must try harder

When the principle of subsidiarity is so enshrined in the university it is hard to offer any kind of consistency of experience.

Applications and websites provided by the University of Oxford, the SOLO library website and the course or departmental websites are among the most used by students in their learning. Among the survey respondents, approximately 83% used SOLO in their learning, with over half of students using sub-applications such as OxLIP+ Journals.  Similarly, an average of 70% of all respondents used their course or department website in learning, with slightly more postgraduate than undergraduate uptake.

The DIGE project highlighted areas for improvement.

The naming of services

More consideration should be given to the names of our, and names with the prefix ‘Ox’ should be avoided. Names should convey to the user what they will do or where they will lead. In this respect, ‘OxCORT’ and ‘Student Self-Service’ were regarded as particularly obscure.

Data exchange

Building on the Core User Directory the University should make it easy and simple to manage personal details in a single place. Many users expressed confusion over where they should update their personal details, and why the changes are not passed through to other systems. A change made to a telephone number in ‘Careers Connect’ is not automatically passed on to OSS.

 Use of OxCORT

Some students noted that their tutors either ignore or bypass OxCORT, thereby diminishing its value.

Admissions pages on the University website

Admissions pages received considerable praise; however, it was felt that they led to raised expectations (clear information, consistency etc)  about what students would find when they arrived at Oxford – expectations that might not be fulfilled.

 Student Gateway

Students recognised the need for some form of student gateway; however, the present page seemed to them to be simply a list of links to other web interfaces. They want a personalised system that is configurable, akin to the Google or BBC portal systems.  46% of  students said they used the Student Gateway.

Lack of awareness of Mobile Oxford

When presented with Mobile Oxford students found it very useful, but there was widespread ignorance of its existence.

Authentication and access control (notably through VPN)

These were the source of considerable confusion. The clear desire is for SSO wherever possible, and the need for systems like VPN was not understood. With SSO itself there was confusion over why users need to sign in separately for Nexus, and also dislike of the ‘green tick’ confirmation page in the SSO interface.

There was considerable feedback about authentication systems in the libraries, especially reader PCs and PCAS.

A unified calendar or schedule listing talks, lectures and seminars

Time and again the Oxford Talks website was lauded as a very useful service, and users supported its continued development. Even those who did not know of Oxford Talks articulated a clear desire for a single place listing all the talks and seminars going on within the University.

Information about, and booking for, training courses

There was a consensus that IT skills are extremely important in the Oxford student experience, but that many have found them difficult to acquire.  There was some confusion about where to look and how to book for training courses. There is a plethora of course booking systems, divisional hubs,  and several different interfaces. The users to whom we talked expressed a preference for the functionality of the ITLP course booking system, although they commented that its interface could benefit from a redesign.

‘sometimes students don’t know where to look for … courses’.
‘I am always Googling things to find them.’

The timing of IT courses and very short terms also present challenges.  There are so many courses available that it often becomes difficult to learn about them or to access them when they are needed (as opposed to when they are provided)

‘There are things I’d like to learn but with all that is packed into a nine-month MSc, there isn’t time in term. A pre-term IT course would be useful or a course during the Xmas/Easter vacation.’

‘I have attended a number of faculty sessions on improving one’s use of the research facilities that have been immensely helpful. There is so much available, and knowing what is there, and how to access it, is so critical to maximising the Oxford experience, and one’s personal knowledge management.’

To improve the discoverability and general benefit of courses, students suggested the following:

  1.  Merge skills courses across the University so as to avoid repetition and the waste of resources (Careers Service, Oxford Learning Institute, OUCS, etc.).
  2. Link course calendars to Google calendar or Nexus calendar in order to help students to plan and organise their training.
  3. Develop a system that can automatically generate suggestions of appropriate IT courses based on students’ thesis topics, or in disciplines or skills which they do not already have. Students could sign up to alerts in order to save them the trouble of finding out what suitable courses are on offer, and when and where.
  4. Implement an intelligent online tool that collates a student’s current skills and those required for specific post-study employment, and suggests ‘gaps’ requiring further training, as well as specific courses.
  5. As part of induction onto a course, show students where and how they can get their technology-related questions answered.
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