1. OUCS Wins £1.2 million for Cloud Project – VIDaaS

The VIDaaS Team

Some of the VIDaaS Team. From left to right - Diane West, Peter Jones, John Ireland, Michael Fraser, Stuart Lee, Asif Akram, Jon Hutchings, James Wilson, Meriel Patrick, Paul Jeffreys

OUCS has won funding of £1.2million from JISC to develop the VIDaaS Project - Virtual Infrastructure with Database as a Service.

This Project will provide a local virtual infrastructure (VI) which will interface with a national Higher Education VI – or 'cloud' – to enable the sharing of services across the whole HE sector. As a result there will be substantial cost savings through economies of scale. Oxford will also collaborate with Eduserv to develop the hybrid VI and with JANET to investigate hosting the DaaS on private VIs.

The virtual infrastructure (VI) will host a self-service ‘Database as a Service’ (DaaS) system which will give researchers a way of creating, configuring, editing and querying databases through a simple Web interface which is flexible and intuitive to use. This will help improve the efficiency of UK Higher Education research. The DaaS component is to be developed from the prototype which was created as part of OUCS’s Supporting Data Management Infrastructure for the Humanities (SUDAMIH) Project, and which is currently in use by researchers at Oxford University. Functionality will be extended to meet the common requirements of researchers beyond the humanities and to cater for different database types, in addition to the traditional relational database.

There will also be a focus on training to enable researchers to plan from the beginning of a research activity how they should manage and curate the data they generate. User support materials, courses and documentation will be developed in close collaboration with the Digital Curation Centre.

VIDaaS is a groundbreaking project which will provide researchers with the self-service database tool, the shared virtual infrastructure and the training to support their growing needs into the future.

Further information is online or contact James Wilson on 01865 213489, james.wilson AT oucs.ox.ac.uk.

2. The Great War Archive Rolls Out in Europe

Photo from the public participation day

We are very pleased to announce that OUCS has signed a formal agreement with the Europeana Foundation to extend The Great War Archive collection into Europe. Initially this will involve OUCS staff working with our partners in Europeana and The German National Library to run the project in Germany. We hope to extend into other countries on the continent 2011-2014.

OUCS staff from the RunCoCo project, based in the Learning Technologies Group, have travelled to Germany to deliver training to librarians and archivists who will run public participation days for a Europeana - funded project to collect memories of the First World War, 'Erster Weltkrieg in Alltagsdokumenten' (in English and German)

Photo of preparing one family's memorabilia

OUCS staff work with a German librarian to prepare a huge private collection of memorabilia from one family’s experience of the First World War

Public participation day at die Deutsche Nationalbibliothek in Frankfurt for the 'Erster Weltkrieg in Alltagsdokumenten' project. The day was facilitated by staff from the OUCS.

Speaking from the train from Berlin to Munich, RunCoCo project manager, Alun Edwards, explains that “We have had an extremely successful training day in the German National Library (Deutsche Nationalbibliothek) in Frankfurt am Main, followed immediately by an actual day with the public so everyone could put into practice what they have learned. Much of the training was based on our experiences of running the pilot initiative in the UK in 2008 that was called The Great War Archive.

We next helped run a well-attended public day at the Berlin Staatsbibliothek. Now we are en route to Munich to help with another public day at the Bayerische Staatsbibliothek, before going on to Stuttgart.”

During the public days the OUCS team helped the German staff and volunteers engage with the participants, offered advice and information about what the public had brought along, and operated the cameras and scanners and voice recorders which are used to digitise the objects and to capture the story that goes with those objects.

The OUCS team developed the open source software to collect this material online, called CoCoCo (Community Contributed Collection), which can be used by any project running their own community collection. The team also created the bi-lingual website for the project 'Erster Weltkrieg in Alltagsdokumenten'.

Photo of how to do the digital capture

The OUCS director shows a librarian and a historian the process for digital capture

There is a promotional film which communicates in under 5 minutes what we’re trying to do. The film can be viewed on YouTube.

For blog posts about the developments, and news as we’re on the road and follow us on Twitter @RunCoCo.

You can also follow our 2011 conference online.

3. What Exactly Does OUCS Do?

Cover of OUCS in 2010 report

Many people working and studying at Oxford have some idea about what OUCS does, but are not aware of the full range of services provided and of its important role within the collegiate University. OUCS in 2010 – which is available as a printed document, as a pdf download and as an eBook – was created to highlight aspects of the achievements of OUCS during the last year.

There are eight sections in the review, including one on collaboration which illustrates something of the complexity of the collaborative partnerships OUCS has with local IT support staff and various departments across the University. Other sections look at the support OUCS provides for teaching and research, and significant achievements in providing value through investment in long-term infrastructure and services. There is a focus on the innovative developments that have been achieved during 2010 and the efforts being made to ensure sustainability into the future.

