: button in the sharing dialogue and select the user from the GAL rather than typing the address directly.
Public/Private meetings
By default the title of meetings set in the calendar can be viewed across the system. To prevent details showing make a meeting Private by clicking on the padlock icon. The meeting is then shown purely as Busy.
Updates
Both versions of OWA have been upgraded during the Christmas vacation to enhance the viewing, delegation and sharing of calendars.
Tasks
In Outlook and OWA Premium items can be flagged, which displays them in the To-Do list. Dates can then be set against these tasks, a reminder added if appropriate and completed tasks marked as such.

3.7. Top Tips for Email

How Do I Change ...?

my forwarding?
https://register.it.ox.ac.uk/self/index/
my sender address?
https://register.it.ox.ac.uk/self/index/
my SPAM filtering settings?
https://register.it.ox.ac.uk/self/index/
my password?
https://webauth.ox.ac.uk/password

3.7.1. What's My Quota?

The standard Nexus quota is 2 GB. To see how much quota is used, select "Show email usage and quota" at https://register.it.ox.ac.uk/self/nexus or in OWA Premium hover over the mailbox name. Additional quota can be requested on a case-by-case basis, see sections 1 and 5 of the SLD: www.oucs.ox.ac.uk/internal/sld/nexus-exchange.xml

3.7.2. Understanding Spam Filtering and Deleted Items

Spam settings can be turned on/off or the level changed at https://register.it.ox.ac.uk/self/index/ It is also possible to turn on/off spam filtering through OWA under Options/Junk email/ Automatically filter junk email. Both settings must be on for filtering to occur.

Spam is no longer automatically deleted. Instead, items in the Nexus Junk E-mail folder and Deleted Items folder are automatically removed after 90 days. Some clients have configuration options allowing earlier deletion.

3.7.3. Contacts and the Global Address List (GAL)

Where possible the email address in the GAL is migrated from Herald. You can change to an alternative via: https://register.it.ox.ac.uk/self/index/

By default secondary (project) accounts are ex-directory as they often have people's personal names as their display names or names that do not make sense in a University-wide list. If you would like your project account to appear in the address list then please contact: help@oucs.ox.ac.uk with these details:

  • The account username
  • A display name sensible in the University context
  • The email address

NB: You will not be able to access a project account via Outlook until it is in the GAL.

3.8. How do I display a WebLearn calendar in my email client (Nexus)?

The best way to do this is to subscribe to a WebLearn calendar (rather than import) so that new events or changes to existing events are reflected. First of all, the Schedule on a site needs to be exported; to do this a site maintainer must click on the export button in the tool. It is worth noting that this makes the calendar items publically viewable – anybody in the world will be able to view the calendar if they know the URL – please make sure that this is acceptable.

The next step is to copy the URL into the address bar of your browser – to find the URL, click on the export link again - then change https:// to webcal:// and press return. A dialogue box should appear asking what external program should open this file, select Outlook (or Sunbird or Entourage, etc.) and continue. Your WebLearn calendar should now be visible in your calendaring client. Unfortunately it will be necessary to do this on every computer that you use as the information is stored locally and is not held by Nexus Exchange.

3.9. Nexus Enhancements

Following feedback from users, an additional piece of software has been purchased from Messageware to enhance the user experience with Nexus. Primarily this provides Outlook Web Access Light users (anyone not using Internet Explorer) with different views of the calendar - namely by week, working week or month.

Calendars can now be shared from within Outlook Web Access, and delegate permissions set appropriately. When a new email arrives a pop-up window gives brief details announcing the arrival, allowing OWA to sit in the background while doing other work. Further details are provided on the pages at www.oucs.ox.ac.uk/nexus

3.10. Blackberry Season

From November, the Nexus service offers connectivity for BlackBerry smartphones via a BlackBerry Enterprise Server. This allows syncronization of contacts, calendar and other information in addition to push email: www.oucs.ox.ac.uk/nexus/mobile/blackberry.xml

We are currently working through the replies to our earlier call for early adopters, and may be contacting some of you in the near future. We are also still seeking additional early adopters, so if you have any users with BlackBerries waiting for this service then drop us a line at nexushelp@oucs.ox.ac.uk.

