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Preview: News from Computing Services

IT Services News


Research Skills Toolkit benefits 270 students


For postgraduate students embarking on the world of academic research, it can be daunting to sort through all the tools and apps and study helps out there.

For a week in January, the IT Learning Centre welcomed over 270 research students to a special event that aims to help with exactly that: the “Research Skills Toolkit”.

Each year, working together with colleagues from the Bodleian Libraries, we run a series of lively short workshops where research students can try out a range of tools and apps. Each workshop offers a carousel of hands-on tasks, so researchers get a taste of what’s available, and can think about what will work for them. Experienced librarians and IT Teachers are on hand to discuss how each tool could apply to the individual’s research, and to point out further learning resources.

“Students from all the Divisions attended the special event”, said Pamela Stanworth, one of the event organisers, “so we know this is an area where Oxford students welcome help and input”.

Participants told us that they like the interactive, carousel format and the chance to try tools out for themselves, each going at their own speed:

“extremely well executed and very dynamic”

“I liked how interactive it was and the fact there were people there to help you”

Topics included:

  • What’s your h-index?
  • Free powerful software for audio and image editing
  • Neat ways to analyse your research data
  • Tips for managing your thesis and bibliographies 
  • Understand journal impact factors and journal citation reports

The workshops are over for this year – but there are lots of resources available online, all year round. You can still explore the Research Skills Toolkit website at . You can look at the tasks that our students tried out, and read about scores of other tools and apps that support university research.


Love Lynda! competition


Over 8000 people at the University have signed up to Lynda.* As Valentine's Day is just around the corner, we want you to tell us why you love Lynda!

Join in with one or more of our four activities:

  • Write to Lynda: Do you use it offline, has it enabled you to learn new skills? Which is your favourite Lynda course, and why? Email Lynda
  • Go out with Lynda: Come to a Learn it with Lynda session. Email Lynda once you have booked a session.
  • Get to know Lynda: Complete a Lynda course (if you don’t know where to start, check our online catalogue). Email Lynda once you’ve completed a course.
  • Share your love of Lynda: Email Lynda if you have posted or shared why you love Lynda via social media.

For each activity you take part in, you will be entered into a prize draw for a £25 Love to Shop voucher. Competition closes midnight 21 February 2018.

*Lynda is a vast library of online, video-based courses covering a wide range of software and IT related topics (as well as soft skills and business skills) for beginners through to experts. The library is available to use for free by all University members who have Single Sign On credentials.

Oxford Mosaic web platform announces new widgets


An increasing number of colleagues around the University are benefitting from recent developments on the Oxford Mosaic web platform. Since January 2017, 101 new sites have been set up with 269 new content editors joining; in the last month alone there have been 855,518 page views on Mosaic platform sites. Continual development of the platform is essential to ensure content editors have the tools they require to build engaging sites for their users.

Last September, the new Ashmolean Museum website was rebuilt on Mosaic by Museum staff using a suite of new widgets to produce highly engaging page designs - which went down a storm with site visitors! The new widgets, built by the Mosaic development team to designs developed with input from 2 web design agencies, introduce a range of new designs for laying out grids and listings and the items within them, including Grid, List, Banner, Carousel, Slideshow advanced and Image Gallery advanced widgets.

All new sites provisioned since 1 October 2017 have already been using the new widgets, and they can also be viewed in action on the updated Mosaic Demo website. You can read more information about the new widgets and the phased removal of the old ones, as well as view a listing widget guide diagram, on our website.

In the next few months we are also adding further new widgets for adding Vacancy Listings (integrating with the University’s Jobs feed), Custom CSS stylesheets and Custom JavaScript to your site. Keep an eye on the Release Notes for when they become available.

Oxford's IT Innovation Challenges student round is open


The IT Innovation Challenges 2018 student round is now open! This call is open to all Oxford University students who have ideas for digital projects. Successful ideas will receive funding of up to £15,000.

