Green ICT

Hopefully you will have read the recent edition of RGU’s “Green Times” – if not you can read it here.

It includes an article which shows the environmental impact of PC’s being left switched on and what you can do to help – by turning your PC off when it is not in use. What is less obvious to our staff and students is the impact of “behind the scenes” ICT. Way back in 2007, the Gartner Group estimated that globally information and communications technology contributes to some 2% of total carbon emissions.

That’s about the same as the aviation industry. A quarter of the ICT related emissions come from data centres running servers, which then require further energy to keep them cool. . .

We have many servers running in our server rooms on Campus, and the rooms themselves are nothing like as efficient as modern datacentre standards. We expend much more energy on cooling than we need to. Aberdeen University is in a similar situation, so are Aberdeen College and Banff and Buchan College (although they have recently upgraded their server room), and at the moment we all run our data centres independently from each other. Over the past 3 years we have been working hard to see how we could collaborate to reduce all our costs and carbon emissions.

This culminated in an agreement earlier this year to move into a shared datacentre by upgrading space in the University of Aberdeen. It’s currently under construction, and will be ready by the Spring of 2013. Initially, it will become the primary datacentre for Aberdeen University, Robert Gordon University and Aberdeen College, with Banff and Buchan using the facility at a later date.

The environmental impact of this will be substantial. We estimate that the total power consumption of all the servers from the 3 institutions is 220kWh. In our own separate, old, data centres at the moment we probably use the same amount of power again just to keep the servers cool (220 kWh is roughly 22 electric cookers, with everything switched on, running all the time – just picture it). CO2 emissions from all that will come to 2030 metric tonnes per annum.

By packing all these servers into one modern datacentre we will slash the energy required for cooling. We estimate that our total power consumption will drop from 441kWh to about 264kWh. As an added bonus, much of the electricity will be generated by Aberdeen University’s combined heat and power plant with lower associated carbon emissions. In total, we anticipate saving 1061 tonnes per annum.

And into the bargain, the institutions will save £2.6m collectively over the next 10 years.

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Welcome to new and returning students 2012

This is our busiest time of year, with thousands of new and returning students arriving on Campus for Freshers’ Week, ahead of the start of the new Academic Semester on Tuesday 25th September. Welcome to you all and I hope you have a great year at RGU!

If you need any IT help, especially in the first few weeks, then the best place to start is the IT Services information web page.

This gives you all the information you need to login, change your password, access e-mail and so on. You don’t need any password to get to this information web page. If you need further information, there are links you can follow from that information web page to get more detailed help on specific topics or to contact the ITS Help Desk – for some of these links you will need your username and password to gain access. You can also follow us on Twitter for breaking news on any changes and upgrades.

From today (17th September) for approximately four weeks from 10am to 4pm, there will be an IT Help Desk in the Georgina Scott Sutherland Library if you need face to face assistance in using any of our IT Facilities. Also – look out for the Student Ambassadors wearing an “IT Help Desk” badge – they are there to help you.

From next week (25th September) the new Student IT Help Desk will be opening in “Student Central”. This facility, situated on the third floor of the Faculty of Health and Social Care building, offers a wide range of integrated student services including, Careers, Counselling, Disability and Dyslexia support, International Student Advice, an Infozone, a Student IT Helpdesk and Study Skills and Access support.

The IT Help Desk in St Andrew Street will still be open for the next 2 weeks, after which it will close once the new Student IT Help Desk is fully operational at Garthdee.

What’s Happening

Whenever I bump into friends and family over the summertime, it’s usually not long before some remark comes up about how I must be enjoying the long summer University holiday now that all the students are away and there’s nothing to do. Those of you who work in University IT functions will know that nothing could be further from the truth. Summer is often our busiest period of time for doing major upgrades which are difficult to schedule during the main Semester time.

 Portal

This summer has been no exception. Our new Portal, based on SharePont, was launched to students at the start of August. I mentioned this on an earlier blog, and it’s great to see it launched on schedule. This time last year, it was being shaped over cups of coffee before a formal proposal was taken to our IT and Equipment Management Group for approval. Early feedback seems positive: 

‘…This webpage is the bomb. it really make the whole process a lot easier for Distant learning students….’ 

‘..This is really good! It is like a one stop shop for all my basic needs on RGU home page ..’ 

‘..Can you make a link to Moodle from the MyRGU? Its a good effort and much more useful than anything I have experienced before! Well done…’ 

Now we’re turning our attention to launching the Portal for staff. Work is currently underway to get the content ready and we’re thinking of a full launch sometime late October. Prior to that, we plan to use some of the document management features of SharePoint to start streamlining the distribution of papers for Committees. On the principle of “eat your own dog food”, I guess the IT and Equipment Management Committee should be first!

 Moodle

The other big launch this summer was the new version of our Virtual Learning Environment, based on Moodle. We’ve moved to Moodle 2 and upgrade a number of related technology support platforms. Some of the new features include:

 • Customised learning pathways for different learning styles.

• Progress tracking for staff and students; staff can view student progress reports and students can track their own activity.

• Surveys and comments as learning activities, or for student feedback.

• The new web editor and easy to use typography will make it easier to create attractive online learning materials.

• Module templates for consistency of layout and structure across courses.

• The Quiz, Forum, Wiki, Blogs, Digitised Readings and Teamwork Areas have all been improved.

• Turnitin will become a standard feature following successful pilot in 2011/12

Have a look at the video .

 Print@RGU

Good progress is being made with print@rgu which I mentioned in July. More Schools and Departments are starting to use the multi function devices (i.e. photocopiers) as their print stations and once we get an upgrade to some software we will be rolling out smart card readers so that staff can call off their prints just by swiping their ID card.

 In the pipeline

Preparatory work is well advanced on some other projects that I mentioned before: 

We have ordered the new telephony system and it is in the process of being commissioned. This will be rolled out starting later in the Autumn. 

Our “Future Desktop” project is well advanced and the rollout of “MyApps” will build up speed this Autumn to give easier and more flexible access to a growing range of desktop software. 

We are just getting ready to start the procurement processes for fitting out the new Masterplan building at Garthdee with all the IT networking, audio visual, signage and video conferencing equipment. Later in the Autumn we plan to arrange a couple of “drop in” sessions so that you can learn more about the range of equipment and services that will be available.