WebLearn likely to be unavailable on Saturday 6th September 2014

A message from Mike Fraser (Director of Infrastructure Services):

Dear colleagues,

It is planned to power-down the IT Services data centre at Banbury Road on Saturday, 6 September 2014 with the loss of a significant number of IT services.  This outage is necessary in order for Estates Services to replace the end-of-life cooling system, which uses a refrigerant that will be illegal to maintain beyond December 2014; fit a by-pass switch to the data centre UPS to allow us to carry out maintenance on the UPS without the need to shut down the whole data centre; and to undertake mandatory electrical testing. The work is expected to be undertaken from 0800 with restoration of services by 1700. It is likely that some services that cannot be kept running will be powered down the previous evening (Friday 5 Sept) from 1700 onwards.

We are assessing the impact to IT services hosted in the data centre and, where possible, putting in place workarounds in order to try and minimise the overall impact to the University. We do not yet have a definitive list of services that will be unavailable on 6 Sept and so at this point in time all networked services provided by IT Services should be considered at risk on that day (with potential impact on local services). We intend to communicate a list of affected services by 6 August with further reminders leading up to 6 September.

Given the number of individual pieces of hardware that will be powered-down on 6 September, and the risk of hardware failure, it is likely that some services will not come back on line within the expected time period. We will endeavour to maintain frequent communications to IT support staff during any period of service outage.

If you have any immediate concerns or questions please email help@it.ox.ac.uk in the first instance.

With regards,


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Peer assessment coming in WebLearn 10

The WebLearn team is upgrading WebLearn to Sakai version 10 over the summer (2014). One of the great new features of the Assignments tool is that it allows peer review and grading (peer assessment). This screenshot shows two students who have each submitted an assignment, and each received one (anonymous) peer review with comments and a grade.

Note that the instructor needs to wait until the review period (specified when the assignment is created) is over, before checking the peer reviews and allocating a final mark:


See more details on this blog post from the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill:

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Sakai Virtual Conference – Call for presentations

Following the earlier notification to ‘Save the date’, here are further details of the Sakai Virtual Conference which has now opened the call for papers: deadline 22 August 2014. See further details below.

Note that the online event on 7 November 2014 will emphasize the use of Sakai for teaching and learning – it would be great if we could have some Oxford academics (or students or admin/library/ITSS staff) presenting a session or two.

Please consider submitting a proposal and keep the central WebLearn team in the loop!

Now Open! Call for Proposals for the Sakai Virtual Conference 2014

The theme of the conference is “Bridging Education with Technology.”  Be the bridge by sharing your expertise with others!

You are invited to submit a proposal for the first ever Sakai Virtual Conference! The premise of the virtual conference is simple: An Online, Sakai Teaching and Learning focused conference to connect with colleagues across the globe and share stories and best practices. You can enjoy interaction with your peers in the Sakai community, all without leaving home!

We are actively seeking presenters who are knowledgeable about teaching with Sakai. You don’t need to be a technical expert to share your experiences! Submit your proposal today! The deadline for submissions is August 22, 2014.

This online event will emphasize the use of Sakai for teaching and learning. The conference committee has planned the following tracks/session types:

  • Faculty Course Showcase – Demonstrate exemplary instructional strategies and course design by showcasing your course.
  • Instructional Design/Support - How do you support your end users?  Share best practices for instructional design, training, and professional development at your institution.
  • Effective or Innovative Practice – Are you using Sakai in a unique or uniquely effective way? Show us your innovative practice.
  • Birds of a Feather – Lead an informal/unstructured online gathering/discussion about a topic of your choice.
  • Student Experience Lightning Talks – Do you have some amazing student projects or perspectives you’d like to share? Nominate a student to provide a 5 minute presentation during a combined lightning talk session.
  • Technical Session – Do you have a topic that would be of interest to Sakai developers or IT staff? Present on a technical topic “under the hood” of Sakai.