OUCS in 2010 is designed to be dipped into, so it is an easy read even if you know nothing about IT and how it is organised in the University; we also hope it will provide some new discoveries for long-term OUCS staff.

If you would like a printed copy of OUCS in 2010, please send an email to marketing@oucs.ox.ac.uk. You can also collect a copy from OUCS reception and access it as

The Annual Report is also available for those who like detail and statistics.

4. The Internet has Run Out!

At 14:30 GMT on Thursday, 3rd February 2011, a ceremony and press conference was held where the five remaining sets of 16.7 million addresses were handed out to the five Regional Internet Registries (RIRs). Rod Beckstrom, ICANN chief executive, said “This is one of the most important dates in internet history ... the pool of four billion [IPv4] internet addresses has been emptied this morning — there are no more.”

Our RIR is RIPE, who received one of the sets. Oxford University isn’t likely to see any of this new space as we had already been given about 132,000 IPv4 addresses. However, we only have a few percent of that left. Like the rest of the world, Oxford University will soon need to embrace IPv6.

4.1. What Does this Mean to Me?

For most of you, not a lot. Everything should just keep on working as it does. You won’t often see an IP address but if you do, IPv4 addresses look like this and IPv6 ones like 2001:630:440::1. For OUCS and IT staff, it means a bit more effort. Have a look at our web pages to find out more.

4.2. Oxford to Take Part in World IPv6 Day

On the 8th June many major organisations including Google, Facebook and Yahoo will be making their primary website online using IPv6. Many organisations already have their websites accessible via IPv6. They often use a different name e.g. ipv6.google.com or http://www.v6.facebook.com. On the 8th of June all participating websites will be directly IPv6 accessible ('resolved' in the jargon) using dual stack technology and provide a AAAA record for the site. IPv4 websites will of course continue to be accessible over IPv4 during the event.

As part of that day we’d like to have web servers run in the University of Oxford to be accessible using an IPv6 address, as well as their usual IPv4 address. We’ve already got a number of volunteers but more are welcome. If you’d like to take part contact Guy Edwards (networks@oucs.ox.ac.uk) who will be pleased to give you advice.

For more information see:

5. OWL Comes to The Great Outdoors

As most of you will have gathered the OWL2 Public Area project is just about completed and seems to be working extremely well. Always on the lookout for ways to improve our services we started to look at some of the public spaces that don’t normally spring to mind as they don’t quite fit the conventional planning models. With the prospect of Summer, looming we have selected a couple of outdoor areas to cover with Eduroam and OWL wireless services for the benefit of those staff and students who like to head for nearby green spaces with their lunchtime drinks and baguettes.

Last year we covered the Cricket Pavillion in the University Parks and the seating area outside.

What is available now, however, is the whole of the Wellington Square garden area - this went live in April using a Cisco 1262 AP driving a 2.4GHz directional array that “lights up” the whole green space within the railings.

The next plan is to cover the grass areas adjacent to the Keble Gate entrance of the University Parks with similar equipment. We are close to providing a service within the Botanic Gardens for both staff and University visitors.

We did consider “painting” the service to cover the front of the railway station, but the presence of some mobile wireless reflectors that the Oxford Bus Company seem to like moving around at random times suggests that the service would be inconsistent at best.

Three thoughts. We’d welcome a little feedback on these!

  • Is the 2.4GHz option the best one? We could have used 5GHz arrays but assumed that most modern and legacy devices can use 2.4GHz and we’re anxious to cater for the majority of user’s equipment.
  • How much coverage in the University Parks is desirable? Is “hot spotting” the right philosophy to use or should we cover as much as possible? Should we leave large “quiet” areas for those who don’t appreciate the constant eager keyboard chatter?
  • Are there any other (outdoor) candidate sites that might be considered? The Gloucester Green bus station, maybe? Radcliffe Camera square?

We have some equipment that will be retained in OUCS for spares which enables us to demonstrate the feasibility of practical coverage of, for instance, College quads or other large enclosed building spaces. This kit includes external antennae that cover 2.4GHz, or 5GHz wireless in both directional and omni-directional versions. Contact us via your ITSS Officer if you think that your establishment could benefit.

As always, your feedback would be appreciated! Use the OUCS Suggestions Form.

6. Who is Henryk Glogowski?

Like so many I started out in computing while doing a degree at the University of Bristol. Like a (decreasing) number it was by learning FORTRAN, using punched cards. This system was quickly replaced by Multics and I struggled to work out what a ‘file’ was. Ah those halcyon, innocent days. Oh, I ended up writing a simulation of a Beta-ray spectrometer.

