Annual Review

UCD IT Services Annual Review for 2015

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In 2015 UCD IT Services had a very clear focus on engaging with the UCD Community as part of our Quality Review Self Assessment process, and in preparation for the development of our IT Strategy 2020.  Customer centric services with a clear focus on outcomes are key goals for IT Services.
With this in mind, we started the development of a new vision statement which will form the cornerstone of everything we do to support and contribute to the UCD Strategy 2015 - 2020:

"Empower people by transforming University life with new and emerging digital technologies.”

We also started the process to develop a new mission statement to guide us over the next 5 years:

"Our mission is to both support and contribute to the UCD Strategy 2015 to 2020 by being the partner of choice for Information Technology solutions and services."

Seamus Shaw
Chief Technology Officer
University College Dublin

IT Strategy 2020 - out with the old and in with the new

The first step in the development of our new strategy was to complete a detailed review of our previous IT Strategy (2009-2013). We assessed the implementation and impact of this by reviewing implementation history, customer feedback and performance data, and by interviewing key IT Services staff responsible for each area of the strategy & resources. A strength / weakness assessment was developed as an outcome of this review.

Following this we undertook a SAR (Self-Assessment Report) in preparation for our Quality Review which took place in February 2015. Input from all IT Services staff along with feedback from a large cohort of staff, students, and vendors was sought throughout this process via workshops, email and use of the Google+ Community.

This led us into the development of IT@UCD: IT Strategy 2020 which commenced in 2015 in line with the development of the UCD's Strategy 2015-2020. This has been and continues to be an iterative process during which we consulted internally within IT Services, and our customers/stakeholders and externally outside of UCD with other institutions, vendors and specialists, most recently including feedback from our annual Work Programme 2016 planning process which took place at the end of 2015.

Quality Review of IT Services

Enormous effort was was put into preparation for the Quality Review of IT Services which took place from 2-5 February 2015. This included contribution by all IT Services staff to the Self-assessment Report and to the subsequent meetings with the Review Group.

The Exit presentation by the Review Group was a particular highlight of the Review, during which IT Services received many commendations serving as a tremendous morale booster for all IT Services staff. The Review Group was satisfied that IT Services is performing well, notwithstanding the impact of the current financial constraints under which it is operating.

Examples of good practice noted in the Review Group Report included the following:
• IT Services provides an excellent service, despite staff shortages and budget cuts
• IT Services has good leadership and a well organised team structure
• Communication within the unit has improved
• IT Centres are well organised and provide effective points of contact with customers
• IT Services brokering strategy is good

UCD Website Redesign Project

UCD IT Services have recently introduced a new set of templates for Colleges and School websites which will be rolled out on a phased basis during 2016.  The new page designs borrow on some themes from the new UCD homepage to ensure a consistent, user-friendly and functionally rich experience for visitors to our website.

Developed to the highest technical and visual presentation standards, the templates have been very well received by the school sites which have already adopted them. Rob Sands from the department of Archaelogy believes that 'Adopting the new university web design provided not just a fresh look and feel but also a much needed opportunity to reflect on our existing content and delivery. It has facilitated a reconsideration of what might be relevant to the users of the site, whether that be new visitors or existing students and staff.'

The pages also fulfill a critical requirement by being fully mobile responsive and will also help meet our obligations under important Accessibility standards.
The new sites are the product of a number of stakeholder workshops and are designed with flexibility in mind to meet the requirements of the diverse publishing community in UCD. The rollout phase is in its early stage with six websites now live and with many more under development.

ITRM Model

IT Relationship Management (ITRM) was established by IT Services in late 2014 and continues to grow in 2015. The ITRM team, which currently consists of three members, focuses on IT development and internal project management, as well as ensuring IT Services provides a consistent, effective and timely level of  service to our customers.

