Academic IT projects

The Education IT Programme includes several Academic IT projects and initiatives related to teaching and learning. The input received from departments and faculties as part of the Digital Education Strategy consultation was fed into the Education IT Board, and will help to set priorities for future Academic IT projects. 

All completed Academic IT projects are available from the completed projects page.

You may also like to refer to the latest Education IT Programme Update for Academic IT projects completed recently.  

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WebLearn is built on a platform called Sakai, which has been Oxford’s virtual learning environment (VLE) for eight years. In addition, the Michaelmas term 2016 Digital Education Strategy implementation consultation with academic staff and students raised the need for a more intuitive and user-friendly VLE. The VLE Review set out to determine if WebLearn continues to meet the University’s requirements as the primary platform to support teaching and learning. 

Review findings

In Michaelmas and Hilary terms 2016-17, a consultation was carried out with staff and students, including those who do not currently use WebLearn. The full report and summary of findings are available from the VLE Review findings web page. 

Next steps

On 8 June, the Education IT Board approved the VLE Review Project Board’s recommendation to look for a new VLE supplier. In accordance with this recommendation, suppliers will be invited to submit a proposal fulfilling a list of requirements specific to Oxford. 

The main reasons for this course of action are to seek to:
1.    Provide an improved user experience to staff and students by implementing a VLE that addresses many of the concerns raised regarding shortcomings in the usability of Sakai.
2.    Benefit from simpler maintenance procedures, through these efficiencies, foster the development of specialised tools that accommodate requirements and activities specific to Oxford.
3.    As set out in the University’s Digital Education Strategy, support academic staff as innovative teachers by improving the functionality and usability of key digital platforms.

In parallel, the VLE Review User Group will further evaluate the suppliers’ platforms, focusing primarily on functionality and usability. A report summarising what is learned from this evaluation will be prepared for the Project Board aiding in the decision-making process for a preferred supplier. 

Following the selection of a preferred supplier in Michaelmas term 2017, the project will prepare an implementation plan that will outline the resources necessary to transition to the new platform. The plan will include support for departments and colleges in migrating existing content to the new platform. The proposed implementation plan will then be considered by Education IT Board.

Alternative solution for purposes other than teaching and learning

The selection process will focus on finding a solution that supports teaching and learning. For those people who are using WebLearn for other purposes, WebLearn will remain available until an alternative is identified. Plans for this transition will be developed in collaboration with users.

Further details

Further details are available from the frequently asked questions page, and any questions can be sent to VLEreview@it.ox.ac.uk.

Funding has been granted for work to research, develop and pilot a framework to assist individual academics and course teams in optimising the use of digital technologies as they design new programmes or revise existing ones. The work, which is closely aligned with the Digital Education Strategy, will be based on the principles of Learning Design. It will draw on previous research in this field at Oxford and elsewhere, and will review similar frameworks currently in use at other leading research universities in the UK.
 
The outputs of the work will be a supportive framework appropriate to Oxford, together with associated professional development workshops and resources for academics wishing to engage with technology enhanced learning. The work will be completed in July 2018 and will lay the foundation for a service provided collaboratively by Academic IT and the Oxford Learning Institute.

Following a successful pilot with the Social Sciences Library in the use of online reading lists, this project will consult with several academic departments that have expressed an interest in using online reading lists. The aim is to select a suitable third-party application that is compliant with the Library’s Management System, as well as the leading VLE platforms.

Turnitin and iThenticate are software tools used to screen written work for matches to existing sources. They are used respectively to screen assessments submitted by registered Oxford students, and written submissions during the graduate admissions process. This project will review the efforts that are in place to support plagiarism awareness, evaluate the use of these tools, and assess whether they continue to meet the needs of staff and students, and this work will be complete by October. 

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