The Sakai Virtual Conference will take place entirely online on Friday, November 7. You’ll make your presentation in a virtual “room,” take live questions from the audience, and get the conference experience without the expense of travel. There will be opportunities for networking and informal discussions, as well as a chance to win prizes donated by our sponsors.

Help us make the inaugural Sakai Virtual Conference a great success!

We look forward to your proposal!



Ian Dolphin, Executive Director, Apereo Foundation

Neal Caidin, Sakai Community Coordinator, Apereo Foundation

Wilma Hodges, Sakai Virtual Conference 2014 Planning Committee Chair

Martin Ramsay, Sakai Virtual Conference 2014 Planning Committee Member 


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Wikipedia editors named in US law suit

Referring to my earlier post encouraging volunteers to write articles for Wikipedia, here is a cautionary tale about a US law suit against four Wikipedia editors by a person who claims they defamed him in an editors’ discussion forum.


[Thanks to Caroll Mitchell for forwarding this link.]

The article describes the support being provided to the editors by the Wikimedia Foundation.

Another link from Caroll Mitchell:

Victory in Italy – Court rules in favour of Wikimedia

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Using Wikipedia in education

This posting is a brief summary of the keynote address given by Dr Toni Sant (Wikimedia UK) at the 6th International Integrity and Plagiarism Conference held in Newcastle-upon-Tyne from 17 to 18 June 2014.

  • Who has used Wikipedia?
  • Who has edited Wikipedia?
  • Who has written an article for Wikipedia? (Think about doing this, or setting an assignment for your students to do so – see more information below about developing an article for Wikipedia.)

The Wikimedia Foundation is the organisation that runs Wikipedia – it is donor funded, there is no advertising, it employs 150 people and operates in 286 languages. The project includes many specialist areas:


Five pillars of wikipedia

  1. It is an encyclopedia – has exactly the same scholarly authority as any other encyclopedia.
  2. Written from a ‘neutral point of view’ – should this rather be ALL points of view?
  3. Free content than anyone can edit/use/modify/share
  4. Editors should respect each other
  5. Does not have many firm rules, but there are some fundamental principles (enter the given shortcut in the Wikipedia search bar for more information):
  • notability; conflict of interest; verifiability (WP:V); neutral point of view (WP:NPOV)
  • plag (WP:Plag) – e.g. flag: ‘citation needed’; fair use (WP:NFC)
  • civility (WP:Civil); consensus (WP:Con); assume good faith (WP:AGF)

How can we address concerns about the use or misuse of Wikipedia?

  • Editing Wikipedia: every page has an edit button at the top – anyone can do it. Get your students to write a wikipedia article as part of their assignment – you can get help on the process of ‘Developing an article’
  • Evaluating Wikipedia: there is a hierarchy of article types – you can start with a ‘stub’ if you have just the beginnings of an idea for an article (e.g. see ‘Fatberg’):wiki_article types
  • Wikipedia education programme (available online to redistribute freely) – all about Wikipedia, plus a 12-week course on how to use Wikipedia as a teaching tool.

Dr Sant concluded by saying that Wikimedia and academia are natural allies – Wikipedia is often the starting point for essays, assignments or research, BUT it can lead students back to the primary sources (via the Reference list). Wikipedia provides a support mechanism – students can discover, understand (collaboration and crowd sourcing), comprehend, and learn to distinguish between diff types of sources (reliable, less reliable, unreliable) for  use in their own writing.

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Save the date: Sakai virtual conference 7 Nov 2014

The international Sakai community includes a very active teaching and learning group which has a mailing list and communal wiki for discussions and sharing ideas.



The community is planning a Sakai Virtual Conference 2014: “Bridging education with technology” on 7 November 2014. According to Ian Dolphin, the Executive Director of the Apereo Foundation (which has superceded the Sakai Foundation):

“The conference will be held entirely online, and will have an emphasis on pedagogy and best practices. Join us for a faculty-friendly day of learning, sharing and community building with your fellow Sakai users, all without the need to travel!”

