First Move

First Move

Well, it’s the 30th May 2013, and the Library staff and books have moved into the new Library Tower in Riverside East, and this is the first day that they’ve opened to staff and students.

In a recent post I explained what was involved in preparing the IT infrastructure behind the scenes, so this post is by way of an update and also a huge thanks. Many IT staff from IT Services and from the Faculty IT&AV team, have worked immensely hard over the last 2-3 weeks on fitting out all the IT facilities and I am grateful to their commitment in getting everything to this stage. Thanks also to staff from the Library, Estates and various contractors for their assistance.

With some final construction work still ongoing in the building, and furniture and book moves happening at the same time, it’s been a challenge to schedule everything and work around issues and snags that have been arising on a daily basis. But over the past few weeks the IT teams have commissioned the network infrastructure required to service the Library and front desk and deployed around 400 workstations into the Library ready for use. There are some last minute issues with power connections at the moment which are preventing the workstations from being powered on today but hopefully that will be resolved quickly and everything is then ready to go.

Now that the IT in the Library is finished, the IT teams will turn their attention to the rest of the building. There is a schedule over the summer for staff moving from the three Schools into the building and the IT teams will be working ahead of these moves to prepare the network and install workstations. Priority will be given to this, and the installation of IT equipment into the various teaching spaces in the building will fit around preparation for these staff moves. The IT network will also be required to support other functions in the building, such as the building management system which is used to manage a range of building services and that will be scheduled too.

Finally, the WiFi system also has to be installed in the building. The system has already been procured and delivered and IT Services will start to deploy this once all the significant remaining building work is complete and the priority areas of the main IT Network are ready.

It’s hard to convey the scale of all this work to a non specialist. When talking to colleagues in the Library, I was interested to hear them refer to “kilometres” as a measure of how many books they were moving. That’s a great measure and something that you can visualise. I wonder what the IT equivalent is – kilometres of networking cabling? Or alternatively who can suggest how many kilometres there are in a terabyte?

UCAS – Paperless Admissions

For those who may not be familiar with the post-school education system in the UK, UCAS is a national body which is responsible for managing applications to higher education courses in the UK. Anyone wishing to study at a UK University will submit their application online via the UCAS web site which also provides information to assist applicants in their choice of University and course.

The process is fully online – I was on the parent side of this a couple of years ago when my son applied to University, and it’s always interesting to see things from a different perspective! What would not be obvious to most parents, however, is that once all these applications are submitted online and the data is transferred electronically, until now UCAS has also printed them out and distributed something like 2.7 million paper copies of the applications to Universities across the UK every year. It is therefore the paper application that forms the basis of the admissions process.

All that is about to change. Following a review of the application processes, UCAS announced that they plan to move to a completely paperless process so that student applications will only be passed to Universities electronically instead of by hard copy. This will take effect for students commencing in Academic Year 2014-15, which actually means that we will no longer receive paper forms from the start of the next admissions cycle in Oct/Nov 2013.

Sheila Kay, Head of Admissions and Enquiries at RGU, is leading the project at RGU to prepare for this and this is her most recent update on progress and plans:

“Over the last year we have done a lot of work including working with a selection of school-based admissions tutors and staff to identify what we require to put in place to continue best practice but to also look at ways to improve our efficiency and effectiveness throughout the admissions cycle.
By the end of this month, the supplier will be on site to install a web-based component of our student record system which gives us the functionality we are looking for.

The first phase of testing will be done by admissions staff to ensure the basic business processes are working as they should before expanding testing out to others. As all the Schools/Faculties have different ways of working and different requirements, it is important to ensure that what is put in place works for each area. Volunteers will be sought to assist with testing at various times over the coming months.

For courses that have no interview/selection process to manage, it is likely that input won’t be required until October.

For courses that do interview or have selection visits the plan is to get a short working group together to look at these requirements in more detail to ensure we can accommodate all procedures within the scope of the project. Contact will be made with these Schools shortly to get this started.

The current timeline is to get all the testing done by the end of October 2013 with a view to the system being put into the live environment at the beginning of November. There will be members of staff that have been involved with testing who will also require training in the full system. There will also be staff who’ve not been involved in testing and will be using the system and will require training in how to use it. This will take place early November and several sessions will be set up at Garthdee to ensure all staff have the opportunity to attend.”

Moving to Riverside East

It’s just a few weeks before the first part of Riverside East, our new building down at the Garthdee Campus, will be open for staff and students.  The Library is moving first and they plan to have moved out of the Aberdeen Business School and into the new building around the end of May. Sounds like they are having fun with red and green dots getting ready to move thousands of books – have a look at their blog.

We’re having fun too in IT Services, although we’re not quite seeing dots in front of our eyes yet. Before anyone can move into the new building we need to get all the IT equipment set up ready for staff and students to move in.

First priority is to build the IT network. All the cabling work has been done as part of the construction project, but what we have to do now is install all the network routers and switches which will drive the whole network across the building, and connect it up to the rest of the Campus. The network kit has been bought and the IT Engineers are on site to start the installation. It’s a complex process. The network equipment needs to be physically installed into the communications rooms and communications risers in the building, and thousands of cables need to be connected up to the correct network equipment. It’s essential that this is done systematically and neatly from the beginning to make access for future maintenance easy. Then it’s all got to be systematically configured and tested. The priority is to get everything ready for the Library first, but in order to do that much of the whole building network core needs to be done anyway. So in terms of sequencing, we’ll get the Library done first and then move on to the remainder of the building according to the move schedule for the Schools and Departments moving in. Because some of the construction work is still ongoing, health and safety is an important priority and all the IT engineers who will be working on site are going through formal safety training first.

Next come the IT workstations – approximately 400 are going into the Library space in time for it to open for students. There is a team of IT staff, ably assisted by some students from the School of Engineering, who are currently taking lots of workstations out of their boxes and cabling them up ready for installation in the new building. That’s fine, but of course you can’t put the workstations into the Library until there are desks to sit them on. So, all this IT work is actually now part of a very intensive programme of work to co-ordinate all the activities for the move into the building. The University has contracted with a company called Space Solutions and they are managing the overall programme of work – actually right down to scheduling the use of the lifts in the building. There’s no point in a bunch of IT guys arriving with hundreds of workstations and furniture guys with loads of desks and then fighting over who gets to use the lift. Just goes to show what level of detail has to be planned at this stage.

At the tail end of all of this there will be a fairly intensive period when the desks are going into the library, the workstations are going on the desks, are being connected up and tested, and somewhere round about this time thousands of books will be getting moved across and into their proper places on the shelves. Then of course there will be printers to install, and the self service issuing terminals for borrowers to use.

I’m sure it will look like an oasis of calm when the doors open and students go into the new building. Inevitably there will be some snagging at that stage, but spare a thought for a month of very hard work which will have preceded the opening!