IT Projects Digest Trinity term 2023

We have been busy recently upgrading the VPN, setting up Chromebooks for students to type their exams this term, delivering a new service for storing active research data (Research File Service - RFS) and upgrading Wi-Fi across the collegiate University.

Infrastructure and Business Systems

VPN improvements

On 26 April 2023 we upgraded the University’s central Virtual Private Network (VPN). The project has delivered new and supported hardware, improved security, as well as additional features for VPN users. As a result, the way you log into the VPN has changed: you can only connect via Cisco software (the Cisco AnyConnect Secure Client) and log in using your Single Sign-On (SSO) credentials with Multi-Factor Authentication (MFA) (you still need to use your Remote Access username and password to access eduroam). You can also now access your local computer network (for printers and file storage) while using the VPN. Further information about the new service and how to download the Cisco client are available from the IT Help site.

Email Security

A change to IT Regulations (Gazette, 4 May 2023) has been approved by University Council. From 1 August 2023, the blanket forwarding or routing of email from a University email address to an external, non-University of Oxford account will be prohibited, except in exceptional circumstances. You will still be able to forward individual emails to external email accounts, but we ask you to consider carefully the implications of doing so.

Automatic forwarding of all email to an external account presents a significant security risk, a personal data handling risk, a reputational risk that all our email will be marked as spam and it can result in an accidental breach of contract.

If you are automatically forwarding your University emails to an external account you need to disable automatic email forwarding before 31 July 2023, preferably before the Summer vacation.

GLAM Wi-Fi Replacement

The GLAM Wi-Fi Replacement and Remediation project is on track to replace wireless access points in the Museums and the Weston Library by the end of Trinity term.

Once installed the Museums and Weston Library will move onto the Managed Wireless Service. Staff, students, and researchers will benefit from pervasive wireless coverage enabling them to access eduroam, (and in the case of the Libraries: The Library Readers' Network), and hence access University resources and digital services. Supported wireless provision in the Museums and Weston Library will also enable the public to continue to access Wi-Fi for public engagement activities and external events.

Research File Service (RFS)

Research File Service (RFS) is a new reliable, resilient, secure, and scalable University-approved storage facility for active research data, which launched in March.

RFS is currently available to all internal research staff, and can be accessed across the University network or through VPN outside of the university, for storing public and internal (non-confidential) data. In the next phase, due in June 2023, we are aiming to launch web front-end access, which will open RFS up to both internal research staff and their external collaborators and pave the way for the storage of confidential data.

Education IT

Enhancing Canvas and inclusive teaching 

As part of the University’s Digital Transformation programme, the Canvas Enhancements & Inclusive Teaching Enhancements 2 project is making changes to 'get the basics right' in the Canvas Virtual Learning Environment, to maintain engagement of current users and meet the evolving needs of departments, academics, and students. Early enhancements have been mostly behind the scenes, enabling Canvas support colleagues to prioritise the user experience moving forward, but improvements to the Oxford term dates calendar benefit all users.

The project has also made it possible for the Centre for Teaching and Learning (CTL) to introduce a Digital Education Assistant for each academic division, to support departments in optimising Canvas and their other digital education technologies for inclusive teaching and learning.

Assessment Programme

The Assessment Programme continues apace this term with several projects in the delivery phase and others which are starting up.

The Assessment End to End Process review continues to progress, taking forward the priorities from the process mapping work done last year. Findings from the initial workshops have been presented to key interested parties for further consideration. From Michaelmas term, there will be a second phase to review processes that take place after students take an assessment.

We are reviewing and updating the programme pipeline based on the outcomes of the first phase of the end-to-end assessment review. There will be movement on the existing pipeline and new things added in, based on the priorities as highlighted in the workshops.

Marks Management, Coursework Extensions and Assessment Entry Improvements are working with the impacted departments to understand the business requirements, the benefits to be delivered, and the timelines for delivering their respective changes

In-person typed exams

There has been lots of progress on the in-person typed exams project in advance of the majority of exams taking place during Trinity Term. Exams using the new Chromebooks are now under way - we have completed a number of successful sittings of up to 110 students. By the end of the exam season, just over 200 students will sit in a single session, with back-to-back morning and afternoon sessions taking place.

The first orientation sessions and mock exams have also been held to provide students with the opportunity to practise using the Chromebooks that will be used for their exams. There are more sessions planned early this term, as well as similar sessions for the college staff who will support college sittings, and invigilators. A student video has been shared on social media to help students prepare for in-person exams, whether typed or not.

The Student Assessment Survey this year will focus on obtaining feedback from students who have sat an exam in this format to inform future plans for in-person, computer-based exams.

GLAM (Gardens, Libraries and Museums)

The Bodleian Preservation Microservices and Reporting project has completed, enabling the service to formally go live. The platform provides independent proactive monitoring of files, protecting against loss, corruption and viruses of over 300TB of storage composed of 60 million files. It has excellent dashboard and reporting capabilities, which has generated much interest and recognition of achievement from similar national institutions.

The GLAM/Sheldonian Commercial Systems Payment Card Industry Compliance project has successfully completed its tasks across the institutions to ensure the continuity of their commercial activities.

The GLAM Museums Collections Management System (CMS) and Digital Asset Management Systems (DAMS) are now live and currently in early life support. These systems are being utilised by the museums to manage data associated with over 5 million collection objects, and as a vital platform, alongside Online Collections, to enable GLAM to bring digital transformation to the forefront of their collections management, search and surfacing.

The Collections Online project is moving ahead as planned, and the redeveloped collections online sites are due to go live for the Ashmolean and Pitt Rivers Museums this summer. Once the sites are live, then all the museums will have redeveloped Collection Online platforms which integrate with their CMS/DAMS.