We would prefer it if your VIPs were not in this first group of early adopters, but if they are desperate for BES-based connectivity it can be done!

Please note that a BES connection requires a BES-enabled plan/contract from the mobile service provider. This has been a stumbling block with some who requested to be early adopters.

4. WebLearn

Cover of Weblearn leaflet

4.1. How do Administration Sites work in New WebLearn?

An Administrative Unit (Department, Faculty, School or College) that requires a presence within new WebLearn, needs formally to request a WebLearn Administration Site and nominate at least one member of staff (a WebLearn Coordinator) to oversee the Unit’s WebLearn presence. An Administration Site is said to manage one or more (regular) new WebLearn sites and its participants are the only WebLearn users able to create new sites.

Administration Sites have 2 roles: admin and member.

participants with the member role:

  • can create sub-sites of any site where they have the maintain role
  • cannot visit the Administration Site

participants with the admin role:

  • can create sub-sites of any site where they have the maintain role
  • can visit and ‘maintain’ the Administration Site and therefore can
    • add tools
    • make changes to the participant list
    • assign roles to participants
    • have automatic maintain rights in a site that is managed by the Administration Site without actually being a member of the site in question

>Further information is available via these two step-by-step guides:

To request an Administration site, please visit weblearn.ox.ac.uk/info.

4.2. Major WebLearn upgrade

Back of Weblearn leaflet

WebLearn was upgraded on 3rd November 2009 to version 2.6-ox1. This was a major release and incorporates the new version of Sakai 2.6 (the software upon which WebLearn is based).

New Facilities – The Highlights

  • Upgrade to Sakai 2.6
  • Addition of ‘Make Web Content Link’ to every item in Resources via the ‘Actions’ menu – this is an easy way to add a ‘Web Content’ link to a file or folder in Resources to the left-hand side tools menu
  • Addition of interactive participant group browser – this makes finding groups much easier
  • Office 2007 documents are now searched
  • Oxford term dates subscription now works; easier method of term dates display
  • New much improved ‘Site Stats’ tool (version 2)
  • Switch role’ facility for ‘contribute’ and ‘access’ roles in published sites, (’view site as a student’ facility)
  • Addition of ‘Podcasts’ tool – store podcasts in WebLearn
  • WYSIWYG HTML Editor upgraded and now works in Safari and Opera

See weblearn.ox.ac.uk/access/content/public/System%20notices/release-notes-upgrade-to-v2p6-ox1p0.html for more details.

4.3. WebLearn User Group

On 20 November the WebLearn User Group held its first meeting since new WebLearn was launched. New features were demonstrated, including browsing for pre-existing groups of Oxford users, automated Web Content Links, and the Podcast tool. Users started identifying where they and their colleagues currently are on the Technology Adoption Curve (Moore, 1991). It was interesting to see that the current WebLearn users who were at the meeting are, as to be expected, early adopters. They see their colleagues as being distributed between the 'early majority' and the 'late majority'. We discussed how to reach more potential users in those areas of the curve. Participants were keen for future meetings to include Show and Tell sessions presented by users, since one of the objectives of the user group is to share ideas and learn from how others use WebLearn. Needless to say, the cream tea after the meeting was a hit!

The WebLearn User Group meeting will be held once per term and booking is essential via the ITLP Courses database (booking opens 30 days in advance of the scheduled meeting). There are various ways of communicating with each other electronically.

There are two mailing lists for announcements to WebLearn users:

  • Mail list for users of Old WebLearn: wl-manage-announce
  • Mail list for Local WebLearn coordinators (new WebLearn): wl-coordinators-announce

The former Early Adopters site in new WebLearn has been renamed WebLearn Community (weblearn.ox.ac.uk/portal/hierarchy/info/eas). Notes from User Group meetings are available here, as well as a discussion forum for ongoing interaction and communication between all WebLearn users. (From January, there will be an email notification feature for the Forums tool, to alert participants to new postings.)

