Thursday, 22 December 2016 security information

We have been informed that the online learning platform,, has recently been compromised by an unauthorised third party. The breach took place on a database that included information on learning data, such as contact information and courses viewed. None of the lost data has been made publicly available at this time.

While this is a service that we offer to all University staff and students, we do not store any passwords with and can assure you that this information has not been accessed. Whether you have used or not you do not need to take any action as a result of this incident.

You may receive or have already received an email notifying you of the security breach, this has been sent to all registered users, and does not mean that your data has been compromised. is contacting users as an ‘abundance of caution’ and as all University of Sheffield users’ passwords are unaffected, no action is required.

We take security of services we provide very seriously, and are working with to investigate and understand the incident.

Tuesday, 29 November 2016

Meet the new Google Sites

Google Sites has had an overhaul. The basic website building tool is now easier to use, with a new drag-and-drop interface. The complex features of the old Google Sites like gadgets, sidebars and complicated menu options have all disappeared. Instead, Sites now offers a straightforward single-column layout with a handful of themes, fonts and colour options that work seamlessly on any device. It takes the hard work out of designing a coherent website. 

Your current Google Site will remain the same unless you migrate it over to the new version. Migration tools to transition your classic site will be released in 2017.

Here’s some of the key features of the new Sites.

1. Responsive Design

The old Google Sites was pretty bad at displaying content on different devices. The new single-column, no-sidebar layout is designed to scale to any screen size and the two available menu options make navigation easy.

2. Google apps integration


The new Sites allows you to insert content from any of Google’s apps within your Drive account, including Docs, Sheets, Forms and Charts, into your site from within the editor. Youtube videos and Maps can also be embedded and easily resized and moved around the page without having to delve into the source code.

3. Real-time collaborative editing

Multiple people can now simultaneously edit a Google Site, seeing each other’s changes in real-time, just like Google Docs, without worrying about conflicts or locked pages.

Monday, 28 November 2016

New and improved Internet resilience

In November, after months of planning, we implemented the University's new link to our Internet Service Provider, Janet. Just like large companies such as Google and the BBC, we now have our own direct link to an Internet Exchange Point in London Docklands providing us with greatly increased resilience to potential network problems.

Back in January, the University lost internet access for several hours, leaving important IT services including MOLE and Google Apps inaccessible. This problem was caused by two separate but simultaneous failures in the Yorkshire and Humberside Region (YHR) network, which affected our primary and backup internet connections. Now, thanks to our new link to London Docklands, we are no longer reliant on the YHR network, meaning that any future faults on the network won't affect us.

As the new link will serve as our primary network connection, another benefit is that we can now dedicate a 10Gbps internet connection to high volume research use, including High Performance Computing.

The diagram below outlines what our network now looks like, with the new link shown in red:

Wednesday, 2 November 2016

Be a CiCS Graduate Intern

We have two Graduate Internships available: Digital Media Assistant & IT Security Analyst. The Graduate Internship will offer you a six month paid placement where your work will focus on a specific and defined project. You will be supported throughout your internship and will benefit from a detailed induction and a development programme.

Apply through Career Connect in MUSE. Applications close on 4 November.

Digital Media Assistant

Job ref: UOS014691

An exciting opportunity has arisen for a Graduate Intern to work as a Digital Media Assistant within Print and Design Solutions (PDS). We are the University’s internal print and graphic design service with an annual income of £1.6M and are responsible for delivering creative, digital and graphical services and to manage all print production and specialist print services.

As a Digital Media Assistant you will be an enthusiastic, creative and a dynamic individual who will play a key role to develop the services digital assets. This will include producing a number of short videos to be used for promotional and training purposes. The videos will be intended for students and staff and aim to improve their awareness of the value of PDS services. Reporting to the Design Manager and working closely with graphic designers, creative media and the communications teams, you will be required to research, write, design and produce short videos to showcase PDS products and services.

