Monday, 23 May 2011

UCISA 2011 Reflections

Its been a couple of months now since the annual UCISA management conference in Edinburgh. I made a note to reflect on this year's event and the two others that I had an involvement in with the organising committee. My involvement has now ended and the event is in the capable hands of a group with fresh new ideas.

The Good Stuff

  • Regular meetings and informal discussions with a small group of people involved in the organising team - there was always interesting stuff going on at other Universities worth talking about and sharing

  • Putting together a theme and a programme - we got better at that and the last one seemed pretty effective

  • Looking after the guest speakers. It's been fun and also quite stressful at times hosting some of our "celebrity" speakers such as Ruby Wax, Eliza Manningham-Buller, John Humphreys, John Sargeant and James Cracknell. I am still in occasional touch with Larry Hincker from Virginia Tech and hope one day to take up his invitation to visit - I think that was the most memorable presentation of all.

  • Raising and exceeding the target for charity fundraising (£10k over three years) with special thanks to Trudy and Richard. Wow!

  • The invitation to Oxford for the UCISA "away day" which was always a treat.

  • Having a chance to meet up with lots of delegates and exhibitors once a year and hopefully (usually) getting some good and constructive feedback.

  • Getting a nice room in the conference hotel!

The Not So Good stuff

  • Opening the event and having to make a brief and uninspiring speech including all the housekeeping.

  • Last minute speaker changes - usually unplanned

  • Managing speakers who aren't prepared and cannot find time to be briefed

  • The last weeks before the event - lots of preparation

  • Trying to fit everything in as well as the "day job"

The added extras

  • Visits to University locations around the country - a chance to visit learning spaces, student unions and libraries along the way and usually meet up with the people runing some of the services.

  • The good fun with the organising team and the UCISA Exec.

  • Hopefully making a bit of a difference and in particular helping us to share our knowledge and experience.

  • Working with Sue and colleagues in the UCISA admin - they have been great.

Biking in Lake District

At short notice four of us set off for Elter Water and the Youth Hostel for a weekend's mountain biking. It was torrential rain on Saturday so apart from two hours later in the day in the pouring rain, we spent time at the Watermill (en route in Ings) and then the Britannia Inn. Sunday was better with the odd cloud burst but an excellent ride with fantastic views and scenery especially as the rivers and feeders were all flowing at capacity. The Britannia is holding a Giant Marrow competition on Monday September 19 in the back bar. We are planning our entries.

Wednesday, 11 May 2011

The Apprentice: New Series

We love the apprentice in our house.

Quote of the Night from episode one, goes to accountant, Edward Hunter, who said: "Not only am I the youngest [competitor], but I am also the shortest...". Yes shortest lived mate - "you're fired".

and timeless classics from the last series (series six 2010):

“And here is the River Thames, the second biggest river in London.” Jamie
“Pinewood Studios? I’m pretty sure that’s a furniture store.” Sandeesh
“My first word wasn’t mummy, it was money.” Shibby
“If I was an apple pie, the apples would be orange.” Alex
“The face of Big Ben is 20 diameters in width.” Jamie

You just gotta roll with the punches, roll with the punches

Tuesday, 10 May 2011

Mary Towneley Loop

This weekend six of us completed the MTL on our moutain bikes over two fairly relaxed days although it was pretty tough at times. This route follows the Pennine Bridleway in a circular route starting and finishing near home in Hebden Bridge. If you ever find yourself in Rossendale then this B&B comes highly recommended and is approximately half way round.

IT Services Newsletter #27

Improving Student Experience
There are a few things to report in the last month and also coming up. The staff and student “zoning” on level 01 is really starting to take shape. Room 01.44 will be re-opening shortly as a student quiet study zone for laptop users during May/June. Over the Summer, this room will be refurbished and launched again as a student PC cluster. This will be incremental (new) capacity of about 20 seats for the start of next academic session.

We have heard from Estates that the toilets on Level Zero (Gents and Ladies) have been prioritised for a total makeover this Summer from the end of term in an ongoing program throughout the building. The style of facility will compare with the refurbished/new toilet facilities in Horton Building (by the Barn). At the same time, the staff toilets will be de-commissioned as there is an outstanding audit/insurance request to eliminate the risk of water leaks into the computer and network equipment room which are located directly underneath on level 02.

