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Preview: News from Computing Services

IT Services News


Botanic Garden & Harcourt Arboretum website launches on the Oxford Mosaic platform


The new Botanic Garden & Harcourt Arboretum website,, has launched on the Oxford Mosaic web platform. The engaging new site provides information on how to explore the gardens, including guides to what’s in season, and events for all the family. It also provides a door for the scientific community to access the range of unique collections centring on the themes: Taxonomy and Evolution, Heritage and Landscape, Conservation and Biodiversity, and Plants and People.

Mosaic is a web publishing solution that provides an easy-to-use interface for creating attractive, responsive websites and is centrally maintained and fully supported. The Botanic Garden’s brief required high quality design and functionality to showcase the visual aspect of the gardens and engage the public in its calendar of events.

Georgina Brooke, Project Lead and Web Content Manager at the Botanic Garden commented on her experience:

“The new Botanic Garden site is great case study for the benefits of Mosaic. The team at the Gardens needed to very quickly move platforms, and we were able to migrate to Mosaic quickly and easily – not something that would have been possible using a new technology and external provider. The Gardens team have been very happy with the new site and are enjoying lots of school visits bookings through it. The Garden and Arboretum have a new Digital Content Editor starting next week, who is a digital marketing and Adobe suite whizz, so this is only the beginning I’m sure of what the gardens can achieve with Mosaic.”

The website is part of the Gardens, Libraries & Museums (GLAM) division that comprise the four University museums, the Bodleian Libraries and the Botanic Garden & Harcourt Arboretum.  The Ashmolean Museum became the first department within GLAM to create a website on the Mosaic platform, launching a brand new Ashmolean Museum website,, on 27 September.

The Botanic Garden was an early adopter of Mosaic and built their last site on the pilot platform which was built to prove the demand for a larger service.  As the pilot platform is currently scheduled for decommissioning, getting the website onto the main service platform was a priority for both the GLAM and Mosaic teams. The build went smoothly and the team saw the benefits of the previous Ashmolean project bear fruit as only minor changes had to be applied in order to optimise the design of the site. The project has been a great testament to the reusability of a central platform, allowing high quality websites to be created at a low cost.

Successful completion of annual PC replacement programme


Lots of the work of IT Services goes unseen by our customers and this is definitely the case for our annual PC replacement programme within UAS and the Bodleian Libraries. Hundreds of new PCs are provided to users of our managed desktop service within a very short timescale.

Our Desktop Services team begin planning this annual exercise in autumn each year so that new machines are ready for delivery to staff with the minimum of fuss and disruption the following February. New machines are delivered to the Desktop Services team for configuration and installation of software, before a planned programme of replacements over a 4 week period. Working closely with desktop users, the team ensure that staff are forewarned with an expected delivery date. This year a total of 487 machines were replaced in February with everything running to plan.

Thanks to all staff involved for ensuring that users could continue to work with minimal disruption.


Photo by bruce mars from Pexels

Livestreaming to reach a global audience


One of the many services on offer from our Educational Media Services (EMS) team is livestreaming (also known as webcasting).

This service is perfect for events designed to reach the widest possible global audience and is used with great success by the University’s Widening Access and Participation team as part of their Oxplore initiative. Oxplore has been built and created by the University of Oxford for young people as part of its commitment to reach the best students from every kind of background.

Oxplore has used the EMS livestreaming service to broadcast live from Oxford to schools in the UK to help engage them in super-curricular learning and discussion with Oxford specialists. By using the flexible studio space in our Banbury Road offices, Oxplore is able to benefit from the expertise of our in-house team providing a cost-efficient service to a potentially very large audience.

As Dr Alex Pryce, Head of Student Recruitment explains:

By relying on the EMS support, we can rely on steady connection and a technical solution that works in the majority of schools regardless of their in-house set up. Our team are free to respond to people watching on social media and field their questions to the panel in real time.”

The broadcast quality is high, with two cameras to ensure an engaging presentation, and Alex reports that the events have been well received so far. Another livestream is planned for 15 May entitled ‘Could we live on another planet?’ and more will be scheduled in the future to build the Oxplore audience. This and other livestreaming recordings can be found via

The EMS livestreaming service also broadcasts the University degree ceremonies to friends and relatives unable to attend and provides a live professionally filmed webcast of events or conferences at all the major venues across the University. The team will look after all the technical set-up and testing and will bring all the lights, cameras and microphones needed for a high-quality multi-camera broadcast for a global public audience. If you wish to find out more about the livestreaming service, please contact the team via

Teams collaborate to deliver X5 upgrade despite the ‘Beast from the East’


A major upgrade of the University’s research costing and pricing tool, X5, was completed successfully in challenging conditions thanks to the unique working relationship between Research Services and IT Services.

