Computing Services

The department behind IT services at the University of Bath

Topic: IT Literacy

Skype for Business whiteboard, poll or Q and A page

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📥  IT Literacy

Hi again,

Since writing my last blog on using Skype for Business, and receiving a question on the subject on one of my training sessions, I’ve had a play with a few additional Skype for Business features that I’d like to share with you. These features are available if you’re in a video call, audio call or Instant Message conversation.

The three items are:

  1. Whiteboard
  2. Poll
  3. Q&A page

These items are all accessible through the Present button () – just click on the button and click on More to see the three options. Note: the Present button is greyed out/unavailable if you’re conversing with someone who’s not using Skype for Business.

If you select Whiteboard the whiteboard will appear on your screen and those of everyone who is included in the conversation:

Anyone can place items onto the whiteboard. By default, you can type text onto the whiteboard – just click where you want to place it and type (everyone will see your text as you type it). A tool bar to the right of the whiteboard enables you to do some other things, including:

  • Change the mouse pointer to a pen, so you can draw, try to write, etc. and change the ink colour (you could, for example, ask each contributor to use a different colour), if you wish,
  • Draw straight lines or a square/rectangle or circle/oval, again, setting a different colour before you draw it,
  • Select a highlighter to help you emphasise something,
  • Select a laser pointer to draw everyone else’s attention to what you’re talking about (can’t really see this working with an IM, but might be useful if you’re talking),
  • Save a copy of the whiteboard (click on the three dots, select Save As, then select where you want it and give it a name).

If you select Poll you will see this window:

Type in the question, type in each of the possible responses, or Choices.  Change the Poll name from Poll to something else, then click on Create to launch it into the conversation for everyone to make their selection. As choices are made, you will see percentages appear next to each option. You also get to close the poll when you want to.

If you select Q & A Instant Messaging gets switched off and everyone will see a window inviting them to type a question:

Anyone can ask a question, but only those who are presenters can answer questions (using an Answer option that appears under the question).

If you have had/do have a go at any of them, please add a comment to say how useful they are in the real world, any problems/limitations you encountered and any workarounds or fixes you’ve found.

Finally, if you work at the University of Bath and have not used Skype for Business (maybe you’re waiting for a web cam and headset), just have a go at sending an IM. If you're not sure how to do that, or want to know more, book onto a Skype course, it will be good to see you!!

Bye for now,



Open event for staff to visit IT training suite, 6 West, Friday 5 May 2017


📥  Computing Services, IT Literacy

Come and visit the new IT Training suite in 6 West, Friday 5 May 2017.  We are holding an open event for staff between 1pm and 3pm and invite you to join us. The new rooms are bright and modern and have the advantage of two different layouts, collaborative and classroom.

Come and meet the team, have a look around and find out about the services we offer.  They include:

  • Frequent tutor-led and self-paced courses in commonly used applications like Word, Excel, MindGenius and Endnote and University systems such as Agresso and Business Objects.
  • Bespoke training solutions that will fit the needs of your team.
  • IT trainers with a huge amount of knowledge that you can tap into by logging a query at
  • One room is set up with Windows 10 so you can give it a try.
  • Contemporary, high-tech training rooms that staff at the University can book through us.

Tea, coffee and biscuits will be available.

There is no need to book, we look forward to seeing you, Friday 5 May 2017, any time between 1pm and 3pm.




Digifest 2017

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📥  Computing Services, IT Literacy

This week I went to the Digifest conference which is run annually by Jisc. This year it was held in the ICC in Birmingham and theme for the conference was “the power of digital” and the potential of transforming the student experience particularly with regard to learning and teaching.

There were a number of talks I was interested in so, as I wasn’t able to clone myself (maybe look at that for next year’s theme, Jisc?), I had to choose wisely. Talks were wide-ranging and included available and future technology , best practices and case studies. A very interesting mix indeed.

The conference opened with a plenary which had members of the Jisc team talking about what was to come. It was very inspirational and made me look forward to the next two days.

I won’t go in to every session I attended as this will end up as an inordinately long blog post but I will probably follow up with further posts as I consider how it would be relevant to us here in Bath.

A quieter part of the day in Digifest 2017

A quieter part of the day in Digifest 2017

Building digital capabilities within your organisation

There were three teams from different universities talking about how to build digital capabilities and their approaches to this. It turns out that there is a lot of good work going on out there surrounding this and a common theme was the use of the Jisc Digital Capabilities Discovery Tool as a base to work on. In fact, this seemed to be a common theme throughout the conference.