Hopefully you are aware of a number of student service projects that are taking shape ready for the start of the next session. These include (subject to confirmations) Windows 7, Office 10, Office360 (the Microsoft unified collaboration suite for email, calendaring etc), Blackboard latest release (Bb9) and the integrated Blackboard mobile module. A micro-campaign communicating this to returning students is currently being planned. Thanks for all those who are working on these important projects at the moment.

Improving Staff Experience
The plans for the upgrades to the Staff Room (01.59) have been up on the notice board for a few days and there are a few clarifications from the User Group meeting earlier this week. There are overhead cupboards as well as worktop cupboards going to be installed (shown with dotted lines on the plan). There is a counter fridge that will be built-in – this will be a new fridge which will be energy rated A. The recycling bins will be re-located outside the room in the nearest suitable corridor except for the household waste bin. Estates will ensure that the water heater/boiler will be either re-cycled (if still efficient) or replaced with a suitable energy efficient device – similarly lighting will be automated on entry. There will be a coat of paint in a suitably homely colour but it will not be Farrow and Ball, and the tiles will not be Fired Earth! I am afraid that the indicative seating involving sofas and tables is just that and there will be furniture recycling from the level zero staff room. Please note that there will be disruption for 2-3 weeks while the works take place and this could be starting next week.

There has been further progress on the Unified Printing Project. This project is investigating a way for both students and staff to use “pull” printing technology to both save paper and energy (claims of savings in the order of 20-40% are being made although these are industry standard and hard to substantiate in a HE context). The savings come from sending things to print and not collecting, or printing on the right device for the volume required. We will soon be getting a new Multi Function Printer/Copier/Scanner which will replace the ageing colour printer and small printer/copier/scanner that have been located in 01.59. This new facility will be located somewhere in the Orient Express (to be decided).

Times Higher Award Submission
We have just found out that we were not shortlisted for the ICT initiative (I mentioned this in the last newsletter). The full list of shortlisted Universities is here. Bradford doesn’t appear in any of the categories. We can put the tuxedos back in the wardrobe for another year.

Green Impact Submission
We made our departmental submission ahead of the deadline and were thoroughly audited last week by two students who had a clip board and went through practically every question. We are one of the few departments who have had a go at the “gold” rating so hopefully we will find out shortly whether we have been successful. We also submitted bonus areas for the innovation award (which was the campus wide energy audit through our involvement with EUAC – see attached) and also best energy saving idea (PC desktop managed power down for all staff and student equipment on the campus).

JISC Embedding IT Project
This project has been running for about 6 months and has mainly been delivered through the efforts of John Fairhall along with colleagues in SCIM and the ADU. The final report is just being prepared and will be circulated widely. One of the spin-offs from this project has been the procurement of a smart texting (SMS) solution. This is currently going to run in parallel with the existing Meerkat service used by the SAINT system. The case studies include using text messaging in the disability service to remind students of appointments, an automated response/campaign manager system when we are promoting an activity such as Open Days, SMS reminders to Library borrowers who do not return books on time, and an interative SMS quiz system for use in lectures. As a result of this project we have been invited to bid for a further piece of commissioned JISC work – they must like what we are doing here!

Compare the Market - Simples
As part of the Txt Tools development, students and staff can now “compare the market” for mobile phone deals via the University mobile site at our mobile phones comparison site hosted here. These deals are available to staff, students and our local community.

Major Cool Replacement
We are moving into the final testing and evaluation stages of the system which will replace the Major Cool email list management tool. This tool has been around for a long time and has done a great job but doesn’t have the flexibility that we now need. The new tool will replace the way we manage lists and also provide an opportunity to update and purge almost 3000 mail lists that have developed over time in the legacy system.

IT Board
This forum is continuing to meet on the first Friday of each month and has recently been focusing on the IT Services rolling plan for the current year 2010/11 and also a range of account management activities that we are undertaking with both Academic Schools and Corporate Services. This last month we have had review meetings with Commercial Services, Library, Academic Development Unit, Estates, SSIS, Health Studies and the technical group of School IT managers. The documents and notes for all the meetings are available on the H:/Exchange Directory. One item of interest from this morning’s meeting, was the fact that UNIAC the internal auditors are doing some work with us from the middle to end of May for a period of about 10 days. There are two main areas which it is being proposed that they look at which were priorities from the IT review undertaken late last year – the systems integration requirements for Library and Estates in particular, and a review of ID Management related issues.