After graduating I started working for BT, designing telephone numbering plans and planning upgrades of Strowger Telephone Exchanges to more 'modern' electronic versions (TEX2’s and TEX4A's for the aficionados out there), System X being horribly delayed. In the corner of my office were a couple of PC's (Z80, CP/M, 64k RAM – MBASIC and PL/1(!) - I joke not). I even ended up writing a database program (in MBASIC not PL/1 I hasten to add) on one of these. This was used by BT (South West) to track the modernisation of its line plant for many years.

Meanwhile I was offered a chance to work with BT’s external clients and design networks for them. We even had shiny, new Merlin DX’s to play with. I spent many years travelling round the country designing converged data and voice networks. Funny how some things seem to 'reappear'.

After seven years I decided to become a lecturer, in FE. For many years it was job I loved - until a certain blue-tinged government decided to 'restructure' FE, leaving most lecturers without any career. Not so funny, how some things seem to be coming back.

So I had to move again and became IT Manager for Andrews (yes, the Estate Agents). To start with it was only me. As the joke went I was 'IT'. Over a period of seven years I built up the team, the infrastructure and the network. I even made Andrews an ISP, giving it (quite legitimately) access to cheap circuits from BT anywhere in the country. As part of that job I would travel around the UK to Andrews’ branches and so I would come to Oxford (where incidentally Andrews was started) and to Botley, among other branches in this region, fairly regularly and so got to know Oxfordshire. It’s nice to come back to some things.

Photo of Henryk

However my focus was always on networks. Also I do believe in public service and education (how unfashionable I know) so when a suitable job came up at the University of Bristol I jumped at the chance. I had six+ years there back at my old alma mater. Strange how in life you sometimes find yourself back where you started – if not a circle then a spiral.

And so, and as you’ve persevered reading this far 'thank you', here I am happily washed up on the shores of the dreaming spires of Oxford. I have to say a great big 'thank you' to all here who have made me feel so welcome. I greatly look forward to getting to know everyone better and working with you all.

Henryk Glogowski, Head of Networks and Telecommunications, OUCS

7. Internet Security Best Practice

Advert for the Internet Security Best Practice Guides

The Internet Security Best Practice Project aims to help members of the University employ best practice within information security.

In 2009 we ran the Self-Assessment Questionnaire which asked each unit within the collegiate University to assess their approach to IT operations, management and security against recommended best practice guidelines. The 2009 Self-Assessment Questionnaire is still available online and we encourage units to continue to use it as a self-assessment tool.

The new Information Security policy is being drafted in accordance with ISO 27002:2005, code of practice for information security management.

The Toolkit will be available online and will include suggested technical solutions and example policies.

In 2011 we will also seek the PRAC ICT subcommittee’s approval to run the Self-Assessment Questionnaire again, using an updated version in line with the new Information Security policy. This will offer units within the collegiate University another opportunity to assess the strengths and weaknesses within their approach to IT operations, management and security.

If you would like to know more about the project or you would like to discuss your concerns about information security, please contact us at: infosec@oucs.ox.ac.uk

8. Implementing the CUD

8.1. What is the Core User Directory?

The Core User Directory or CUD is a new service to be offered, initially to early adopters. CUD stores information about people who are somehow associated with the University. That information comes from many different data sources. The service assigns a unique identifier for each person stored, which is shared between all data sources.

8.2. What does CUD do?

It returns an answer, a consolidated result, to complex queries. A service user makes a query to CUD requesting information, some which originated from multiple data sources. CUD returns a single result for each person matching the information requested by the query. In addition, CUD stores a foreign key for each data source, so that, should a query be made for information not stored in CUD, the request may be passed to the data source which does have the information for that unique identifier.

CUD also offers data matching, cleaning, and consolidation services to data source managers. Just one of the benefits of these is the discovery of duplicate records in the data sources concerned.

More information, and the features and benefits of the Core User Directory.

8.3. What next?

The implementation project is well underway and we will shortly be inviting colleges and departments to come along to lunchtime sessions and also to join our Early Adopter Programme. You can also register your interest by emailing cud@oucs.ox.ac.uk.

9. You Have Won £20,000!

Championed by Rowan Wilson, a project created by OUCS has won a £20,000 prize from the Intellectual Property Office, part of the Department of Business, Innovation and Skills. The Fast Forward competition asked Higher Education and Research institutions to come up with ideas which would improve the management of intellectual property and knowledge exchange.

Project Hagen is building a web application that advises knowledge transfer professionals on exploitation models and licence choice around open content and open source software. The project has grown out of the work of OSS Watch, the JISC-funded open source software advisory service, and Ripple, a JISC project to help the release of open educational resources.

10. Early Adopters Wake Up to SharePoint 2010

In February, OUCS successfully upgraded the service for early adopters of SharePoint to SharePoint 2010.

The transition went as smooth as could be hoped and we were able to preserve an Oxford look and feel as well as the Oxford-centred functionality that needed to exist in the upgraded service. We decided not to migrate My Sites from SharePoint 2007 as the new format was different (but a lot better). Other sites were migrated in from the old version.

