1. InfoDev

Screen shot of the Museums Collections welcome page designed by the Web
                  Design Consultancy

‘InfoDev’ is the name for the Information and Support Group’s Development Team in OUCS. InfoDev provides data solutions, web projects, and research support and advice to OUCS, to the University, and also to external clients. This covers a wide variety of activities including the creation, management, analysis, and publication of digital information of all sorts. InfoDev incorporates several specialist teams within OUCS, including the Web Design Consultancy and Research Technology services. InfoDev can help in the development and management of your digital information and materials. InfoDev undertakes charged work on a not-for-profit basis.

1.1. Research Support

The InfoDev team provides Research Support in the form of the Research Technologies Service at OUCS which offers a range of services to assist staff in planning and carrying out research projects. This can range from giving detailed advice on funding applications, undertaking technical work-packages, or to providing ongoing technical consultation and support. We’re interested in helping you plan IT projects, start them, implement them, and sustain them once they are finished.

1.2. Web Projects

InfoDev works on many web projects and runs the Web Design Consultancy which will either advise or help you to design, build, maintain, host, and refresh your websites. InfoDev also supports and maintains the University’s Google Search Appliance to provide tailored searches and results from University sites. We can also provide a hosted and maintained content management system to run your website.

1.3. Data Solutions

InfoDev collaborates with research projects, and departments to provide a wide variety of information management and data development solutions. This can range from legacy data migration, format transformation, data up-scaling, database- building, the analysis or visualisation of information, to data collection. We’re interested in helping you make more use of the digital information you create. More information about InfoDev or email infodev@oucs.ox.ac.uk

2. William Godwin’s Diary: An InfoDev Case Study

NOTE: This article was unfortunately truncated in the paper copy. This is the full, complete version. With apologies to the project team.

Screen shots showing working on William Godwin's Diary

The William Godwin’s Diary project has transcribed, edited, and annotated 48 years of William Godwin’s diary from 1788-1836. The diary is a resource of immense importance to researchers of history, politics, literature, and women’s studies. It maps the radical intellectual and political life of the late eighteenth and early nineteenth centuries, as well as providing extensive evidence on publishing relations, conversational coteries, artistic circles and theatrical production over the same period. One can also trace the developing relationships of one of the most important families in British literature, Godwin’s own, which included his wife Mary Wollstonecraft (17591797), their daughter Mary Shelley (1797-1851) and his son-in-law Percy Bysshe Shelley (1792-1822).

Many of the most important figures in this period of British cultural history feature in its pages, including Anna Barbauld, Samuel Taylor Coleridge, Charles James Fox, William Hazlitt, Thomas Holcroft, Elizabeth Inchbald, Charles and Mary Lamb, Mary Robinson, Richard Brinsley Sheridan, William Wordsworth, and many others. The resource, which includes complete images and detailed full-text transcriptions, is freely available online.

2.1. Planning the project

OUCS’s InfoDev team) provided research advice and support. It was involved in planning the funding bid for the project and helped specify the technical components of the bid and assisted in specifying technical solutions that were both appropriate and feasible. This was a collaborative inter-departmental project between Politics, OUCS and the Bodleian. The bid was successful in receiving funding from the Leverhulme Trust.

2.2. Training project staff

One of the appropriate technologies for marking up such texts are the Guidelines of the Text Encoding Initiative. TEI P5 XML is a de facto standard for the encoding of digital text which over the last couple decades the University of Oxford has become international leaders in the support and development in their role as a TEI Consortium host. Two members of InfoDev are fortunate enough to be elected members of the TEI Technical Council and so help to shape the ongoing developments of this important set of recommendations.

The InfoDev team provided a couple days training to the project both in a subset of the TEI Guidelines customised for the project's specific needs, as well as a version control system called subversion. This latter technology allowed InfoDev and all of the project staff to collaborative and simultaneously edit the files in different locations while storing all previous revisions.

2.3. Supporting the project

Throughout the life of the project the InfoDev team was on hand to provide technical advice and support. This ranged from guidance on the use of TEI P5 XML, further constraints or modification of their customisation of the TEI, and a wide range of other forms of support. It has proved invaluable to the project to include in the original bid a level of ongoing consultation for the duration of the project.

2.4. Implementing the technology

The InfoDev team implemented the website based on the needs and directions of the project. This involved the installation and customisation of the eXist native XML database that powers the site, the construction of a wide range of queries to extract data, building a zooming image browser, creation of analytical tools, and implementation of the website itself. The team also liaised with the Bodleian who host the site on behalf of the project. These tasks formed a work-package which the project was not able to undertake and out-sourcing it to InfoDev left them free to concentrate on the task of detailed editing of the diary.

2.5. Preserving the resource

The InfoDev team has helped the project use sustainable methods for the construction of the digital edition and providing preservation copies of the materials for long-term storage in the Oxford Text Archive. All the images, texts, and other materials are freely licensed with a Creative Commons Attribution Non-Commercial license which makes them immediately available for further scholarly research across the globe.

2.6.

The InfoDev team is happy to advise any research projects contemplating submitting funding applications with significant technological aspects. Where appropriate InfoDev may be able to partner with the project in the provision of technical support and resources.

