So much has changed in such a short time. Nearly three months after we were asked to work from home, we find ourselves settling into the brave new world online as offices and classrooms remain empty. Our old ways of working have been reimagined, and new technologies – many of which are managed and delivered by IT Services - have found themselves at the forefront of delivering top quality education and services across the University of Oxford.
Cast your mind back - overnight events were postponed or cancelled, our homes became our workplaces, and virtually all our tasks moved online. While not ideal, the situation presented new opportunities to do things differently, and staff in central teams, colleges and departments have worked hard to embrace the challenge.
IT Training helping thousands
Nexus365 Teams rapidly became an indispensable resource for us all (see Our journey in numbers for some thought-provoking statistics), but not everyone was comfortable with it, or even knew how to turn it on. Support was needed across the University.
The IT Learning Centre (ITLC) quickly created and ran brand new online sessions, led by their experienced teachers, to help everyone get started. Over time, these evolved into bigger events focussed on getting the best out of Teams, with resources that are now available for anyone at Oxford to watch at any time.
But it wasn’t just Teams. The ITLC also moved its teaching programme for Trinity term online. As you can imagine, it hasn’t been easy doing all this from home. The team has rethought and transformed the programme, adapting course structures, bringing in relevant new content, resetting-up the booking system, and changing the way they communicate with the University community. Now, in addition to self-service resources such as LinkedIn Learning and the IT Learning portfolio, the ITLC is set up to deliver both online and face-to-face courses. The team hasn’t put in quick fixes, but has made sure that systems have been properly adapted to deliver a blended face-to-face and online learning environment from now on. Planning for Michaelmas term is now well under way so keep an eye out for learning opportunities.
Delivering remote workshops for IT Support Staff
Local IT staff are often the first port of call for academics and students seeking support, so making sure they are well informed is vital. As such our IT Support Staff Service (ITS3), along with colleagues in the Centre for Teaching and Learning and the Nexus team, ran two remote workshops for IT Support Staff, one an in-depth session on Teams and the other an overview of remote teaching. Both sessions were well attended, interactive and received excellent feedback. Local IT staff often struggle to get away from the office to attend our traditional Banbury Road workshops, so given the success of these sessions we are likely to continue with the format even when we return to the office.
New ways of working producing great results
But these are not the only teams that have transformed how they work. Despite the challenges of working from home, IT projects and programmes teams quickly demonstrated that their working practices were transferable to remote working, managing to keep pace on key projects.
There are still aspects of project work that are less well suited to an online environment, particularly those involving large groups, such as requirements gathering and user focus groups, but solutions have been found for these too. One example is the Tutorial Management System (TMS) project team who, by providing engaging sessions online, demonstrated that they can maintain the same level of stakeholder engagement. The project recently completed a series of ‘Get Ready for TMS’ briefings for colleges. These would previously have been done in person, but proceeded remotely on Teams with excellent participation and results. The project has also completed phase one of user acceptance testing online, with the project team providing support to new users during structured sessions held using Teams.
The Incident Reporting and Investigation System (IRIS) project also successfully conducted training online. Exceeding the project teams’ expectations, the training attracted 177 users (out of a possible 200). Using Teams, the training included a presentation, live demonstrations of the system, and a Q&A session with participants. Feedback was overwhelmingly positive with attendees saying they would prefer training this way in future!
A representative for the IT projects team said:
“There are some unique challenges to working in the office, like booking appropriate rooms and spaces required for testing and training, which aren’t a factor when we use Teams to work from home.”
There have been challenges along the way, but it’s clear that we are adaptable. We have found new ways to do things differently while maintaining, and often improving, services underpinning the important work done by colleagues around the University.