Whilst we were all battling the ‘Beast from the East’, the teams involved were planning how this move to a newer version delivering new functionality and bug fixes could go ahead. With excellent contingency planning the internal upgrade work planned for 1 and 2 March was managed by all staff working remotely because of the snow. Using the collaborative tools available to them, such as Skype and conference calls, the teams successfully delivered the upgrade on 2 March.

Staff were working late into the night to keep the upgrade on track, and the bad weather presented new challenges which had to be overcome. Our own Business Systems Support and Microsoft Platforms teams worked hand-in-hand with Research Services and the supplier, Unit 4, to manage the upgrade work within a tight timeframe. 

Completing upgrades on-site is clearly preferable due to faster connection speeds and co-location of the teams, but this exercise has proven that major upgrade work can be completed successfully despite the best efforts of the British weather.

IT Skills Toolkit: learning by doing


When staff from Research Services approached the IT Learning Centre for ways of developing their team’s IT skills, they said they needed an engaging, focussed event that would appeal to staff across a range of IT experience. The “IT Skills Toolkit” workshop turned out to suit the group rather well. This presented a range of tasks set up in a lively, carousel format, where people moved around between tables, visiting each task in turn.

“We could have stood up and lectured at them for an hour”, said Pamela Stanworth, one of the IT Teachers who organised the event, “but we know from experience that it’s hard for people to focus and take in detail that way”.

Trying out a range of neatly designed, hands-on tasks proved to be a more engaging way for staff to learn. Experienced IT Teachers were on hand to guide people and discuss how these skills could apply in their everyday work.

IT Teachers worked with the group’s leaders to select topics that would be interesting and useful. A wide range of topics can be covered in this format (there may be an extra charge for creating new topic tasks).  This group chose topics including:

  • Neat ways to analyse your data
  • Managing large structured documents
  • Time‑saving tools
  • Tips for good practice with word-processing
  • Variety of IT learning opportunities

Staff who took part told us:

“The layout was excellent, not too long per exercise, taxing enough for those who know Office well”

“Top-tips were well pitched and great – I won’t make the same mistakes I’ve perhaps been making in the past”

“IT Skills Toolkit” workshops can be arranged for other groups (staff or course groups) around the University. This can offer a great contribution to staff development or help a team make progress in effectively working together. There is a charge for closed courses – read more here. Contact us via email to explore how this kind of event could help your group.

DARS v4 upgrade delivers step change in user engagement


The University of Oxford’s Development and Alumni Relations System (DARS) was upgraded successfully on Friday 16 February. This delivered some important operational efficiencies and enhancements; it also enables the University to continue to receive donations via credit card and benefit from continued technical support from software vendor, Blackbaud.

In many respects, the upgrade involved all of the project phases you might expect. However, the DARS v4 project team experimented with some fun ways to engage the user-community and adopt a user-centric approach to project planning. This included the decision to hold a festival of testing – Test Fest! The outcome of these lively testing events (complete with ‘Test Fest’ t-shirts!) provided important insight about the level and type of training and support the wider user-community needed to make a successful transition to DARS v4. Some great suggestions were surfaced from the DARS Super Users about the best way to support the upgrade; this included the idea of offering every DARS user the opportunity to attend a 30-minute DARS v4 Preview session. The project team think that these sessions significantly alleviated any anxieties users might have had about the upgrade. This created a positive context for the upgrade and enabled us to predict and plan for what users would respond well to and put plans in place for areas that might require additional support.

Other outreach activities included working side-by-side with DARS Super Users; the team worked closely with this group to develop a Super User Pack, with resources and tools to support their teams. The DARS v4 upgrade coincided with Valentine’s Day; the team created a fun campaign email -- ‘There’s a lot to love about DARS v4’ -- to focus users’ attention on the benefits gained, rather than time lost on the system.

Following the upgrade on 16 February, so far there have been no major issues reported. By the end of the first week after go live, helpdesk incidents had fallen below January averages. Post go-live drop-in session attendance has been low, indicating that users have made a good transition with minimal need for support. The response from the user-community has been extremely positive and the team is delighted that the approach taken to prepare users for v4 delivered a positive experience and a smooth upgrade.