3. OxPoints, OpenMeters, and Open Data at OUCS

Electricity usage graph

OxPoints aims to provide full and accurate geolinking information for aspects of the University of Oxford. The OxPoints dataset consists of names, postal addresses, web addresses and co-ordinates (latitude and longitude) for all the departments, colleges and other buildings or units of the University, and much more, along with some of the relationships between them.

OUCS has recently released its OxPoints dataset under the Creative Commons Zero license. This allows others to use and remix the data for any purpose with absolutely no restrictions. We hope that this will encourage greater reuse and integration both within the University and beyond. InfoDev is also working with other parts of the University, including the Bodleian Libraries to ease the publication of linked open data.

The OpenMeters project is a collaboration with the Estates Department to publish energy consumption information as linked data to aid awareness of the University’s environmental sustainability responsibilities. Much of this information will be made available through a single linked data repository.

More information about OxPoints or if you have a dataset you are interested in making freely available contact InfoDev at: infodev@ oucs.ox.ac.uk

4. OxGarage

As part of an EU project they were involved with, OUCS’s InfoDev team were partly responsible for the creation of a web-based document format conversion service called ‘OxGarage’. This allows you to convert presentations, spreadsheets, or documents to and from a wide variety of formats through an easy-to-use web interface. For example, OxGarage can provide easy transformations from a Microsoft Word Document to TEI XML or a PDF Those with more technical leanings might be interested in knowing that it also has a RESTful web service API which allows scripting batch transformations or embedding in other services.

More information on OxGarage

5. Web Design Support for Projects

Photo from the First World War Poetry Digital Archive

The Web Design Consultancy (WDC) provides web design and development support for research projects, either simply building the project website, or providing design and technical input into the project itself. Some examples of recent projects are detailed below.

For advice and support on web design or email: webdesign@ oucs.ox.ac.uk

5.1. Runcoco: how to run a Community Collection online

RunCoCo: how to Run a Community Collection online is a project set up to offer advice, training, and open-source software to those interested in running a community collection online.

WDC designed the Project logo and built the project website.

5.2. First World War Poetry Digital Archive

The First World War Poetry Digital Archive is an online repository of over 7000 items of text, images, audio, and video for teaching, learning, and research. WDC provided extensive input into the visual identity and interface design for the project.

5.3. Woruldhord

Old English Drawing

Woruldhord is part of the JISC-funded initiative Runcoco: How to Run a Community Collection Online and sets out to collect together into an online hoard, digital objects related to the teaching, study, or research of Old English and the Anglo-Saxon period of history.

WDC designed the project website and provided interface design for the collection and display interfaces for the online Community Collection.

5.4. Monumenta Asiae Minoris Antiqua XI

The aim of the MAMA XI project is to make available some 600 unpublished inscriptions and other ancient monuments, recorded by Sir William Calder (1881-1960) and Dr Michael Ballance (†27 July 2006) in the course of annual expeditions to Asia Minor in 1954-1957.

WDC are providing interface design on the online edition of the Monumenta Asiae Minoris Antiqua.

6. Many Hands Make Light work: Harnessing the Power of the Crowd

Would you consider telling the Government which laws and regulations to get rid of, or helping the Guardian examine MPs expenses? Would you like to be able to classify galaxies, read ships logs from the First World War, or add references to a map for others to find? All that is now possible through a rapidly growing set of online crowdsourcing and community collection projects.

6.1. What is community collection and crowdsourcing?

A ‘community collection’ is where the general public or members of a particular group are invited to contribute to a project by uploading their own content (for example pictures from the First World War, accounts of a day in their lives, or suggestions of what laws to abolish) or by adding information to existing resources (for example classify types of galaxies, mark locations on a map, or identify dodgy expenses claims).

Crowdsourcing initiatives, where a task is outsourced to the public, a community or a large group of volunteers, are becoming increasingly popular and are now used in many different areas, including academic research. An early example of a crowdsourcing project is Galaxy Zoo, which invited volunteers to look at images of galaxies and classify them according to shape - a relatively simple task for humans but difficult to do automatically. With the help of the crowd, astronomers got new and reliable data to use in their work. Several projects have followed Galaxy Zoo and can be found in the Zooniverse - a common platform for ‘citizen science’ projects in a variety of disciplines.

6.2. RunCoCoCo – how to run a community collection online

RunCoCo logo

RunCoCo is a project based at OUCS set up to offer advice, training, and open-source software to those interested in running a community collection online. The one-year project is funded by JISC and builds on the success of the Great War Archive – a community collection that collected First World War memorabilia

Part of the RunCoCo remit is to make available and share the experiences of the Great War Archive project, to collate and make available useful information and tools that can help others run a community collection in their area. In addition to publishing guidelines and advice documents, the project is offering support to those running or planning community collection. The project has held four training events, and material from these is being made available on the project website. Another resource that the project is making available is the CoCoCo software, which can used for running a community collection online.

To try out the resources and tools that are being created, RunCoCo has run an exemplar collection. Over the summer, Project Woruldhord collected digital objects related to the teaching, study, or research of Old English and the Anglo-Saxon period of history. The project received a lot of attention both in academic circles and the media and a large number of excellent resources were submitted by people from all over the world. These resources will soon be made available online.

