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Showing posts from May, 2013

Summer of student innovation

JISC have announced a programme to fund student projects over the summer.  They're calling it the Summer of Student Innovation and they are looking for projects that will use technology to improve student life  Students can pitch their ideas on the web site and the selected projects will get £5,000 to transfer the ideas into prototypes.

This seems a neat idea and we have an example at Edinburgh of how this can work.  Last summer, two students from the School of Maths built a web application to help students choose the course modules most appropriate to them, taking into account their results in the previous year as well as their interests.  We are funding them for a year to develop this into a fully supported university system.

It will be interesting to see what results are produced by the new JISC initiative.

Reforming government technology: resources for CTOs

A post by Jerry Fishenden has pointed me to the blog of the UK Government's Chief Technology Officer, Liam Maxwell, in which he describes the latest stage in the government's rebalancing or reform of its IT.  They have taken a significant shift away from incompatible vendor-dominated services, instead adopting cloud-based infrastructure, shared back-office services, common platforms, and open standards.  They intend to allow small, nimble vendors to fill particular niches, in a culture that is open to change.  This is a massive change and very welcome.

In this latest iteration, they have released a set of guidance documents for CTO's.   This is worth reading - I particularly like the section on technology architecture

Also this week, Chris Sexton of Sheffield Uni blogged about the Eduserv conference, which had an opening keynote about the same topic.

It occurs to me that these documents are also useful for CTOs to share with their non-technical colleagues, to help expla…

Rounders in the park

Yesterday evening a group of us assembled on the Meadows and proceeded to play rounders for 90 minutes.  We were a mixture of people from Applications Division and from the University Web Site team, all involved to some extent in our investigation of the Drupal CMS.  As we work in different buildings, some 15 minutes walk apart, we rarely all congregate and our project manager decided that a social event was in order.  As we all turned down his offer of golf, rounders was the preferred option.

I've been to many team social events in my life but I don't think I've played rounders since I was at school.  It was fun.  After 90 minutes, several of us were beginning to ache and we gladly retired to a nearby restaurant.  My legs still ache today.

What does this achieve, from a work point of view?  Well, at the most basic, it help to puts faces to names.  More than that, it helps us to work together, because we've played together.  We learnt a bit about each other, which mak…

Away Day: Service Management

Every four months, our Division's management team have an Away Day, a chance to concentrate on particular aspects of our work without the distractions of our day-to-day responsibilities.  We don't go very far, just to a meeting room in the University's Salisbury Green hotel, right next to Arthur's Seat, but it is away from our respective desks.

Yesterday we focused on the three year strategy for our own services, the ones run by our Service Management section.  These include the university portal, the web hosting service, the lecture capture service, the VLEs and other technology-enhanced learning tools, the ID management system, the electronic voting system, and others.  The three team leaders from the section presented their plans clearly and their presentations triggered lots of discussion.  We reviewed their plans for making services even easier to use from smartphones and tablets, adding functionality without duplicating effort, and integrating services so that us…

"Just enough" Enterprise Architecture

I spent an informative and enjoyable day with a proto-community of people pursuing Enterprise Architecture in UK Higher Education.  Many of the participants had been previously involved in JISC projects and have enjoyed similar events in the past, so I began the day as a bit of an outsider.  In the University of Edinburgh, our progress in adopting "architectures" is mainly on the IT side, via our Applications Architecture and our use of Service-Oriented Architecture.  Enterprise Architecture would integrate all this IT activity with the business processes and goals of the University (or what I sometimes call the administrative processes, for those readers who are unhappy with calling a university a "business").

I've tended to be a little sceptical of fully-fledged enterprise architecture (EA) because it sounds like a mammoth undertaking and the organisations doing it have often been very large corporations.  The two main outcomes of the JISC experiences are tha…