Ross Anderson from the University of Hull talked mainly about staff engagement. One thing I found really fascinating was the gamification of learning and how it fitted in to their blended learning approach – having teams compete with each other to get to the next digital level. He also talked about having student and staff Elearning champions and peer training sessions in each department so that different groups of learners could get on board. I also thought that having a set of blended learning standards could ensure the consistency and quality of the material.

The University of Brighton looked at having a two lists of competencies – core (essential for everyone) and further (role-specific) which was an interesting approach. They also used strong visual resources to promote the digital literacies framework.

Nottingham Trent University went further to talk about how training could be taken one stage further – not just teaching people how to use a product such as Outlook but how they can use it in their particular role (such as managing your inbox). This is one thing that I think I will definitely be looking at taking forward.

Digital Capability Model

Digital Capability Model

Staff digital skills capabilities

Deborah Kellsey Millar, Digital and IT Director for Salford City College talked about using a step by step model towards organisational digital capability and the use of the discovery tool to achieve this. She also explained about their use of the Learning Wheel to model digital pedagogy and the introduction of the DigiPals service. This is where learners and Educational Technologists can provide tricks and tips for people who use digital resources in their learning in a friendly and approachable way using a web site and social media. I believe that having these accessible and readily available resources in a variety of formats increases uptake and buy in from a wide variety of providers.

Next, implementation of by Steve Rowett from UCL. They embedded packages within courses by using playlists which provided some context for the topics that academic staff taught. It also meant that students could learn what they want, when they want. They have had a big uptake from both staff and students for this but he said that marketing in the right way, at the right time is key and to get a marketing plan together before you even think about launching it to maximum effect.

Students’ expectations and experiences of digital technology

For me, this was one of the most relevant talks as one of the biggest issues I face being in charge of IT communications and training is student engagement and communications reach. There were students from different institutions talking about what worked for their organisation.

The University of Northampton surveyed their students and one of the most important things that came out of that was access to devices and WiFi. I think this is probably important to a majority of institutions as more and more students bring their own devices. They also asked students to complete the statement “When digital technology is used on my course…”. Apparently, it gave some interesting answers and they will be providing further detail on this soon.

Epping Forest College said that they engaged more when they linked in to other general events such as Safer Internet Day. I think that collating a list of events such as these would help with planning communications and improve reach. They also had students who were Digital Voice Experts and they were given specific training in topics such as video production as an incentive. They would also have access to a social media account to tweet to other students on behalf of the college which meant it was more relevant and students didn’t feel like they were being talked down to. Zac, one of the students who was responsible for the social media aspect, managed to get Epping to number one in the Edurank league table for social media. Something we could definitely work on.

The University of Stirling made use of “Happy or Not” consoles which you may have seen in airports and train stations where students could press the relevant “face” depending on how they found the digital learning spaces on campus. This was used in a business case to get these refurbished. They also had “WiFi wizards” - students who were able to help others with WiFi issues and report any common issues to the Service Desk.

Augmented and virtual reality

Now the exciting bit! During the conference, there were a number of organisations who showcased the latest products they had on offer. Personally, I found the most exciting products on show were:

  • HoloLens made by Microsoft - This is a pair of glasses that uses augmented reality. They were demonstrating anatomy and it was really weird having a transparent “person” standing in front of you with organs that you could “tap” on to find out more and walk around the “person” as if they were actually standing there. I think this could be really useful in applications such as mechanical engineering research where you would not need to build expensive physical models to see how they would look and interact but build it “virtually” instead. In fact, we have one of these available to loan, so let us know if you wish to utilise it!Hololens demonstration
  •  Samsung Gear VR – they demonstrated this using a lab safety scenario where you could walk around a lab and interact with items there and find out how to keep the environment in a lab safe such as storing chemicals and wearing protective clothing. This is a good idea as you can ensure students are aware of lab safety before they even step into a physical lab.

Dundee and Angus College gave a very good presentation on the work they have been doing in creating a Learning Lab where they provided a space for staff and students to drop in and have hands on experience of the different technologies out there including VR headsets, 3D printers and augmented reality.

