IT Innovation Challenges

This year, OxTALENT has recognised for the first time projects that have been funded by the University’s IT Innovation Challenges scheme. The projects below have led to a product or solution that shows considerable realised or potential benefit to the University. There are two sub-categories: staff projects and student projects.

For more information about the scheme and the projects that it has funded so far, please visit the Innovation Challenges blog.

Staff projects

Winners: Kathryn Eccles, Howard Hotson, Silke Ackermann, Giovanna Vitelli & Jamie Cameron for Cabinet

The University holds rich and varied library and museum collections which are increasingly used in teaching: for example by incorporating dedicated handling sessions led by curatorial staff in a course. Unlike other learning resources such as texts, objects may not be available outside these dedicated sessions, which means that students cannot revisit them for further study or revision. Cabinet (subtitled ‘Between text and object’) is a platform on which digital versions of objects can be made available alongside course materials, texts and images, and on which students and teachers can interact with the material either individually or as a group.

The Cabinet project has drawn on the strength and expertise of a cross-disciplinary team including academics, programme and museum directors, graduate students and IT professionals. Cabinet is now available online and through WebLearn. It has been used to support and enhance teaching in History, History of Art, English Literature, Anthropology, Archaeology and Business. Materials for Plant Sciences and Clinical Medicine are under development. Feedback from students and teaching assistants has been positive, and a number of departments have expressed an interest in using the platform.

The project has attracted additional funding and is now working to produce additional content and to explore opportunities for future use within and beyond the University. For more information, visit the Cabinet website.

Runner-up: Jon Mason for Chooser: Simple, Flexible Option Choosing

Most students will face the task of selecting course options or modules. Before they can do so, they need to know what options are available, and whether there are any conditions for selecting a particular combination. Collating and communicating this information can be a time-consuming and complex process, and collecting and administering the student choices on paper or via email is laborious and error-prone.

The Chooser web application makes the process much easier for all concerned. It provides an intuitive editing interface where those offering options can edit, reuse, publish and categorise their options, design the form, provide instructions and set deadlines. Students can see the available options, select and rank their choices, and add comments.

The project worked with 24 courses and faculties across the University to collect requirements and design the functionality, look and feel of the tool. Administrative staff and students have commented favourably on the pilot version, particularly in relation to functionality and ease of use.

Chooser is hosted in the Medical Sciences Division, where development can continue in order to refine and extend its functionality. For more information about Chooser, contact

Student projects

Winners: Anita Paz, Jessyca Hutchens, Naomi Vogt & Nina Wakeford for The Oxford Artistic and Practice Based Research Platform (OAR)

OAR is an online journal and research platform developed by a team of four DPhil students from the Ruskin School of Art, led by Anita Paz.

The platform makes it possible to not only publish research, but also to engage with the material before and after publication, taking an experimental approach to knowledge production.

The OAR journal aims to publish two themed issues per year, containing commissioned contributions and curated submissions responding to an open call. It showcases experimental works and works in progress and features material across different media. Once published, an issue continues to evolve as responses to the contributions are submitted and shared.

The platform went live in October 2016 with a pilot issue, and Issue 1 was published in May 2017. So far, OAR has welcomed 2,800 users and has received about 15,000 page views. It has received praise both nationally and internationally, and has attracted contributions by academics from different fields. The project team has received invitations from leading programmes around Europe to  speak about their work.

For further information, visit the OAR platform.

Mercier, Julien. ‘Impossible Knowledge.’ O A R: The Oxford Artistic and Practice Based Research Journal
Issue 0 (2016): cover,


Runner-up: Greg Auger for Putting the Oxford Alternative Prospectus Online

The Oxford Alternative Prospectus has been around for over 30 years. Written and produced entirely by Oxford students, it sets out to provide ‘an honest look at what it is like to live and study at Oxford’.

In 2015 Greg Auger received funding from the IT Innovation Challenges to create a digital, web-based version of the prospectus. By ‘going digital’, the prospectus is now able to provide more detailed information about courses, colleges and student life to potential applicants and allow more students to be given a voice. The project worked closely with the Oxford University Student Union (OUSU) to develop the content for the website.

The website was launched in February 2016 and is maintained by OUSU.  Over the past year it has attracted more than 40,000 users and over 55,000 site visits. Clear spikes in traffic are discernible during the application period, particularly at interview time, but also around open days and ‘decision date’.

Read the Alternative Prospectus.

Posted in OxTALENT | Tagged , | Comments Off on IT Innovation Challenges

Comments are closed.