News from IT Services: Hilary 2014
The purpose of this newsletter is to keep you updated on major projects, service developments, provide examples of how we support the work of the University and highlight any forthcoming events. To help you find information that is most relevant to you, we have split the newsletter into six distinct categories, with the topical ‘Highlights’ section indicating what is coming up that may affect you. We also invite readers to sign-up to receive future editions at the 'Keep in touch' section at the bottom of this page.
Focus on: Services
IT Services exists to promote, embed and expand digital literacy in the University; to help users articulate their technology needs for research, learning and teaching, through training courses, raising awareness and promoting new skills. These opportunities for exchange and discussion are important for more than just their content. Whilst universities are being increasingly pressured to use cutting-edge technological solutions and teaching practices, IT Services emphasises the importance of dialogue with users rather than top-down implementation.
The creation of a single central IT department has allowed for the development of a single Service Catalogue, bringing together all services provided either wholly or partially by IT Services. February 2014 marked the launch of the prototype for the new user-facing Service Catalogue on the IT Services website. The aim of this cataloguing review has been to provide a more coherent, consistent approach to the categorisation and descriptions of our services. The new user-facing Service Catalogue is now open for consultation; please submit any comments to the Projects and Service Management Team by Monday 31 March. The ongoing wider IT Services Web Publishing Project aims to amalgamate public-facing web content. Across IT Services there is a drive to consolidate service information; to refine accuracy of costing for services; and to identify need for improvements.
The recent Value IT project shares these central principles. The aims of the Value IT project were to present a view of the investments made in IT at Oxford University and to provide a framework in which they can be understood, benchmarking where possible against international industry and university standards. The project has allowed a better understanding of the effort and resources required to support specific services and attained some clarity on how investments combine into the provision of central IT services.
Now that we have completed the work to allow this benchmarking, we intend to review and update it each year. Providing efficient services within a university, especially one as diversely collegiate as Oxford, requires a two-way exchange between the service provider and the service users. To that end we are undertaking a Service Review which aims to provide the optimal portfolio of services to meet user needs and provide value for money. We call on users to help with this by communicating the challenges they face in using IT and making any suggestions for improvement – it is only with your help that IT Services can continue to grow in efficiency and relevance. If you have any suggestions for service improvements, or would like to contribute to the Service Review, please email the Senior Management Team.
Towards a Single Service Desk
The Service Desk Consolidation Project (SDCP) aims to bring together the Service Desks of IT Services into an amalgamated service used across the whole department. Users throughout the University need service desks to obtain support when something goes wrong, when they need to make a service request and when they want to request that something is changed.
The project aims to combine business processes and a software toolset which can be expanded later to embrace use by departments and colleges of the University who choose to participate. The project team has selected Frontrange HEAT SaaS (Software as a Service) as the software toolset to be used. IT Services will be undertaking testing and training staff on the new software prior to transitioning to using this new tool.
The integration of the service desk will be an operational change to strengthen the organisational change already made by the merger which created IT Services. The project will deliver a “joined-up” customer experience, with a single contact number and email address, which may be used for any form of IT Services user support.
For more information contact the SDCP team.
More Power to your Backbone
The Oxford Network Evolution (TONE) project has been established to review the existing backbone network provision. Since the existing network design was launched in 1999, expectations and requirements of networks have changed. We now expect a network to be more a utility than a service, that can be assumed to be ‘everywhere, anytime and for any device’.
Specific requirements have been identified through user consultations and survey. The highest priority requirement was network resilience. The project also highlighted the need for increased bandwidth, a choice of bandwidth speeds, and readiness for “Big Data” projects, as well as support for voice and video conferencing and for high definition video. The main security requirements were increased network monitoring and the ability to respond to threats. We are now preparing an ITT to be issued shortly. The next phase (Phase 2) will be the evaluation of the tender responses, contract and design negotiations with the aim of placing a contract before the year end.
A separate project has been proposed to look at wireless provision: the General Oxford Wireless Network (GOWN) will investigate this key service in its own right. Related to TONE is the Integrated Communications Project (ICP), which will update the University’s telephony system (see below).
For further information email the TONE project.
Telephony for the 21st Century
The University’s telephone system, which has been in use since 1985 and currently serves 28,000 users, is to be updated by 2017. The Integrated Communications Project (ICP), is a ‘must-do’ project to replace this system and will impact across the University.