The theme for this year is The Intelligent Campus.

Artificial intelligence, the internet of things, and virtual/augmented reality are technologies that have arrived and have the potential to tackle some of Higher Education’s big challenges. This year’s IT Innovation challenge invites you to come with ideas for projects that improve the staff/student experience at Oxford through exploring these emerging technologies – the use of smart campus technology, AI to speed up administrative processes, AR to enhance our our public spaces, VR to create immersive learning experiences.

As always, we also welcome other ideas for projects that bring benefit to the University, its staff and/or students through digital means.

If you feel inspired, ideas can be submitted between 29 January-15 February 2018 on the Oxford Ideas site. Any University member can see, comment on and vote for submitted ideas.

For questions about the scheme, the process of applying or anything else, please visit the IT Innovation Challenges blog or contact A similar challenge for staff members will launch at the end of February.

Oxford Mosaic training sessions


Hands-on demo

If you or anyone you know is interested in building a website using Mosaic, we highly recommend coming to our hands-on demo. The next session is this week on Thursday 25 January.

This provides an introduction to Oxford Mosaic, an interactive demonstration of how anyone can use it to build high quality websites, and an opportunity to meet the Mosaic team and ask questions.

Drop-in workshop

If you’re already a Mosaic user and have questions about the setup or content editing of your site which you’d like to discuss in person, we’d like to see you in one of our drop-in workshops. The next one is this week on Thursday 25 January.

The workshops are held in our training rooms with a suite of PCs which you can login to and work on your Mosaic site while speaking with a member of the Mosaic team.

Create an online presence with Mosaic (ITLC course)

The IT Learning Centre also runs a course for new Mosaic users. The ‘Create an online presence with Mosaic’ course aims to guide users in thinking about how to use Mosaic effectively to build a website to suit your particular use.

Site Owners creating a new site on Mosaic may attend the course once free-of-charge. Bookings for other site administrators or content editors is subject to a small fee. The next running of this course is on Thursday 8 February.

Can’t make these dates?

Training courses run regularly, so keep an eye on our Training page for the latest upcoming courses and to register your interest for future courses.

Newsletter from IT Services


The Hilary edition of News from IT Services has been published. The purpose of the newsletter is to keep you informed of the projects and services within IT Services, to provide examples of how we support the work of the University and to highlight forthcoming events. In this edition, we look at the many and varied lunchtime talks offered by the IT Learning Centre, whether you are looking for practical tips or information on the latest technologies. We also describe improvements to searching the University web pages and updates on TONE, Chorus, the VLE Review and Nexus365.

You can subscribe to receive future editions by sending an email to with the subject line 'subscribe'. To stop receiving the newsletter you can unsubscribe by emailing with the subject line 'unsubscribe'. If you have any feedback, comments or suggestions, the Communications and Web Office would very much like to hear from you; please contact

Plagiarism awareness courses for Hilary term 2018


IT Services offers a variety of taught courses to support the use of the plagiarism awareness software Turnitin. There is also one course for students, to raise awareness about plagiarism and how to avoid it.

All sessions are free of charge but places are limited and booking is required. Click on the links provided to book a place, or for further information.

Plagiarism awareness courses (Turnitin):

Plagiarism: WebLearn and Turnitin

Thurs 8 Feb

12:30 – 13:30

Week 4

Plagiarism: Interpreting Originality Reports using Turnitin

Thurs 15 Feb

12:30 – 13:30

Week 5

Plagiarism: Awareness and avoidance (for students)

Thurs 22 Feb

12:30 – 13:30

Week 6

Staff User Group meeting:

Turnitin User Group

Fri 23 March

14:00 – 16:00 + refreshments

Week 10


WebLearn courses for Hilary term 2018


IT Services offers a variety of taught courses to support the use of WebLearn. All courses are free of charge and course books for the formal courses (3-hour sessions) can be downloaded for self-study.

