All 5 entries tagged ITS

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February 07, 2007

How essential is files.warwick? Completely

Yesterday I stupidly tried to send a large attachment to a colleague at Cambridge. The mail server at Cambridge bounced it back to me with a message stating that my attachment was too big.

Solution: files.warwick – this is the new Warwick system that allows staff to exchange large files over the web. Upload a file, specify a list of email addresses, and it sends download links to those addresses.

The lesson: attachment size limits are now standard at all of the best institutions. My friends at Oxford agree.

Some limits from around the UK:

Bristol 10mb
Cambridge 10mb
Oxford Brookes 10mb
Oxford 10mb
Leicester 10mb (although a 7mb message from Outlook gets rejected, and they recommend a 1mb limit)
York 15mb
Imperial limit is 25mb, but they state that anything over 10mb must use their file exchange system (something like files.warwick)
GMail 10mb
Yahoo 10mb

That pretty much exhausts the list of people in the UK that I could conceivably want to send emails to. So it looks like I have to use files.warwick with these people anyway.

February 02, 2007

Warwick Learning Environment features and your chance to tell us what you think

Follow-up to Announcement: Second Arts Faculty E–learning Exhibition Lunch, 9th February from Transversality - Robert O'Toole

In preparation for the Arts Faculty E-learning Exhibition on the 9th of February, I have created a detailled concept map that aims to document the many features of the Warwick Learning Environment.

Here is the Sitebuilder 2 node:

Sitebuilder 2 features

No doubt there are features that I have missed, as well as features that people would like to see added. As a means of capturing these extra features, I have printed the map out on A0 paper. I will display the map at the E-learning Exhibition. It will be accompanied by three sets of post it note pads. The yellow set can be used to add features to the map that I have forgotten about. The green set is for giving us feedback on current features. The pink set can be used to add suggestions of new features. All participants at the exhibition will be invited to add notes to the map.

Warwick members can download the concept map (MindManager required).

Or see the map as a PDF file.

January 30, 2007

Announcement: Second Arts Faculty E–learning Exhibition Lunch, 9th February

Follow-up to Second Arts Faculty E–learning Exhibition Lunch from Transversality - Robert O'Toole

Here’s the text of the invitation that I sent out to my faculty contacts…
Second Arts Faculty E-learning Exhibition Lunch, 9th February

The second Arts Faculty e-learning lunch exhibition will be held on Friday 9th February between 12:30 and 14:30 in the Graduate Space, 4th Floor Humanities (having been postponed by a week). As before, the format will be informal, with showcase posters, demonstrations on request, hardware to try out, and experts to advise you. Please feel free to pass this invite on to others, all are welcome (but it will help if you could send an email to so that we can estimate numbers)

Even in the short time since the last exhibition, many new features and tools have become available (such as Sitebuilder page personalisation, Files.Warwick file-sharing and storage, Sitebuilder term planner calendars). Our impressive set of examples of successful e-learning work has also grown significantly, with several new showcase presentations to view. If you did come to the last exhibition, there are many good reasons to come back for more (including the excellent food).

The theme of this second exhibition is “supporting students at a distance”. We will look at how technology can be used to enhance teaching and learning whenever students are situated remotely (some would argue that students are quite often at a distance). We hope to demonstrate that these techniques are useful in all teaching contexts. If you would like to contribute to this with your own examples, then contact me for details.

The exhibition will deal with this theme by addressing four common problems:

1. keeping students and tutors focussed;
2. keeping people connected (community and communications);
3. developing roles, responsibilities and identities, making them appropriate and well understood;
4. supporting research, creativity and enterprise.

Experts will be available to provide support, including:

- Jenny Delasalle, from the Library Innovations Unit (Build-a-Link deep linking, bibliographies, online book and journal scanning project);
- Richard Parker, head of Library Arts Team (Warwick History of Arts Skills Programme, Refworks, JSTOR, Arts resources);
- a representative of the Elab Sitebuilder team;
- Robert O’Toole, Arts Faculty E-learning Advisor;
- Steven Carpenter, Sciences E-learning Advisor (video and audio expert);
- Chris Coe, Social Studies E-learning Advisor;
- a representative from the Learning Grid;
- representatives from the Centre for Student Development and Enterprise (skills Recipe Cards, Warwick Skills Programme, Graduate School, ePortfolios).

Other items at the exhibition will include:

- details of new features in Sitebuilder and Warwick Blogs;
- a map of e-learning activities in the Arts Faculty;
- leaflets from Elab, IT Services, CSDE, the Library etc;
- a suggestions board, to feedback to Elab and the Library;
- an opportunity to arrange training sessions for your department.

June 30, 2006

Web publishing channels of communication

Follow-up to How to write a communications strategy from Transversality - Robert O'Toole

In her guide to writing a communications plan Casey Leaver advises us to map our communications channels to each of our audience sectors, so that appropriate channels are used for each audience. To help with this, I have created a table that analyzes the various web publishing channels available at Warwick, so as to give some guidance on how they can be selected for different audiences.

My table maps each of the following channels/technologies:

Static web site (Sitebuilder)

  • Department
  • Module
  • ePortfolio

Blog, web log, online journal (Warwick Blogs)

  • Individual
  • Team

Discussion forum (Warwick Forums)

  • Public
  • University wide
  • Restricted group

Interview or recording

  • Podcast (MP3 recorder, Sitebuilder)
  • Online video (Video camera, Sitebuilder)

Against these parameters:

  • Owners (in order) – in each case what type of person[s] has ownership of the channel? For example, an individual blog is owned by a single person;
  • Broad or narrow cast?– is content aimed at an unspecified wide audience (broadcast) or a known/delimited audience (narrowcast);
  • Audiences – who is it typically used for;
  • Update pattern – summative or accumulative? Accumulative channels add new content to old (blog), rather than replacing it.
  • Visual design – how does the look get determined? How much control do the owners have?