Times and further details are yet to be communicated – we will keep you informed.

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WebLearn upgraded to version 2.8-ox11 on 8 July 2014

WebLearn was upgraded on Tuesday 8th July 2014 to version 2.8-ox11. If you want more details then please contact the WebLearn Team.

If you would like to suggest further improvements then please do so by contributing to the WebLearn User Voice feedback service.

General Improvements

  • Poll responses can now be removed (User Voice suggestion)
  • Polls can now be removed (User Voice suggestion)
  • Hidden resources are now greyed out for site maintainers in ‘Access (Student) View’ of Resources (User Voice suggestion)
  • 3 new templates have been added to the WYSIWYG editor (and ‘strange template’ has been removed)
    • Two column display
    • Three column display
    • Grid display with images
  • SES / RTT tool: information about individual session venues now displayed

Bug Fixes

  • SES / RTT: Waiting list now keeps places up to date
  • Site Info: course groups are now able to be browsed
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Copyright changes – Accessibility

JISC legal presented an online webinar on 8 July 2014, focusing on the disability exception in the light of the copyright changes that came into effect on 1 June 2014. (See more information via the links below.)

In general, ‘restricted acts’ under copyright law refer to “copying, adapting, transmitting, disseminating and communicating a work to the public” (JISC seminar). To do any of these things, one must either be the copyright holder, or get permission from the copyright holder, or have permission via a licence such as the CLA or creative commons. If you are going to create an accessible version of a work for a disabled person, then you do not need to request permission, since this need is covered under the disability exception.

The main changes to the disability exception (since 1 June 2014) are the following:

  • It now includes ALL disabilities, not only visual impairment
  • It now includes ALL works, including broadcasts and performances
  • A contract term (such as a publisher’s contract) is now unenforceable if it restricts what you can do under the revised law – this does not give you carte blanche – you must have lawful use or possession of the work to start with and the accessible version must be for disabled persons only.

What hasn’t changed?

  • The exception applies only where you have lawful possession or use of the work to start with
  • Digital Rights Management (DRM)/Technical Protection Measures (TPM) issues are not addressed
  • An accessible copy cannot be made available generally – it is restricted to those who need it
  • An accessible commercial version must be used if available – but now this must be at reasonable cost
  • Reporting and record keeping provisions remain (except for one individual student – in this case you do not need to report or acknowledge at all)

Useful links:

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Accessibility and colour blindness

Adam Marshall presented a talk at the WebLearn User Group meeting on 7 July 2014 about writing accessible webpages. He showed a YouTube video which demonstrates how a screen reader reads out the content, links and navigation on a Sakai webpage to a person with visual impairment.

According to Wikipedia “Web accessibility refers to the inclusive practice of removing barriers that prevent access to websites by people with disabilities”. The Special Education Needs and Disability (SENDA) Act of 2001 requires web designers to ‘make reasonable provisions’ to ensure that people with disabilities have the same opportunities as those who are not disabled. The Act applies also to WebLearn site owners and users.

Another important aspect to be aware of is colour blindness, which affects a significant proportion of the population. This interesting blog post by the Oxford Protein Informatics Group includes some fun visual tests to experience things as a colour blind person would see them. The post also provides guidelines on how to design colourblind-friendly presentations.

Contact the WebLearn team if you would like hard copies of the following JISC Tech-Dis books about accessibility and particular electronic formats:

  • Access all areas: disability, technology and learning
  • Making electronic documents more readable
  • Writing accessible electronic documents with Microsoft Word
  • Creating accessible presentations
  • Making the most of PDFs
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WebLearn unavailable on Tuesday 8th July 2014 from 7-9am

It is planned to upgrade WebLearn to version 2.8-ox11 on Tuesday 8th July 2014 7-9am. There will be no service during this period.

We apologise for any inconvenience that this essential work may cause.

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