The RunCoCo project is only funded to run for one year but the resources that are created will remain available on the project website after the project ends.

6.3. More information

More information about RunCoCo and community collection projects can be found via the RunCoCo website and blog.

7. Project Case Notes: The Lexicon of Greek Personal Names

Screen shot of the Lexicon of Greek Personal Names

The Lexicon of Greek Personal Names (LGPN) was established in 1972 as a Major Research Project of the British Academy. The overall objective of the LGPN project is to create a comprehensive and authoritative record of the names of all individuals attested in Greek (or with Greek names attested in Latin) in the ancient Greek-speaking world, and so provide the classical research community world-wide with a unique and fundamental resource for the study of all aspects of the ancient Greek world.

LGPN is internationally recognised as a resource which has transformed the basis on which names may be studied and used. It has done so to date primarily through its publications; so far, over a quarter of a million individuals sharing over 35,000 names have been published in six regional volumes.

OUCS has been assisting the LGPN with its database, typesetting and (most recently) web presence since the early 1980s, and the project has successfully weathered 30 years of changes in humanities computing.

In its most recent incarnation, an InfoDev project has put together a new web-based search of all the data, and enabled the Lexicon to make its data available in formats such as TEI XML, JSON, KML and RDF using the CIDOC CRM ontology (see below). The project now participates in up-to-the minute collaborations using linked data and open standards.

8. A Common Technology: TEI XML

Many of the projects the OUCS’s InfoDev team has worked on (including the Lexicon of Greek Personal Names, Godwin’s Diary, and ePub editions of Shakespeare’s contemporaries (described in other sections of this OUCS News) manage data as XML valid against the Text Encoding Initiative (TEI) Guidelines. The Epidoc conventions used in digitizing classical inscriptions are another example of a use of the TEI.

The TEI Guidelines were first published 20 years ago, but the current version is the result of a large-scale revision undertaken between 2001 and 2009 by text-encoding experts worldwide. Oxford is one of four universities which act as special ‘hosts’ within the membership consortium which manages the TEI, and OUCS staff have played a considerable part in TEI development. Sebastian Rahtz and James Cummings are well-known n the TEI world, and are elected members of the organisation’s Technical Council. OUCS also undertakes much of the editorial work.

The TEI provides a comprehensive standard for tagging.

  • transcribed texts (drama, poetry, speech, dictionaries etc)
  • genetic editing
  • links between facsimiles and transcribed text
  • manuscript descriptions
  • identified names, places, people and dates
  • analysis, linguistic tagging, non-hierarchical structures

Here is a well-known piece from Shakespeare marked up in TEI XML:

8.1.

                  <sp>
                     <speaker>
                        <hi rend="italic">Ariell</hi> Song.</speaker>
                     <ab type="song">
                        <hi rend="italic">Full fadom fiue thy Father lies,<lb n="540"/>Of his bones
                           are Corrall made:<lb n="541"/>Those are pearles that were his eies,<lb
                              n="542"/>Nothing of him that doth fade,<lb n="543"/>But doth suffer a
                              Sea-change<lb n="544"/>Into something rich, &amp; strange:<lb n="545"
                           />Sea-Nimphs hourly ring his knell.</hi>
                        <lb n="546"/>
                        <stage>Burthen:</stage> ding dong.<lb n="547"/>
                        <hi rend="italic">Harke now I heare them, ding-dong bell.</hi>
                     </ab>
                  </sp>
              
               

9. Whatever is ....CIDOC CRM?

CIDOC Conceptual Reference Model (CRM) is an ontology used by quite a few humanities research projects. The CRM provides a set of definitions and a formalstructure for describing the implicit and explicit concepts and relationships used in cultural heritage documentation.

9.1. Key elements:

  • Actors (people)
  • Conceptual objects
  • Physical things
  • Events
  • Time spans
  • Places

and relationships between them. e.g.

  • participate in
  • refer to
  • have location
  • within

CIDOC CRM is often expressed in the form of RDF (Resource Description Framework) assertions, as this example shows:

9.2.

<E21.Person xmlns="http://purl.org/NET/crm-owl#" rdf:about="http://clas-lgpn2.classics.ox.ac.uk/id/V1-85238" xmlns:rdf="http://www.w3.org/1999/02/22-rdf-syntax-ns#"> <P131.is_identified_by xml:lang="el-grc"> <E82.Actor_Appellation> <rdf:value>Παράμονος</rdf:value> </E82.Actor_Appellation> </P131.is_identified_by> <P98.was_born> <E67.Birth> <P4.has_time-span> <E52.Time-Span> <P79.at_some_time_within> <E61.Time_Primitive> <rdf:value>-0225 to -0175</rdf:value> </E61.Time_Primitive> </P79.at_some_time_within> </E52.Time-Span> </P4.has_time-span> <P7.took_place_at rdf:resource="http://clas-lgpn2.classics.ox.ac.uk/placeid/ LGPN_11270" /> </E67.Birth> </P98.was_born> </E21.Person>

10. First Folio Shakespeare eBooks Available for Free, via Oxford on iTunes U

Screen shot of Shakespeare's first folio ePub on iPad

Shakespeare’s entire First Folio, including original spelling, is being made available to download for free,as Oxford University becomes one of the world’s first universities to add ePubs to iTunes U, a dedicated area within the iTunes Store (www.itunes.com).