The Graduate Internship will offer you a six month paid placement where your work will focus on a specific and defined project(s). You will be supported throughout your internship and will benefit from a detailed induction and a development programme.

You will have graduated from the University of Sheffield with a good Undergraduate honours degree within the last academic year. Have proven experience using industry standard software for Apple Macintosh or PC and the ability to assess and organise resources and plan and progress work activities. You will have excellent verbal and written communication skills, ability to work independently and as part of a team and experience of adapting own skills to new circumstances.

IT Security Analyst
Job ref: UOS014674

We are seeking a motivated and enthusiastic individual with strong interpersonal, organisational and technical skills to contribute to the University’s IT security improvement programme over a six- month period.

You will be responsible for performing a variety of network and IT security assessments and co-ordinating actions with colleagues across the University.

This exciting opportunity will involve working with a wide variety of enterprise-level IT systems, including network devices, web servers, authentication systems and databases.

You will be required to collaborate with a range of staff across the University, therefore you must have excellent interpersonal and communication skills. You will need to co-ordinate your activities with other people and systems, working efficiently and accurately with large data sets.

This is a great opportunity for someone who has interest and skills in networking and IT Security, an aptitude to learn and the communication skills required to share their knowledge with others. In return you will gain valuable experience of IT security operational activities and enterprise-level IT systems.

An existing knowledge of enterprise networks and system administration would be advantageous but not essential, as colleagues will support you throughout the project.

Wednesday, 21 September 2016

Do not feed the phish!

Criminals would love to get their hands on your student loan, your university password, bank account details or our resources. We block most of these phishing emails, but sometimes they slip through the net. Make sure you know how to avoid them.

How to avoid phishing scams

  • Many phishing emails will try to get you to reply with a username and password, or ask you to click on a link and submit personal information such as log in details or bank account details. Don't reply and don't click on any links to avoid falling victim. If in doubt, forward the email to, then mark the email as spam and delete it.

  • Look out for Gmail warnings! If you get an email that looks like it's from a email address but actually isn't, Google will flag it as being unauthenticated. If you see this, be wary and look out for signs of phishing. The message on the right below is how it will look, compared to a message from an authenticated sender on the left:

  • Be suspicious of any emails that claim to come from Student Finance England. These can be convincing, but real Student Finance emails will never ask you to confirm your log in or bank account details via email.

  • Look out for the Gmail warning that will be displayed if you receive a message which includes a link to a website known for phishing, malware or unwanted software. Don't click on any links when you see this warning, it's not worth the risk!

  • Hover over links before you click on them to check where they go. The real URL should reveal itself in the bottom left corner of the browser.

Monday, 19 September 2016

Software updates in teaching spaces

Over the summer there have have been some updates to the software that we offer in our teaching spaces. Here’s a brief rundown of the changes and how you can get the most out of the  services.

TurningPoint Software
For this academic year we are trialing a new version of TurningPoint, called TurningPoint Cloud (TPC). If you’re unfamiliar with the software you can learn more about TurningPoint and how to get it here.  

TPC is faster and more reliable than previous versions of TurningPoint, as well as now allowing students to vote via their mobile device. Meaning that you can use TPC just with clickers, just mobile devices or a combination both mobile devices and clickers.

Every teaching space computer will have TPC installed as standard, but if you don’t wish to trial this new version TurningPoint v5 will still be available via the software centre.  Whether you plan to use a teaching space computer or your own laptop you will need to request a TCP account to try the new version. You can request an account here

There are additional details on how to sign in and get started using TCP here.

Smartboard Software
Our smartboard software has been updated to the latest version (2016). The new version bring with it a few changes:
  • You can now use Smart Ink straight away, as well as Notebook software. So you no longer need to wait to start annotating your display.
  • The newest version of the software no longer features the floating toolbar

Microsoft Office 2016
Microsoft Office 2016 is now available on all computers in teaching spaces.