4.4. WebLearn Pilot of the Evaluations Tool

The Evaluations tool in WebLearn can be used to design, administer, deliver and manage electronic questionnaires for the purpose of course, lecturer or tutor evaluation, feedback and review. Although responses remain anonymous, the course administrator can track who has or has not completed the evaluation, and can elect to send reminders to those who have not. The tool can also be used to gather responses for other forms of research and analysis.

Questionnaire templates can be created from scratch and, if desired, added to the public list for others to see and share. A wide range of question types allows for flexible design and structure, while detailed settings control which lecturers and tutors are being evaluated, how participants access the survey, and who may view the results. Several reporting options are also available to help you collate and analyse participants’ responses.

The tool is currently being piloted at Oxford University until the end of Trinity Term. The aim of the pilot project is to build up expertise in the use of the tool and to expand its use and support. If you would like to participate in Phase 2 of the pilot project from mid-Hilary term, please email Weblearn@ox.ac.uk.

What’s in it for me?

  • Be an early adopter in terms of using the tool to replace paper-based evaluations
  • Your suggestions will be considered for improving the tool and the user interface
  • The WebLearn team will assist in creating and building your questionnaires in the Evaluations tool (subject to reasonable limits in terms of numbers of questions/questionnaires)

What will it involve?

  • Building your questionnaire/s using the WebLearn Evaluations tool
  • Testing and checking your questionnaire/s in WebLearn
  • Administering your WebLearn questionnaire to groups of users
  • Completing the WebLearn feedback questionnaire to evaluate the pilot project

5. WW1 Poetry Archive News

Image of original poetry manuscript in Second Life
Image of soldier in Second Life

In the lead up to Armistice, the First World War Poetry Digital Archive launched its final, much anticipated collection: The Siegfried Sassoon Collection. See www.ox.ac.uk/media/news_stories/2009/091109.html

Sassoon is one of the most studied War poets at school and undergraduate level, the manuscripts, digitised from eight different archives in the UK and US, have never before been made available to the public. The launch has featured in the New York Times, amongst other places.

This collection marks the end of a three year project that has digitisted over 7000 items related to the major poets of the First World War from archives all over the world. In addition, the Great War Archive collected over 6,500 digital items and stories originating from the War held by the general public that otherwise may have become lost forever.

Its creators, its users, and scholarly reviewers believe the archive to be the most important online resource for researching, teaching, and studying the First World War and the literature that it inspired. It has also become a site of memory. www.oucs.ox.ac.uk/ww1lit, @ww1lit on Twitter

5.1. Bringing the First World War to Life

The First World War Poetry Digital Archive and the Learning Technologies Group at OUCS have collaborated on an exciting new project in the 3D virtual world Second Life. The team believes this is the first time anything of its type has been done on Second Life.

Second Life poppies

Second Life is a three-dimensional virtual world where users can interact with each other through avatars (3D versions of themselves) called ‘residents’. These can travel the world, socialize, visit museums or attend events, concerts and lectures to name just a few activities.

This project has seen the Second Life environment modelled to simulate areas of the Western Front 1914 – 18. This work was carried out by Chris Stephens assisted by Alun Edwards (known by their avatar names Csteph Submariner and Skanda Broek in Second Life). Into this environment a range of digitised archival materials from the major poets of the First World War (such as poetry manuscripts, letters and diaries), including Wilfred Owen, Isaac Rosenberg and Vera Brittain, along with contextual primary source materials have been imported. These materials have been supplemented with new interpretative content and a spectrum of interactive tools and tutorials, streaming video and audio effects.

Visitors to the model are given a unique immersive experience where they can explore a training camp, a dressing station, a trench network and No Man’s Land. The terrain is waterlogged and difficult to navigate, rife with rats and littered with poppies. Moving nearer to the front line the clamour of shell blasts and artillery fire becomes louder and louder.

Image of Second Life gas/word cloud

As visitors explore the simulation, they can listen to the voices of veterans recounting their experiences of the War, watch original film footage from the time, and learn about life on the Western Front. Within this context they can encounter some of the most powerful poetry in English literature by handling the original manuscripts, turning the pages of the poet’s war diaries and letters, and listening to readings.