Like the University’s hundreds of free audio and video podcasts available on iTunes U, the ePubs are available for anyone to download and enjoy. This development comes shortly after Oxford on iTunes U celebrated its second anniversary by surpassing five million downloads of its audio and video material.

The University is also making six plays by contemporaries of Shakespeare available, including The Duchess of Malfi by John Webster.

Dr Emma Smith, Lecturer in English Literature at Oxford, whose lectures on iTunes U have been particularly popular, said: ‘It’s great to have released free ePubs of both First Folio Shakespeare plays and lesser known works. I hope that this material will be enjoyed as widely as possible.’

Today’s ePubs include Shakespeare’s first folio of 36 plays, ePubs to accompany Oxford’s ‘Approaching Shakespeare’ lectures and ePubs to accompany our ‘Not Shakespeare: Elizabethan and Jacobean Popular theatre’ lectures.

Oxford is in a unique position to make historic and rare texts available in ePub form because of its expertise in text archiving and encoding. The University Computing Services has run the Oxford Text Archive (www.ota.ox.ac.uk) since 1976, and the University is one of five worldwide hosts of the Text Encoding Initiative Consortium.

The University will be adding more ePubs to iTunes U in the future.

All the material has been released under a Creative Commons licence for reuse in education worldwide.

Screen shot of Shakespeare options in iTunes U

11. Did You Know About ... ePub?

The success this year of the Apple iPad has brought the ePub standard to new prominence, as the format for electronic books, used by the excellent iBooks program. ePub is an open standard for ebooks owned by the International Digital Publishing Forum (IDPF). The format is really rather simple: it is a zip archive of HTML files, just the same ones you used for the web, with associated CSS files, images etc, and a set of metadata files written in XML which provide information like a table of contents, and reading order.

12. iTunesU

Banner as seen on iTunes U site

Oxford’s iTunes U site is now 2 years old. It has had just over 5 million downloads, contains more hours of material than any other UK university and regularly has several podcasts in the global top ten.

The ‘Building a Business’ series is still popular and Marianne Talbot is following up her phenomenally successful ‘Romp through the history of philosophy’ (more than half a million downloads) with ‘The Nature of Arguments’, part of her ‘Critical Reasoning for Beginners’ series.

Content is being added regularly to the site. All content is free for you to download and watch or listen to.

Screen shot of the ipad advert

Recent highlights include:

  • History of Tropical Medicine at Oxford
  • La Bella Principessa: A Leonardo Discovered
  • General Philosophy
  • Oxford Climate Forum
  • Stephen Garrett, News International Visiting Professorship of Broadcast Media
  • Translational Medicine
  • Anthropology
  • Alumni Weekend 2010

Oxford’s site

12.1. Watched by Millions

Oxford’s iTunes U site features in the latest Apple iPad TV advert. It aired for the first time in the US on 1st November across all major networks in prime time, including during a World Series game (which Apple tell us is quite popular). This advert also was shown throught Nov/Dec on UK prime time TV.

The advert features one of Professor James Binney’s Quantum Mechanics lectures. He has since jumped up to number 6 in the Top Downloads chart (making 4 Oxford podcasts in the Top 15)

You can see the advert on the Apple website. Many thanks to Stuart Lee for heroically sorting out the legal paperwork, to PAD’s Carolyne Culver, to Pete Robinson and Steve Pierce, and to Professor Binney.

12.2. Potential Podcasters Gather in Isis

Icons for various iTunes U videos

On a bitterly cold Friday afternoon in early December, twenty Alumni and Development officers from colleges and departments across the University gathered at OUCS to hear about how podcasting could help them provide value to their alumni and encourage generous donations.

Paul Jeffreys (Director of IT) introduced the event and Peter Robinson from the Learning Technologies Group gave a presentation that showcased iTunesU and the fantastic podcasting resource that has been built up over the last couple of years.

Delegates were treated to snippets from a number of favourite podcasts and a showing of the Apple advert featuring Professor Binney giving a lecture on quantum mechanics that has been broadcast on UK and US television. Peter suggested a range of approaches to using podcasting that the delegates might like to try and – with warm geniality – encouraged them to ‘have a go’ themselves. He explained that there is a great deal of support available, including expert help, the loan of equipment, enthusiastic student podcasting teams and specific training for beginners at OUCS.

The question and answer session soon dispelled doubts about costs and fears about technology. Ideas were buzzing. Over tea and cakes afterwards, delegates spoke of how their imaginations had been sparked by what they had seen, and many were already planning podcasts and brainstorming how they could use the resource to reach their alumni and highlight events at their colleges and departments. Ideas included showcasing material using blogs and compiling click- through playlists on websites.

The message seemed clear – podcasting is accessible and catching on in a big way!

By the beginning of December 2010, the Oxford on iTunesU channel achieved:

  • 7 million downloads
  • 240 different lecture sets containing around 1,900 items
  • more than 50,000 podcasts are downloaded each week
  • several Oxford talks regularly appear in the global top 20 iTunesU downloads with more than 5,000 downloads per week.