Feel free to go and have a look and send any feedback to sharepoint@oucs.ox.ac.uk

The online documentation is being updated to reflect the newer version.

If you were down as an early adopter, you will see richer functionality (especially in the My Profile and My Site areas). If you’d like to see that functionality, and weren’t an early adopter, let us know (sharepoint@oucs.ox.ac.uk) and we’ll add you in.

Tip: If you are an active user of a site, the site might show up in your My Profile - Content or 'Memberships' pages. If it doesn't (and there is often a good technical reason why it shouldn't), just 'tag' it and you'll find it more easily next time.

11. Top Tips for Screen Casting

Recording videos on how to do something on the computer? Check out our Top Tips video.

There’s lots more screencasts on AV work in Step 2 of our "How to Podcast" guide..

12. Congratulations Mobile Oxford!

Photo of award being given to Mobile Oxford manager

The UCISA 2010 Award for Excellence, sponsored by Eduserv, has been won by the University of Oxford’s Mobile Oxford project. The submission focused on the development of mobile applications information services to the staff and students of the University as well as services for the general public in Oxford.

Presentaion of the award outside OUCS. Left to right: Peter Tinson - UCISA Executive Secretary, Tim Fernando - Technical Project Manager, OUCS, Stephen Butcher - CEO Eduserv, Stuart Lee - Director of Computing Services and Systems, OUCS

12.1. How JISC reported the award:

Two JISC-funded projects which make life easier for students have won accolades this week as examples of international good practice.

Sarah Porter, head of innovation at JISC, said: “Good use of innovative technology can have a positive impact on the way students perceive an institution and on their learning experience. We are delighted to see innovation being recognised and anticipate that other universities will glean useful findings and inspiration from these JISC projects.”

Photo of Stuart Lee with award

A clever mobile app which gives University of Oxford staff, students and city residents real-time transport information, find local amenities and leisure facilities has won the 2010 UCISA Higher Education Award for Excellence sponsored by Eduserv.

Photo of the UCISA award

Mobile users can also find books by library location, access the University’s iTunes U podcast catalogue and get notifications when their exam results are released.

On hearing of the Mobile Oxford success, Dr Stuart Lee, director of computing systems and services, commented: “We are thrilled at Oxford to receive such an award as it shows that our work has been valued by our peers. We hope that this leads to more people looking at the free source code behind the project, and would like to thank JISC and the funders within the University for allowing us to take this innovative service forward.”

The other project to win an award was a JISC project at the University of Newcastle which received US acclaim for allowing students flexible and detailed control over access to their personal information on the web.

13. Mobile Oxford 1.0 has arrived

It's been a long time coming, but we've finally put together a release we think worthy of the "1.0" tag. You may not notice a massive difference, but there’s been lots of bug fixes and performance improvements, which should make the dreaded "500" error screens a lot less likely. Geolocating is now also a lot more reliable, as well as our integration into WebLearn.

One of the biggest changes will only be for Android and iPhone users, but these users will notice a large difference in the speed for the site, using a new HTML5 feature called a 'cache manifest.

Some changes you will notice include:

  • A redesigned library app, showing you all shelfmarks and availability on one page
  • The Arrivals board for the train station
  • Phone numbers for some places (e.g. restaurants).
  • Names of bus stops in Mobile Oxford have changed to better reflect the name shown on the bus stops themselves.
  • We also now formally support Kindles!

Hopefully you'll enjoy these changes, and we're always keen to hear feedback, which you can send using the links on every page on the site.

13.1. Other features that have been around a few months:

Transport Page
With one click you can not get the current status of all five of Oxford's park and rides, Oxford’s live rail departure board, BBC Road Travel Alerts and your five nearest bus stops or favourite bus stops
You can 'favourite' certain pages e.g. bus stops, these will appear on the front page of the site and if you favourite bus stops, just these bus stops will be displayed on your transport page.
Support for WebLearn tools has been improved and should now be fairly bullet proof with more functionality coming.
By popular request the brown colour (it was supposed to be gold, honest) has been eliminated across the site.

Why not follow the Mobile Oxford blog, Tweet or Facebook site?

14. Applying IT Expertise to Community Support Activities

By Joe Doupnik and Lyn Waddington

Ingotec logo

Ingotec, what’s in that name? It is a CIC company dedicated to provide quality IT (that’s the tec) for charities and NGOs. It was formed by Lyn Waddington and Joe Doupnik in OUCS to transfer some of the knowledge and techniques of our work to those who are doing other helpful things for the community at large. As cost is a primary factor in charity operations we seek good solutions which cost the very least.

We decided to form a company to house this work so that contributions and donations, and some commercial income could be dealt with properly, and any profit would be redistributed to charities. As the rules on CIC organisations are many and strict, formation took some doing.

