Computing Services

The department behind IT services at the University of Bath

Digifest 2017

  , , , ,

📥  Computing Services, IT Literacy

digifest-small-logo

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 Lynda.com by Steve Rowett from UCL. They embedded Lynda.com 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.

closing-plenary-and-keynote-from-lauren-sager-weinstein-15-1024

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

Twitter Counter App hacked

  ,

📥  Computing Services, Security

The Twitter Counter App used with Twitter accounts appears to have been compromised and has been used to post spam messages to users' feeds. The messages are written in Turkish and appear to target Holland. Twitter accounts for Amnesty International, Forbes and any other users with high post and follower counts seem to have been targeted. The company Twitter Counter have acknowledged the breach of their service and taken steps to secure it, however the breach appears to mirror an earlier one from November 2016.

Twitter account holders who made use of Twitter Counter should revoke access for it in line with Twitters instructions.

https://support.twitter.com/articles/76052#

Whilst Twitter account details should not have been compromised, in the event of any connected breach it is good practice to review the security of all Twitter accounts and make sure they:

  • have a new strong password
  • ensure that any mobile phone numbers associated with the account are current
  • use login verification where possible
  • review the access for third party Apps and revoke those that aren’t needed

More advice is available from Twitter on Account Security tips - https://support.twitter.com/articles/76036#

 

Managed Print is available, 15 March 2017

  

📥  Computing Services

Update: 10:30am 15 March, Managed Print service is available.  The emergency print service has been switched off. Thank you for your patience while we resolved this issue.

 

15 March at 9am - Managed Print is unavailable across campus, we are working hard to get this resolved.

Staff  - Please use EPS, this has now been switched on.

Students - Please use the Library copy & Print for urgent printing only, please bring your work in PDF format on a USB Stick.

 

Regards

Managed Print

 

Phishing attempt: Email regarding payroll

  

📥  Security

We have been made aware that several users and RT queues were sent an email regarding a payroll notification. Please be aware that this is a fake phishing attempt. Please do not click any links, fill in any documents or enter any personal information. If you are concerned, you can forward any emails to the team at phishing@bath.ac.uk and they will advise.

If you have clicked on the link and filled out the documentation, please visit the Service Desk on Level 2 of the Library, or log a help ticket for further advice.

The junk email filter has picked this up but there may be cases (for example, RT queues) where it has ended up in your inbox.

Below is an example of the phishing email:

Dear Member
1 New Notification Regarding Your Payroll

[LINK TO FRAUDULENT SITE]

Thank You,
University of Bath

 

 

#WomeninIT

  , ,

📥  Computing Services

I was asked whether the #WomeninIT campaign relates to our department.  Computing Services is made up of three work streams: Infrastructure, Management Information Systems and User Services. The percentage of women in these work areas are almost 5%, almost 21% and almost 19% (these figures were worked out using our organisation chart).

Computing Services needs a change in workplace culture if it wants to meet the goal highlighted by International Women’s Day - Women in the Changing World of Work: Planet 50-50 by 2030.

Campaigns like #WomeninIT

Will a campaign like #WomeninIT help us to encourage more women to apply for and get jobs in Computing Services? We thought we would ask the women in our department.  This does show the more exclusionary aspect of these campaigns.  We did not ask others in the department. The survey was a quick snap-shot and the number of replies was limited. However, the replies were really interesting.

None of the respondents had a computer science educational background and many had started working in IT by accident.  Respondents enjoyed their work for reasons that included: ‘liking the variety’ and ‘being able to use some of my maths skills (e.g. logic, statistics, analysis) in coding’.

Skills that were identified as useful to work in IT included:

  • patience
  • ability to think logically
  • a desire to help
  • being analytical
  • being good at problem-solving
  • having good communications skills
  • having an attention to detail
  • wanting to learn new things
  • persistence

There was no one skill set that echoed for everyone, there was nothing gender specific about the stories behind the replies.

The majority of the respondents strongly wish that more women would apply for jobs in IT and join them.

Dispelling the agreed narrative of who is good at IT

I really like this response to describe why campaigns like this are useful.

For some reason, too many women (and people in general, actually) have the idea that it’s either a great mysterious sector ruled by genius man hackers, or incredibly dull and tedious… Good examples of all kinds of women, i.e. relatable figures, in the industry, help disperse the mystery …

It’s fun seeing the variety of people being highlighted with the hashtag, people that are interesting that I’d not have heard about without it. Good to see how many of us are out there, too – and how positive we can be toward each other.

So are the campaigns useful?

Campaigns highlight awareness and allow us to recognise that there are issues, however, they are not enough in themselves.  I'm not optimistic about seeing the ratio improving in Computing Services by International Women's Day 2018 but I'd love to be proven wrong.