New Improved guidance pages for Oxford Podcasters (including help videos)

12.3. We’re on Twitter !

Get short, timely messages from Oxford Podcasts.

Twitter is a rich source of instantly updated information. It’s easy to stay updated on an incredibly wide variety of topics. Why not follow @oxfordpodcasts.

13. Need More Technical Support?

NSMS support researchers IT requirements through a range of services aimed at providing resources for well defined costs and for short medium or long periods.

VM4Rent
Rent a Virtual Server for anything from 1 month to many years. Allows full access to install, configure and maintain your system.
Premium Web Hosting
NSMS can support your project website on a range of technologies and with support from a team of experts. Design assistance can be provided by the OUCS Web Consultancy service.
IT consultancy
NSMS can provide consultancy on any area of IT provision for a research project. With skills in a wide range of topic such as virtualisation, storage provision, clustering, web service provision and many more, NSMS is in an ideal position to assist.

For further details on any of these services please see our website or why not call for discussion about your project on 01865 273209.

14. HFS Backup and Archive Services

OUCS provides a University-wide backup and long-term file storage service for staff and postgraduate students. The Hierarchical File Server (HFS) provides an automated backup service for personal computers and servers alike. Should a file be deleted from your computer, the last backed-up version is retained on the HFS for 90 days. If you are working away from Oxford, for example at home or on a field trip, it is still possible to backup and restore essential data so long as you have a reasonable Internet connection, a remote access account and a working VPN client. Data can be restored to a different computer (so long as the file system is the same) and access to data remains private to the owner.

For the long-term, secure storage of valuable research data the HFS provides an archive service. Research projects, large and small, may archive up to 1 TB ofdata (additional data is charged on a five yearly basis). The scope of the service and terms of use are outlined in the HFS archive policy. The HFS only provides a long-term file storage facility. Data owners are still expected to curate and manage the data lodged with the HFS.

15. Nexus SharePoint for Research

The Nexus Service will be releasing a SharePoint service in Hilary Term 2011, designed to enable online collaboration and document sharing. Since June 2010 a number of departments and colleges have been trialling the service as early adopters. In particular, OUCS has supported the use of SharePoint for the administration of committees and for supporting collaborative research.

Any site designed to support research might include:

  • document and image libraries
  • fine-grained access controls
  • site calendar, task, and customised lists
  • wiki and team discussion forums
  • sub-sites (e.g. to manage a project steering committee)

Individual users of SharePoint may also have a ‘My Site’ which, for example, can be used to maintain a research profile as well as sharing of documents with colleagues.

The service available in Hilary Term will be based on SharePoint 2010 which also offers online versions of Office applications(on all major platforms) and social networking tools.

16. Research Data Management

16.1. Research Data Management Website

In collaboration with OUCS (through the Eidcsr project), Research Services have developed a website intended to provide a gateway to services within and beyond the University to support researchers in the management of their research data. The website includes a useful Data Management Planning Checklist and discrete sections on data backup, security, and sharing, as well as a list of training and support facilities available. The website will assist in the formulation of data management plans for grant proposals.

16.2. Research Data Management Projects at OUCS

OUCS has taken a leading role in gathering requirements and piloting both infrastructure and support services for the management of research data. Much of this activity has been funded by JISC, with an initial project funded by the John Fell Fund. The Embedding Institutional Data Curation Services in Research (Eidcsr) project has worked with three research groups in computing and medical sciences, investigating tools and processes to manage large quantities of data (especially in conjunction with the HFS).

The Supporting Data Management Infrastructure for the Humanities (Sudamih) project has focussed on developing training materials and an online database management application (Database-as-a-Service, DaaS) to meet the requirements of academics in the humanities. OUCS research data management projects have been in collaboration with academics, Research Services, and the Bodleian Libraries.

17. New OUCS Publication: Impact and Engagement

Cover of OUCS Impact Guide

Recognising the growing need for advice in this important area, OUCS has produced a new guide to using IT in activities such as impact, and business/community engagement. This is based on work undertaken by several OUCS projects and aims to provide researchers, departments, and colleges with a set of tips that can be easily implemented. The guide begins by discussing how useful IT can be in terms of outreach activities, and also in assisting with ‘impact’ - which is now becoming more and more important for research projects. It looks at the strategic background to this, and then provides a list of suggestions covering a stakeholder analysis, effective web sites, dissemination and community building, extending events, and extending the reach of a project. Finally, it concludes with an overview of OUCS’s activities in terms of engagement, looking at: economic impact and knowledge transfer, bringing learning resources to a wider audience, widening participation, the environment, and arts and culture.

The full guide is available online. Printed copies have been circulated to Heads of Department also.

18. JISC OER Impact Study

We have heard a great deal about the production of open educational resources (OER); however, as yet we know very little about how they are actually being used by lecturers in their teaching and by students in their learning. That picture should become clearer over the next eight months as a result of a new study of the impact of OER, to be carried out by a joint team from the LTG and the Technology- Assisted Lifelong Learning Unit (TALL) in the Department for Continuing Education with funds from the Joint Information Systems Committee (JISC).