Image of soldier and ghost in Second Life

At the end the visitor is teleported out of the trenches to a teaching area. Here they are asked to consider the memory of the war, and to confront their own prejudices and stereotypes - was the war really all about trenches, mud, and rats, or are their other aspects to it that we now need to consider? Should it only be remembered as mass slaughter, a gross act of futility, or more a collective act of unparalleled heroism that ended ultimately in a victory for Britain and its allies?

Dr Stuart Lee, Director of OUCS and Lecturer of English at Oxford University, said: “Attempting to form the context of a particular piece of literature is a key critical approach in the discipline, which normally involves studying secondary material, or in rare case, site visits. By piloting the use of Second Life, the First World War Poetry Archive is approaching this in an innovative way. More importantly it is showing how new technologies (virtual worlds) can be utilised to provide more interesting access to key research and teaching resources.”

The artefacts have been drawn from the highly successful First World War Poetry Digital Archive (www.oucs.ox.ac.uk/ww1lit), launched in 2008 to mark the 90th Anniversary of Armistice. By placing them in an online virtual model the project aims to make the collection more useful and engaging to a range of different user groups across UK education sectors, research communities and heritage industry.

Kate Lindsay, Project Manager, said: “Virtual worlds create opportunities to do things that are impossible in real museums. By simulating parts of the Western Front, we can embed an entire exhibition's worth of content within the space. This can be further enhanced by placing digital versions of real archival materials and narratives along the paths that visitors take. The result is an immersive and personal experience. It’s not ‘real’ but it does offer possibilities for understanding a part of history that is now beyond human memory.”

‘Designing Worlds’, a weekly virtual worlds design ‘TV’ show, ran an episode based exclusively in the project’s exhibition. Richard Ellen, of ‘Designing Worlds’ said “It’s a very powerful presentation. It really brings home the potential of virtual environments for education. We have only begun to scratch the surface of what this kind of presentation can offer. Involving, immersive experiences like this – in which the visitor can interact with information within the recreation, add their own contributions and experience ‘accidental learning’ – are just a part of the wealth of educational capabilities that virtual worlds can offer. This is perhaps one of the most advanced projects of its kind, and Oxford University is at the forefront of exploring these new worlds.”

Trenches scene fom Second Life

For more information visit www.oucs.ox.ac.uk/ww1lit/secondlife. The sim can be found on the Frideswide Island in Second Life at http://slurl.com/secondlife/Frideswide/219/199/646/. To experience the sim without Second Life, view Torn Fields machinima at www.youtube.com/user/ww1lit

6. iTunes U And Open Content In The Papers

There was an excellent piece in the Sunday Times recently - very positive, factually correct and great publicity for Oxford and OUCS.

Sunday Times article. Press articles on Oxford's iTunesU project.

6.1. Quote from “Self-learners’ creating university of online”

This time last year Philosophy lecturer Marianne Talbot was embarking on a standard series of lectures on philosophy at Oxford University. Her words are still echoing around the world.

“It was a perfectly ordinary lecture I gave to an audience, but the University asked me if I’d mind if they recorded it and made a podcast,” said Talbot last week. “The next thing I knew it had hit No 1.” Her talk, A romp through the history of philosophy from the Pre-Socratics to the present day, had topped the list of most-downloaded items on iTunes U.

“I got congratulatory e-mails from the techie people and I was tickled pink. I started thinking: how many is that? Presumably more than 20, but is it 100?”

Talbot, Director of Studies in Philosophy at the Department for Continuing Education at Oxford, had no idea how far her lecture was spreading. “Apparently the number of downloads is 5,000 a week,” she said. “It’s extraordinary. It’s difficult to wrap my mind around the fact that throughout the world 5,000 people are downloading my lecture every week.”

Talbot admits she was fortunate to choose an engaging title in a subject of wide appeal. Nevertheless, she describes the potential of such open access as “awesome”.