As communications technology has moved on significantly since the mid-1980s, this is an ideal opportunity to do more than simply replace the telephony aspects of the system, and to use wifi rather than fixed cabling. ICP will offer a range of modern communications methods, such as the ability to use mobiles, tablets and laptops as extensions to desktop phones, as well as other facilities such as instant messaging, video-conferencing and screen-sharing. These innovations will make communicating with people in Oxford and beyond much easier and more flexible.
The design and build phase of the project is starting now and we have begun inviting user groups to demonstrations of the new technology. Following this we are planning to run a pilot with a cross-section of users across the collegiate University. The roll-out of the new telephony will take place from January 2015.
For further information, please email the ICP project.
Enhanced Mail List Management
IT Services is undertaking a project to redevelop the mail list service, to be completed in summer 2014. The current service is not meeting expectations from users who have used other common mailing list platforms and there are several requirements for subscribers and list managers, including an improved user interface and additional features. IT Services wants to offer a mailing list service that meets current and forecast user needs.
The project will upgrade the infrastructure that delivers the mail list service, review associated operational and management processes, ensuring that they are documented and automated where possible. As a result the service will be:
- properly aligned with the stated needs of users
- able to respond to future needs and feature requests in a timely manner
- hosted on a resilient and supported platform
- able to support the continued growth in demand for lists
A significant benefit of this project will be increased efficiency and effectiveness within the University when using email communications to diverse populations of recipients and users. The migration will mean some changes in how list owners, managers and moderators use the system so we will be engaging with them at various points during the migration. Engagement will be both via local IT Staff and directly with users. The impact on list subscribers is expected to be minimal.
Desktop Upgrade Initiative
IT Services is upgrading all Windows XP desktop and laptop PCs for staff and public areas within UAS and the Bodleian Libraries to Windows 7, which is a total of 2,700 PCs.
Windows XP will receive no additional security updates from Microsoft after April this year so its continued use after that time would put our University’s operations and information security at unacceptable risk. Moving to Windows 7 brings a number of benefits including Office 2010, better support for modern software and improved performance on current hardware.
Phase 1 of the upgrade started on 3 March and we are upgrading 80-95 PCs each day.
If you would like further information, please email the Windows 7 project team.
You are the Target!
You wouldn't leave your house or car unlocked, so why not take just as much care with your data and identity? Be safe and secure online, come and learn from IT Services information security specialists at our series of Security and Privacy Online courses like “You are the target!” and the online Information Security Awareness module which you can do from your own desk.
- Are you or the kids on Facebook?
- Do you use DropBox to sync your University work?
- Have you received an email from your bank that looked so plausible you almost clicked a dodgy link or sent "them" some of your details?
- Is it difficult to remember all those passwords?
- Do you work with other people's personal information?
- Do you check your email on the train?
- Or shop online when relaxing in the coffee shop?
Answer “yes” to any of these and you may be interested to know the Information Security team can help you start to find the tools and techniques to protect yourself, your work and your family online.
Sometimes the easiest way for a cyber-criminal to take control of your computer or steal your passwords is to simply ask for it!
Safer Internet Day
“Harassment leads to suicide” This is exactly the sort of headline that everyone wants to prevent and IT Services hosted the University of Oxford’s Safer Internet Day 2014 summit on 11 February 2014, run as part of an international campaign. This year’s theme was ‘Let’s create a safer internet together’.
The summit was facilitated by the Information Security team and Academic IT Services. Over 50 representatives from across the University came together to discuss this year's theme “Let’s create a safer internet together”. As well as external speakers (Dr Sara Perry, University of York and John X Kelly, Principal Legal Information Specialist, JISC Legal), Caroline Kennedy explained how staff and students access the support of the University's Harassment Advisory Network run by the Equality and Diversity Unit, and how a Harassment Advisor can help individuals. Connections were made about the range of support available including the Security Services.
Encrypting your Laptop
In accordance with the University Information Security Policy protection for data on laptops is being provided by IT Services via a service called Whole Disk Encryption (WDE). Encryption means that if the laptop falls into the wrong hands then the data on it will not be accessible to unauthorised users. The service also provides recovery options should you lose or forget your security details, as well as an auditable record of encryption. The latter enables the University to prove to the authorities (avoiding fines and reputation damage) that data on your laptop was encrypted and is safe should you have the unfortunate experience of losing it or having it stolen. You can read more about WDE on the IT Services Information Security pages.
IMPORTANT: If you work in UAS and have a University-owned Windows or Mac laptop that you manage yourself then you must contact the User Support Team to arrange for your laptop to be encrypted. An engineer will then visit you to carry out the simple encryption process which will only cause minor inconvenience to you. If you have a laptop that is managed through Connect then you are already due to be contacted by IT Services in due course.