We will use in-depth interviews and workshops to investigate the pedagogic and strategic factors conducive to uptake and sustained practice in the use of OER, as well as some of the barriers. The workshops, which will be held in March, are intended for lecturers who have not used OER. In addition to helping us gather data for the study, they will provide an opportunity for you to find out what OER are, where to find them, and how they might be incorporated into your teaching and your students’ learning. We will issue an invitation to the workshops during Hilary Term, and we hope that you will consider taking part - or encourage colleagues who are involved in teaching to do so.

For more information about the study, you are very welcome to contact the LTG researchers: liz. masterman@oucs.ox.ac.uk and joanna.wild@oucs.ox.ac.uk

19. The Next Nexus

Nexus web banner

The Oxford Nexus Exchange service, with its 46,000 accounts, has a sister service, based on SharePoint. SharePoint should be available to all members of the University by Trinity Term of this year and should have already moved through some major improvements and upgrades by that time.

19.1. Collaborating on documents with Nexus

Oxford Nexus is largely known for its Microsoft Exchange mailboxes, including calendars, tasks, contacts, and much shared and devolved functionality. However, for much of 2010, we have been piloting a service to early adopters that arose from the need for collaborative work on documents. That collaborative work could encompass the drafting of research papers, committee activities and that for clubs and societies. The new service is about to be opened up, beyond its early adopters, to the whole of the University, and may include external collaborators.

The platform for early adopters was based on SharePoint 2007, but we have opted for an early upgrade to SharePoint 2010. Current users will be migrated to the 2010 service by the end of January. If all goes well, we anticipate that the SharePoint service will be available to any member of the University by Trinity Term 2011. SharePoint poses a real challenge to OUCS as it is not only a completely novel service, but it is a service that can be used so differently by different people that the model for supporting the application may call for far more of a ‘community-based’ approach.

19.2. Successful major migrations

Meanwhile the Nexus Team has been establishing the Microsoft Exchange service as the central ‘nexus’ of the University in terms of communication and working together. Two large migrations, one complete, one nearing completion, have been carried out recently. Former Lotus Notes users in University Administration Services and the ex-Groupwise users in Medical Sciences now find themselves with Nexus accounts and with the ability to schedule a meeting with nearly anyone across the University at the click of a mouse. Oxford Nexus seems never to stand still.

19.3. Updates, additional functionality and resilience

We are also working hard on moving our Microsoft Exchange infrastructure from Exchange 2007 to Exchange 2010. You should notice a far more equitable experience across the major web browsers, especially Internet Explorer, Firefox, and Safari. Unfortunately for us, upgrading to Exchange 2010 brings with it a major move in terms of data storage. You may know that we have a two-site system whereby – in theory – a complete outage of OUCS should result in the service running from the second site at Begbroke (and vice versa of course). We are using two powerful Storage Area Networks to manage this. However, with Exchange 2010, we may Nexus need to move the 25 Terabytes or so of data to a different kind of storage, (wholly or partly, rapidly or gradually) and/or reconfigure our current storage. This could be somewhat of a headache as we shall aim – as always – for little or no interruption to your service.

19.4. Positive growth

Email seems to be ever more popular, leading to eye- watering growth in disk consumption. At the moment we are seeing our disk usage increase at a rate of 900 GB per month. We have also seen a 62% increase in size of the average mailbox since March 2010. Just over a half percent of Oxford Nexus users pay a premium charge for a larger mailbox yet, as in all things consumer, it would seem 70% of the data is owned by 20% of the users. The Nexus Team, as well as many in OUCS – particularly the Help Centre – is working tirelessly in order to cope with the enormous growth in demand. We also hope that our new service is found to be another invaluable tool in the electronic work environment at Oxford.

20. WebLearn Updates

Weblearn banner

20.1. WebLearn Survey Tool Available

The WebLearn Survey tool (released as a Beta version) can be used to design and manage electronic questionnaires to be delivered on-line. Surveys can be created to gather data for research purposes, general data gathering, or for course, lecturer or tutor evaluation, feedback and review.

Screen shot of part of WebLearn survey

Questionnaire templates can be created from scratch, or existing templates can be copied and modified. Various question types are available, such as Lickert scales, multiple choice with a single answer, multiple choice with multiple answers, and free text questions. Detailed settings control open and close dates, how participants access the survey, and who may view the results.

20.2. New Module Enrolment Tool

Michaelmas term 2010 saw the introduction of a brand new, locally written module registration tool known as SES (Student Enrolment System). The tool works in conjunction with a course or module database known as DAISY which is being developed by the Social Sciences Division with help from MPLS. DAISY currently contains over 300 Graduate training courses hosted by MPLS departments (as part of their Graduate Academic Programme or GAP); Social Sciences will be adding a selection of their Graduate training courses before Christmas (2010).

All available courses can be browsed via the SES tool within WebLearn and students are allowed to request a place on one or more courses. The request is passed along to the course administrator who can either reject the application or accept it in which case the student’s supervisor is contacted and asked to give their blessing. If a student is accepted then they will receive a confirmation email. DAISY will take care of interdepartmental billing but this facility is not operational this academic year.

The ‘student’ interface presents a hierarchy of divisions and departments and the courses that are offered (see screen-shot opposite). This can be browsed or all courses can be searched; both course title and description are searched. Students can also see a list of current, upcoming and past courses but as WebLearn does not collect attendance data, this list has no official status.