You can download the file from the E-learning at Warwick web site Please feel free to redistribute it as needed.

May 24, 2006

How to write a communications strategy

At lunchtime today Madeline and I attended a very well taught and useful session by Casey Leaver of the Communications Office as part of a series organised by the CPD Office (which sadly is soon to be closed). Casey gave many good tips on print and online communications, but most vital was her introductory ideas on how an organisation can create a communications strategy.


One of the key aims of a communications strategy is to ensure that the best 'channels' of communication are used for each of the different 'stakeholders' with whom one must engage. The use of inappropriate channels is a common and sometimes serious mistake. For example, I do not wish to be told by my doctors surgery that I must use an online diagnosis form, I want to actually talk to a real person. Unbelievably, the obsession with technology has actually caused such obvious errors of judgement. One must think carefully about audience, and match channels to them carefully.

Stage 1: stakeholders

The first stage of the process is to identify the range of "stakeholders" with whom communication must be carried out. There may be some groups within the university for whom this is straightforwards. However, I suspect for the majority there are a range of different and sometimes conflicting groups to be catered for. So what of the E–learning Advisor Team? Consider our rather broad and general aim: to encourage wider and more effective use of learning technologies throughout the four faculties. Obviously the agents of this change are our principle stakeholders. But we should also consider everyone who will beneift, as they are ultimately those who will judge our effectiveness.

Casey provided us with A3 sized grids on which to record our ideas. Along the vertical axis, we listed each of the stakeholder groups. On my grid I added the following:

  1. Lecturers - techies and early adopters. Lecturers who are prepared to adopt new learning technologies without much prompting or convincing. This group presents us with an easy but not necessarily significant or sustained win.
  2. Lecturers - followers. Perhaps an unfair description, as the majority of lecturers simply do not have a great deal of free time to try out new approaches. They have to use well tested and understood techniques.
  3. Lecturers - resisters. This group actually puts effort into opposing the introduction of new learning technologies, even though no one is actually forcing them to do anything. Yes, they really do exist, and can exert a formidable effect within departments.
  4. Graduate research students and post-docs. A group that I take very seriously. They do a big share of the teaching, as well as being users of learning technologies for private study.
  5. Taught students. There is some controversy about whether we need to communicate with taught students. It could be argued that this is the responsibility of the relevant lecturers. However, I believe that it is necessary and valuable for us to work directly with taught students. At Warwick we aim to encourage students to act independently, taking personal responsibility for their skills and technologies. The Learning Grid is a brilliant example of this approach.
  6. Departmental IT. Some departments have their own IT people, who act as key agents of change (or stagnation in a few rare cases). This is more common in the Sciences.
  7. Departmental administrators. Another significant set of agents for change. The Business School's e–learning team had a strategy of working closely with administrators. This is said to be a very effective approach, leading to excellent integration of admin and e–learning systems, something that IT Services has failed to do.
  8. IT Services. The people who run the services upon which we rely must be informed as to the significance and effects of their services.
  9. Central service providers. For example the Library and the Warwick Skills Programme, who are themselves keen to adopt the best technologies, and who may also effect change within departments as they demonstrate successful applications.

That is quite an intimidating range. Perhaps we should consider cutting some of the stakeholders out of the plan? For example, we could take the easy route and focus upon the techie/early–adopter lecturers. But then we risk alienating the vast majority of lecturers by only ever addressing the needs and interests of individuals who are already unique and eccentric. Alternatively, we could simply address the silent majority of lecturers, the 'followers'. That would be a hard and perhaps impossible slog, in which we may fail to encourage and communicate any good examples of the use of learning technologies. Probably the best solution is to prioritise, and work with each group where they offer the best strategic return.

Stage 2: channels

Assuming that we do have to communicate with each of these groups in some way, the next step in formulating a communications strategy is to consider the range of available 'channels' of communication that are available. Once that I started on this list, I quickly realised how many we do regularly use, and just how diverse they are. My list included:

  1. The E–learning at Warwick web site.
  2. Content on other people's web sites.
  3. The E–learning Forum.
  4. The E–learning Blog.
  5. Personal blogs.
  6. Email, personal.
  7. Email, list.
  8. Telephone.
  9. Booklets and leaflets.
  10. How to guides.
  11. Flyers.
  12. Posters.
  13. Billboards.
  14. Personal contact.
  15. Coaching sessions.
  16. Presentations within other meetings.
  17. Seminars and workshops.
  18. Conferences.
  19. Novelty items (I mean fridge magnets, drinks mats etc).

I'm sure there are even more, but I ran out of room on the A3 grid, upon which they were plotted along the horizontal axis.

E–learning Team Comms

Now, with the stakeholders and the channels plotted, one can consider matching the latter to the former, that is to say, ensuring that the appropriate channels are used with each group of stakeholders. This immediately throws up some key issues. For example, I expect that content presented via blogs could be more accessible and interesting to undergraduates. However, I have in the past made the mistake of expecting a moderately 'resistant' lecturer to read a blog! My experience is that such people actually expect and demand to be dealt with on a personal face–to–face basis.

During the session we only really got started on using the communications strategy grid. I did immediately start to think about the problem in a new way. For example, our web site contains "showcases" that aim to engage the majority of lecturers. I know that this only provides a small element in the required communications with such people. We need to compliment it with other channels, especially departmental presentations (although we should deal with the resisters and early-adopters seperately first). I will continue developing my grid, and hopefully arive at more solutions that can be applied.

Thanks Casey!