In the latest version of  Office 2016 PowerPoint, the presenter view  is much easier to enable, but there are several points to consider when choosing whether to use it in teaching:
  • It will not work on any teaching pool space in which it has a Smart Podium (an interactive screen, which is installed in most spaces).
  • If enabled, Smart Ink does not function properly
  • If enabled, TurningPoint toolbar does not function properly.

Once enabled, presenter view will stay enabled for every other managed desktop computer you use, until you disable it. So, we recommend that if you do decide to use this feature, you enable and disable it as and when required.

Thursday, 15 September 2016

The New MyEcho

MyEcho has gone through some changes over the summer. Here are some of the best new features of MyEcho.

MyEcho Everywhere
All lecture theatres across campus now have MyEcho hardware installed which can be used with your own laptop or using the lectern PC. If you would like to book MyEcho for your module, speak to your departmental timetabler who can book it through CMIS.

Get the most out of lectures with interactive slides
MyEcho now supports live lecture presentation. This allows you to use interactive slides to quiz your class, who can then submit their answers in real time.  It also gathers stats on how many notes your students are taking and how they did on quizzes. You can also enable your students to ask questions or flag when they are confused with certain content.
Dynamic new look for MyEcho web service  
The MyEcho web service, accessed through MUSE, has undergone a makeover. The Echoes page has been replaced with a Dashboard to give you a quick update from your classes and your Personal Capture area has now been replaced with a Library to store all of your videos and presentations. There have also been improvements to the playback system for students. Videos now play in HTML5 rather than Flash, meaning that content can be played on most browsers and devices and at a higher quality than before.

The new look is being rolled out now, so if you can't see it yet, don't worry - you'll be able to access it soon.
Never miss a second with our new monitor lights
MyEcho devices in lecture theatres now have monitor lights to let you know whether the lecture is being recorded:
  • Static red light indicates that the lecture is being recorded.
  • Flashing red light means the microphone is not being used.
  • Flashing yellow light means the recording is paused. You can pause and unpause the recording by tapping the top of the light.

Friday, 26 August 2016

Shared area moves

During the week beginning Monday 29 August we will be moving shared areas to new server locations. Each move will start at 19:00 and files will be unavailable for up to 2 hours as we carry out the work. You should make sure you have closed any shared files that you have open before 19:00.

The schedule for moves is:
  • Wednesday 31 August: windleden\shared3 will move to shareddata03\shared3
  • Thursday 1 September: ashopton\shared4 will move to shareddata04\shared4
  • Sunday 4 September: langsett\shared2 will move to shareddata02\shared2

If you are using the University Managed Desktop, Yoyo Desktop or a Windows computer with the Novell Client your new shared drive location will automatically configure the first time you log in after the move. Most shortcuts and linked documents should continue to work, however, some may need setting to point to the new location.

Those using unmanaged Windows, Mac and Linux will need to replace the old server name with the new server name in their connection settings following the move. They may also need to reconfigure, or recreate any shortcuts which point specifically to the old server location. Instructions for setting up connections can be found here:

As a result of the move, these shared areas will now be available in UniDrive through MUSE.

New security warnings in Gmail

We know that you receive mountains of emails everyday, and it can be frustrating figuring out which ones don’t come from a trustworthy source. To help protect your information security and make your life a little bit easier, Gmail has introduced two new security warnings.

The first is a filter which can warn you if a message comes from an unverified source. Thousands of  ‘spoofed’ spam emails are received by University staff each year. These emails claim to come from a  email address, but actually originate elsewhere. With the new filters in place, when an email can’t be authenticated you’ll see a question mark in place of the sender’s profile photo, corporate logo or avatar.

The second will alert you if you receive a message which includes a link to a website known for phishing, malware or unwanted software.

Seeing either of these warnings does not mean that the email is necessarily fraudulent, but it does mean that you should be particularly cautious. If the email requests personal information or contains any links you must contact the CiCS Helpdesk before taking any other action.