A parallel, supporting operation is familiar to many in OUCS, the Dragonfly Co-operative which creates jewellery from a wide range of materials, from recycled parts to well polished stones. Many in OUCS create the items, display them at Art Week and at community fairs. Profits from it help support Ingotec.

Services versus costs: competing goals but achievable ones. For example, our first major customer was in need of file serving for both local volunteer staff as well as others located at outposts abroad. They needed a solid secure email system, shareable file store and a web presence, and more. All communications needed to be secure on the wire yet usable from any location with whatever computing resources were at hand. Security was incorporated as multiple layers to protect the production system from unkind persons and accidental misconfigurations.

We surveyed and built several solutions based on commercial offerings. One in particular would be just fine for them. Alas, the cost was well beyond their resources. We then considered building an equivalent system employing only open source free software from the community. This turned out to be a large undertaking because the needed pieces were not designed to work together, had variable amounts of documentation, and some parts required extensive rewriting to perform for our goals. We are producing a rough equivalent to a commercial product, but from free parts. A rule used was avoid change to source code if at all possible, to permit components to be upgraded over time without loss of functionality.

recycled computer parts as jewellery

We surveyed prospective components, tried them, observed carefully what fit best but kept alternatives handy for retreating, and then went on to the next problem in the series. We reviewed the status periodically, tested, and kept going. The final result was checked before deciding that we were done. In the end we accomplished the goal, much to our own surprise, by careful design, by testing, by persistent thorough working out of puzzles, and by not settling for expediencies. This is not the kind of project which could be done casually, nor that which average users (those volunteers in a charity) could achieve by themselves.

The many various internal components would be familiar to the technical staff of OUCS as they are the same as used within OUCS, as it turned out. These range from email to an identity vault, file serving to some security features. In this case we reinvented the wheel to work up from open source basics to finished form without touching OUCS resources. Creating the system was a major undertaking. Documenting it was a second, to ensure there need be no critical person in the system. Then the next important major undertaking could begin: the training and leading of the customers to use the system, with Ingotec standing behind them to keep it going over the long term. By design, small daily tasks such as adding users or changing passwords would be done by the customers themselves. That in turn meant our design had to provide nice easy to use interfaces, with not a whiff of what goes on in the Linux operating system, even though most open source programs have only raw command line interfaces. Usability by the customer was very much in our minds throughout the project.

Our hope is to reuse this core work to provide similar services for other customers. We also wish to encourage other IT professionals to do similar work, using their IT skills to provide professional quality systems at minimal cost to those in need.

15. Open Spires

Open Spires poster

The University’s OpenSpires project is increasing the number of podcasts freely available for non-commercial public reuse and distribution. Open educational resources for everyone, for free

"As Head of More Able and Talented at a large state school, I am constantly looking for resources to improve our teaching and your podcasts are giving us just that opportunity." - UK teacher

16. Having Problems with your Spreadsheet Data?

Photo of person struggling with data

One of the best ways to summarise data is to use Pivot Tables. With Pivot Tables you can automatically sort, count, total and create charts from large lists of data. You can even create your own calculated fields to help with data analysis.

If you want to learn more about the different tools available to analyse your spreadsheet data, have a look at our courses web pages and think about signing up for the Advanced European Computer Driving License (AECDL) spreadsheet module. You will learn how to create pivot tables and much more, you will also add an internationally recognised IT qualification to your CV.

After passing three of the four advanced modules one of our delegates says: "The courses I have taken were outstanding, making it much easier to use the software that I work with on a daily basis. Since completing the courses, there has been a noticeable improvement in the quality of my presentations and documents, as well as saving myself time and reducing the stress involved in producing them" (Radleigh Foster).

You do not have to have completed the core ECDL to start the Advanced modules.

More on the Advanced ECDL.

17. OxTALENT - Oxford’s IT in Teaching and Learning Awards 2011

OxTALENT advert

The OxTALENT annual awards recognise those who have made innovative use of IT in teaching and learning at Oxford. Winners and guests will be invited to celebrate success at a red carpet reception on Tuesday 28th June. For further infomation email: ltg@oucs.ox.ac.uk

18. Digital Media Courses: Looking from the Inside Out

Matthew Kimberley is a Project Officer with the Clay Sanskrit Library at the Bodleian Library and has been on a number of multimedia courses at OUCS. Here is what Matthew has to say about his experiences.

Recently, I attended three media skills courses offered by the IT Learning Programme: Introduction to Final Cut Pro 7, Digital Film-making and Presenting and Interviewing for Podcasts and Video. Together they equip you with everything you need to plan, produce and edit professional standard video. My fellow students were university staff and students needing to learn the art of filmmaking, for everything from departmental podcasts to short documentaries.

