On 1st October 2011, the University’s Media Production Unit (MPU) became part of OUCS, moving from its organisational home of the Public Affairs Directorate. With it the MPU brings a wealth of expertise and outstanding facilities to supplement the excellent work OUCS is already doing in the areas of digital film-making, podcasting, videoconferencing and more.
OUCS are now able to provide greater support to expand the service and offer a single point of expertise to the University. In this edition of OUCS News we outline the expertise and facilities available to all areas of the University through the MPU.
At the MPU, we understand that not everyone has the technical knowledge to set up a video conference, script a programme, or put a podcast on the web. So we do all of the hard work for you, we just ask a few questions and tailor our services to your exact requirements.
In the MPU offices we have three rooms for all to use, each facilitating up to 30 participants, catering for up to one hundred people in total. We run a 24 hour, seven days a week service and can arrange everything for you - all you have to do is turn up, have a coffee and enjoy!
The facilities are available to hire from just £40 per hour. This offers huge savings compared to financing flights, train fares and accommodation, etc. If you like the technology and want to use it more, we can offer attractive discounts.
Other benefits of using videoconferencing include:
- Strategic use can free up your time allowing you to conduct your conferences and meetings from your office or home, day or night.
- To cater for larger audiences during video conferencing PowerPoint slides and visual displays can be projected on a large screen for everyone present in a room.
- Video conferences can take place simultaneously at multiple locations, allowing participants to interact with each other effectively and easily. 3 people in Oxford can interact with 5 people in China and another 3 people in the States, with everyone able to hear and see perfectly. Using our full HD system, images are sharper, and eye contact is not a problem.
- The MPU always test prior to the conference to address any potential technology problems. We have a 0% failed calls rate.
The MPU is the University service for producing broadcast quality video. A crew of up to four can be hired to produce programmes to support teaching, film University or College activities and other important events. We are also available for commercial activities outside the University.
We can produce material compressed for the web or IT projects, or uncompressed in full HD digital broadcast quality for DVD and broadcast purposes. We also have a fully sound-proofed voice over room, which is linked directly to our edit suite
The Media Production Unit can quickly copy and convert your footage to and from most formats, including Beta SP, C-Format, DV Cam, HDV, Mini DV, DVC Pro, Hi-Band Umatic, DVD, and VHS. We can also convert from and to Pal, NTSC and Secam on VHS.
2.5. Video Archive
If you are looking for film footage, the MPU has an extraordinary archive of events, visits and lectures that we have filmed in and around the University of Oxford. The archive also includes a collection of donated vintage archive footage.
Video archive highlights include:
- David Attenborough
- Roger Bannister
- Heston Blumantahl
- Bill Clinton
- Nelson Mandela
- Jackie Kennedy Onassis
- Michael Palin
- Philip Pullman
- The Queen
- The Sultan of Brunei
- Archbishop of Canterbury (Rowan Williams)
- Tim Berners Lee
- Stephen Hawking
- Teaching videos for groups like The Royal Courts of Justice and the Mary Rose Trust
- At the MPU, we have filmed every graduation ceremony since 1989. They can be purchased either online or by contacting the unit.
- We ran a video production course for 8 years and won 2 national student awards at the Educational Television and Media Association (ETMA which became LOS - Learning on Screen).
- We have offered a video conferencing service since 1998.
- Head of the MPU, Charles Beesley, is the Film and Video coordinator for external TV and film crews wanting to film in Oxford. Charles has a huge knowledge of University and college buildings and rooms, as well as a huge list of contacts in the Media and the University.
- We are the Oxford representative for the British University Film and Video Council (BUFVC). This entitles any University member to reduced fees for their courses and events and access to their off-air recording facility.
- We filmed internationally celebrated artist, Marina Abramovic performing Nude with Skeleton, which was shown in MoMA, NYC.
- We were one of the last film crews to film onboard the Mary Rose before they sealed her up for conservation.
- The MPU has over 3,500 hours of video material dating back to the 1920s.
- The department has been running since 1985, under different names: UTC, CTCTV, ETRC and MPU.
- We filmed and produced the first University promotional film back in 1986.
At the start of November the OUCS Podcasting Service launched a new web portal to showcase nearly three thousand audio, video and eBook items freely available for download:
Replacing the previous directory, the improved site presents a rich set of pages displaying podcast series and items. At a glance visitors can see the most recent items added to the site and the most popular. The new portal enables material to be found, grouped and reviewed in a new myriad of ways, including searching by media type, speaker, keyword or department. Each item has its own unique linkable URL, making it easy to link to resources from reading lists, in emails or share via social media channels.