7. Green Desktop Computing at the University of Oxford

The government of the United Kingdom has set a target to reduce CO2 emissions by at least 34 percent from 1990 levels by 2020. Together with the Environmental Change Institute, the Oxford e-Research Centre and the Estates Directorate, Oxford University Computing Services worked on a JISC funded Low Carbon ICT project, which aimed to develop tools and techniques for reducing the energy consumed by desktop computers at the University of Oxford.

An article published by Educause, summarises the following main points:

  • The University of Oxford employs monitoring and wake-on-LAN services to help the campus community reduce the energy consumed by idle computers
  • The complexity of the IT infrastructure across the university requires relying on people to turn off their own computers after work each day, although some colleges and departments could use automatic power management
  • To encourage people to engage with green computing, Oxford is promoting a five-step process, rather than the use of specific technologies

8. Oxford Teaching Awards

Congratulations to members from the Learning Technologies Group (LTG) at OUCS who have received three Teaching Awards.

8.1. Skills Toolkit for Research Students

The Skills Toolkit for Research Students is a unique, joined-up approach by OUCS, OULS and Careers to teach skills for graduate research students in support of their work. Its main focus is on teaching the skills and tools required for streamlining academic work, in line with the Research Councils’ “Joint Statement of Skills”. In particular, the aim is to introduce research students to key tools for Information Skills and IT Skills.

The workshops have been run since Michaelmas 2007 and have secured a small sponsorship from the Graduate Skills Advisory Group (GSAG) and Adept Scientific Ltd.

The Skills Toolkit for Research Students:

  • provides an opportunity to learn about a broad range of resources in one concentrated, time-efficient session
  • focuses on the skills and tools that help streamline academic work
  • provides a hands-on opportunity to try out some tools
  • offers key skills needed to progress in future careers
  • gives guidance on the range of further training available

The event is a combination of very short presentations by service providers, followed by hands-on activities when research students move around among the computers, trying out a number of tools. This gives each individual a chance to assess the tools’ usefulness and relevance to their own work. For each tool, a student carries out a specially-designed task, which has been carefully selected by the three service providers to illustrate the best use of the tool.

8.2. Developing Computer Modelling Resources for Understanding the Evolution and Emergence of Pandemic Influenza

Together with collaborators in the Zoology Department, Ken Kahn and Howard Noble of OUCS plan to take cutting edge modelling research in the Zoology Department and produce computational learning materials to enable students to engage with the conceptual structure of the research but in a form that doesn’t require extensive technical and mathematical background. We will “package up” the technical details of the computer models into a library of transparent modular components that the students can combine and explore without prior training. Our goal is to take on-going research and build computational resources and tools that enable students to engage with the research by building computer models.

8.3. Supporting the WebLearn Community at Oxford

From June 2008 to June 2009, Fawei Geng led the VLE (Virtual Learning Environment) user support project that aimed to pilot the new WebLearn by designing and delivering training, gathering user feedback and informing the continuing development of the VLE at Oxford.

Mr Geng’s view is that ICT research and teaching need to enhance one another through cooperation. Furthermore, he thinks that the efficiency of learning technologies is dependent upon the how much teachers and lecturers adapt their ‘traditional teaching methods’ to accommodate new technologies.

The student-centred approach along with the Community Building strategy Fawei employed throughout the project have resulted in the increased use of WebLearn. As the VLE manager puts it; ‘It is a testament to him [Mr Geng] that in one year we’ve had logins from over 4500 separate users and have had over 60 departments piloting the system’. Moreover, Fawei’s strategies have also resulted in some excellent user feedback:

“With the help received from Mr Geng, we have been able to make considerable improvements to the teaching of Chinese in the Centre.”, said Mr. Shio-yun Kan, Programme Director, Centre for Teaching Chinese as a Foreign Language, Institute for Chinese Studies

A training attendee commented “I found that the training sessions not only gives tutors and administrators the ability and confidence to create and maintain a successful virtual learning space, but they also promote the University faculties and students to work together to share ideas and further develop new learning structures in distance learning.”

From the success of this project, the VLE team has decided to allocate more resources in the Customised Training Sessions, where users can learn how to relate what they are taught during the training session to their work in teaching and learning. The podcasting team at OUCS will also employ the community building strategy to support academics in incorporating podcasts in their WebLearn courses.