Places at the face-to-face sessions are limited and booking is required. Click on the links provided to book a place, or for further information.

WebLearn courses (3 hours each):

WebLearn: Fundamentals (once per month)

Fri 26 Jan

09:15 – 12:15

Week 2


Wed 7 Feb

14:00 – 17:00

Week 4


Wed 28 Feb

09:15 – 12:15

Week 7

WebLearn: Design and content

Wed 14 Feb

14:00 – 17:00

Week 5

Byte-sized lunch time sessions:

These focus on particular tools with plenty of time for questions and discussion

WebLearn Bytes: Site Management and Resources

Fri 26 Jan

12:30 – 13:30

Week 2

WebLearn Bytes: Assignments tool

Fri 9 Feb

12:30 – 13:30

Week 4

WebLearn Bytes: Lessons tool

Fri 23 Feb

12:30 – 13:30

Week 6

WebLearn Bytes: Surveys

Fri 2 Mar

12:30 – 13:30

Week 7

Staff User Group meeting:

WebLearn User Group

Wed 21 Mar

14:00 – 16:00 + refreshments

Week 10


VBA: Kick-off


The VBA (Visual Basic for Applications) programming language is available in all the major Microsoft Office applications and can be used to write programs to carry out repetitive tasks or complex operations. This workshop will introduce you to a real VBA program and under guidance from your teacher, you will explore how a typical VBA program works without getting into the detail of the language syntax.

The version of VBA used will be VBA for Excel, however the basics are the same for all versions of VBA. Once you have seen how a program works, you will be encouraged to start an online course that will give you a more formal introduction to the language. The online course can be continued after the workshop, and for the following three weeks you will have access to the workshop leader to ask questions about the course or to get clarification about the concepts. 


  • Recognise the structure of a VBA program
  • Identify components such as variables and constants, selection and repetition structures, functions and objects
  • Be able to make simple changes to a VBA program
  • Have engaged with an online course to learn the basics of programming in VBA.

Improvements to the University web search (Funnelback) service


The University web search service utilises Funnelback search technology to facilitate improved site searching across the Oxford domain. The service is maintained and managed by IT Services and is the preferred method for providing University searching and internal searching.

In recent months the Web and Emerging Technologies team has been making improvements to the University web search service using Funnelback. Result accuracy for web searches across Oxford sites has increased, as has the number of tools available to site owners. Specific enhancements include:

Click tracking enabled. Funnelback can track which results are clicked and this data can be used to provide improved result rankings. This will be used to improve the quality of search data on Oxford sites.

Curator rules available. Site owners can define a trigger and resulting action to customise search results on a site; for example, for a specific search result you can specify that a certain page or document should be promoted based upon a user's query (also known as 'best bets'). Site owners can also define synonyms for common search terms to ensure users are presented with the best results.

Improvements to indexing schedule. It now takes less time for Funnelback to crawl sites meaning that pages get indexed more quickly, results are more up to date and the process is much more efficient.

If you are a site owner interested in utilising these enhancements, please email and the Web and Emerging Technologies team will provide guidance on setting up a dashboard. If you have any general enquiries about Funnelback, please refer to the information on the Help site or email the team

Sign up for an IT course in Hilary term


The schedule of IT classroom-based courses and workshops for Hilary term (Jan-March) is live and waiting for you to book! 

A full list of courses can be found on the IT Learning Centre web pages or login to our course booking system (using your Oxford Single Sign On) and see what's available. Tips on searching for a course can be found here

Online courses are available instantly through the University’s subscription to – see the Lynda website for details.

For more information or advice on which courses would be beneficial to you, email

Happy New Year!

IT support arrangements for Christmas 2017


IT Services will close for Christmas on Friday 22nd December at 4pm. We will reopen on Tuesday 2nd January 2018 at 8:30am. If you need help and support for IT over the festive period our out-of-hours phone support line will be operational. This can be reached using our normal help line number of 01865 (6)12345.

