Thursday, 28 February 2013

MOLE 2 App Goes Live

In addition to our fantastic iSheffield app giving access to personalised uni information for individual students, we can now offer an equally fantastic mobile app for learning and teaching. It went live today, Thursday 28 February and it's awesome :)

Blackboard mobile learn is the mobile app for MOLE 2, it lets students access their online courses, interact with their tutors and with other students on the same course, it lets them upload photos taken with their phone into their courseware and it notifies them whenever there is a change to any of the learning materials associated with their online courses.

The app is available for Apple, Android and BlackBerry devices. Install the app from your device's app store, specify your school as the 'University of Sheffield' and then log in with your username and password. Alternatively, scan the QR code in the image below.

Wednesday, 20 February 2013

Tightening Up Shared Role Based Accounts

There are a number of special computer accounts at the University intended to be used for a specific function rather than to allow an individual to access services. Sometimes these are used for departmental websites on cPanel, sometimes they are used for shared mailboxes and there are a range of other applications too. The accounts are often referred to as shared accounts, generic accounts or role based accounts.

Due to the shared nature of these accounts they tend to be passed from colleague to colleague over time and when staff leave it can be difficult for CiCS to know for sure whether the account is still needed.

To address this we are building new safeguards into these shared accounts to ensure we know whether each account is still needed and who its registered keeper is. In future this will be a simple process causing negligible disruption. However, the initial startup will need to clear a backlog and this will mean several hundred staff receive emails asking whether a shared account is still needed and whether they are happy to be its registered keeper. This is all well and good if the account is still being used but may cause confusion if the account has long been forgotten about.

If you are lucky enough to receive one of our email notifications please let us know whether the account it refers to is needed and who the registered keeper should be. If you don’t know anything about the account please let us know that too.

One final thing, emails asking for account details are used for online fraud (phishing) attempts. Our email does not ask for your username, password or email address and it does not require you to type these into a web form. It can be answered with simple yes or no replies. If you ever receive an email asking you to provide account details you should delete it.

If you require confirmation that the email in genuine please contact the CiCS helpdesk on 21111.

Tuesday, 19 February 2013

Moving on from uSpace

CiCS is running a project to decommission uSpace via a measured, thought-out process. Originally uSpace was introduced to provide new and innovative functionality for learning and teaching, including blogs and wiki-type collaborative document editing. Staff and students quickly found innovative ways to use these features in many aspects of University work. However, many, if not all, of these features are now provided by other services including MOLE2 and Google Apps, and usage of uSpace has decreased significantly as many students and staff have naturally migrated to different services.

It has also become increasingly confusing to staff to determine where best to store and share documents as an ever-increasing range of services was providing similar functionality. This also made it difficult for us to justify paying the substantial licensing and support costs that uSpace demanded.

Despite the decrease in usage, uSpace is still being used and enjoyed in some areas and the project will not leave its users high and dry. We will work with colleagues to understand how it is currently being used and will identify how this functionality can be provided by alternative IT services at the University. We will also look at transferring content out of uSpace into other services.

It is always a lot easier and cleaner to introduce new services than it is to decommission them. However, it is very important that the University does not accumulate a collection of legacy services providing functionality that is available elsewhere. If you have thoughts, ideas or concerns about the decommissioning of uSpace please let us know using the form fields below.

Monday, 18 February 2013

Mobile App for MOLE 2 Coming Soon!

Blackboard Mobile Learn, the mobile app for MOLE 2, will be made available for Sheffield students and staff at the end of February. Details on how to get and use the app will be made available from the CiCS website.

Currently, the app lets you access your course materials from your phone or tablet, lets you interact with your tutor and your coursemates and notifies you whenever new course materials are made available. However, in future there will be innovative course materials developed specifically to make the most of the smartphone/tablet interface in addition to standard computer access.

Currently we are releasing Mobile Learn via a soft launch. That means we are making the app available to anyone who is interested in trying it out, but we are not actively promoting it. Over time we will work with teaching staff at the University to explore innovative ways to use the app and to optimise online course materials to be used with the app. We anticipate a full bells and whistles fanfare launch for the app to take place in September.

To avoid confusion we need to be clear that Blackboard Mobile Learn is the app that gives access to course content and learning partners in Blackboard Learns (MOLE 2). It should not be confused with Blackboard Mobile Central which provides a wide range of mobile resources for students. At Sheffield we already provide this wide range of personalised information and services to students via the iSheffield mobile app available below:

Platforms that will support the app are iOS, Android, Blackberry and WebOS. There is currently no Windows 8 version but this is scheduled to be released soon.

Monday, 4 February 2013

SAP Oracle Database Upgrade 9/2/2013

As part of the preparation for upgrading to the new SAP applications, the underlying Oracle databases must be updated from version 10 to 11. It's a fairly lengthy process, and it does require downtime to SAP applications.

To protect the integrity of the data in the Oracle databases, there must be no read or write actions on it whilst the upgrade is being performed. This means, myJob, myTeam, myPurchase, uBASE, and eRecruitment will all be unavailable for the duration of the work.

With agreement by the departments of HR and Finance, the Directors of Faculty Operations, and by our change advisory board we have scheduled this work for 7am on Saturday February 9th. It is due to be completed by midday.