9. Learn to Make Documentary Films

Have you considered creating a film documentary describing an aspect of your research, or the work of your department? Perhaps you would like to make your work more accessible to a general audience through a video on your web site. Perhaps you need a video addendum to your thesis or publication?

OUCS, in collaboration with the Oxford Academy of Documentary Film is running five-day workshops that will teach you the basic skills in creating a short documentary.

We cover:

  • How to use a video-camera
  • Properly capturing sound with a microphone
  • Setting up and performing an interview
  • How to shoot for editing a film
  • How to use the basic editing features of Final Cut Pro
  • Outputting your final documentary for a variety of delivery platforms

The workshops are run by experienced film documentary makers who have worked with major broadcasting organisations throughout the world.

The cost is £650 and includes the use of all equipment, documentation, lunches and refreshment. The emphasis is on learning practical skills in a small group and so places are very limited.

You can find out more details at www.oucs.ox.ac.uk/aatc/courses/filmdoc.xml or by contacting apple-training@oucs.ox.ac.uk

10. Agent-based Modeling: An Introduction

Agent-based modelling plays an important role in ecology, climate change, collective animal behaviour, economics, sociology, and many other sciences. This OUCS course will teach you how to build and explore serious individual-based models using tools designed for non-programmers. Book online at www.oucs.ox.ac.uk/itlp/courses/detail/TPAM

11. The Return of the Vending Machine

Photo of the HelpCentre vending machine

IT consumables can now be purchased from a vending machine located in the OUCS Help Centre. The machine is operated by Uni-Vending Limited and offers a range of IT accessories at very competitive prices. For instance, a USB2 4 GB Memory Drive costs £8 and Epson Printer Ink 711/891 is only £4. A full price list is available at www.oucs.ox.ac.uk/shop/vending.xml and if there is anything you would like to see provided through the machine which isn’t, please let us know - help@oucs.ox.ac.uk.

12. OUCS Staff and ALT

In September, Liz Masterman of the LTG was elected to the Board of Trustees of the Association for Learning Technology (ALT). ALT is a professional and scholarly association which aims to advance education through increasing, exploring and disseminating knowledge about learning with digital technologies. It hosts an annual conference, ALT-C, and publishes a quarterly peer-reviewed journal, ALT-J, as well as holding regular workshops around the regions. Forthcoming events include a one-day conference on 9th February on the use of technology to support inclusive learning, organised jointly with TechDis.

The LTG’s weekly newsletter includes advance information about ALT’s programme of events. If you would like to receive this newsletter, please email ltg@oucs.ox.ac.uk. ALT can be found on the Web at www.alt.ac.uk.

13. Oxford University Webex trial

Screen shot of Webex home page

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.

We are currently running a trial of this software to see whether it would suit the needs of the collegiate University. The trial will run for at least 6 months and will be free for all those participating. The only requirement for taking part is to provide feedback about the usefulness and usability of Webex.

There are four services within Webex:

Meeting Center
For general, collaborative meetings both internal and and external to the University such as team/project collaborations, handling billing resolution, student/job/press interviews. This would benefit anyone who wants to reduce carbon emissions and travel costs.
Training Center
For delivering interactive e-learning programs with extra functionality such as breakout sessions and tests. This would benefit trainers who don’t have the facilities to run large training sessions or who want to run ad-hoc sessions without needing a room.
Support Center
For areas such as help desks or just general support with the ability for the advisor to view or make changes on the user’s machine just as if the user was doing it themselves. This would benefit support staff, especially those whose users are spread over a large area.
Event Center
Like training center, but used for commercial webinars.

Once in a Webex, you can share a presentation, annotate a whiteboard, share an application (e.g. Excel) or share your entire desktop. A webcam attached to the computer can be shared with everyone else in the meeting.

To listen to the other people in the meeting, the meeting can either call you back on your desk phone or mobile, or you can plug in a headset or speakers and microphone and join in over the internet.

For more information please visit www.oucs.ox.ac.uk/webex or email webex@ox.ac.uk. We can offer you a demo of Webex (via Webex) at your convenience.