Closing plenary

Lauren Seger Weinstein, chief data officer at TFL gave the closing talk on how they were using data to improve the efficiency and customer experience of the public transport network in London. She talked about creating trust whilst giving an excellent customer experience with innovation whilst providing excellent value for money. They are very data rich and provide a lot of open data for use by academic institutions. This could really be useful for researchers looking at transport issues across the city.

One initiative they have implemented is to let customers know the busiest times in their underground stations. This means that if you are an occasional user of a particular station and you are flexible with your travel times, you could travel at a quieter time for a more enjoyable experience. They gathered data from the number of devices connecting to their WiFi service together with the footfall through the automatic gates to produce this information. I think this is possibly something we could be using in our Library and other PC spaces so that students know when the best times are to access a PC.


Final thoughts

All things considered, it was a very enjoyable and informative event. It was useful to hear from other institutions, particularly with regard to the initiatives they have carried out and how it was received. If you do get a chance to go, I would thoroughly recommend it and if you did miss this year’s conference, then you can find slides from some of the talks on the Digifest website. And you never know, you could also win one of their competitions - I can't wait to try it out...

Bean Boozled game

From Monday January 16 Faculty IT Supporters are on the move


📥  Computing Services, IT Literacy, Service Desk

From Monday 16 January, IT supporters will be moving to a new home. This means that they will no longer be based within the Faculties. This move ties in with the relocation of the remaining Computing Services staff to the refurbished 6 West building. Our IT training facilities are moving too.

The way you ask for help isn't changing and you can request IT support by logging a support ticket in the usual way.

This is the first time that many of our IT supporters and Service Desk staff have worked side by side. We believe that this move will provide greater efficiency of the IT support we provide to our customers and additionally the opportunity to design more innovative solutions to make your working life easier. A few of the benefits are:

  • Collaborative working - with all  our IT colleagues in one space
  • Shared knowledge - with such a wide range of varied expertise, we can share knowledge
  • Eliminating risks of single points of failure.

As supporters will no longer be based in the departments, we would  like to use this opportunity to encourage greater communication between you, your department and User Services and we welcome ideas to facilitate this.



A new home for the IT training suite from January 2017


📥  IT Literacy

A new year means a fresh start for the IT training rooms. From Monday 16 January 2017 the IT training rooms will be located in the newly refurbished 6 West building.

If you are registered for a training course taking place after this date you will need to come to the new IT training suite in 6 West. The move comes as the final Computing Services staff members relocate from the 2 South building.

The refurbishment will offer improved facilities for training courses such as a classroom style collaborative working space and flip top desks, to be used for either paper or computer based courses. View our wide range of training courses and book your place on the website.


Using SUBTOTAL in Excel


📥  Computing Services, IT Literacy

Hi again,

This blog looks at the Excel function SUBTOTAL and how you might find it useful:

The SUBTOTAL function has two parts within the brackets: the second part is the easy bit - the range of cells you're using; the first part is what (out of 11 options) you want to do with the contents of that range of cells, e.g. add them together (number 9), average them (1) or count them (2 or 3) - the full list is below.

So, if I wanted to use it to sum the cells A3 to A40, I could create the formula =SUBTOTAL(9,A3:A40) instead of using AutoSum to create =SUM(A3:A40)

So, why (I hear you ask) would I want to create a longer formula to do the same thing as SUM? Because it's not quite the same - here's a couple of benefits of using SUBTOTAL:

  • If I have a single column of numbers intermingled with sub-totals and use =SUM to create  a grand total at the end, the grand total would add the numbers and the sub-totals together (for example, if I had the numbers 1 to 4 in B3 to B6 and again in B8 to B11 with sub-totals in B7 and B12, a total of the column would be 40 instead of the correct 20), whereas using the SUBTOTAL option would ignore the subtotals and only add the typed-in numbers together.
  • This second reason is more useful for me: when I filter a list with a SUM at the bottom, the sum still shows the sum of all numbers (hidden and visible) - SUBTOTAL just shows the sum (or any function I've chosen instead of sum) of the visible rows.

Here are the 11 function numbers (the first part within the brackets) for SUBTOTAL:

  • 1 - AVERAGE
  • 2 - COUNT (counts all cells with numbers in them)
  • 3 - COUNTA (counts all cells with contents - numbers or text)
  • 4 - MAX (largest number)
  • 5 - MIN (smallest number)
  • 6 - PRODUCT (multiplies all of the numbers by each other)
  • 7 - STDEV (estimates standard deviation)
  • 8 - STDEVP (calculates standard deviation based on the entire population)
  • 9 - SUM
  • 10 - VAR (estimates variance in the specified range)
  • 11 - VARP (estimates variance based on the entire population)

If you use the AutoSum button with a filtered list, it will automatically create a SUBTOTAL(9, function instead of a SUM - I find this a useful time saver.

