Monday, 14 December 2009

Microsoft Uluru and VLE futures

Today I came across the Uluru initiative which is apparently subject to NDA but due to be formally launched at BETT on 9th January. Did a quick search and found this link which is worth reading if you are interested in this.

Sunday, 13 December 2009

Guardian Saturday

Your Letters: Does anyone actually move to a place after reading Let's Move To...... Darren Evans, Hull. Wasted stamp?

Wednesday, 9 December 2009

Pre Budget Report

The full report is available from here. The specific references to HE that I could find were:

This action to reduce the deficit follows a decade of unprecedented levels of investment in transport infrastructure, skills, higher education, etc

It has also created the Technology Strategy Board (TSB) which, alongside the Research Councils and the Regional Development Agencies, will invest over £1 billion in business innovation between 2008 and 2011, and will be investing £150 million in knowledge exchange in 2010-11 to support innovative start-up companies. As a result, research is increasingly being translated into commercial products and economic benefit: patent applications have doubled since 2000, to 1,913 in 2006-07; 31 university spinout companies were launched between 2003 and 2007 (note that doesn't sound very many to me?);

Higher Ambitions, published in November 2009, set the forward-looking framework
for the Higher Education sector, and identified the challenges and opportunities facing the
sector if it is to remain world-class. In November 2009, the Independent Review of Higher
Education Funding and Student Finance was also launched. The Review, due to report in
2010, will examine the balance of contributions to higher education funding by taxpayers,
students, graduates and employers.

Going further, the Government has also looked at what other efficiences can be
achieved across the public sector through better procurement, or through cutting lower value
or lower-priority programmes or projects on the basis of the early findings of the PVP.
The Government will continue to identify further opportunities for savings through the PVP,
but the 2009 Pre-Budget Report can already announce £5 billion of additional savings
by 2012-13: £600 million from higher education and science and research budgets from
a combination of changes to student support within existing arrangements;
efficiency savings and prioritisation across universities, science and research;
some switching of modes of study in higher education; and reductions in
budgets that do not support student participation;

Saturday, 5 December 2009

IT Services Newsletter #15

Our response to the recent electricity service interruptions
Unfortunately the main campus suffered a couple of electricity interruptions on November 17th lasting only a few seconds but sufficient to cause various service interruptions within Buildings (trip switches for example) and also to various IT Services. The good news is that all services were restored within the current “Recovery Point” targets and “Recovery Time” Objectives. No data was lost despite data storage systems being affected. Many thanks to all in IT Services and especially those in the IT Infrastructure Team who recovered systems according to the plan. There are several things which need following up, and potential new investment to put right. There is a tracker of those issues and we will be following up.

Staff Recognition
There have been a number of people in the last month who have mentioned to me their appreciation and thanks for a job well done. We often get to hear about the things that have not gone quite so well, however, we are also continuing to get positive feedback about our services. Those who have been thanked directly in the last month know who they are so I will avoid the embarrassment! For the rest of us, we can be pleased with the results of the staff survey conducted via the automated RMS emails which ask for feedback on our service. In September and October we entered over 1,600 new jobs into the system and also completed over 1,500 jobs. Of those 1,500 jobs, and of those who responded to our survey in October (that is typically about 10%) over 98% were either very satisfied (83%) or satisfied (15%) with the service.

Balanced Scorecard Report for E-Strategy
The E-strategy board was asked to prepare its annual return to the Balanced Scorecard activity with respect to e-strategy for session 2008/09. This gets reported through University Senate and University Council the most important governance committees of the University. A small subgroup of the E-Strategy Board was formed to review all the projects and with the help of the various project managers prepare an overall summary. Thank you to all those who assisted at relatively short notice. The overall judgement was “Green with improving Trajectory”. The colour is a traffic light system with Green (ok), Amber (warning) and Red (danger). The Executive Summary reads like this:

Over the year we are able to report the successful completion of 10 more projects with delivery according to the original project plans and budgets. There were 9 projects completed successfully in the last annual report. The e-strategy programme tracker demonstrates that a number of the approved projects are now completed or in the final process of project closure. Projects regarded as High Risk/High Impact have been completed successfully:
• Content Management System (completed – now business as usual)
• SAINT developments relating to progression and award (completed – now business as usual)
• HR and Payroll integrated system (completed – new requirements incorporated in HRX project)
Projects regarded as High Risk have been closed or have now moved into a managed implementation phase which is no longer considered High Risk versus the feasibility and procurement phase.
• Portal project (closed)
• Finance Business Services System project (lower risk)
Projects regarded as High Impact have been completed successfully
• Lecture Room Technology upgrades (GTA space)
• Access Control (also mainly relating to GTA space)
The e-strategy programme currently has two ongoing projects that are considered high impact and these are:
• Sun Global Desktop project enabling flexible and web-based access to IT services and
• Final investment phase of the business continuity project.
There are concerns about the availability of funding for further projects awaiting approval in line with the broader review of the University investment plan, however, these relate to the activities and projects which would form part of the e-strategy programme to support the new corporate plan (2009-14). We feel that the programme can sign off the five year review period in excellent overall shape – the e-strategy programme has broadly delivered its many projects on time, and it is has delivered them within budget.

Information Posters
You may have spotted some posters that have gone up in the last month around JBP Building and in (and around) all the other student PC clusters on the campus. They are also on the notice boards as you enter JBP Level Zero One down the main staircase. The posters are communicating the results of the student survey and also the launch of the leading edge computer-aided assessment lab which also appeared in this month’s News and Views. Many thanks to Liz Mortimer for putting the posters together. You can find the same information in accessible formats here and here.

Award Ceremony Services
The December awards were concluded yesterday. They are a fantastic celebration for everyone involved. I was particularly impressed by two things this year – the automated system which manages all those people who assist the event which operates on-line using the e-vision system. Congratulations to Claire Cuvier and Louise Tomensen the award ceremony co-ordinator for a great example of self-service administration which is enabled by IT Services. Unfortunately I was unable to volunteer this year which is something I normally try to do (and would encourage anyone else to volunteer for). However, I was able to catch up briefly from a wireless laptop in London using the Award Cam and the other people at the meeting were very impressed with the fact that we did this at all, and also with the high quality production. We briefly watched the Student Union Academic Officer give a speech to the ceremony on behalf of the graduates. Congratulations to Matt Overton and team who provide the service.

Success with wireless services on campus
This is a "less visible" success story for e-strategy and for the IT Infrastructure Team who manage the service. Here is an exec summary of The Cloud "free" wireless service:
• There have been over 15k sessions since launch in June 2009.
• The number of users of this new service has grown each month from 140 to 664 users (fivefold increase)
• The number of individual sessions has grown from 2k to over 7k each month - on average there are over 230 sessions every day
• The number of Apple iPhone users has increased each month to almost 300 during October
• There have been occasional service issues during the launch of the service, however, the service is generally robust and reliable
We also monitor monthly usage statistics for the campus Roamnet wireless service
• In October 2009 there were 19k sessions (16k in October 2008) and over 3,400 users (3k users in October 2008).
• This represents annual growth in the order of 15-20%
Further detailed statistics are available for anyone interested. IT Services is initiating a project to review requirements for the wireless services on campus during this Academic Session. The underlying technology is approaching end of life after five years in service and is now due for replacement. The review will among other things include:
• Coverage - to recommend the future coverage of the service, which will include the provision of work space and seating with power points.
• Security - to recommend the appropriate security, for example authentication and encryption
• Functionality - to find user requirements for functionality, examples may include printing, use of Novell, etc