Dec 5. Are you getting a VR headset for Christmas?

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IT Innovation Challenges advent calendar 2019

VR technology is becoming increasingly popular, not least in the entertainment context. It is, however, not the only use for virtual or augmented reality (VR/AR). The Enabling Research and Public Engagement with Babel VR project, based at the MRC Weatherall Institute of Molecular Medicine (WIMM), import 3D images and movies from medical devices such as CT scanners and microscopes so they can be viewed and interacted with in a VR environment. The project worked with researchers and teachers to explore how the technology can be used in various contexts, such as to interactively view ultrasound movies of the heart, explore CT Scans and MRI and for training and assessing surgeons to do hip replacement operations. They used and further developed the Babel VR software and examples and illustrations can be found on the BabelVR webpage and on YouTube

The project manager, Stephen Taylor, says:

“This project was to develop expertise and unique and exciting VR experiences in the Medical and Cultural Heritage space to enhance the fantastic research and development here at Oxford and allow evaluation of the various VR technologies. In addition, we wanted work with other groups interested in VR and AR to put together a training program to train developers how to use the various technologies most effectively to create VR experiences. The aim was to support University of Oxford’s goal of remaining a premier institution for teaching in 2020, by adopting the most exciting teaching innovations made possible by digital technology.”

The project team are now developing VR applications using their Babel VR framework in a number of scenarios and are also looking to develop a “Medical XR” facility, which could provide development resources to allow rapid development of health related VR software.

The Enabling Research and Public Engagement with Babel VR project is based at the MRC Weatherall Institute of Molecular Medicine (WIMM) and is supported by the IT Innovation Challenges.

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Dec 4. Do you know your Oxford?

Garland with bulbs, lights and bells

IT Innovation Challenges advent calendar 2019

Christmas shopping is not all that you can do in Oxford in December. Why not exchange some of the Christmas stress for a stroll through the city under the guidance of one of the University’s students? Take the free Know Your Oxford audio tour on your smartphone or on the website and follow current student Charlotte as she opens the door to studying at Oxford: outlining the role of the colleges and departments; giving the inside view on Oxford’s academic dress and ceremonies; and pointing out the museums, libraries and other attractions. With 3D elements and augmented reality that bring Oxford to life, the tour can be enjoyed not only by new and prospective students but by anyone who wants to experience Oxford as a student.  Find the Know Your Oxford tour at

Know Your Oxford was developed by the Academic Administration Division with support by the Oxford University IT Innovation Challenges.

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Dec 3. Christmas came early!

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IT Innovation Challenges advent calendar 2019

Christmas came early! The IT Innovation Challenges project ”Instant video creation space’ has been recognised as Said Business School receives the Academic Venue Award 2019 for ‘Best In-house technology’. This reflects the innovative use of the RapidMooc facility during conferences.

Two instances where Rapidmooc was used in innovative ways include

  • The International Women’s Day free online resource. The Rapidmooc studio was used to record a free video sample course produced to support the institution’s efforts to celebrate the International Women’s Day of 2019. The video has since been viewed over 15,000 times on YouTube making it one of the top viewed videos on the School’ YouTube channel.
  • Creating conference video snippets. During the Symposium on Corporate Responsibility, Rapidmooc was set up in a special room where participants could come and record short impressions of the conference and summaries of their contributions.

Congratulations to Learning Technologist Dominik Lukeš, who initiated and led the IT Innovation Challenges project, as well as the Saïd Business School’s AV, Conferencing and IT Teams for the industry recognition and a fantastic achievement.

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Dec 2. You and your career

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IT Innovation Challenges advent calendar 2019

As the end of the year is approaching, do you regret what you have not done (yet) or look forward to new exciting challenges to come? In any case, you may want to consider your career. Are you finding career planning something of a challenge? The new Career Weaver app from the Oxford University Careers Services can help. Spend some time on yourself and use the free online exercises to explore, name, and describe the keys to your career success and happiness. You can choose between a dozen exercises, do as many or few as you like in any order. Most of them only take between 5-15 minutes and will help you identify, take ownership of and articulate underlying beliefs, preferences and strengths which are important for career planning and your success wherever you are in your career. Surely you can give yourself that?

Career Weaver is a web-based App to structure and stimulate reflection by individuals on their values and work preferences; strengths and skills; and motivations. Collectively, these are important drivers for success and happiness at work – and beyond. In particular it focuses on stimulating reflection in three important areas.

 What I love: Investigate the values and work preferences that underpin your intuitions, decisions and life satisfaction, both inside and outside work.
 What I am good at: Take time to understand your true strengths and skills.
 Why I do it: Bring together the insights about ‘what you love‘ and ‘what you are good at‘ with ideas about what really motivates you to help you understand and explain ‘why‘ you enjoy what you enjoy doing and what underpins your commitment and success.