The site is enriched with advanced features to improve the discovery of lectures and talks from across all University divisions. Students can now effortlessly create a library of lectures to be played online in the browser or via a media player such as an iPod or iPad.
Recent series highlights include:
- Alumni Weekend: A series of 80 videos from Oxford experts, this year concentrating on the great environmental and scientific challenges of the 21st century
- The New Psychology of Depression: Dr Danny Penman and Professor Mark Williams discuss medical approaches to dealing with stress, anxiety and depression
- The Elements of Drawing: Stephen Farthing R.A. presents eight practical drawing classes using John Ruskin’s teaching collections
- Pitt Rivers Museum: A series of audio podcasts from the Pitt Rivers Museum, which houses archaeological and ethnographic objects from all parts of the world
- Centre on Migration, Policy and Society: a series on migration and societal change
- Approaching Shakespeare: A continuing lecture series with each talk tackling a specific play
A special area surfaces material that can be reused openly in schools and education under a Creative Commons license:
The podcast team value your feedback and would like to hear what you think about the new portal and Oxford podcasts. Contact them at email@example.com, or through the contact form on the web site.
Top Ten Most Popular Podcast Series (December 2011)
The recent report on carbon emissions from the University Sustainability Team found that:
- During the quarter Jan-Mar 2011 the University reduced its carbon emissions by 4.8% (1,194 tonnes) compared to the same period in 2010
- Result: saved £165,919 in energy bills
- All Divisions reduced their emissions (except ASUC which increased their emissions by 10% due to the opening of the Book Storage Facility)
- 138 out of the University’s 217 buildings reduced their emissions
Read the full report (Q4)
Q4 breakdown of carbon dioxide emissions by building (see the Q4 Excel spreadsheet)
The University’s Energy Toolkit - All the practical advice you need to use energy efficiently in the University:
Want to know more about how IT can be more efficient? See the OUCS Green IT pages
Ever wanted to know who belongs to which colleges and departments? Of course it is possible to use the card affiliation, but what if people have more than one affiliation? CUD is here to help address just that issue.
We are currently finalising an Affiliations Manager which will allow registered personnel to easily enter details about the people affiliated to their: unit, division, faculty, department or college using a simple spreadsheet. We can then tell you if the people in your list already exist in CUD, allow you to confirm those matches and finally, we return the data we know about them to you.
What we do is the important task of matching the records of people held in many different data sources around the University so that it is possible to see all the data for that person in one place. This task has not been possible before and is the primary and unique function of CUD. Having a unique identifier for all systems allows many new data management enhancements.
Of course we are very security conscious and we only allow approved, registered people and systems to see any data and further restrict sensitive date to those who have the right to see it. Full details about our policies and the services we offer are available using the links below.
One example of where this was useful was a faculty who needed to make a mail list but had incomplete information for people on the list. We were able to provide many of the unknown email addresses and other pieces of information for the people in that faculty and provide them with a check of the completeness of their data. They can now add, update or remove information about the people in that faculty anytime.
Whilst CUD does hold information about non card holders, CUD is not a way to get accounts for external people. Being in CUD is not the same as having an account anywhere. Nor does CUD “do” passwords or credentials of any sort. If you want your people to access resources you will need to get them a card in the usual way.
University card types and entitlements are listed on the OUCS entitlements website
For more details about the progress of the project which completes in June 2012 see the collection of documentation held on our Sharepoint site.
The Oxford Nexus email service is being upgraded from Exchange 2007 to Exchange 2010. This will take place from February onwards and should allow nearly all users to enjoy the full functionality in their favourite browser. People who use email clients installed on their computer may notice no difference.
Following last year’s successful upgrade of the SharePoint service, from software versions 2007 to 2010, the email/calendaring/tasks etc. service is going the same way. This is a far larger service and has entailed large-scale preparations in the background.
In a recent analysis of activity in week four of term, 98.5% of browsers used would give full functionality with Outlook Web Access with Exchange 2010: good news for Oxford Nexus users, especially those on Mac and Linux platforms. Other browsers that work with Outlook Web Access Light should work as at present.
There will be a transitional period from mid January, just before the main upgrade processes begins, to approximately the end of May 2012. During this time, the vast majority of people will not notice any change. However, there will be some temporary effects that some may notice.
If you are unlucky enough to encounter any problems over this period, please look at the guidance information.