IT Services and partnering service units will operate support services over the Christmas 2017 period. Please view our closure information for details. 

Learning paths from


There are over 6,000 courses available in - a high quality online library of video-based courses that can be watched anytime, anywhere. As a member of the University, you have free access to these courses through your Single Sign-On (SSO) account at One of the few 'criticisms' about is that there are so many courses it is hard to know where to start! To help with this, has introduced learning paths - collections of courses that lead you through gaining the skills you need. For example, there is a learning path called 'I want to be a web designer'. In addition, the IT Learning Centre has selected around fifty courses that we think are particularly useful to the University. You can see this collection at and look for courses which have a format of 'online'.

Free Research Skills Toolkit workshops


Are you using the smartest tools and strategies to get your research organised?

Sharpen up your research skills in the new year, with a free Research Skills Toolkit workshop. The teams from IT Services and the Bodleian Libraries bring you a hands-on encounter with a range of tools and techniques for your study and research.

We’re planning separate workshops, to focus on the work of each Division - choose one of the 2-hour sessions in January and book your place now!

Medical Sciences

15 January

Book your place


17 January

Book your place

Social Sciences

16 January

Book your place


18 January

Book your place


16 January

Book your place


18 January

Book your place


15 January

Book your place


17 January

Book your place


19 January

Book your place

Read more at the “workshops” page of the Research Skills Toolkit website or follow us on @OxResearchSkill.

How to contact the central IT Service Desk


The staff on our central IT Service Desk are here to provide help on a wide range of IT issues and to direct your requests to the appropriate team within the department. They are on hand to answer a huge range of queries – from lost passwords and broken laptops, to business system enquiries and issues of information security. In addition to local IT Support Staff, our central team supports students, academics, and administrative staff, whether they are working in Oxford, at home or abroad.

There are a number of ways to contact the team and get help from IT Services:

  • Telephone – 01865 612345 (open 24/7), the best way to contact the team
  • Self Service – an online portal available via the ‘View requests’ link on the IT Services website and Help site. Via the Self Service Catalogue you can make a service request online from anywhere at any time. The online forms are designed to capture all the essential information required by our support and service teams, making the process more efficient.

Over the coming year we plan to expand the range and scope of self-service requests available to our customers through the Self Service Catalogue. Next time you need to make an IT service request, give the Service Desk a call and one of our friendly team will guide you through the process.


Image credit: John Cairns Photography

New content and homepage on the IT help site


The IT help site ( has been refreshed and updated to improve access to essential information. After consultation with students and staff, the content has been re-structured to aid discovery and direct you to the information you require.

What has changed?

•        The most popular requests and login links are available directly from the homepage, such as how to access wifi, login to Nexus email and manage passwords.  

•        The homepage also features 12 topics areas for browsing the site.  Each one leads to a page providing content links, related help areas and resources. 

•        Once within a topic, clear navigation is provided directing you to the information you need.

We encourage you to visit the new-look site and provide us with some feedback. Send your comments to



Image credit: iStock - ajt

Further restrictions on executable email attachments


On Tuesday 28 November, IT Services will introduce further restrictions on executable email attachments as part of measures to reduce the risks of email-borne malware. 

These will be in addition to the restrictions introduced in September, and follow further analysis and evaluation within the University's Information Security Team. 

The restrictions will cover the file extensions listed below, and will apply to attachments to all messages passing through Oxmail, whether entering, leaving or internal to the University. 

If any attachment has a name ending in one of these extensions, the message will be rejected, with a brief summary of the reason for rejection and a link to the IT Services Help website for further information.

The vast majority of messages with such attachments are malicious in nature, but a handful of people may require assistance in finding alternative methods for sharing their files, for example using a passworded .zip file, or the OxFile service. We also note that .lnk shortcut files may occasionally be emailed in error, rather than the target of the shortcut.