Career Weaver has been designed and built by the University of Oxford Careers Service, with support of the IT Innovation Challenges scheme. It is being released for User Acceptance Testing between November 2019 and early January 2020. All staff and students are welcome to use their SSO to access the tool and work through the exercises. Any feedback is welcome (survey available in the App). To find out more and use the App, please go to

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Dec 1. IT Innovation Challenges Advent Calendar 2019

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IT Innovation Challenges advent calendar 2019

2019 has been a busy year for IT Innovation Challenges. To celebrate the many achievements of our projects, and to prepare for the new year, we will be publishing an advent calendar. Each day between 1-25 December we will be featuring a different project or topic. Follow us and share the joys of digital innovation!

In 2019, we ran three funding rounds, using the Oxford Ideas platform. 59 ideas were shared, discussed and voted on. Of these, 18 were invited to develop project proposals leading to the creation of 8 new funded projects. These projects are running now, throughout this academic year. New for this year was not only the platform we use for idea collection (powered by IdeaScale) but also that we ran a new challenge jointly with GLAM Labs. The collaboration resulted in a wealth of good ideas and a four exciting projects that are due to run until February 2020 (look out for the GLAM Labs showcase event!)

In addition, a number of earlier projects have completed their work, bringing new and exciting tools, resources, and findings to the University. We will feature a selection of these in the Advent Calendar.

As always, if you have any questions or comments or want to talk about IT Innovation Challenges, please do not hesitate to get in touch with us at

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Completed project: Instant video creation with Rapidmooc

The project ‘Instant video creation with Rapidmooc’ led by Dominik Lukeš, Learning Technologist at Saïd Business School, was completed successfully in August 2019. We have spoken to Dominik about the impact of his IT Innovation Challenges project using precisely the facility his project set out to bring to Oxford: the Rapidmooc.

Please summarise your project.

The purpose of this project was to create a space for video creation where faculty, staff and students could create videos for both internal and external purposes without the need for any support in the process of recording and editing. To achieve this, we chose the Rapidmooc platform which is an all-in-one hardware-software unit that requires no prior training and can be used by anyone simply following short instructions. The process can be described in 5 steps:

  1. Turn on the unit and lights, and put on microphone
  2. Connect your laptop with a presentation (just as if you were connecting it to a projector)
  3. Adjust camera angle using on-screen arrows
  4. Press record button, record and press stop button (on-screen autocue is also available)
  5. Press on-screen save button to copy recording to a USB memory stick.

The unit comes with all the necessary components to start recording immediately (lights, green screen, microphones) and it can be placed in multi-use rooms because it is on wheels which make it easy to move from room to room. There are many other possible feature including recording from a phone or tablet wireless, picture in picture, running webinars with virtual backgrounds, etc.

In the year since the start of the project, over 300 videos have been made for various purposes with uniformly positive feedback from users. There are now 2 units freely available to use for staff, student and faculty (IT Learning Centre and the Oxford Foundry) and several departments are exploring funding options for acquiring units for internal use.

More details with links to all documentation, sample videos and an online video course on how to use videos available on the Centre for Teaching and Learning website. Regular training sessions are now also being offered by the IT Learning Centre.

What were the outcomes of your project?

The key deliverables of the project are:

During the project over 300 video were made including an outreach video that has since received over 15,000 views on YouTube. In excess of 1500 video files were generated by the system accounting for many trials and tests by users. Samples of produced videos are available on the Video course and were also shared via the Digiknow blog. If all the videos had been produced using external contractors, the total cost would have been over £100,000 which is almost three times the cost of the entire project. But most of them would simply not have been produced at all.

As a result of the project, Dominik Lukeš was invited to speak at two events: Media & Learning conference in Leuven and Devlearn 2019 in Las Vegas. The Use of Video in HE conference also enabled us to bring in contacts and knowledge from across the sector.

Could you summarise the benefits that your project has brought to the University, its staff and students?

They can be summarised under 4 headings:

  1. Developing new spaces for use to support teaching and learning
  2. Increasing the production capacity of the university and faculty capabilities
  3. Developing relationships between departments and divisions through collaboration
  4. Creation of videos that would otherwise be too costly to produce

What’s next for Rapidmooc?

The project deliverables are now firmly embedded within the University and will continue to serve without any need for further funding. We will continue promotion and training of the facilities and support other departments in their use and in their acquisition of additional or alternative units (some of which are in process of seeking funding).

We will also continue updating the documentation in line with future developments of the platform. The online video course will also receive updates as new runs of the course will give more inspiration.

Based on your experiences of running a project is there anything you can share that can inform the IT Innovation Challenges scheme? Do you any top tips to share with future project managers?

The experience of working within IT Innovation Challenges was entirely positive. We appreciated the flexibility and advice of the programme manager. We did discover that the accounting processes were not familiar to the SBS finance department and this resulted in a few missteps and technical delays with fund approvals. However, everything was easily resolved by communicating directly with the programme manager.

The key advice to future project managers is not to underestimate the need for building personal relationships with all departments who may need to be involved. This may include facilities and maintenance personnel. But even then, these dependencies will be the main source of timeline slippage. However, without relying on less formal channels of communication, achieving objectives will be a challenge.

Another area to take into account is the amount of time it takes to achieve traction with dissemination efforts. Although we achieved the headline dissemination objectives relatively early, it became clear that to make a more lasting and deeper impact on the institution, more time and effort would be needed, and we had to seek an extension. This was despite the fact that all the reactions to the technology were positive and it was an extremely easy sell. It simply took time for people to process the potential and get ready with material to record.