Learning, Teaching and Research
The WebLearn team recently launched a user feedback feature, based on a third party client service solution called ‘User Voice’ (see the User Voice website). This enables the team to gather user suggestions for additional WebLearn features for consideration depending on development resources available. Users can vote on ideas to raise the visibility of a requested feature, and the WebLearn team can prioritise ideas and allocate a status, for example ‘under review’, ‘planned’, ‘completed’ etc. The WebLearn User Voice feedback forum is available directly on the User Voice WebLearn Forum page and from the WebLearn welcome page.
In addition, there have been two upgrades to WebLearn since the long vacation. Highlights include a brand new version of the Sign-up tool; meeting notifications can now be used with OWA (Outlook Web Access) and Gmail. Items in the Resources tool can be opened up to ‘All Oxford Users’ and the HTML WYSIWYG editor is now available for use on an iPad. In addition, a brand new version of the Tests tool has been implemented, with an improved interface, while maintaining the Oxford-specific enhancements made in previous years.
Contact the WebLearn team at for any queries, requests for information sessions, hands-on demonstrations, or one-on-one consultation.
Research Data Oxford
Members of IT Services' Research Support team are forming part of a cross-departmental group which will advise researchers on a range of issues relating to research data management. A central email address will allow researchers to submit enquiries; the Research Support team (along with colleagues from Research Services, the libraries, and OeRC) will then be able to provide advice and assistance on topics including data management planning, selecting appropriate technologies and storage solutions, data security, data sharing, and long-term preservation. The Research Support team has also contributed material to the newly re-launched Research Data Support Services website, and is running a series of training events. This forms part of the University's ongoing work to provide researchers with the information and resources they need to manage their research data efficiently.
Engagement and Global Reach
TESconnect - Reaching Schools
Academic IT services is offering a set of free teaching materials from Oxford University for school teachers via a portal hosted on the Times Educational Supplement website (also known as TESconnect).
The TESconnect portal now contains more than 190 Oxford resources for Key Stages 2-5 from subjects including English, Science, Art and Design, History and Geography. The materials have been carefully selected by a former secondary school teacher and Oxford graduate for classroom use. The resources were mainly selected from existing outreach media published already on web sites and Oxford on iTunesU. Many of the resources could be used as starter activities in the classroom to stimulate discussion or introduce a new unit. Alternatively, they could be set as a homework task to stretch gifted and talented students and in some cases, give them a taster of higher education study. Since October/November 2013, the materials have received over 21,000 views and they continue to attract more at a steady rate each day.
A recent talk about the work attracted an audience of outreach officers and academics from across the university, provoking fruitful discussion over how the work might develop further.
To see the types of materials currently shared in the portal, go to Oxford’s TESconnect profile. If you have materials created for outreach for schools or short talks aimed at the general public and may be interested in this new publishing opportunity contact the Podcasts team.
Live Webcasting - Stephen Fry
Educational Media Services supports learning, teaching and research through podcasting, the production of broadcast quality video and, more recently, live webcasting of high profile talks and events. The team were delighted to be asked by St Catherine’s College to webcast Stephen Fry, the 23rd holder of the Cameron Mackintosh Visiting Professorship in Contemporary Theatre, giving his inaugural lecture on Thursday 20th February.
Using the experience of his own journey and career in the arts, Stephen Fry talked frankly about his acting roles as a student at Cambridge, the benefits of writing your own material when starting out and the importance of team work in the arts and above else not to fear failure. The talk’s title “Put on Your Red Shoes: Performance and Destiny” referred to the works and artists that have inspired him.
The talk was heavily publicised via the University and College social networks and analytic reports from the live stream showed that over 2500 students, staff and the public logged into the broadcast and that many more watched the talk later that evening and over the following weekend.
The next live webcast event will be in May and will be a talk for the Physics Department from Nobel prize-winning physicist Peter Higgs, famous for investigating the existence of the Higgs boson particle.
Contact the Podcasts team for further information on filming and broadcasting events and talks.
Engage - How IT Services can Help
Public engagement and impact are increasingly important to many researchers and lecturers within the University, and demonstrating how work within Higher Education can have a beneficial impact on society is an increasing part of the university’s agenda. Online and digital technologies can play an important and exciting role in engagement activities, enabling you to reach, interact, and work collaboratively with your audiences.
