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OU2020 - a look back


 

OU2020 word cloud

 

 

A letter from the CIO

 

As we all know, 2020 was an extraordinary year. Departments across the College have had to swiftly change their plans, adapt to new ways of working and connecting with colleagues, and the IT Services Department has been no different.

In April 2020, we launched a new programme of work, Online University 2020 (OU2020). In order to support the College’s needs throughout the pandemic and beyond, we split our work into seven key areas, bringing some planned works forward, reprioritising other works, and developing innovative new ideas to support the College’s ambitious response to the global situation.

As we prepare to launch our Three-year Digital Plan (3DP) and OU2020 draws to a close, I wanted to look back and highlight what we have achieved, and what work we have left to do.

OU2020

For OU2020, our efforts were focused to support some of the most important functions of the College, supporting applicants, supporting students and staff, teaching and learning, and facilitating research. and ensuring the infrastructure that underpins these functions was safe, secure, and reliable.

Working remotely

To ensure we were ready to move online, we brought forward the launch of Microsoft Teams by several months so that teaching, 1-2-1 sessions, departmental meetings, and more, could go ahead without needing to be on campus.

We rolled out multi-factor authentication to keep our digital campus safe and secure, and we published new guidance - which we continue to update – about all of our services and equipment and how to use them from home.

We integrated a new system, Skooler, to create Teams for every module present in Moodle, so each class we teach had a dedicated area to meet and collaborate. We also created teams for every professional services department, made dedicated spaces for Peer Guides to meet with new students, and used Teams to facilitate collaboration across our support services as we welcomed new students in September.

Flexible education

The College’s Flexible Education 2020 approach included some key changes to our services.

We built and launched a new attendance registration system so that students could mark themselves as present in their lectures and seminars, and we can retain an insight into engagement, even in a hybrid classroom.

We introduced several plugins to Moodle, such as Questionnaire, Flexible Sections, and Music Theory. We trialled new ways of proctoring exams last summer using existing and new technologies, and we installed EditShare, a new way of submitting large files for assessment for our media-based departments.

Our on-campus facilities were made available from home by providing remote access for staff, and by the creation of Windows Virtual Desktop for students.

For the periods where face-to-face teaching was available, we made significant upgrades to our teaching spaces. We fitted new microphones and webcams to all of our teaching spaces, and multiple rooms were kitted out with ‘microphone mist’ technology to facilitate seminar-style discussion in a hybrid environment. We also implemented additional ‘rapid-response’ support for lecture capture (Panopto) and increased support for online teaching.

Supporting College activity

As a campus university, Royal Holloway has always thrived on its sense of community. This always becomes most obvious during our busiest times: clearing, graduation, start of session, and exams. During these periods, volunteer support and close links between departments and teams is vital to our success, and we worked hard to ensure this could continue even when we couldn’t be on campus.

Our team worked to make our confirmation and clearing possible to operate from home, our ID checking process in September was made digital, and we made multiple updates to our Microsoft tenancies to streamline collaboration between staff and students. Moodle has undergone extensive work to prepare for exams both this year and last year, and we continue to improve links between Moodle and our other services, like Microsoft Teams.

Moving forward

As OU2020 draws to a close, we are focusing on building our new ‘3DP’ programme. These intranet pages will be our 3DP hub, where we can keep you up-to-date with our progress. The final steps of our strategy are still being finalised and approved alongside the College’s Three Year Strategic Plan as part of the planning round, so bookmark these pages and check back regularly for updates. 

 

Mike Johnson,

Chief Information Officer