There is not one type of person that should work in IT.  Look out for #ITjobs on our twitter account and please apply.

 

Making your office moves easier

  ,

📥  Computing Services, Service Desk

Moving locations can be stressful so we have introduced the Office Move Request form to the IT Help portal to make it more straightforward.  Please submit the form 14 days or more before you move.  We will use the details in the form to start a conversation with you and work to make sure the set-up of IT in your new location goes smoothly.

Access the Office Move Request form

  1. Log into IT Help
  2. Select 'New Requirement'
  3. Select 'Request an IT Service'
  4. Select 'Office Move Request'
  5. Fill out as much information as possible
  6. Select 'Submit'

Happy moving!

 

 

Further advice on University pay rise phishing scam.

  

📥  Security

The Police have issued further advice regarding the hoax phishing emails being sent to universities regarding fake pay rises. Action fraud have updated their website with more details.   

If you are concerned, you can forward any emails to the team at phishing@bath.ac.uk and they will advise.

If you have clicked on the link and filled out the documentation, please visit the Service Desk on Level 2 of the Library, or log a help ticket for further advice.

 

 

The Customer can have what they can afford

  , , , , ,

📥  Business Support Systems, Computing Services

I recently posed the question, 'Is the Customer always right?' and concluded that the answer was 'No', particularly when specialist expertise was required which the Customer does not have.

However, there are situations where this is different.  For example, if I am having a suit made for my wedding.  If I want a lime green velour suit, lined with black denim, turn-ups, no pockets and a jacket which skims the floor, then I can have it!  However...

The Customer can have what they can afford.

If I really want the suit I have described above, I can have it.  I will have to pay extra for the long jacket, for the unusual lining and for the skilled experts to work with the velour and tailor it to my rather round frame.  If I want it studded with diamonds, I can have it, but I must pay for the materials, the labour and any other costs to make the suit, including the ongoing cost of having it cleaned by specialists.

Everything has a cost, whether we are paying a 3rd party, or using internal resources to create and support a service, system or team.  If you don't have the budget to pay for everything you want (including infrastructure, staff, licensing and on-going support), you may have to compromise and focus more directly on satisfying the Business Needs, rather than producing an all-singing all-dancing system, otherwise you'll end up with a system which can sing and dance, but can't do what you actually need it to do.

Naturally, it's best to work out what can and cannot sensibly be achieved as early in a project as possible, which is why it is important to define and agree a scope.  If we don't, or if we allow the scope to change significantly once a project has started, we may get part way through and discover that we need to find funds for additional specialists or other resources.

We don't always have the skills we need to hand, so we must consider other ways forward.  One recent example uses a combination of additional internal staff, training and external consultancy to not only complete a large development but to build that expertise in-house.  You may be surprised to learn that this approach is significantly less costly than the original idea of engaging a 3rd party developer, not only in terms of initial investment but also on-going support, particularly when you consider that the expertise gained will be useful for future projects, further reducing our reliance on expensive 3rd parties and their purely commercial intentions.

If you want to contact the team, you can email us at business-support-systems@bath.ac.uk, or by raising a ticket for us. Just make sure to mention BSS at the top of your description and it'll get to us.

Until next time.

 

Attending the world's biggest technology conference in Amsterdam

  ,

📥  Audio Visual Unit (AV), Computing Services

Me with Kevin McLoughlin (Royal Soc of Medicine); Keith Wilks (University of South Wales); Ben Pain (Royal College of Physicians) – before embarking on the conference.

Me with Kevin McLoughlin (Royal Soc of Medicine); Keith Wilks (University of South Wales); Ben Pain (Royal College of Physicians) – before embarking on the conference.

This year’s ISE is a wrap. It is the place to go for Professional AV and Systems Integration. It provides a unique showcase for technology solutions. This year, there were around one thousand two hundred exhibitors in the expo in fourteen halls, training opportunities, and conference presentations. If we are honest, it’s very bright (lots of display screens that are very shiny), quite loud (in terms of chatter and equipment) and goes on for miles. I managed to cover thirty eight kilometres across three days in the pursuit of technology and solutions!

I’ve worked in a University for more than twenty years, and I’m keenly aware that the way we integrate technology, especially in the teaching spaces, helps to facilitate not only teaching and learning practices, but also the student’s experience of it. I’m old enough to remember pushing some of the AV resources around campus (yes I was one of those guys!). Thankfully, the days of shared slide projectors, video players, overhead projectors, film projectors and even epidiascopes are long gone.

The modern technologies showcased at ISE represent a world of difference in a relatively short period of time. In terms of an analogy, it’s now the nuclear age compared to the steam engine – almost anything is possible if you want to do it. Although, we do remember that technology is not the reason for most of today's innovative teaching, it’s the foundation stone that most are built upon. Technology is, for the most part, the enabling tool.