To deliver a successful upgrade feels good; but the project team wanted to do more than this. Developing a user-centric approach has established some strong foundations that will serve future projects and drive increased DARS community engagement.

OxTALENT competition 2018

2018-03-05T00:00:00 to 2018-04-27T00:00:00

Have you been impressed by a member of staff or a student who has used technology in an exciting way? Have you created a great app, or designed an eye-catching conference poster or data visualisation?

IT Services has launched the University’s annual OxTALENT competition to celebrate and reward the innovative use of digital technologies to enhance teaching, learning, research, and outreach. The awards will be presented at a red carpet evening attended by Professor Martin Williams, Pro-VC (Education). The competition is open to all students and staff, and awards can be given either to individuals or to groups. You can submit an entry yourself or nominate a colleague who has impressed you with their use of technology. For more information, including a list of competition categories and guidelines on how to enter, please visit the Digital Education at Oxford website:

If you spot any individual or team whom you think we should consider for an award, let us know at

Keep up to date on Twitter by following the hashtag #oxtalent2018.

OxTALENT closing date: Friday 27 April.

Education IT Programme Update - Hilary term issue


The Hilary term issue of the Education IT Programme Update is now available, featuring updates for all Academic IT and Student Systems projects within the remit of the programme, including:

  • Virtual Learning Environment (VLE) Review - announcing Canvas@Oxford
  • WebLearn Admin Use Reduction – identifying appropriate alternative technologies
  • Graduate Supervision Reporting (replacing GSS) – pilot over the summer
  • Tutorial Management System – replacing OxCORT
  • Student Progression - digitising paper processes (includes GSO forms)
  • Research Thesis Digital Submission – now available for all research degree students​

The latest issue can be found on the Education IT Programme Update​ webpage. To subscribe, send an email to

VLE Review: announcing Canvas@Oxford


Subject to contractual and commercial approval, Canvas has been chosen as the new virtual learning environment (VLE) for the University of Oxford. The decision to use Canvas, provided by Instructure, is the result of a process that began with the 2016 Digital Education Strategy implementation consultation, which identified the need for a more intuitive and user-friendly VLE. Following a rigorous selection process, Canvas was identified as the solution which would provide the best quality of user experience to support teaching and learning at Oxford.  


Next steps for Canvas and the availability of WebLearn

In the coming weeks and months the Canvas@Oxford team will be identifying and working with early adopters who will migrate their content and launch their new look courses in Canvas in the 2018-2019 academic year. This will be followed by rollout to the wider University in 2019-2020. There are also plans to run a number of roadshows to demonstrate Canvas in Trinity term 2018.

WebLearn will remain available for now, including for purposes other than teaching and learning, until alternative solutions are identified, support is in place and prior notice has been given. Details are on the What will happen to WebLearn? web page.

If you have any questions or queries please contact

University IT Innovation Challenge Staff 2018 now open

2018-02-26T00:00:00 to 2018-03-25T00:00:00

The IT Innovation Challenges 2018 staff round is now open for submission of ideas. This call is open to all Oxford University staff* who have ideas for digital projects. Successful ideas will receive funding of up to £50,000.

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.

Ideas can be submitted between 26 February-25 March 2018 at 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 explore the FAQ or contact

* Please note: IT Innovation Challenges are open to any member of staff within the University. Due to financial constraints we cannot fund college-only applications but we would encourage college staff to submit their ideas and to seek collaboration with University departments.

Teamwork - making IT work


As the first point of contact for IT Services, the Service Desk is a lively place to work and no two days are the same. With combined experience of over 40 years, the team members are able to use their varied knowledge to resolve many queries on first contact. They help students, academic staff and administrative staff within Oxford, the UK and overseas, and can direct queries to more specialist teams within the department as required.

In this term's Blueprint magazine, you can read more about our Service Desk team and the developments in providing first-line customer support; including a new tool for remote support and a self-service portal allowing customers to better access commonly requested services.

As Sydney Hicks, one of our Service Desk Analysts says 'Our customers contact us because they have a request, question and/or problem. Whatever their reason, and whether it's simple or complex, the bit I enjoy most is sending them away happy'.

Contact the team 24/7 by telephone on (01865 6)12345. You can also email, or use our self-service portal

If you are interested in joining the team, please see our current vacancies.


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.


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.

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.