This extra level of security may cause your legitimate mails to be flagged if you send emails using an unknown sender. You are most likely to be affected if you;
  1. Send mails via third party service. For example using an external mailing or survey service such as MailChimp.
  2. Send mails using your Internet Service Provider’s mail servers. You will not be affected if, like most people, you use Google Mail or University servers.

Our Helpdesk has been contacting everyone we think might be affected, but if you are concerned that this change could affect you, please get in touch. You’ll be able to discuss your requirements and available options.

If you have any questions or concerns about this change, please contact the CiCS Helpdesk on 21111 or

Friday, 5 August 2016

Phone lines busy during clearing and adjustment

Clearing and Adjustment Begins Thurs 18 Aug

On Thurs 18 August A Level results will be released and Admissions will begin the clearing process. During this time the University will receive a high volume of incoming phone calls from potential students.

Phone Lines Busy

External phone lines are expected to be busy 18-22 August, with the peak expected 9-11:30am Thursday 18th. During this time any outgoing calls you make may receive a busy tone. In addition, people may experience difficulty when calling you from off campus.

Avoid External Calls if Possible

We ask for your patience during this short period and, where possible, that you avoid making external calls from your University extension.

Internal Calls Unaffected

No issues should be experienced in calls taking place between internal University extensions.

Call Recording Limited

Understandably, our central call recording facilities, used for recording phone interviews, will be limited 18-19 August. If you need to use this facility please phone helpdesk on 21111 for advice.

PebblePad 5 brings improvements to a powerful reflective portfolio tool

August sees big improvements to PebblePad, with the launch of v5 meaning a better experience for users of the reflective portfolio tool.

PebblePad is a personal learning space, used primarily for e-portfolios, and evidencing achievements and skills. The focus of the system is on reflection, allowing learners not only to log experiences, but reflect on their learning journey as they progress.

Learners can create their own material in PebblePad, using it to log and reflect upon any experiences they feel important. Alternatively tutors can create resources for learners to complete, which can then be assessed using the part of PebblePad known as ATLAS (Active Teaching, Learning and Assessment Space). Anything students create belongs to them, with learner ownership an important part of the PebblePad ethos. Free alumni accounts can be set up allowing unlimited access to learners’ material even after they leave the institution. Students can share anything they create with others, even those without PebblePad accounts, and even publish their material to the web for all to see.

 PebblePad can be beneficial to learners as it allows for a scaffolding of reflective practice. This can be for an individual module or assignment, the entirety of a learner’s time at University, or anything in-between. Tutors can check in with their students’ progress at any point, giving formative feedback and identifying learning needs. It also allows learners to think about and log their experiences as they progress through their academic career, and easily draw upon those at a later date. It is very flexible and can be used for a number of situations – it can be used as easily for tracking achievements in societies, hobbies or pastimes as it can for academic and professional development.

At the University of Sheffield, PebblePad is used effectively in a range of departments. It is used extensively across the Faculty of Medicine, Dentistry and Health in Doctoral Development activities, and in Postgraduate Training Needs Analyses and other activities across the Faculties of Science and Arts & Humanities. It is also the method for staff members creating HEA-accredited portfolios for the Learning and Teaching Professional Recognition Scheme. Other users include Careers, Sheffield International College, the Department of Lifelong Learning and Social Work, as well as it being used for a number of individual modules and assignments across all faculties of the University.

While always a powerful tool for undertaking this kind of work, it has been let down by a Flash-based interface, which was feeling dated, was not compatible with mobile devices, and many users found confusing and unintuitive. On the 8th of August we move across from v3 to v5, which addresses a number of issues with the system. 
Most significantly Flash is replaced with HTML5, meaning full compatibility with all browsers, including on mobile devices. With this comes a fresh new interface, looking cleaner, more modern, and easier to navigate. Much of the functionality has been simplified, and the language used has been made clearer and less confusing. Uploading and managing files in PebblePad has been vastly improved, and is easy to navigate. Creating portfolios, and templates and workbooks for others to use, is now an easier and quicker process than before, with the end results looking attractive and professional. There are not many new feature as such (PebblePad are wisely focusing on making existing features better), although there are a few additions to workbooks and portfolios that make them more flexible than before.

