Challenges 2018 – April update

By Robida, Albert, 1848-1926, artist. (Library of Congress[1]) [Public domain], via Wikimedia Commons

Hilary term has been busy for IT Innovation Challenges, with two calls for ideas published, one for students and one for staff. We were particularly pleased to be able to reintroduce the staff call, as it did not run last year. The theme for this year was ‘The Intelligent Campus’  and ideas that embraced emerging technologies, like virtual and augmented reality and artificial intelligence, were particularly welcome. As always, it was also possible to share ideas for projects that would benefit the University and/or enhance the staff or student experience at Oxford through digital means.

Artificial intelligence, the internet of things, and virtual/augmented reality are technologies that have arrived and have the potential to tackle some of Higher Education’s big challenges.  This year’s IT Innovation challenge invites you to come with ideas for projects that improve the staff/student experience at Oxford through exploring these emerging technologies – the use of smart campus technology, AI to speed up administrative processes, AR to enhance our public spaces, VR to create immersive learning experiences.

Ideas were posted to the Oxford Ideas site, where any member of the University could read them, add comments and questions, and vote for their favourite. The IT Innovation Panel evaluated the ideas and drew up a shortlist of ideas that were to progress to the next stage: project proposal.

Student call

The Student call saw 14 very good ideas, and five teams were invited to submit project proposals where they show how they would realise their idea as a digital project. The proposals need to include a description of the proposed project and the benefits it would bring, as well as a description of technologies and methods to be used, with explanation of why this particular approach has been chosen. The teams are also asked to explain how they will make sure their project is a success, for example by describing what they will do to make sure that their project is useful to, or used by, its target audience. A budget and time line also have to be created.

The five ideas pitching for funding in this round are:

  • Benchshare: Platform for AR guided research collaboration at bench level
  • Common Room: Oxford’s Support Nexus for Cyberbullying
  • Oxford Accessibility Project – Mapping App
  • Oxford Looking-Glass: Interact with the City through Augmented Reality
  • Oxford Mental Health Network: Mental Health Search Engine App

The proposals are circulated to the IT Innovation Challenges Panel before the pitch event. At the pitch event, each project team gets an opportunity to present their project to the Panel by talking to three points (only): What is the project?; What are the benefits?; What would you do for half the budget? After the five-minute pitch, the Panel asks questions and there is an opportunity to discuss different aspects of the project, clarify certain points and receive feedback and suggestions. The funding decision is made by the Panel shortly after the pitch event, which this year is held on 2nd May. It is expected that successful projects will start from late June. More information about the funded projects will be published here once the funding has been agreed.

Staff call

The staff call had the same ‘Intelligent Campus’ theme as the student one, and 21 ideas were submitted. Eight of these were shortlisted and their project proposals are to be submitted by the 24th May. The proposals are very similar to the student ones with regard to the information that has to be included, and the pitch event (6th June) follows the same structure as that for students.

The shortlisted staff ideas are:

  • BAME pedagogic toolkit
  • Connecting the Multilingual Research Community
  • Enabling Research and Public Engagement with BabelVR
  • Instant video creation space
  • Open Cabinet: AR access to Oxford’s collections
  • Our Primate Heritage: A Multisensorial Digital Library
  • Oxford 101: Augmented reality tour for new Oxford students
  • Oxford Careers Compass for values driven career planning

We will feature the successful proposals here, once funding has been agreed with the projects.

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