The big go-live for Education IT this term has been e-Assessment, which is supporting over 1500 exams in Trinity Term. This project was started last summer, and quickly delivered an e-Assessment platform that is well integrated with our existing systems, such as SITS and Examiners Appointment and Payment (EAP). The EAP integration is particularly pleasing, because EAP was built to address an imminent need for better management of examiner data, with the hope that in the future we would be able to use that data more widely. Its existence as a source of data has now unlocked some of the features of Inspera that would otherwise have required unsupportable manual tasks. Examiners are automatically given access to see their students’ exam scripts, and that same data will help give examiners access to the marking area for their exams.
The Teaching Unit Management System is another system that is launching this term to provide centralised access to data that has not previously been available - this should provide similar benefits to future projects that require information about what teaching is available to students. It is already providing data to TMS and Canvas, but there is more that can be done once funding becomes available. Projects like these are sometimes hard to get buy-in for, when we can’t commit to delivery of the full roadmap that gets us all the way to where we want to be, so it’s good to acknowledge each of the steps forward that would not have been possible without them.
The latest updates for these and other Education IT projects are below. For other IT Services project updates, please visit our IT projects and programmes digest for Trinity term.
Introducing the Digital Education Programme
A new programme for Digital Education initiatives was established within the Education IT portfolio in Hilary term 2021, with Gemini Kahl taking on the role of Programme Manager. With the Canvas programme drawing to a close this summer, Gemini will be bringing her wide-ranging digital teaching and learning experience to lead the programme through this period of definition. She shared the initial plans with us:
The pandemic has brought huge shifts in the way we teach and learn here at Oxford, away from the traditional and towards remote or hybrid (a combination of in-person and remote) modes. This shift has presented a clear opportunity for the University to build upon the excellent work that was carried out in 2020, when teaching and learning quickly pivoted to remote ways of operating. The Digital Education Programme aims to build on the progress we have already made, and deliver the technological tools, services, and capabilities we’ll need in a post pandemic learning environment, including the adoption of innovative teaching through digital technology.
One of our first steps in the programme will be to develop a roadmap of initiatives. For this, we will be working closely with colleagues in the Centre for Teaching and Learning, the Academic Administration Division (AAD), Gardens, Libraries and Museums (GLAM), and IT Services, as well as the Academic Divisions. The roadmap will provide strategic direction on the types of digital education capabilities needed to ensure that the University is able to adapt to the changing learning environment.
You can contact Gemini if you have questions about the new programme.
Time-saving tools; benefits across the University
For the first time, Oxford has a virtual learning environment dedicated to teaching and learning which is robust and scalable to future needs. Enhancements to the out-of-the box solution by our customisations and data integration colleagues have resulted in staff benefiting from time-saving tools and integrations, making Canvas even easier to use.
The pandemic highlighted the critical role of Canvas as a single point of entry for course materials and learning activities, providing access to Panopto videos, Oxford Reading Lists Online (ORLO) and meetings in Microsoft Teams. This added to the growth figures which saw an average 358 per cent increase in daily usage from the end of 2019 to 2021, with the number of Oxford students and academics accessing the service increasing by 140 per cent. Canvas is being used by more departments, faculties and colleges than was originally envisaged, meaning the benefits across the University have been more wide reaching.
Transition activities are largely complete and responsibility for Canvas will be transferred to the Centre for Teaching and Learning and IT Services this summer. Instructure, the owners of Canvas, will continue to provide 24-hour, 365 days-a-year support to staff and students using the platform.
If you have questions about Canvas, please email email@example.com.
Teaching Management System (TMS)
A time-saving system with built-in self-help support and consistent source data across the University
The new TMS for colleges and departments will be introduced in Michaelmas term 2021.
TMS will replace OxCORT, the system used to administer tutorial reports and payments for undergraduate tutorial teaching provided by, or on behalf of, 30 colleges. TMS will be a common system for academics, administrative staff and undergraduate students in both departments and colleges, and will deliver greater visibility of the teaching provided to undergraduate students across the University. Key benefits will include:
- a modern interface with built-in self-help
- consistent source data across departments and colleges
- more efficient time-saving processes including one sign-in for all user roles within the system
The system is being developed in close consultation with department and college representatives and will be made available to participating colleges and departments in August to enable them to complete set-up ready for the start of term. Readiness briefings are being scheduled to run before then to give key people greater detail about what preparatory work is required.
See the TMS project webpages for more information, or contact the project team: firstname.lastname@example.org
e-Assessment: Online open-book exams in Inspera
A better exams experience for students; new tools to support staff administering, authoring, and marking online exams
As part of the e-Assessment project, we have replaced WebLearn with Inspera as our new platform for all online open-book exams this term; next term it will be introduced for online coursework submissions too. Read more about what this major change means for students and staff on the staff webpage and the student webpage.
The pandemic has limited the University’s ability to deliver the normal volume of in-person exams and Oxford needed a new resilient digital assessment platform that allows us to better deliver online exams at the scale required.
Inspera will deliver incremental improvements, resulting in:
- for students: a better exams experience, with a modern digital interface designed for higher education settings
- for staff: a new platform with enhanced features and tools to support staff in administering, authoring, and marking online exams.
For the longer-term, the e-Assessment project is contributing to the University’s strategic objective of providing more diverse and inclusive assessment options.
Digital Award Documentation
Faster verification of qualifications for graduates; less onerous processes for staff
Last summer, as part of the Business Continuity work required to support remote working, the Student Registry implemented a new system to send Degree Confirmation Letters to Graduands electronically. The Digital Award Documentation project will expand this implementation to add electronic Transcripts and Certificates. For graduates and prospective employers, this new system will dramatically reduce the time required to verify that someone has an Oxford qualification, or to receive a copy of a document. It will also remove some very time-consuming manual processes for the Degree Conferrals Team. The project hopes to deliver the first electronic transcripts in October 2021, with Certificates to follow in April 2022.
Exam Marks Management
A more streamlined and consistent results management service
A new system is being implemented to support Exam Boards in the key task of calculating the results of students’ assessments, and deciding on their final degree classification. The system was piloted with Law last year, and its use is being expanded this year to include some Joint Honours programmes. If successful, it will be rolled out further next year, and integrated with other key systems such as SITS, to further streamline and secure the transfer of results data. This process is currently handled by different systems in different Exam Boards, so there is the potential to provide a much more consistent service with a centralised system that can be further developed to meet the needs of exam results management across the University.
New admissions system: more compatible with UCAS and manages large-scale scheduling of interviews
ADSS is the Admissions Decisions Support System, and is at the heart of the Undergraduate Admissions process. As a result of changes being made this year, two of the remaining non-ADSS departments will be joining the system, and a new interface with UCAS will be built, to replace an approach that has been deprecated by them. The project has also picked up a crucial extra requirement to build a platform to manage the set-up of 20,000 remote admissions interviews, although this work is on hold until a final decision is reached about whether or not interviews will be held remotely again this year. The new system makes it possible to complete the work required to manually schedule these interviews in the time available.
If you have questions about the Education IT programme, please get in touch with the Portfolio Manager.