ISE this year was a melting pot of both technology and systemic approaches; and it was noticeable that educational technology is at the fore of activities for many manufacturers – and it is a trend that continues to grow.

This year, more than seventy universities sent representatives to this four day conference and show in the Netherlands. We all attended for the same purpose. We all look to gain an advantage by understanding the technological developments coming along; which we can then bring back to the University. It inspires us to innovate our environment and systems.

From speaking to our counterparts, it seems like we are at an exciting time in terms of technology development in a technology rich world – although the pace of change can feel startling at times for some.

The conference for us included some presentations from some equipment manufacturers

The conference included some presentations from some equipment manufacturers:

KRAMER – Interactive Technologies
CRESTRON – Video Distribution over the Network
REVOLABS – Video Conferencing
TRIPLEPLAY – Digital Signage
SENNHEISER – Radio Microphones

Within those sessions, it’s also useful to look some of the senior management of the manufacturers in the eye and ask the awkward questions – such as ‘why won’t you standardise on a particular video transmission protocol?’ You don’t necessarily get an answer, but they know you’re paying attention.

The theme of the conference this year was not focussed on a particular technology, but on a set of conditions. They obviously have technology behind them, but are not a single technology to enable it.

They were:

  • the use of technology to enable sharing of content (display sharing)
  • integrating systems to allow for reuse (digital signage and wayfinding)
  • scheduling spaces
  • collaboration
  • immersive technology

It’s interesting to note that there hasn’t really been a huge ‘leap’ in teaching technology for many years – just the quality of the audio or video has improved.

One of the processes at the front of our minds is, of course, TEF. As many of the measurable outcomes for TEF have a technology underpinning (the ‘learning environment’ and ‘teaching quality’), it’s important for us to know where we can go with what we can provide.

It seems that many companies understand that the education market has changed, and continues to move. Many have realigned their product range, or the way they operate, to reach out into the education sector. In the case of some of the manufacturers that we already use, they have actually designed products to suit our needs directly. Which goes to show that the efforts we put in at this conference pay dividends in enabling better support much further down the line.

So we are targeting our investments in the campus not only to support the staff, but also to meet the needs of our technology aware students. We are designing, and building, on campus, a set of technologies in each teaching space that will allow us to guarantee a set of functionality for 5 years from the point we build it. The inspiration is fed from two directions – the feedback from staff and students  - and from this conference. AV systems aren’t really a luxury anymore, we really need to have them to facilitate the modern teaching space. We’re trying to build a set of systems that widen the ability to do things in the teaching spaces, not restrict them.

There were also some technologies that we very hyped a few years ago that were conspicuous by their apparent absence. Things such as passive 3d (where you need the glasses) were very prominent a few years back, but have all but disappeared from view. Glasses free 3D replaced it almost immediately. However, the technology is still fairly crude.

It’s interesting to note that as resolutions get bigger (there were many stands with 8K displays), then we already outstrip the ability of the human eye to make any sense of the level of detail anyway (the human eye is around 2K even in the sharpest of eyes!). One quirk is that with all the extra detail and information the human brain gives you a perception of depth of field. It may all become an academic exercise anyway.

That being said, I didn’t see a ‘Classroom of the Future’ at ISE. I don’t think anyone is that brave! What I did see though is some outstanding solutions, technology and ideas for how we may continue to improve in future. These will all transition into the campus at some point in the next year or two (or more!), as we get the chance to improve the systems we already have.

If anyone would like to see it, I have produced a report on some of the highlights of ISE for this year (from an AV in teaching perspective), and I have a large assortment of collected contact details and information from most of the manufacturers on show.

Rest assured that we don’t sit still for very long. We’ve already got the refurbishment of 3E, 6E and 1WN in the pipeline for later this year – and East Building to follow along behind that! Some of the things I’ve seen are already making their way into plans, and three of the manufacturers are visiting the campus this week!

 

IT maintenance affects many services, Tue 14 Feb 2017, 7am to 9am

  ,

📥  Computing Services

Maintenance and upgrades will be taking place during our at risk* period, Tuesday 14 February 2017.  A number of services will be affected due to essential upgrades.  The status of IT services can be found at status.bath.ac.uk.

  • Guest Wi-Fi for our visitors will be unavailable
  • NX software will be unavailable due to a license upgrade
  • solutions.bath.ac.uk, collaborate.bath.ac.uk and mysite.bath.ac.uk services will be unavailable while we carry out maintenance on our Sharepoint infrastructure

 

*Our 'at risk' period is between 7am and 9am on Tuesdays when we carry out scheduled maintenance, modifications and testing. This work is essential to maintain and develop the services that we provide.  Thank you for your patience while this necessary work takes place.