I cannot praise the quality of these courses enough. In the first, we spent three days studying Final Cut Pro with an Apple-certified professional film editor. No prior knowledge was assumed, and yet in three days I went from a Mac novice to a confident editor. The tutor did more than give us a walk through of the course book; he used his experience of working with international video production companies to teach us the tricks of the trade that make the difference between a formulaic output and that of a savvy editor. It was a fraction of the commercial cost of the Apple course and it was well worth the time and money.

For those who go on to take and pass the exam it also means being an officially accredited film editor in the industry’s leading software.

Silhouette of camera operator

The second course was of just as high a standard. Taught by a professional film-maker on behalf of the Oxford Academy of Digital Film, it also covered basic editing with Final Cut Pro but filled in the most essential skills - how to use a camera correctly and what to think about when directing the film. Although knowledge of Final Cut Pro wasn’t a prerequisite, it helped me to have been on the previous course - it meant that I already knew what an editor would hope to receive when the director hands over the footage. The tutor showed us examples of his own work so that we could see the many technicalconsiderations the director and cameraman face before shooting. The final goal was to produce our own short film of ‘Things in Motion’ around Oxford, set to (and beat-matched with) a music track. I came out of it feeling confident to go back to my department and use my new skills immediately.

A one-day course on how to conduct interviews rounded off the experience. My own short documentary film project for the Bodleian will mostly be interviews so there was no better way to finish than by learning the dos and don’ts of interviewing, such as making your interviewee feel at ease, planning what to ask and knowing how to direct their body language.

All in all, these courses made a fantastic set of learning experiences and complemented each other without undue overlap. Whether you are planning to make podcasts, film lectures, conduct interviews or make your own short films, nothing could prepare you better than the courses on offer at OUCS.

If you would like to know more about the Digital Media coures that are run by the IT Learning Programme, contact courses@oucs.ox.ac.uk

19. Find It. Keep It. Get Happy

Most of us know the frustration of hunting through folders and piles of papers for an elusive but urgently needed document. Following a recent course on research information management, Oxford researchers told us that on average about 20% of their writing-up time is actually spent looking for notes, files, or data that they know they already have somewhere.

In a bid to help academics reclaim precious research time, the team that brought the successful "Organising Humanities Material" and "Tools for the Humanities" courses earlier this year now offer guidance for researchers online, in a new section of the Research Skills Toolkit.

If you browse the toolkit by research activities, the "Managing Information" link brings you to the new section. Here you can find suggestions about organising your sources and notes, and learn about software tools and services to help you keep on top of your research information. There are tips on managing references, linking notes with data, backing up and versioning your files, and drafting data management plans.

Information management may not strike everyone as the most thrilling of topics, but the potential rewards are great. After attending the "Organising Humanities Material" course, one researcher told us: "I’m getting more and more organised and happy now! It changed not only my ways of working, but also my mood and my attitude."

20. Embedding Oxford Podcasts in your WebLearn Site is Easy!

WebLearn now makes it very easy to embed items from Oxford Podcasts, a collection containing over 2500 media items recorded at Oxford University, into your WebLearn site. First, add the Oxford Podcasts tool to your WebLearn site via Site Info > Edit Tools. Second, click on "Browse the Oxford Podcast Collection" to view the podcasts available.

You can search for podcasts by division or by keywords in their titles or descriptions. Third, select a podcast and continue adding it to your site. The tool automatically uses the title of the particular podcast you have selected, but this can be edited via Site Info > Page Order. A detailed "How-to" guide is available.

Screen shot of steps to embed a podcast

21. WebLearn Bite-sized Video Tutorials

Advert for video tutorials

The WebLearn team employed a student intern over the summer to produce video screencast tutorials demonstrating the use of some of the most important tools in WebLearn. The 42 videos are now available on the WebLearn Guidance site listed as "Video tutorials (Oxford)" under the "Guides and tutorials" section. The index of video tutorials can be accessed directly.

Video tutorials provide users with short "just-in-time" visual demonstrations of particular tools. The topics have been subdivided into short sections covering two or three tasks within a particular tool, and lasting only two or three minutes. We decided for reasons of accessibility to produce the videos using written scripts without audio narration, which translate into caption boxes on the screen. The script can be read out by screen readers, and hearing-impaired users are not at a disadvantage.

Image © Bridgeman Education

Voice-overs may be added at a later stage, and our scripts may prove useful to other users of Sakai (the open-source platform on which WebLearn is built).

The series starts with three video tours of WebLearn to orientate users in terms of layout, navigation and the use of My Workspace. The tools covered in the rest of the series are Site info (manage site), Resources (share documents), Home tool (front page), Web Content link (links to internal or external URLs), WYSIWYG HTML editor, Announcements, Assignments, Migrating from old WebLearn, Forums (discussions) and Email Archive (site- wide email and archive).