One final thing: for staff and students at the University of Bath, we're offering Excel workshops, where you can book a place and then bring your workbook(s) along (or log into one of the training PCs with your normal Bath username) to see how we can help resolve any improvement requirements, issues, niggles, hassles or problems. For more information, click here then select Tutor Led Training, then Excel: Workshop to see the dates/book a place.

Bye for now,



New way of checking IT service status launches 16 November


📥  IT Literacy

If you are a regular follower you might be familiar with our IT status blog which details whether the services we look after are operational or are undergoing maintenance.

We wanted to create a clearer way of providing this information so that you can tell quickly if there are issues with a service we provide.

Introducing Status.Bath – a dashboard that works using a traffic light system and easy to understand phrases.  This will launch 16 November 2016.

The IT Status blog will no longer be updated and you will need to bookmark to keep up to date with the status of our IT services.

How it works:

  1. Operational – written in green this is good, the service is working.
  2. Partial Outage – written in amber this means something has gone wrong with part of the service (for example, if the Wi-Fi is unavailable in a particular building but not the entire campus).
  3. Major Outage – written in red, this means the service is unavailable.
  4. Maintenance – written in grey, this is planned maintenance (for example during our maintenance period, normally 7am-9am on Tuesdays).

Check it out now and see what you think. We welcome your feedback, please fill out the survey and let us know what you think.


Welcome to all new students for 2016

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📥  IT Literacy


Computing Services might not be the first people you think of when you start at the University of Bath but we provide a lot of the IT services and advice to help you study and socialise during your time with us.

Chances are, if you're reading this blog post you've managed to find the Wi-Fi connection in your student accommodation but if you haven’t yet and are a bit stuck, we’ve got a guide to Wi-Fi  and a guide to setting up wired internet in student accommodation.

Let everyone know you're still alive by using Microsoft Outlook for your E-mails.

Firstly, we give you some great free things to get you started:

Getting IT help

If you do have any IT related problems or would like help and advice during your time here, there are two ways to get help:

1. Visit the Service Desk on Level 2 of the Library. All advice and support is free for our staff and students.  We have listened to our customers and are open Saturday and Sunday of intake weekend, 9am to 5pm.  We will also be open for longer hours during freshers week and the first week of teaching.  We will be open Monday to Friday, 8.30am to 5.30pm.

Our usual term time open hours are from 9am to 5pm (Monday, Tuesday, Thursday, Friday) and 10am to 5pm on Wednesdays.  We look forward to meeting and helping you.

2. You can log an IT help ticket, using the self-service portal. You’ll need your username and password (found on your library card) to do this.

Need a new laptop, tablet or accessory?

The IT shop sells a range of laptops, tablets and IT accessories. It’s not for profit, so the discounts are passed directly onto you. This often means it’s cheaper than buying from other outlets. Come and chat to the team about our range of products. The IT shop is next to the Service Desk on level 2 of the Library.

We hope you enjoy your first week and look forward meeting many of you in the coming weeks.

Computing Services




Sorting in Excel

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📥  Computing Services, IT Literacy

The other day, when I was showing the basics of creating a worksheet in Excel, I was asked  a really good question - one that made me think “I’m sure you must be able to!” and “Why have I not heard (or thought of) this question before?”

The question was about sorting, not sorting the rows, but sorting columns (for example into alphabetic order). I've written this blog to feature a workaround to achieve this and thought it might be useful to include some other aspects of sorting in Excel.

First, a pitfall to avoid: don’t sort when you have only a part of your table selected (unless you only want to sort those cells and keep the others where they are) as the data in your table will probably become meaningless. If you only have a single cell selected, Excel normally gets it right and sorts the whole table around that column (but sometimes I still check to make sure – you can always click on “Undo” if it gets it wrong).Selecting the whole table first is my normal belt & braces approach.

Basic Sort:

Just click within the column you want to sort/group by, click on “Sort & Filter” on the ‘HOME’ tab and select ‘Sort A to Z’ or ‘Sort Z to A’ if the column contains text, ‘Sort Smallest to Largest’ or ‘Sort Largest to Smallest’ if the column contains numbers or ‘Sort Oldest to Newest’ or ‘Sort Newest to Oldest’ if the column contains dates.

