Author Archives: Maddy Weingast

Recognising the Success of the Digital Library Programme

The Digital Library Programme is a collaborative body of work within Information Services’ Project Services and Digital Library teams focusing on developing the infrastructure to support digital scholarship activities and long-term access to large-scale digitised collections and content. The programme’s vision includes establishing Edinburgh as a “leading university in the provision of easily accessible digital collections, to be widely used in supporting creative learning, teaching and research.”

Achieving this vision includes implementing a number of projects to ensure the ease of discovery and accessibility of online collections, create a fresh and exciting website for collections, provide an efficient digitisation request service, provide a range of digital scholarship tools, guarantee long term accessibility to collections, deliver digitised items as “collections as data” and grow the digital skills of the Digital Library team and broader digital scholarship at the University.

The Digital Library Programme launched in October 2018 with a number of key projects designed to split up work incrementally, making projects more achievable following a planned progression. Analysis, procurement and implementation were split into separate projects with analysis projects being used to recommend next stages leading to incremental development, publishing of web pages, software implementation and data migration.

Breaking work into smaller projects also enabled the team members across ISG and the University Library to accommodate project work while still delivering on their typical daily tasks. In addition, the team members carry their experience of working together and their knowledge of the systems through each project, so the team isn’t left starting from scratch.

“By keeping each project small and contained we were able to use results to analyse how each project went and feed that analysis into the scoping for the next one, so the lessons learned as you go help the next project run more efficiently and focused. In big projects, you typically scope right at the beginning and imagine what might happen in a two-year project and when you get to the later phases everything is based off analysis long ago and not taking into account lessons learned along the way,” said Project Manager Alex Ross.

To date, the programme has accomplished a number of its key projects related to automating a number of digital preservation workflows, improving digital scholarship tools and expanding the offerings of online collections. The current and planned projects focus on implementing new digital workflows, digital asset management and ensuring consistent online access through the redesign of www.collections.ac.ed.uk

Karen Stirling, the Digital Library Programme Manager commented that ‘The Digital Library Programme is an example of how well IS teams can work together, collaborate well and build up their experience and knowledge from the projects we have delivered over the past few years.’

This was echoed by Kirsty Lingstadt, Head of Digital Library and Digital Library Programme Owner ‘It has been great to see the programme delivering and completing projects and watching the confidence and capacity of the staff grow as outcomes are delivered and implemented.’

Take a Break! Applications Directorate Meetings Free Lunchtimes Initiative

In January this year the University Principal raised the idea of introducing “Meetings Free” periods for University staff at lunchtimes and Fridays. The Principal’s suggestion followed reports of staff overloads during the current working from home period with back to back meetings taking place right through the day. This suggestion was one of the number of helpful proposals introduced by the University to support staff including the respite days over the Easter holiday period.

In response, Applications Directorate introduced our new “Meetings Free Lunchtimes” (MFL) initiative in late February. Meetings Free Lunchtimes provided optional guidance for staff attending and arranging meetings during the 12 to 2 PM period. The guidance suggests staff block a daily “Lunch Break” and/or “Meetings Free” periods in their diary and, wherever possible, avoid setting up formal meetings between 12 and 2 PM.  Our aim was to support staff well-being by reducing meetings overload and ensuring all our staff have a regular break over the lunch period.

At the end of April, we ran an anonymised online survey to find out how well MFL has met these objectives and made a difference for staff. We’d like thank the 47 staff who responded to the survey. The main findings from the survey are summarised in the diagram below:

In response to these results the Director has now agreed to extend MFL to end December 2021. We are also supporting an initiative to provide additional guidance for Online Meeting Etiquette including better management of the start and finish times of our meetings to help ensure adequate breaks. Our Section Heads will also be encouraged to review the full survey findings with their teams to identify any other priorities for further improvements that will particularly benefit their teams.  

Meetings Free Lunchtimes Guidance: Meetings Free Lunchtimes – InSite – Wiki Service (ed.ac.uk)

Full Survey Results: Resources Meeting – 25-MAY-2021 – InSite – Wiki Service (ed.ac.uk)

File Sharing Resources for Staff and Students

The SharePoint Solutions Service have developed a collection of resources to support both staff and students with personal document management and online collaboration at the University.

Resources for Staff:

https://uoe.sharepoint.com/sites/sharepoint-solutions-service/SitePages/Staff-Resources.aspx

A series of guides have been developed covering both basics as well as managing file sharing and permissions for the following Microsoft 365 applications available to staff at the University:  

  • SharePoint  
  • OneDrive  
  • Microsoft Lists  

Each guide features guidance and examples of suggested usage, with topics covered including:  

  • Adding members to your SharePoint site  
  • Sharing files and folders in SharePoint and OneDrive (as well as how to stop sharing content, or change permissions)  
  • Reporting on file and folder sharing in SharePoint and OneDrive  
  • Creating rules in Microsoft Lists  

Guidance for other Microsoft 365 applications will continue to be added to the Staff Resources page in due course.  