Screen shot of the sign up screen

20.3. Call for Participation – WebLearn Polls via m.ox (Mobile Oxford)

Have you ever wished your students could respond in class using personal voting systems (‘clickers’), but never quite got around to trying it? Well now you don’t need any special technology – the students can answer questions on their internet-enabled phones, and learn from each other while sharing phones, if necessary.

OUCS has launched Mobile Oxford (m.ox.ac.uk) (beta) which allows anyone with an internet-enabled mobile phone to access Oxford podcasts, certain WebLearn tools, or information on library holdings, bus times and the weather (amongst other things).

We are running a pilot project using the WebLearn Polls tool via the mobile platform, to enhance and support student learning.

Are you interested (or could you recommend any lecturers in your dept/division) in participating in our pilot project using the WebLearn Polls tool via student mobile phones during a lecture or small class? Please let us know if you would like to participate in the pilot project:

This will enable you to join the Mobile Polls Pilot site in WebLearn and keep up to date with developments.

A prize will be offered for the person who gets the most people to respond via a mobile phone to a single poll in Hilary term. We will collaborate with all participants in the pilot project to write up your case study for the OUCS collection of teaching and learning case studies, as well as for possible inclusion in the next JISC book of case studies documenting innovative practice.

There are interfaces for course administrators and supervisors, these show a list of course requests and the current status of the application. It is also possible to bulk register students - this facility is typically used by the host department to pre-register their own students before throwing the course open to others.

Social Sciences will require their students to register for specific courses in Hilary term 2011. The other divisions are well aware of the system and are carefully considering whether to use it in the future.

There is a small amount of overlap with HR Information System (HRIS), however, the focus of SES is on students whereas HRIS targets staff training.

Late news: funding has just been agreed for further development of the tool, facilities include a waiting list, automated reminders and enhanced interoperability.

MPLS Graduate Academic Programme enrolment site

HR Information Systems Programme

20.4. University Skills Group Online Skills Courses Hosted in WebLearn

Skills Courses montage

The WebLearn team has been working closely with the University Skills Group (USG – formerly the Graduate Skills Advisory Group) to move the former ‘Online courses’ (now called ‘Career Development Skills’) into new WebLearn. The courses were previously hosted within a different VLE service (provided by Continuing Education) which required a special username and password.

In addition to being moved to WebLearn which is protected by Oxford Single Sign On credentials, the courses have been updated to the latest versions. They now employ the WebLearn Tests tool for quizzes and the Survey tool for users to provide feedback. The conversion was a major piece of work which involved not only programming changes to Sakai tools, but also integration with the existing content packages.

There are 14 courses covering including Avoidance of Plagiarism, Career Planning, Conference Presentations and Networking, Entrepreneurship, Ethics, Intellectual Property, Project Management, Publishing, and Managing Your Supervisor. Although the courses are aimed at graduate students and researchers, they are available to all Oxford users. Access them via the Skills Hub link on the WebLearn Welcome Page (then select Research Skills Toolkit), or go direct

20.5. Get Involved in the WebLearn User Group

Next meeting: Hilary Term Week 8: Wednesday 9 March 2011 Meeting: 2:00-4:00 pm, followed by cream tea.

When the new WebLearn system was in a beta stage, the group of early adopters participated in a WebLearn site for communication and announcements. This site has now been renamed as ‘WebLearn User Group’. Visit the site and click on the link to join the site. Being a member of the site means that you will receive email notifications, and it will appear under your My Active Sites tab for ease of navigation.

A face-to-face meeting of the WLUG takes place once a term. The cream tea after the meeting has become a popular tradition! Be sure to take note of the date each term, which is announced on the WLUG WebLearn site, and book a place at the meeting:

The face-to-face meetings enable WebLearn users to come together to share ideas and practices and to hear about recent and future developments in WebLearn. It is an opportunity for users to voice their ideas and suggestions in order to inform the ongoing development and support of the system.

Guest speakers give a short informal presentation about how WebLearn works for them. Presentations are recorded and will be available in due course on the WLUG site.

The speakers who will be presenting at the Hilary Term 2011 meeting are:

  • Dave Waters, University Lecturer in Metamorphic Petrology, Department of Earth Sciences
  • History of Art: a multiple site model. Presenters: Rachel Woodruff (Administrator) and Victoria Brown (Visual Resources Curator), Department of the History of Art.

Rachel and Victoria are joint winners of the OxTalent WebLearn award, and a 2010 Oxford University Teaching Award.

The date for Hilary Term 2011 and speaker topics will be announced on the WebLearn site.

21. Plagarism, Turnitin and WebLearn

21.1. WebLearn Team Member Wins Slogan Competition

Is Your Degree Worth Peanuts? anti plagarism poster

At the 4th International Plagiarism conference hosted by iParadigms Europe in Newcastle in June, a competition was held for attendees to write for slogans warning students against plagiarism.

WebLearn team member Dr Jill Fresen submitted three slogans and the first one was chosen as a winner!

Congratulations Jill.

Jill’s winning slogan poster (’Is your degree worth peanuts?’) is now available as a poster from the plagiarismadvice.org website. Why not download it and display it in your department or college?

