We are here to support the University in delivering world class teaching and a key part of this is our software consultancy. This process makes sure that our academic staff and students have the right software on the machines in the general teaching areas (GTAs) and public access computers across the Claverton campus and in the Virgil Building , and also for use through the remote Windows service (UniDesk) and our remote linux service (linux.bath).
One part of my role as an IT Service Manager is to review changes to ensure they are straightforward and efficient, and to address any delays or confusion within a process. Software consultancy is a complex process, so I wanted to give some insight to the changes we have made and the factors that we think about when deploying teaching software in the right areas and in good time for the new academic year. This is very much a combined effort, involving colleagues from Software Delivery, Supporters, Software Licensing and other teams.
We have completed our process review and are ready to go with the new one, so here are a few points that I would particularly like to draw to your attention.
A new form to complete
One area we noted last time was that we struggled to get the correct information at the start of a request, as we weren’t clear about what we wanted. We have created a new form to address this, which we hope will make it easier to understand what we need to know at the start of the process. We know that this might seem a bit unwieldy to begin with, which is why we will be working with you to ensure that we have the correct information collected. There is only one completely new question on this form, relating to testing procedures which I’ll explain in a bit more detail later – everything else has been asked before, but not in such a structured way.
For the first time, we’re also hoping to take a more holistic approach to all of the GTA, public access and departmental PC lab areas, as we would like to use this single form and process to capture requests for installations in all of these different areas. This should allow for a greater consistency and efficiency.
Yes, we are planning to move the whole of the GTA/public access PC estate over to Windows 10 this summer, and as many of the Departmental PC lab areas as possible as well. As such we have started from a clean slate as far as the PCs are concerned, with only Microsoft Office 2016 being included by default. Please let us know of everything that you will need to support your teaching, and the activities of your students, beyond this.
Moving to Windows 10 brings other things for us to think about, and it’s worth mentioning that the experience that you will get on a PC in the GTA/public access estate won’t be identical to the experience on office PCs. This means that some of the functionality you may see elsewhere (such as being able to install software yourself through the Software Center) won’t be available here. The Windows update experience will also be different, as any updates requiring a reboot will take place outside of timetabled hours, and not impact on teaching activities.
We have certain criteria that software being requested has to pass in order to be accepted into the image for the next year. These are a series of questions that we need to answer to be able to process the request and provide the software:
- Has sufficient information been provided, to allow us to make this software available?
- Is the software licensed, or is funding in place to purchase, if required?
- Will the software work with the hardware specification that we have?
- Does the software provide the same functionality as another package being requested? (We aim not to have too much redundancy in the image, to save space and time)
- Is it technically possible to provide this software? i.e. Does it work on Windows 10, will it work in a shared environment, and similar considerations.
- Does the software work when installed in our environment?
- Can we deploy, and remove, the software in an automated manner?
Some of these questions we can only answer when we start testing.
Although we can see if a piece of software has installed, very often we don’t know how to test if it actually works. We have decided to improve that this year, and so the only really new field on our form relates to testing.
We would value any testing procedures that you can supply for the software that you are requesting, so that we can be reasonably certain that it is working before we start to deploy it. For some packages this could be quite simple, but for others we recognise that it’s more difficult. If you provide instructions for students showing how to use the package then we are happy to receive those to work through. We aim to be testing the software during August, so if you or someone else that knows the software can help us with that, please let us know on the form.
Although I can’t guarantee that it will be possible, I am hoping that we will be able to provide an area to test the new image as it is being created. If this does prove possible, we will be in touch to let you know where and when this will happen. This would also give a good opportunity to get some “hands on” experience with Windows 10, if you are not familiar with this.
In many cases this isn’t an issue, but to be certain we have to check the licence condition of every piece of software being requested. For requests that would require the purchase of licences we need to know that funding is in place to enable these to be purchased and maintained throughout the period of the deployment. Obviously we would like to have funding to provide everything, but we don’t, so please keep this in mind when placing your requests.
Where to find the form to request your software
We have sent out an email to staff who may need to request software with a link to the new form. You can link from the email or use the go.bath.ac.uk/software-consultation address to get to the form.