Resources for Students:

https://uoe.sharepoint.com/sites/sharepoint-solutions-service/SitePages/Student-Resources.aspx

A series of guides have been developed covering an assortment of the Microsoft 365 applications available to students free of charge at the University for the duration of their studies.  

Each guide covers a different theme and set of Microsoft 365 applications, featuring guidance and examples of suggested usage. Topics covered include:  

  • Personal Document Management at University using OneDrive and OneNote  
  • Online Collaboration for Team Projects and Group Work using SharePoint, Teams and Planner  
  • Online Tools for Student Committees and Societies using Forms and Yammer  
  • Sustainable Study: From Paper to Working Digitally  
  • Studying Online: Supporting Remote Learning through Microsoft 365 and other collaboration tools at the University  

Getting the most out of www.ed.ac.uk/teams

Hints & Tips 

Did you know that we continuously stream hints & tips about using MS Teams?  

Our helpful Hints & Tips cover anything from discovering the latest meeting or webinar feature to chat groups, how to embed quick polls or plan boards and even etiquette or best practice matters.  With ‘How-To’ guidance and sign posting to useful features they support users to get the most out of Teams. 

You can follow our twitter feed here: @UoE_ISApps #TeamsTips 

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Watch out for these hints & tips coming soon…. 

• Spotlight on the presenter in your meetings  
• Present like a pro, present like a news reader with presenter overlay 
• Include a meeting ID in your Teams meetings 
• Set a timer on breakout rooms and bring participants back to the meeting 
• Find best practice about how to host a webinar in Teams 

New Features – How to Keep Informed

Did you know we have an extensive listing covering updates to MS Teams? 
 
You can see our “Microsoft Teams Notice Board” for details about updates, including a timeline at www.ed.ac.uk/teams 

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These updates are aligned with Microsoft’s roadmap for Teams and are a useful source of information about when we should expect to see new features or how they will be released to Teams here at the University. 

Coming Soon –  a preview of updates users can expect to see shortly 

  • Webinar 1000 plus attendee registration coming in May 2021 
    Allowing presenter modes, audience Q&A and broadcast to 10,000 listeners 
    More details: https://edin.ac/3bdZvhc 
  • New Breakout Room Features 
    Persistent breakout rooms, ability to reassign participants and set timers on breakout sessions. 
    More details: https://edin.ac/3hiRlrG 

Find the right tool(s) for your next online meeting or event

The University of Edinburgh’s Online and Digital Events Service provides support to ensure your event needs are best matched with the appropriate online solution. The service includes a list of meeting and online event platforms that ISG fully supports as well as advice and guidance, training and case studies to help you use the platforms to their fullest. 

Not sure which tool to use for your event? The Online and Digital Events Tool Selector provides personalised recommendations on which tool is most suitable for your online meeting or event based on your responses to the advice form.  

One of the options in the suite of tools available to the University community is EventsAir. EventsAir is a virtual digital event platform procured by the University to offer a comprehensive solution for organising and running professional quality, large-scale virtual events. The platform supports large numbers of attendees and exhibitors, integrated live streaming, recorded content and point-to-point text and video chat.  

EventsAir helps to deliver quality digital and hybrid events at scale, having already supported a number of successful virtual events across early adopters including Careers Week and University Open Days.  

“Speaking for my own business area, I was delighted to see 96% satisfaction ratings across our Open Days held in EventsAir for the first time. When feedback like this is coupled with the increase in global reach that we saw in these events, this presents really exciting opportunities,” said Clare Mackay, Deputy Director, Student Recruitment and Admissions.  

If you or your teams are interested in learning more about EventsAir and the other supported tools available for running events, you can find out more on the Online and Digital Events Service webpages at www.ed.ac.uk/digitalevents . The Online and Digital Events Service can help you get started, and recommend which route is most appropriate to your needs. The Online and Digital Events Service can also connect you with the EventsAir User Group that has been set up to enable adopters to share learning and good practices.  

Helping You Sleep Soundly: A Look at the University Web Hosting Security Tools

The University’s Web Hosting Service offers a range of proactive security tools to help keep users’ sites safe and secure

The University’s Web Hosting Service is an internal service for members of the University community to host websites suited to their unique needs. The service provides an environment for users to develop and host websites for specific areas that may have functionality, formatting or branding requirements outside the scope of what is offered on the main University of Edinburgh site. The service hosts over 1,000 sites ranging from research projects and PhD pages to the Edinburgh Sports and Student Unions.