21.2. Using Turnitin for Plagiarism Detection and Prevention

Turnitin is an online text matching system that can be used to help with the identification of potential plagiarism in electronically submitted student work. It can also be used in a formative way, for tutors to help students develop their academic writing and citation skills.

Oxford University has a subscription to the UK Turnitin service, so university staff members may use it at no cost to their departments. Oxford University Computing Services manages the service and creates instructor accounts on request (send email to turnitin@oucs. ox.ac.uk). OUCS offers lunch time training sessions for staff members (bookings are essential) and guidance is available within WebLearn on the Plagiarism Support site.

The WebLearn Assignments tool has an integration feature with Turnitin, which means that students do not require any additional passwords or instructions on how to submit their assignments. Student Administration is running a pilot project to investigate policy and procedures for using the WebLearn/Turnitin integration for examined work.

OUCS is currently working with the Proctors’ Office and the Education Policy Support Unit to consolidate all the guidance about the formative and summative use of Turnitin into a single source of information for use across the university. The document is still in the draft stage, but after approval, it will be available on all the relevant websites.

If you use Turnitin or are simply just curious then why not follow our dedicated Turnitin Blog called Turnitin At Oxford?

21.3. Studies on the use of Turnitin

Two reports have recently been released about the use of Turnitin in terms of its effectiveness, and student access to originality reports.

The White Paper ‘The Effectiveness of Turnitin and WriteCycle’ reports on the use of Turnitin worldwide in helping to ‘reduce serious incidents of unoriginal content in student work and to produce better writers across the entire curriculum’ (p.3). Continued use of the system can help to support students in developing responsible writing skills in a ‘cut-and-paste culture’ (p.3).

Martin King, Senior Learning and Technology Officer, Royal Holloway College, University of London, conducted a study on Turnitin practices in UK HE institutions. This study, entitled ‘Student access to Originality Reports’, considered the following questions:

  • are students permitted to interact with Turnitin?
  • is access to the Originality Reports denied or allowed?
  • what sort of access is supported?
  • what are the reasons behind these decisions?

It was found that allowing students to view their Originality Reports is educational, formative, and can form the basis for discussing and learning about acceptable academic writing practices.

22. ITLP Portfolio- Top 20 Downloads

The ITLP Portfolio is our online collection of the materials we use on our taught courses. You can find it in the ‘Quick Links’. The service is proving very popular. In the last 12 months there were 7553 downloads of our course books. Here’s the top 20.

Rank : Number of downloads : Course

  1. 264 : Excel: Fundamentals
  2. 223 : Access: Fundamentals
  3. 178 : Word: Managing your thesis
  4. 169 : Excel: Functions and cell referencing
  5. 166 : Word: Fundamentals
  6. 161 : Word: Building long documents
  7. 160 : Word: Creating professional documents
  8. 153 : InDesign: Introduction
  9. 150 : EndNote: Introduction
  10. 149 : Digital Images: Photoshop introduction
  11. 147 : PowerPoint: Fundamentals
  12. 146 : Excel: Pivot tables
  13. 145 : Access: Database structure
  14. 140 : Excel: Lists and querying data
  15. 132 : Access: Creating queries , forms and reports
  16. 128 : Excel: Arrays, macros and VBA
  17. 128 : Statistics: Introduction
  18. 128 : WebLearn: Fundamentals
  19. 121 : EndNote: Building your library
  20. 119 : Excel: Fundamentals

23. Poster Printing at OUCS

Advert for OUCS poster printing

24. Open Spires

Open Spires services poster

25. Google Search Appliance

OUCS runs a Google Search Appliance to give improved site-searching for web servers inside the Oxford domain. Currently this indexes well over 734,000 documents and allows familiar Google searching of University sites. InfoDev provides support for maintaining this service and integrating it with local sites.

Find out more.

26. Suggestions Box

Each term, a small OUCS committee meets to consider the good ideas which have come into our suggestions box. We get some interesting proposals in there, and we find it very useful.

Do please continue to send us your ideas, small or large, and we’ll give them a friendly hearing.

27. Monthly Security Report

OxCERT’s report for September 2010 is now online

28. Grand Giveaway of USB Pens and Laptop Locks

OUCS produce a number of publications, including OUCS News, the Impact Guide, Annual reports, etc. and we need photos to enhance these. Following an office clear- out, we also have lots of 1GB USB pens and laptop locks to give away.

Simply submit your photo of an IT device (laptop, router, phone, etc.) in an Oxford setting and the best each month will win a prize.

Photos can include people, or not. If the screen is visible, it should be showing an OUCS web or Mobile Oxford page. Nothing rude please. Apart from that, its up to you.

Address for submissions is marketing@ oucs.ox.ac.uk or to the Oxford University Computing Services Facebook page. The competition will run until July 2011 to give you a chance to take some sunshine shots!

By submitting a photo, you give OUCS permission to use it in OUCS publications. We’ll give you credit, of course.

29. Free Chocolate - Free Chocolate

We’d love to hear what you think of OUCS News. Fill in our short survey and we’ll send you a free bar of Green and Black’s chocolate. Sorry, OUCS staff are not eligible.