Look out for announcements as to when to expect your upgrade. You won’t feel a thing during the upgrade process: it should not involve any interruption in service for most people and we hope that hardly anyone will have to change their connection settings, so no technical or fiddly changes required.
The Learning Technologies Group at OUCS has started a new project as part of the HEA and JISC-funded Open Educational Resources (OER) Programme.
This work will build upon previous successful OER projects:
Great Writers Inspire – Learning from the Past will collect and release digital learning content on a literary theme via an easily accessible website. The project will provide a new set of lectures, a series of downloadable electronic texts and ebooks, plus background contextual resources to support the media. It is anticipated that the content will explore the historical context, discuss key texts and thewriters’ legacy and influence on literature.
Example collections will be:
- Shakespeare and Renaissance Theatre
- Great Writers and Grub Street
- 19th Century Fiction
- Modernist Periodicals
- Post-Colonial Writers
The material, intended to provide an engaging introduction to a typical humanities undergraduate education, will be released under a suitable open content licence and therefore can be reused in education worldwide. The project team will work closely with the English Faculty at Oxford, and materials will be curated by academic subject specialists. The wider humanities community will be involved in content discovery, creation and collection through community collaboration workshops. The project will also engage with school teachers to ensure that the material released is useful to the pre-university sector.
WebLearn users may now veiw WebLearn calendars in other calendaring applications such as Outlook, Thunderbird (with the Lightning add-on), Google or iCal (Mac). This is known as subscribing to a calendar.
Subscribing to a WebLearn calendar means that a dynamic ‘link’ is created between it and another calendaring application. All changes made to the WebLearn calendar will automatically be reflected in the ‘other’ application which has subscribed to it. You can subscribe to a WebLearn calendar that is located in any WebLearn site.
The calendar URL that is generated by WebLearn is a private (secure) URL; there is little chance of anyone else being able to guess what the URL might be. If you think the URL might have become compromised, you can go back into the WebLearn Schedule tool and delete and/or regenerate it.
1. Generate the calendar’s private URL from the WebLearn Schedule (Calendar) tool. 2. Select the private URL 3. Subscribe to the WebLearn calendar from the external calendaring application. These are described in detail below.
The http:// format of the URL should work for nearly all calendaring applications and for most computer configurations; however the route is slightly more complicated. Using this format means that you copy the URL with the intention of pasting it into the other calendaring application using an option there such as 'Add calendar from the Internet' (or similar).
If you clicked on the webcal:// format of the URL:
If you copied the http:// format of the URL:
- Open your other calendaring application in the usual way.
- Find the option to 'Add calendar from the Internet' or 'Create a new calendar' or 'dd calendar by URL' (or similar).
- Paste the URL into the location window or URL box provided.
Are you interested in enhancing interaction in the classroom and exploring new ways to encourage active learning and student engagement? Recently a number of institutions have used hand-held personal response system (or 'clickers') in the classroom to stimulate interaction between students and lecturers. However, using a system as such can be time consuming and costly: a device has to be distributed to each student before use and collected afterwards; bespoke software has to be installed on the computer used by a lecturer.
Now that WebLearn is available via Mobile Oxford, students can use their mobile phones to answer short questions (using the Polls tool) and instantly see the results. This can act as a discussion point, identifying areas where understanding is good, and working together to identify common misconceptions.
Since the launch of WebLearn via Mobile Oxford, a number of academic and administrative staff have used this technology to support wide-ranging activities from exam revision to student elections. The feedback has been very positive.
'We were impressed at how enthusiastic those students with internet enabled mobiles were for the Mobile Oxford interface and observed that students were clearly engaged actively in the session.': Teacher of first year Undergraduate Medicine, May 2011
If you would like find out more about WebLearn via Mobile Oxford, please come to our termly lunch time session or contact the WebLearn team at firstname.lastname@example.org.
We have heard much in recent months about 'phone hacking’ that it is now becoming common knowledge how easy it can be for hackers to access a person's voicemail. Since voicemail can be accessed remotely, it is necessary to take appropriate measures to keep voicemail secure and private.
With this in mind, Telecoms is instituting a stronger security setting for retrieving voicemail messages. All voicemail boxes will require a PIN for a user to retrieve messages or make any changes to their voicemail settings.
All PINs will be as strong as we can easily enforce without causing too much disruption. A PIN is six numeric characters but we will have a simple validation technique to attempt to block users from setting what we would deem as a weak PIN.