22. WebLearn Mobile Polls Pilot Project

Advert for poll pilot

There are many pedagogical benefits to increasing interactivity in your classes or lectures. One way of doing this is to use mobile devices for students to respond to questions. The integration of Mobile Oxford with the WebLearn Polls tool means that no special equipment is required.

Pose questions in the Polls tool in your WebLearn site and display it on the data projector. Ask the students to respond using their internet-enabled mobile phones. The Polls tool will show the distribution of responses immediately on the screen, as well as the graphical distribution of responses.

Students can respond individually, or in "buddy" groups, thus enabling peer learning. By combining a prior discussion in WebLearn about common problem areas or misconceptions, the lecturer can focus class time on these problem areas, as well as measure improved student understanding using the polls tool.

Join the pilot project on the WebLearn site.

This will enable you to participate in the Mobile Polls Pilot project and keep up to date with developments. Full instructions are given there for students to obtain a QR "app" which will allow their phone to access the poll in WebLearn.

23. WebLearn Courses

A regular stable of WebLearn courses is now available within the IT Learning Programme:

  • WebLearn Fundamentals
  • WebLearn: Making your site work (Intermediate level)
  • WebLearn: Surveys
  • Plagiarism: WebLearn and Turnitin (lunch time session)

Bookings are required and open thirty days prior to the course. If you cannot attend the half-day face-to-face courses, the course books can be downloaded from the ITLP Portfolio.

New courses planned from Trinity Term 2011 are:

WebLearn: for Teaching
This course focuses on WebLearn tools for tutors and lecturers to use in communicating with students, arranging tutorial sessions, conducting course evaluation surveys, providing reading lists, organising learning materials, and tracking site usage.
WebLearn: via Mobile Oxford
This one-hour course demonstrates the award-winning Mobile Oxford platform (m.ox) and a selection of WebLearn tools that can be accessed via a mobile device. Participants will have the opportunity to use their mobile devices to try out various WebLearn tools via the mobile platform.
Customised WebLearn courses
Customised courses may be requested for groups of staff members in colleges or departments (minimum of 6-8 people). This is an ideal way for a team to focus on their particular needs in designing and developing their WebLearn presence. We can either come to your venue if it is suitably equipped, or else one of the lecture rooms at OUCS can be booked.

24. Designing your Unit’s WebLearn Presence

Designing a WebLearn site diagram

The WebLearn team was invited to Regent's Park College for a second time to discuss plans for structuring the college’s presence in WebLearn. Following the first meeting, the college had put a lot of effort into agreeing their ‘tree structure’ in WebLearn. It is valuable to spend some time and effort in designing such a structure of sites and sub-sites on paper, before building them in WebLearn. Although things can be modified later and more sub-sites can always be added, it is not advisable to change the structure substantially, since users will become used to navigating amongst what is provided, and all hyperlinks will have to be checked if major structural changes are made later.

The deployment of WebLearn is devolved to colleges and departments, but the WebLearn team is happy to assist during the planning stages, and with ongoing support and advice. We have worked with other colleges, such as St Hilda’s and Wycliffe Hall, to support them in designing and building their presence in WebLearn, as well as faculties such as History, and Social Policy and Intervention. If you would like to collaborate in conceptualising and designing your unit’s WebLearn presence, please send an email to weblearn@oucs. ox.ac.uk.

25. Migration from Old WebLearn

Advert for WebLearn migration

As previously advised, the old WebLearn system (Bodington) will become read-only by 1 September 2011. Thereafter, users will be able to access their material for one year only, after which the old system will be deprecated (decommissioned).

Contact the WebLearn team to talk about your requirements in migrating any required materials to the new WebLearn (email weblearn@oucs.ox.ac.uk). There is an ITLP course that is offered face-to-face, once per term.

The course book is fairly self-explanatory and may be downloaded. If you wish to complete the exercises in the book, you will need to contact the WebLearn team to add you as a participant in the old WebLearn sample suite.

Image © Bridgeman Education

26. Turnitin: Who’s Who and What’s What

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.

Watch out for news, training opportunities and support materials announced on the OUCS Turnitin Oxford blog.

There are various companies and agencies involved in the provision and support of Turnitin:

Plagarism Advice logo Plagiarism Advice, supported by JISC

Paradigms Turnitin UK logo Paradigms Europe

WebLearn plagarism support logo Plagiarism Support site in WebLearn

Paradigms Turnitin US logo Paradigms USA

Oxford University has a subscription to the UK Turnitin service, so University staff members may use it at no cost to their departments. The licence covers the submission of student papers (essays), submitted under the auspices of a tutor or supervisor. It does not include postgraduate students or academics submitting their own research papers or articles. Oxford University Computing Services (OUCS) 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) and guidance is available within WebLearn on the Plagiarism Support site.

Diagram of work flow for Originality Check, Grade Mark, Peer Mark

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.

