2022 has been a busy year as we completed a number of large IT projects, including work in IT infrastructure, education, business systems and GLAM (Gardens, Libraries and Museums). In this article, we look back at a selection of the successfully completed projects to give you an idea of how we've been working to improve and modernise services over the last year.
Oxford University has made huge changes over the past couple of years, driven by the needs of the pandemic: almost everything went online - teaching, exams, coursework submission, degree certificates - and a lot of work went into making sure this move was done in an inclusive and accessible way that allows all students to be able to engage fully.
e-Assessments, including coursework submission
After introducing Inspera for exams and coursework submissions in 2021, there continues to be a lot of activity in the area of e-assessment. Throughout the academic year 2021/22, assessments by coursework have been submitted through Inspera, and we have delivered improvements to the way coursework extensions and late submissions are managed. The Exams and Assessments team has embedded online open-book exams as a standard assessment option, and worked with departments to encourage use of Inspera in a way that works best for their assessments and which improves the student experience. In the current academic year, IT Services are working with the exams team to expand the use of Inspera to computer-based in-person exams. An initial selection of these exams will be held in Trinity term 2023.
The new eDocuments service allows students and alumni to view their degree documentation online. They can also allow third parties, such as universities, employers and authorised government agencies, to verify their degree status through this secure system. Graduates will continue to receive a paper certificate at their degree conferral, but otherwise degree documentation is now online.
The new service is quicker, more convenient and, in almost all cases, cheaper than the pre-pandemic system. For more information see the Oxford Students website.
Inclusive Teaching Enhancements
The move to remote teaching and learning due to the COVID-19 pandemic revealed contrasting experiences of our students, and highlighted the manual effort required by staff to address inclusivity and accessibility inequalities. This project set out to address some of this. Its aim was to help Oxford make inclusive teaching the default practice by designing-in and enabling inclusive teaching practice within Canvas, our Virtual Learning Environment (VLE), and its associated tools. We want staff to view accessibility and inclusivity in positive terms, rather than as administrative hurdles to be overcome, and for all students to be able to engage fully with teaching, whether online or in person.
Hybrid teaching facilities and guidance
This project gave additional support for students who were not able to be in Oxford, due to travel restrictions, by installing hybrid teaching facilities in teaching spaces across the University. Despite initial procurement delays, this enabled a common format across the divisions and extended the inclusivity and flexibility that have been brought about by the enhanced integration of digital technology beyond the pandemic, for the benefit of all.
The project also supported the CTL to provide guidance and support for hybrid teaching and learning for teaching staff including workshops, webinars and online resources.
We've been working to improve and upgrade the Internet, the phone system and WiFi across the collegiate University.
Janet internet connection upgrade
Oxford is now one of a handful of UK universities accessing the Internet at pretty much the fastest speeds possible, thanks to a major network upgrade that took place this summer. Two years in the planning, the upgrade took place early one Tuesday morning without a hitch and, as a result, the University’s internet link more than doubled from 40Gbps (Gigabits per second) to a whopping 100Gbps.
Moving 1,500 people to Telephony over Teams
Some people are now making phone calls using Teams, which means they can take calls in or out of the office, on a laptop or personal mobile. This switch was part of the recent Chorus phone system upgrade. Feedback has been positive and we are investigating this and other options for the future of phone calls for everyone.
Improving Wi-Fi and establishing a new centrally-managed wireless service
We installed 2,000 new, more reliable, robust and secure Wi-Fi access points across Oxford this year, as part of the COWLSHUR project. We have now launched a Managed Wireless Service (MWS), available to all colleges, departments and organisations that are members of the collegiate University, using the latest technology for a state-of-the-art wireless internet connection.
The introduction of eExpenses means that most of us can now create and submit our expense claims online, from wherever we are. We can scan receipts from our computer or via the mobile app while on the go and can track the progress of our expense claim in real time. eExpenses also makes approval of claims easier and brings better cost controls for budget-holders and administrators. No longer do we have to wait for paper copies to be circulated around University buildings, resulting in quicker remuneration of claims. For more information see the Finance website.
Time Management in PeopleXD
Leave and Absence functionality in PeopleXD enables departments to more easily manage and track leave and sickness for their staff, ensuring that all their people data is effectively managed within one, single solution, at no extra cost to departments. The implementation began in 2021 and continues to be successfully used by those in the early adopter departments. Once the Leave and Absence pilot was embedded, a pilot for the Timesheets functionality was launched in January 2022, within two departments. We are currently assessing and reviewing related University processes and policy, and exploring optimal system solutions, before a wider rollout is undertaken.
Oracle Financials upgrade
Finance and IT Services worked together to deliver a major upgrade to the Oracle Financials system, delivering on time and under budget. The project included a like-for-like update of the Oracle application (which has nearly 6,000 users) and the reporting solution, SplashBI, and a refresh of the database and underlying infrastructure. As well as ensuring the University was on a supported version of Oracle, the upgrade aimed to improve performance, increase capacity to support a growth in numbers, reduce the amount of system downtime required for ongoing maintenance, and deliver a more modern look and feel.
GLAM (Gardens, Libraries and Museums)
GLAM have made a major investment that is modernising the museums and libraries IT systems. These ensure better management and care of the digital assets of the museum and library collections. The Ashmolean, History of Science and the Pitt Rivers Museums have all recently implemented new Collections and Digital Management Systems, and the Museum of Natural History will be receiving a new Digital Asset Management system next year. The Bodleian has also recently implemented a new Digital Asset Management in their picture studio.
These systems allow the museums and libraries to better manage their collections data and digital surrogates, to integrate these into their marketing and exhibition strategies and improve access to our collections for our academic and public communities.