One of the key roles of ITRM is new business and IT development. The team regularly meet with staff within the UCD Community and discuss new projects and explore and navigate through the IT options available to individual sections of the University. IT Services offer a wide ranging catalogue of services to meet your needs. ITRM can offer IT advice on the best way forward and help initiate projects where possible. They are developing strategic partnerships with departments to align IT Services with the business needs of the University.

Among the projects the team have facilitated on are cloud based clinical placements projects and an onboarding portal for international students. The ITRM team are available to meet and discuss all apects of IT within UCD.

UCD EdTECx talks 2015

Over 120 members of UCD faculty and staff attended the inaugural UCD EdTECx Talks on March 19th & 20th 2015. The talks were hosted by UCD IT Services, in conjunction with UCD Teaching & Learning and the UCD community of Educational Technologists. Participants learned about and discussed strategies, practices and solutions for applying educational technology to their teaching.

The talks were opened by Dr Jason Last, Associate Dean, Programmes & Educational Innovation, UCD School of Medicine and Medical Science. Dr Kevin C. O'Rourke, Head of eLearning Support & Development in the Dublin Institute of Technology, gave the keynote entitled “Do we know where we're going to? Irish higher education in the digital age?” which was followed by a lively discussion.  There were presentations by academic staff focusing on Assessment, Digital Content Creation and Collaborative Learning. Educational technologists, librarians and media specialists gave a series of short Pecha Kucha talks. The closing address was given by Matt Glowatz, a lecturer in the Lochlann Quinn School of Business, entitled The Educational Technology Tsunami.

UCD EdTECx in action

The first EdTECx in action series of workshops for UCD faculty and staff were held on 24-28 August 2015. They included over 20 hands-on workshops and demonstrations on widely-used UCD educational technologies such as Blackboard and Google Drive.  Some newer tools including Web PA for Peer Assessment, Mahara for ePortfolios and Digital Badges were introduced. The workshops were attended by over 120 members of UCD faculty and staff, many of whom participated in multiple workshops.

UCD Website move to AWS

In support of our global strategy we needed to build our new dynamic web presence on a secure, dynamic, reliable and scalable platform. Our partnership with DNM and AWS cloud services provided the perfect platform on which to build and showcase our new website.

Our online presence is made up of over 300 websites showcasing a dynamic range of campus activities to a truly global audience. It supports a range of online services for our user community including prospective and current students, alumni,  corporate and other community stakeholders.  

Our challenge was to continue to grow our website on a secure, dynamically scaleable platform,  which would be available without fail on a 24/7 basis. A key requirement for us was a solution which would accommodate a multi user authoring environment utilising a variety of publishing tools.

The solution would also have to cope with seasonal usage peaks expected before registration, while the summer months would be a relatively quiet period. The platform also needed to cater for unplanned events such as social media generated traffic and be able to adapt in real time.

UCD is one of the first Universities in Ireland to realise the full potential in terms of scalability, security, reliability and cost effectiveness of moving to the AWS cloud.

New UCD Connect

In June 2015, Connect transitioned to a different style of service. The new interface still provides links to essential services such as Mail, Blackboard, Library etc along with links to partner websites such as UCD Community News, Student Desk and the IT Services homepage.

The previous UCD Connect service had been in place for 12 years and the technological landscape had evolved over time. Changes in service architecture together with an increasing trend toward consumer apps has meant that Connect no longer seamlessly delivered all the services required. The new system is a much simpler solution.

The new Connect has a more up-to-date and streamlined look, built with responsive capabilities meaning it's accessible on mobile devices. There are easy access icons for email, Calendar, Google Drive and Blackboard in the top right of the page and Application Launchpads providing access to other applications.

The new UCD Connect has proved to be a more user-friendly interface with easy access to all the main IT Services areas for both staff and students in the University.

High Performance Computing training for Research

High Performance Computing (HPC) is a skillset used by an increasingly wide variety of disciplines as part of their research. The traditional HPC users from the Schools of Physics, Maths, Engineering, Computer Science now share HPC systems with Conway, Geary, Medicine, Systems Biology, Public Health, Agriculture and Biology and Environmental Science. This wider adoption of HPC is part of the collaborative effect of interdisciplinary research driven by Insight, CASL and the Earth Institute.