Besides text matching (called "Originality Check"), Turnitin also offers PeerMark (peer reviewing and feedback) and GradeMark (electronic comments, both standardised and customised).

Oxford University has a 10% licence to pilot PeerMark and GradeMark. If you are interested in exploring these features, please send an email to weblearn@oucs.ox.ac.uk.

27. Conducting a survey?

WebLearn Survey advert

Then use WebLearn!

  • Course experience
  • Data gathering
  • Public survey

28. Supporting Shared Services - the University Shared Data Centre

Photo of cables

On a bright January afternoon members of the Estates Directorate met with OUCS to pass over the keys to the University's new data centre. The University Shared Data Centre (USDC) is a shared facility managed by OUCS and available for use by the colleges and departments within the University. The new data centre provides resilience for the University’s business-critical IT services and meets international standards in sustainability and efficiency. It is housed within the Oxford Molecular Pathology Institute on South Parks Road and will be fully operational in August 2011.

The data centre has been designed to meet the latest environmental and business priorities of the University. In the past business-critical IT equipment has been housed across the University, often in small spaces which were not originally designed to house servers and equipment. The University’s colleges and departments now have a dedicated Shared Data Centre designed to be resilient, efficient and secure. The data centre also utilises extensive power and cooling systems which were designed to recycle cool air and minimise energy use. "The aim", says David Birds, Manager of the Shared Data Centre, "is to lower our total energy consumption"”.

In the run up to the August opening, OUCS are busy defining the suite of shared infrastructure services which will be available within the data centre. Taking a holistic approach to the infrastructure, OUCS are considering all aspects from physical co-location in a shared space to private cloud computing and Infrastructure as a Service (IaaS). “We aim to offer the benefits of a centralised infrastructure whilst recognising the context of Oxford University’s federated IT structure” explains Peter Jones, OUCS’s newly appointed Shared Infrastructure Services (SIS) Manager.

Shared services, such as the new University Shared Data Centre and the infrastructure services founded upon it, are greatly encouraged by higher education bodies and the UK government today. Shared services can generate efficiencies and ultimately a 20% reduction in costs (CBI, Time for action, Reforming public services and balancing the budget, May 2010). OUCS is keen to support the University in using shared services to achieve such savings in the future.

In order to understand the collegiate University's requirements in relation to data storage and virtualisation services, OUCS are undertaking a programme to investigate these requirements with the University's IT support staff (ITSS). As the first step in this programme, ITSS were recently invited to an open afternoon at the new data centre to discuss how the new facility can be best used.

If you are interested in the USDC and its services please contact us at: USDC@oucs.ox.ac.uk.

We are happy to discuss your data centre needs and will endeavour to keep you informed of the USDC and the surrounding services. Further information on the shared infrastructure services (SIS) and the University Shared Data Centre (USDC) is available.

Data centres provide a secure and stable environment for large scale computing systems. The environment within a data centre is often controlled with air cooling as the systems can generate significant quantities of heat. Data centres are also supplied with an uninterruptible power supply (UPS) to ensure a continuous service and to keep the equipment operating at an optimum level.

29. Poster Printing at OUCS

Advert for poster printing

OUCS offers a high-quality and competitively-priced poster printing service to University members.

More information.

  • A0 Matt - £21.60 (£18.00 ex VAT)
  • A1 Matt - £10.80 (£9.00 ex VAT)
  • A2 Matt - £5.40 (£4.50 ex VAT)
  • A0 Satin - £42.00 (£35.00 ex VAT)
  • A1 Satin - £21.00 (£17.50 ex VAT)
  • A2 Satin - £10.50 (£8.75 ex VAT)

30. Red Nose Day Channel Swim

Photo of the OUCS Red Nose day Channel Swim Team

On Red Nose Day a team from OUCS and elsewhere swam the channel in a total time of 11 hours 20 minutes. That's a pretty fast time but, in the Rosenblatt pool, they fortunately did not have to deal with tides, tankers and the flotsam and jetsam that real channel swimmers have to deal with.

Congratulations to the team for a great effort and in raising nearly £1800 for Comic Relief! The swimmers were: Ian Smith (OUCS), Helen Fryer (Zoology), Jane Bell, Hanno Nickau (ComLab) and Howard Noble (OUCS).

The total distance swam was 270 lengths each. Jane was fastest overall, Hanno 'dreamed' his way home, Helen cruised the whole thing and probably could have done another, Ian and Howard battled it out for time and could not have done another length.

31. Artweeks at OUCS: 2011

OUCS Artweeks Poster

Artweeks is the country’s biggest open studio event with more than 500 free exhibitions across the whole of the county. Amazing art is available to view or buy in a huge variety of different locations.

This year OUCS invites you to enjoy a range of beautiful and inspiring pieces within the department’s converted Victorian houses.

32. Grand Giveaway!

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.

The address for submission 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.