As the new version works on the same technical system, all material will be automatically transferred, with no downtime and no loss of data. ATLAS is not changing in the short-term, meaning those members of staff who only use PebblePad to administer assignments or mark work are unlikely to need additional training. Eventually ATLAS will be changed to match the style and feel of the rest of the system. 

While there are some significant changes in the way the system looks and is navigated, we feel strongly that this will be easier for learners to use, and greatly improve the experience of both staff and students using PebblePad. It is also hoped that the new version will address some issues that may have put colleagues off using it in the past, and that the simpler, attractive and responsive new interface will allow more people to consider its use when setting reflective, portfolio-based tasks.

If you have any questions about PebblePad, and how it can be used with your learners, please contact the TEL Team at

Pete Mella

Wednesday, 13 April 2016

The Badlock Bug

Following the disclosure of the Badlock vulnerability details, we have assessed the risk to University IT systems as being low. We will be patching all Windows servers maintained by CiCS, and all University managed and YoYo Desktop computers as part of our normal patching procedures. 

Please ensure that any servers, desktops or NAS drives you maintain are patched and have all updates applied. If you are unsure whether your system is affected by Badlock, please contact the vendor who will be able to provide you with more details.

More details on the Badlock Bug can be found here: 

If you have any further questions about Badlock then please get in touch.

Tuesday, 2 February 2016

Internet Outage (January 19) Report

At 11:21 on Tuesday 19 January the internet connection to the University failed. This left several important University IT services including MOLE and Google Apps inaccessible until our connection was restored at 16:35.

The internet outage affected the University of Sheffield, Sheffield Hallam University, and all the educational institutions in Yorkshire that receive their internet connection via the two Sheffield Universities.

Following the internet outage we had a debrief with JANet (the government funded HE network that provides our connections).

On Sunday 17 January monitoring systems run by the cable provider indicated a ‘low light’ fault causing significantly reduced performance on the back-up link connecting Sheffield Hallam University to the internet. The Hallam link serves as our own back-up internet link. Engineers were scheduled to locate and fix this fault for Tuesday the 19th of January and all internet traffic was diverted to our primary link. From this point onward our internet connection was entirely dependent on the primary link.

At 11:21, road excavations (a man with a jackhammer) severed the primary link and our internet connection was lost.

This double physical loss is a very unlikely event, but clearly our reliance on this connection is critical. We were already investigating the viability of alternative or additional solutions to mitigate against future loss of connectivity.  

This will take longer decide and plan for, and may require us to change the way some services are delivered. The nature of our plans will be communicated once we are clear what we are going to do.

Monday, 1 February 2016

Saving £100,000 a year with mobile contracts migration

Last year we agreed a new contract with O2 in an initiative that should save the University more than £100,000 a year. To help us reach this target, we are working with departments to coordinate the migration of old Vodafone or O2 connections to the new O2 tariffs. We will soon be getting in touch with the remaining departments to complete an audit of phone and tablet connections that need migrating or which may need disconnecting if they’re no longer used.

As well as saving a huge amount of money every year, the new arrangement with O2 means that all tariffs will include unlimited calls and texts. They will also be on 30-day rolling contracts, so they can be easily cancelled if they’re no longer needed, or changed to better suit your needs. For example, if you find you need more data than you originally thought, the allowance can be increased as quickly as the next month.

You may not need a new handset, but if you do, a new range of 4G-enabled phones is available to suit your work requirements and all work well with Google Apps. To look at the range of handsets and tariffs available, visit our mobiles page.