Examples of weak PINs are:
- All one single digit like 444444
- Consecutive digits forward or backwards like 123456, 3456789, 098765
- Including the mailbox number itself will not be allowed like 288661 (extn 88661) or 273205 (extn 73205) or 886612 or 732051
You will still be able to access your voicemail box in the normal way but if you either do not have a PIN or it is deemed to be insufficiently secure, then the system will ask you to create/change to a stronger PIN.
A THE article on how the internet has revolutionised humanities research, and discussion on whether this is a good thing, with contributions from OUCS and OeRC’s Martin Wynne.
We have arranged for a local training company to deliver basic IT courses at no cost. The courses are covered by the national learndirect scheme which provides funding for learners who have no formal qualifications. The only commitment is to release the member of staff for half a day per week (up to a maximum of seven weeks), andfor the member of staff to also carry out some self-study between training sessions.
The 2-hour session focuses on the skills and tools that will streamline your academic work. You will encounter a variety of online tools and services to support your research. Relevant software, online services and libraries techniques are on offer for you to try out.
Read more at the Research Skills Toolkit website.
Places are limited, book your place now: follow the links for your Division
- Using Mobile Polls in the Classroom
- Building iPad and iPhone Apps for Analysing Proteins
- Using Agent-based Modelling to Think about Complex Systems
‘Phishing’ emails try to fool you into giving them your account details (bank account, email account, etc.) Fake emails may also try to trick you into downloading files containing viruses and malware on to your computer.
On Monday, 5th December, a wide awake member of OUCS staff spotted a phished email account sending out bulk messages in the early hours. Around 50,000 emails were sent before OUCS stopped them. Another account started sending emails at around 4am. This time some 120,000 emails were sent before it was spotted and plugged. There were three more similar incidents that same day.
If you give away your Oxford account details, personal information from your email may be stolen to conduct identity theft, your account may become overloaded with junk mail, your email may be blocked and genuine messages may be deleted.
So, can you spot a phish?
- A generic greeting: Many fake emails begin open with a general greeting, e.g. Dear Bank Customer or Dear Email user - this may sometimes be formatted oddly or have strange capitalization - Dear oucs User.
- A forged sender’s address: Fake emails may include a forged email address in the From: field.
- A threat that something bad will happen if you don’t act immediately: e.g. claiming that your account may have been hacked and you need to respond immediately to stop it being closed down. If you are worried, use your browser, bookmarks or usual URL to go to the site's web pages, not the link in the email.
- Fake weblinks: Always check where a link is going before you click on it. Move your mouse over the link and look at its underlying URL in your browser or email status bar. Any link address visible in the message text should match the real URL it actually goes to. If not, it’s probably a spoof website that may try and collect personal details from you or install a virus or spyware on your computer. If you do click on a fake weblink but only realise afterwards, don’t enter anything and close that window down.
- Login links in an email: Never login to a University or any other system by clicking on an email link. Legitimate emails from OUCS or other organisations may sometimes mention the web addresses of login pages for information purposes but for safety you should always retype such addresses in your browser’s address line.
- Emails that look like web pages: Some emails can be made to look like a web page that is asking you to enter information.
- Deceptive URLs: Only ever enter an OUCS password on pages the initial part of whose whose address ends in .ox.ac.uk/ Avoid any web address containing an @ sign. Also beware plausible looking but false addresses e.g. www.oucs-ox-ac-uk-passwordvalidate. net
- Poor spelling and grammar: Spoof emails often contain misspellings, incorrect grammar, odd phrasing etc. Bad or strange spelling e.g. pass.wrd or passw0rd is sometimes done deliberately to try and bypass spam filters.
- Insecure connections: Any web page where you enter personal information should have an address that begins https:// The 's' stands for secure - if it's not there then you’re not in a secure web session, and you should not enter personal data.
- Attachments: As with fake links, attachments are frequently used in fake emails to hide a virus or spyware. Such attachments often arrive with an accompanying (and often cryptic or intriguing) message encouraging you to open them, e.g. Hi - here’s the schedule I promised. Never click on an attachment unless it's something you were expecting, even if it appears to come from someone you know or deal with.
- No greeting
- The senders address has nothing to do with Oxford University
- There is no mention as to which system it applies to, or what department sent it
- The size limits don't match what we have on Nexus
- Spelling is poor
- It contains threats
- 'Click Here' link goes to http://fdg9.formdesk.com/webadminofficer/form1
Please report such messages to email@example.com and include full headers
If the message claims to be from a bank, report phishing attempts to Bank Safe Online and not to OUCS; we can’t do anything ourselves.
