Comments on Thema Project Executive Summary #1

These comments relate to the JISC-funded Thema Project Executive Summary for the University of Oxford: .

Section 3: student’s use of digital technologies.

“Although over 90% of students have laptops, they tend not to take them to classes for a range of reasons …”

One of the deliverables of the JISC-funded Erewhon project is to develop  a ‘Smart-phone’  interface to WebLearn. The relevant work-package in the project is divided into two parts: authentication and a new tools interface.


Here we will develop a new method of authentication that allows a registered WebLearn user to remain logged into the system for a very long time but with a reduced permission set.

This approach strikes a balance between ease of use and security:  i.e., not having to negotiate the fiddly process of logging in every time WebLearn is to be accessed whilst at the same time maintaining integrity. This is achieved using ‘three-legged oAuth’ – this technology is also used by Flickr amongst other.

Every user will have an oAuth management tool in their My Workspace which allows them to specify what external applications are allowed to see and do in WebLearn.

The Smartphone interface to WebLearn will always be accessed via the Mobile Oxford portal ( so permission must be granted to m.ox to view specific classes of data such as calendars and announcements.

In the future it is envisaged that other applications such as Nexus SharePoint could also use oAuth to retrieve information stored within WebLearn.

New Tools Interface

Here we provide a vastly simplified interface to a handful of the most suitable WebLearn tools. These include

  1. Polls – for conducting opinion polls in a classroom setting
  2. Tutorial sign-up – allow students to book a tutorial session (or any other kind of event) without needing to find a ‘big computer’
  3. Announcements – view course-related announcements
  4. Schedule – view a collated course events calendar
  5. Resources – what new documents or links have been added?

In the future, we also hope to allow students to access the survey tool (‘Evaluations’) via m.ox – this will allow course experience feedback to be completed via a mobile phone. It is hoped that this will result in  higher completion rate than if the survey were only available via a desktop computer.


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