“We currently utilise the web hosting service to provide free web hosting to our student societies and groups. Societies and groups utilise this service to host websites with information about the groups and post event details. We have found most of the end users have used the built in application installer to setup CMS systems such as WordPress, which they are able to do without the need of IT as the process is very easy,” said Matthew Ashton-Jones, IT Support for Edinburgh University Students’ Association.

With the flexibility to configure self-service sites suited to personalised needs comes challenges related to ensuring users are protected from potential online malicious activity, and themselves. There is a large variety between users who diligently monitor their site and patch when new updates are released, and others who, for legitimate reasons, leave their sites relatively untouched and vulnerable to exploitation. As such, in recent years the University Web Hosting service has sought to incorporate automated security and technical tools to help assess and secure the servers, increasing the security of the sites hosted on the service while decreasing the burden to individual users.

“We have a very good working relationship with the [Web Hosting] team. Their communications are probably some of the best – both timely and informative – that I have come across from an ISG team. The team have always been approachable, friendly and customer focussed. And extremely knowledgeable about their domain – which has been a life-saver on more than one occasion,” said Euan Cameron, Digital Innovation Team Manager, College of Arts, Humanities & Social Sciences. “If I have received a system-event alert from the service (security or otherwise) that I have been unsure about, they have always been quick to explain the issue highlighted when contacted.”

Cloud Linux Operating System

The University Web Hosting Service adopted the Cloud Linux Operating System to help manage the multitude of sites it supports. The Cloud Linux operating system is designed specifically for hosting websites in a shared environment and specializes in isolation between websites. In this way, if one site is compromised the system prevents others from being accessed and limits cross-infection. The operating system also has a mechanism for limiting resources between individual users, so one site cannot bring down the entire server of sites if it crashes or experiences technical difficulties. This tool ensures continuity of operations and helps prevent against the chain reaction of negative impacts from denial of service (DDoS) attacks.

“We rely on the OS to be stable and secure and impact as little on our workloads as possible. By utilising the Web Hosting Service, we are more than happy to say that CloudLinux OS has met our requirements, and with the team’s support we hardly notice/concern ourselves about the OS in our day-to-day work,” said Euan.

Patchman

Patchman is a vulnerability detection and patching tool created to simplify security for web hosting providers. The tool automatically scans all the sites hosted on the University server every night, identifies any known vulnerabilities, commonly via WordPress or Drupal, and patches them unobtrusively. The patching does not impact the platform itself or any settings, rather it changes the code to plug any security holes and then emails the site owners to notify of the patch execution and associated details. Site owners have the ability to roll back any patches in their Control Panel if they discover resulting issues. Additionally, system updates can override patches if necessary.

“With so many sites in our portfolio – including 40+ Drupal installations, and sites supported by external developers – having a tool that can automatically patch vulnerabilities when identified, and before a developer can get to it, has allowed me to sleep better at night,” said Euan. 

The proactive tool helps address vulnerabilities before they become targets for spam, DDoS attacks and more. For instance, the Unix team notified ISG of an unknown WordPress issue that suggested exploitation. In exploring the issue further ISG discovered Patchman had already patched 60 sites that contained the vulnerable plug-in.

“Patchman has proven to be an incredibly useful tool, as we are a small team and having time to manually patch the large number of websites which we administer can prove to be difficult to arrange,” said Matthew. “With Patchman this is automatically taken care of and we are notified via email that the upgrades have been successful or have failed (requiring manual intervention).”

Immunify 360

To round out its comprehensive package of security tools, the University also utilizes Immunify 360, a proactive defense against threats in the form of a web application firewall. The firewall detects any malicious traffic or attempts to hack into sites hosted through the University. The interactive dashboard provides statistics related to the security levels of sites hosted through the service and their web traffic including detections, blocked requests and black-listed and white-listed IP addresses. Immunify 360 also identifies grey-listed IP addresses that are presented with a CAPTCHA request when trying to access the site to prove their identity. The service’s malware scanner continually analyzes scripts and recognizes suspicious behavior in real-time, stopping malware from running on the servers and successfully restoring scripts from backup.

“Security incidents, to our knowledge, have been kept at an absolute minimum, while my team can focus on delivering and developing our own services unhindered by the resource burden of manually managing these ourselves, or resolving the incidents that would, most likely, be the outcome of not having these tools in place,” said Euan.

Because the University Web Hosting audience is largely internal, access to the tools is only available to those on the University network or via the University VPN. Further, the sites are integrated with University Single Sign On to provide additional secure options for users to access the sites.

“The web hosting service and the included security tools have enabled us to offer an easy and secure web hosting service to our groups which would not be possible without the assistance and service being provided by ISG,” said Matthew.