The UCD School of Mathematics and Statistics, the Irish Centre for High End Computing (ICHEC) and Research IT all come together to facilitate HPC training.  These 4 day courses are open to all researchers, held in Belfield and delivered by ICHEC personnel. By prior agreement with your Research Supervisor and by completing the necessary assignments these courses qualify for ECTS credits. The course code is ACM40660: Scientific Programming Concepts. Alternatively these courses can be completed by researchers requiring HPC training who do not require credits.
While these Belfield courses are predominantly attended by researchers from UCD they are open to all ICHEC customers and in 2015 we saw attendees from TCD, Dias, DIT, NUIG and Armagh Observatory, supporting the growth of this research network.

Laptop encryption service

IT Services enhanced their laptop encryption service in November 2015 to provide staff with new software that will help reduce the risks of information breaches associated with lost or stolen laptops.
An encrypted Laptop ensures that college information is better protected when on the move. It helps protect against identity theft and provides staff peace of mind should a machine get stolen. The service also ensures that IT Services are taking appropriate steps to be compliant with the Data Protection Acts of 1988 and 2003.

The encryption service uses McAfee’s full disk endpoint encryption to manage and encrypt Windows and Mac laptops.  It encrypts the contents of the machines entire hard drive using either McAfee encryption or manage a machines native encryption such as FileVault or Bittlocker.
The encryption policies are managed centrally and decryption keys are stored on a secure server.
It also includes file and media encryption which helps protect information stored locally, in transit or in the cloud. The removable media encryption software helps to protect information on USB and removable hard drives against the risks associated with lost or theft.
McAfee was chosen in 2015 as a replacement for TruCrypt and is now managing the encryption of over 30 staff laptops with more laptops being added each week.

Move to Application Jukebox

In 2015 IT Services launched a new software application delivery service called Application Jukebox replacing Software for U. The service uses application virtualisation to deliver a larger range of applications to the teaching labs around campus and also to user’s own PCs without the need to install the application fully.  This provides greater benefits to the user community and offers a better user experience as this technology utilises the processing power of the user’s pc rather than running processing power over the college network, resulting in applications that run much quicker once downloaded and behaving as though they are installed locally.

As part of the implementation of this new technology, an extensive trial period took place where a number of academics were involved in beta testing where traditionally large applications were selected to test the responsiveness of the new service. After positive feedback, the trial was extended to one teaching lab to test how it would perform in a classroom environment befre being extended to the whole lab network.  The 2nd phase of this project involved advertising the service to replace Software for U for applications on user pcs which has been very successful.  Work continues on this project to extend the service even further to cover more applications and more operating systems.

Online Clinical Placements Allocation

In 2015, IT Services delivered an online solution to enable schools and programme offices manage clinical placement allocations for their students.  This new facility enables the streamlining of processes that have traditionally been highly manual and paper-based.  The system saves time for faculty and staff involved in the process, by enabling them to quickly allocate placements and view details of allocations.   Advantages for students include the ability to view placement details via SISWeb, and, once the system is fully up and running, to access an online clinical placement transcript.  
The system is delivered via InfoHub, and was piloted in May for the BSc Physiotherapy programme.  Later in the year, it was rolled out to the UCD School of Veterinary Medicine, enabling the online allocation of placements for 600 Veterinary Medicine students.  During 2016, we will work with the UCD School of Medicine to implement this solution for students on the undergraduate and graduate entry medicine programmes.
Welcoming the development, administrators in the UCD School of Public Health, Physiotherapy and Sports Science commented "this system has incorporated all of the complex yet essential professional accrediting body requirements for our programme..." and added that the system would "...revolutionise clinical transcript generation."
This solution is just one of many examples of IT Services’ contribution to the university strategic initiative of increasing agility and effectiveness.