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Announcing the Summer of Innovation 2020 

Realise your own idea

The Summer of Innovation is a funding scheme to help you realise innovative ideas as digital projects. It is similar to an internship, but allows you to work on a project based on your own idea.

This year we welcome ideas that focus on Digital Innovation for Teaching and Learning as well as any other ideas that bring benefit to the University, its staff and students.

Learn new skills

This scheme is for you if you are open to learning new, transferable skills and collaborating. No programming skills are needed and developers in IT Services will support you with your project. We will also support you with the administration of your project. An IT Innovation Challenges project is a great place to learn about project management, collaboration and communication. This scheme is also a fantastic networking opportunity.

Get paid for your work

The University will employ you on a casual, temporary employment contract with IT Services. Depending on your availability in the summer, you can choose the length of your project as long as it is between 6-10 weeks long.

Who can apply

The Summer of Innovation is open to all undergraduate and postgraduate students. More information is provided in the FAQs.

Browse previously successful projects

To see which student projects have been successful in previous years, take a look at the funded projects list or see some selected student projects below:

How to get involved

Go to the Oxford Ideas platform (log in with your SSO) to receive updates and be notified when you can add your ideas. Idea submission will only be open for a short period in January, so make sure you are ready!

If you want to know more or have any questions, please do not hesitate to get in touch with the team at

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The Oxford Accessibility Project’s College Access Guide launches

Finding detailed accessibility information for colleges has been very difficult and borderline impossible in the past. In particular, the information that did exist concerned almost exclusively bedrooms and bathrooms but not social spaces, like dining halls, common rooms and libraries.

Screenshot of the Oxford Accessibility Project's College Access Guide

Screenshot of the Oxford Accessibility Project’s College Access Guide

In 2016, five University of Oxford students with mobility impairments started the Oxford Accessibility Project (OAP): a crowdsourced, student-led initiative to collect and publish detailed accessibility information on all of Oxford’s 44 colleges and permanent private halls. Since 2016, the OAP has seen more than 150 student and staff volunteers fully map more than 20 Oxford colleges.

For the last year, the OAP has been working closely with the Conference of Colleges and the University’s Estates Services team – in particular, New College Warden, Miles Young and the University’s Accessibility Advisor, Benjamin Smith – to institutionalise the College Access Guide.

The OAP College Access Guide launches publicly on 4 November, following the recent launch of a revamped University Access Guide on 14 September. The project team is expecting the Guide to become a helpful resource for a professional College Access Auditor set to join the University later this academic year.

Looking ahead, this is an exciting time for disability inclusion and accessibility at the University of Oxford, with a renewed focus and commitment by the central University and all of the colleges and halls to making Oxford a more accessible place for all.

The OAP is proud to have played its part in this latest milestone as a key student-led initiative pushing for greater accessibility initiatives and resources at the University for the past 3 years.

The Oxford Accessibility Project was funded in the 2018-19 IT Innovation Challenges round.

Launch event registration is now open.

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Know Your Oxford. Guided audio tour with AR

Know Your Oxford  is an audio tour for new and prospective students and anyone who is interested in learning about living and studying in Oxford.  The tour provides practical information about student life in central Oxford, as well as offering insights into the city’s history. It is narrated by current staff and students and features audio, maps and images to help guide you on your tour around the city, whether you are here walking the streets or at home in front of your computer.

The guide can be downloaded free of charge through the VoiceMap app, to be used on a mobile device. If used while in the area, it can feature content linked to your current location. It can also be accessed online, via the Oxford Students website.

The guide is the result of a project funded by the IT Innovation Challenges scheme. The project was led by AAD Communications working collaboratively with the Graduate Admissions, UAO and Student Information teams.

For more information and links to download the app, please visit

Screenshot: Tour information page

Screenshot: Section of the tour

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Plastic Fantastic? Come, listen & cast your vote!

Can 3D printing replicate the sound of an 18th Century recorder? Let us know what you think!

The ‘Replicating Historic Musical Instrument’ project is using the latest in CT scanning and 3D Printing technology to replicate an 18th Century ivory recorder in different materials. As part of the Oxford Open Doors program, the public are invited to learn more about the project and, not least, help decide if any of the replicas sound like the real thing.

Come, listen & cast your vote!

When: 14 September, 2.45pm
Where: Pitt Rivers Museum – The Old Library


About the project:

The ‘Replicating Historic Musical Instrument’ project is funded by the IT Innovation Challenges. The project is exploring how 3D printing technologies can be used to produced replicas of musical instruments. The project is not only aiming to reproduce the look of the instrument but also wants to explore if the replicas can be made to sound and feel like the original. The project is using CT scanning and 3D modelling software to produce a model that can be printed on a 3D printer. Different resin and printers are used, from a desktop ABS print to the latest in SLA, and Multijet printing technology, and the result will be evaluated in different ways, with input from both professional musicians and the public.

More information about the project can be found on the Project Webpage as well as in the Meet the Project and Project Abstract posts on this blog.


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