After the successful completion of the OER impact study commissioned by JISC, the Learning Technologies Group have continued their research investigations into the use-side of OER. Joanna Wild, a co-author of the report on the impact of Open Educational Resources, was recently awarded a SCORE teaching fellowship to carry out a follow-on study with the focus on raising OER engagement amongst academics.
Findings from the OER impact study highlighted the need to support learners and academic staff alike in the use and reuse of openly licensed resources. This new study explores different practices that are currently emerging in this area, from the perspective of both the providers and beneficiaries. The study will contribute to a clearer understanding of what accounts for successful practice to promote engagement with OER in different institutional contexts. It will produce, among other things, a set of guidelines for interested institutions to adopt.
A web tool developed by an OUCS staff member has found favour with the US Government. As part of a JISC-funded visit to the United States, LTG’s Pat Lockley developed a prototype tool to allow people to search for open educational material via Google.
The tool is based around the Learning Registry. The Learning Registry is part of the US Government’s National Education Technology Plan, which stores information on educational material and how this is used.
The WebLearn team has launched a project to investigate, promote and support the use of the external Turnitin plagiarism detection and prevention service, along with allied products GradeMark (online marking and annotations) and PeerMark (student peer marking and assessment). Turnitin is integrated into the WebLearn Assignments tool (version 1) and system improvements will be recommended for the new Assignments2 tool in response to user feedback.
We are investigating current institutional processes and policy in terms of academic writing and plagiarism prevention and will make recommendations in collaboration with the Education Committee, the Proctors’ office, the Oxford Learning Institute and the Bodleian Libraries.
New training courses for academic staff will be developed in the following areas:
- Turnitin Fundamentals (Hilary 2012)
- Interpreting Turnitin Originality Reports (Hilary 2012)
- Tackling and Managing Plagiarism in the Internet Age
- Student Training in Information Skills and Academic Writing Practice
- Assessment Tools for Formative Testing
We are working closely with academic colleagues to identify models of good practice in assessment and feedback (to and from students), and to support staff and students in promoting academic writing and study skills.
There is a growing need to try to define the experience Oxford students will have online, in order to appropriately support teaching and learning, graduate skills expectations, and the social lives of students.
This was a concern raised at the Student Systems Replacement Board. It was felt that there was a need for the University to collectively articulate its vision for how the overall student experience was being furthered by the range of systems now on offer (centrally and locally).
The Student Digital Experience (DIGE) workstream is a collaboration between the Learning Technologies Group (LTG) in OUCS and the Student Systems Replacement Programme (SSRP) in the Academic Administration Division. It runs from 1st October 2011 until 30th April 2012 and has two principal objectives:
1. Map the current 'landscape' of the digital services and systems that Oxford provides for both students and staff in order to support teaching and learning, and also to support student life in general.
This landscape is to be mapped in terms of:
2. Research, and document, the University’s vision for the future direction of these services and systems over the next five years; set out a series of recommendations to faculties, departments and administrative units.
A series of activities will be planned to achieve a description of the current digital services provided by Oxford for students and staff to enhance the learning experience and learning support activities.
"we would like to thank Jon Hutchings and Aaron Wilson from NSMS (a team within OUCS) for helping the BSP Web Team to get the first of the new Gazette web editions launched for the start of the new annual publishing cycle. The web team has been working over the summer on a significant project to replace the current method of web page access restriction with a new one.
With only a week to go to the 19 September deadline, it was clear that the custom software development was not ready, and scaled-back alternatives either would not work or would have been perceived as a failure by the customer. At the last minute, the web team devised an alternative interim workaround, capable of supplying the key deliverable. In spite of already stretched resources and limited time as the deadline loomed, Jon and Aaron pulled out all the stops to get this working for us in time and to co-ordinate activity with their OUCS colleagues for the required dependent services. The authoring mechanism and the first 2011-12 Gazette web editions launched as required, on time, the following week."
James Thorne of the HFS team at OUCS is running the Virgin London Marathon in April to raise money for Diabetes UK. There are 2.8 million people in the UK diagnosed with Diabetes and a further 850,000 that have the disease but do not know it.
2012 sees the introduction of a brand new look for the WebLearn Guidance Site.
We have tried to make the site easier to navigate and also make it look more visually appealing. It should be easier to find what you are looking for as the front page contains links to all sections laid out in a clear and concise manner.