Custom Sort:

I often use ‘Custom Sort’ to group/sort by more than one field. Click on “Sort & Filter”, ‘Custom Sort’ to see the ‘Sort’ window. Click on the drop-down arrow by ‘Sort by’ and select the first field you want to group/sort by (if it doesn’t show the headings, place a tick by ‘My data has headers’) and the order (e.g. 'A to Z' or 'Z to A'). Then click on “Add Level” and repeat the process for the next field you want to group/sort by – repeat this for as many extra sorts/groups as you need. Click on “OK” to see everything sorted into your new sequence.

I have included a video of the next couple of items.

Sorting by day or month order:

As well as 'A to Z' and 'Z to A', you can also sort by a custom list. This is most useful if I want to sort records by month (as January, February, March, April, etc. not April, August, December, February, etc.). Just use the drop-down arrow under ‘Order’ in the custom sort window, select ‘Custom List’ and select the list you want. Anything not matching an item in the list will go to the bottom of the sort.

Sorting columns:

Finally, how would I sort column headings into (for example) alphabetic order? There are 2 ways: I could use the Transpose option within Paste Special or change the options in a custom search:

Using Paste Special (Transpose): Select the whole table (all headings and data) and copy it (I use [Ctrl]&[C]). Locate a clear part of the workbook (or create a new page), select the top-left cell where you want to paste and paste special (I normally right-click on the cell and select ‘Paste Special’). In the ‘Paste Special’ window, place a tick by ‘Transpose’ and click on “OK”. Sort the new table as normal, then copy it, right click on the top-right cell of your original table (or a new page, if you’re creating a new copy), select ‘Paste Special’ again, transpose again and click on “OK” again. Job done!

Changing the options: Select the data you want to sort, including the headings along the top, but not the labels down the left (otherwise they might be shifted to a different column). Select 'Custom Sort' as before, then click on "Options" along the top and click by 'Sort left to right' (then click on "OK"). Set the row you want to sort by and order and click on "OK". You'll need to remember to click on "Options" and switch it back the next time you want to sort rows.

Tutor led courses

We run a tutor led courses in using Excel.  Book onto Excel: Database techniques if you want to learn more about sorting your data.  The next dates available for booking are 27 July and 7 September 2016.

Bye for now,



IT Training tips: Putting charts in Word documents

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📥  IT Literacy

A few people have asked me about the best way to put a chart into a Word document.

There are several ways to do this - here are 3 different ways that I use:

1. Copy an existing chart from Excel so it can be tweaked in Word:

Click on the chart in Excel to select it and copy it (I normally use [Ctrl]&[C]). Place the insertion point where you want to place the chart in your document and paste (I normally use [Ctrl]&[V]).

With this option, you can select the chart in Word and change any aspect of it, from the colour of the bars, to the chart type to the data, just as you would with a chart in Excel or PowerPoint. If you resize or reshape the chart, text will remain the same size and everything else will stretch or shrink.

2. Copy an existing chart from Excel so it cannot be tweaked in Word:

Copy the chart as above, but instead of just pasting it into Word, place the insertion point where you want the chart and click on the lower part of the 'Paste' button and select 'Paste Special...'. Select the format you want (I normally go for 'Picture (PNG)') and click on "OK". The benefits with this option include the text increasing or decreasing when you resize the chart and there being no way that any recipient of the document can change the chart in any way or access the data behind it.

3. Create the chart within Word:

Place the insertion point where you want the chart to appear in the Word document and click on ('INSERT' ribbon) 'Chart', select the type of chart you want and click on 'OK'. Type in your headings or labels and data into the data table and then click on the cross to close it.

If you want to change it, just click in the chart and click on 'Edit Data' or any of the other buttons on the Chart Tools 'DESIGN' or 'FORMAT' ribbons.

One extra bit of information: I've written some crib sheets and put them into the 'Self-Service Training Resources for Office 2013' area of the University's Moodle site. Current subjects are:

  • Conditional formatting in Excel
  • COUNTIF, SUMIF and AVERAGEIF functions in Excel
  • Creating drop-down lists in Excel
  • Mail merging an Excel file into Outlook emails

If you have a look at them and find them useful, please leave a comment below. Also let me know if you'd like a similar sheet written for another task.

All the best

John Baker (IT Trainer)