The IT services ‘engage’ website has been created to offer practical advice, share exemplars, and provide information on training, workshops and events that can support you in exploring the application of IT for impact. The ‘engage’ blog pages also contains case studies of innovation by students, researchers and lecturers.
Alongside this the IT Services award-winning ‘Engage’ programme is run every Michaelmas term, and there are also core courses run each term through the IT Learning Programme. For more information about these go to the Education Enhancement Team's blog.
The IT Services guide also provides practical suggestions for using IT tools to help achieve goals in public engagement and impact.
IT Services, previously OUCS, have run a survey at Freshers’ Fair since 2004. The aim is to capture the prior experiences, and more recently, wishes, of freshers to inform IT Services’ strategy, focus and resources. The IT Learning Programme, for example, uses the data to help plan courses. The survey also provides a wealth of data for divisions and others to use and the full report [PDF] has recently been published.
Survey highlights for this academic year include the following:
- Laptops are seen as the most needed device (90% of students describe them as “essential” or “very important”), tablet ownership is increasing (15% in 2012, 21% in 2013) and the percentage of Windows computers is at its lowest ever level (53%). Mac OS use continues to increase.
- The majority of students have a smartphone (81%) and the percentage is increasing. iOS and Android share the market roughly equally between them. Accessing email by phone continues to increase in popularity, from 3% in 2010 to 54% in 2013.
- The percentage of respondents who regularly read tweets is 30%, the same as in 2012. The use of Twitter by research postgraduates is decreasing. Facebook is still the most popular social network (78%) but has seen a recent decline (from 93% in 2012).
- The percentage of students with no anti-virus protection continues to rise; this year 12% reported “no protection” with a further 8% saying “don’t know”.
- Wifi everywhere is the number one most desired IT facility.
For any queries regarding the Freshers’ Survey Report, please contact the Communications and Web Office.
The year 2012-2013 was a busy one for IT Services: a time of significant organisational change and of unrelenting increasing diversity of support and service requests. In the IT Service Annual Report 2012-2013 you can read about the set of highly used and evolving IT services offered to the University.
The data presented in the report provide, in some areas, a somewhat startling picture of the use of IT – in the last 10 years the traffic over University networks has grown from under 2 Terabytes per day to over 112 Terabytes. The email system is increasingly being used through mobile devices with over 22,000 mobile devices connecting to the system this year compared to 12,000 last.
The report offers a fascinating insight into the range of services and projects that IT Services staff deliver: from IT-related courses, WebLearn enhancements, and open data projects to the implementation of the new research costing and pricing tool, X5, and the delivery of new services provided by the Information Security team.
IT Services will be repeating its successful programme of summer internships for Oxford students. We offer students the opportunity of working alongside a service or a project during the summer vacation. In 2013 six interns worked on a range of projects from developing open educational resources to system testing the online research database service. By offering this programme IT Services is supporting the University’s moves to assist graduate employment and the students gain valuable work experience.
"I gained meaningful experience of working in a higher education setting and in an office specialising in academic IT. This is the industry I really want to enter and the internship has been the much needed stepping stone into this career choice" 2013 Summer Intern
The internships for this year will be advertised in late March, so check jobs at it services for more information.
Learning at Work Week
Last year IT Services at Banbury Road provided the venue for a day of training and workshops co-ordinated by training groups across the collegiate university around national 'Learning at Work Day' the theme was 'Many Ways to Learn'. In 2014, Learning at Work Day is becoming Learning at Work Week and will be taking place from 19-25th May 2014. The theme is 'Learning Connections'. If you have ideas for events or sessions you would like to include please contact email@example.com.
DH at Oxford Summer School
Digital Humanities at Oxford Summer School (DHOxSS) is an annual training event at the University of Oxford for researchers, project managers, research assistants, academics and students of digital humanities. It is a collaboration between IT Services, the Oxford e-Research Centre, the Bodleian Libraries, the Oxford Internet Institute, and The Oxford Research Centre in the Humanities. DHOxSS is directed by Dr James Cummings from IT Services. Find out more on the Digital Humanities website.
If you don't have computing experience it can be quite daunting to take the first steps in gaining the skills. New computer users appreciate being given sympathetic help and advice from professional trainers. The IT Learning Programme has organised an experienced teacher to deliver an introduction to computing, including: the first steps in using a computer; using the internet and email; how to keep safe online. For a full course description please look at Beginners IT - An introduction to the world of computing.
Keep in touch
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Published on 7 March 2014. © University of Oxford. Credit: Alexandra Paddock, commissioned by IT Services as Article Writer for this edition.