The new restrictions will apply to the following file extensions:

  • .bat - DOS batch file
  • .cmd - Windows NT batch file
  • .cpl - Windows Control Panel addon
  • .lnk - Windows Command shortcut
  • .msc - Microsoft Management Console snap-in
  • .msh1 - Monad (old PowerShell)
  • .msh1xml - Monad (old PowerShell)
  • .msh2 - Monad (old PowerShell)
  • .msh2xml - Monad (old PowerShell)
  • .msh - Monad (old PowerShell)
  • .mshxml - Monad (old PowerShell)
  • .pif - DOS Shortcut
  • .ps1 - PowerShell
  • .ps1xml - PowerShell
  • .ps2 - PowerShell
  • .ps2xml - PowerShell
  • .psc1 - PowerShell
  • .psc2 - PowerShell
  • .reg - RegEdit file
  • .scf - Windows Explorer command file
  • .swf - Shockwave Flash 
  • .vb - Visual Basic script
  • .vba - Visual Basic module
  • .vbe - Visual Basic script (encrypted)
  • .vbs - Visual Basic script
  • .ws - Windows Script file
  • .wsc - Windows Script Component
  • .wsf - Windows Script file
  • .wsh - Windows Scripting Host

For reference the following file extensions are already blocked:

  • .com - DOS Executable
  • .exe - Windows Executable
  • .gadget - Windows Vista Gadget
  • .jar - Java Archive
  • - JavaScript
  • .jse - JavaScript encrypted
  • .msi - MS Installer
  • .msp - MS Installer Patch
  • .scr - Screensaver

These blocks cover filetypes we consider to pose significant risk but which are least likely to cause problems for legitimate email traffic. Many other filetypes can of course contain malware, and some may come in the form of archives such as .zip files.

University's Information Security Team will continue to investigate further email security measures with a view to implementation over the coming months.

Michaelmas term issue of the Education IT Programme Update now available


The Michaelmas term 2017 issue of the Education IT Programme Update is now available. This issue features updates about all Student Systems and Academic IT projects within the remit of the programme, including:

  • Virtual Learning Environment (VLE) Review – selecting a supplier and next steps
  • Graduate Supervision Reporting - replacing GSS
  • Tutorial Management System - replacing OxCORT
  • Research Thesis Digital Submission – rollout in 2018
  • Student Progression – moving forms online (including GSO forms)

To subscribe to future issues of the Education IT Programme Update, send an email to

New Chief Information Officer appointment


Professor Anne Trefethen, Pro-Vice-Chancellor (Academic Resources and Information Systems), has announced the appointment of a new Chief Information Officer for the University; Dr Sean Duffy will begin work on 5 February 2018.

Sean is currently Director of IT Services at the University of Birmingham, where he has led the development of IT since 2009. In this role Sean has had overall responsibility for the use of IT in support of academic research and teaching as well as business systems.

Previously, Sean has held a number of IT posts in both academia and manufacturing industry. He was responsible for revamping corporate systems and global infrastructure in one of ICI's global businesses. At Birmingham, he has been a key contributor to the implementation of a new virtual learning environment, and projects to transform HR, finance and payroll systems.

At the same time as welcoming the new CIO, Professor Trefethen thanked Dr Stuart Lee – who took on the role of interim CIO at the beginning of October – as well as the IT Senior Management Team who have supported him. Stuart will continue as the interim CIO until Sean arrives.



Secure your data with backup


Backing up your data is essential for maintaining data security. IT Services offer the centrally funded HFS backup service providing data backup and long-term archiving services to Oxford University staff, senior members and postgraduates. If you are unsure if your data is backed up please speak to your local IT support staff and refer to the introductory information on our Help site. There is also a short video available which provides a helpful introduction to the service.

Various courses are available to help you manage your data safely and securely using the HFS backup service, from the basics of installing and running the software to more advance training for those managing backups for a numbers of users or servers. Find out more on our Help site.

If you have any queries, please contact our Service Desk on Tel. (01865 6)12345, email