In discussions with students it was clear that in their eyes, all units are ‘the University’, and a failure by one to provide a satisfactory service constitutes a failure by ‘the University’, as was sometimes reflected in comments included in the Student Barometer survey. This can even be the case where the provider is a third party.
The student digital experience at Oxford depends on a range of providers, who may in turn have different reporting lines, budgets, and agendas. There are services provided by UAS, the libraries, departments and faculties, specialised departments (e.g. Continuing Education, OLI, etc), colleges and individuals. The relationship, dependencies, and risks associated with this have not been fully explored, but two overriding conclusions present themselves:
- Improving the student experience will involve the co-operation of many units.
- Replacing any single component could have major repercussions for a substantial number of other services.
We drew a map of interlinked services and, not surprisingly found some clear hubs of activity: i.e. applications to which many other applications point, or with which they have a relationship. These are WebLearn, OSS (in the future, SITS), SOLO and Single Sign-On (SSO).
Clearly we should be concentrating on developing our VLE and student administrative systems, and on integrating as many services as possible with SSO. We can also see the clear dependency of many services on the expanded Identity and Access Management stack (IAM, currently the responsibility of IT Services), and the added complexity of separate IAM instances in colleges, departments, and libraries. The reasons for the latter are perfectly understandable and will doubtless continue, but this separation can have a direct knock-on effect on students who find themselves having to use separate authentication systems and credentials.
‘why do I have to have so many different passwords?’
Members of the university already make use of many ‘External services’ provided by third parties. This in itself is understandable, and poses four challenges to the University:
- how to recognise where a third-party solution may be appropriate (rather than in-house development) and vice versa;
- how to keep up with this in terms of support;
- whether any of these services can be integrated more fully with our IAM stack;
- the importance of educating users in matters such as data protection and privacy.
Our findings show that there is a proliferation of interfaces which students and staff are required to use in order to accomplish even the most basic tasks. This is understandable from an historical perspective but risks damaging our students’ experience in the future.
If you would like to know how we responded to last year’s student barometer feedback you can read about it here.
Oh, did you want to see the map?