Student Facing Review

Wow, where does the time go? I’ve been quiet on the Blog since start of January, so am picking things up again.

I thought I would share a bit about our student facing review of IT Resources, but first an update on WiFi. In any case, WiFi came up regularly as a topic when we met with student reps. IT Services, along with the manufacturer, have completed a substantial programme of work in January and February to look at the WiFi system and reconfigure it to resolve the key problems people have been experiencing with connections. I’m pleased to say that most if not all of the feedback now is that this has brought a substantial improvement to both staff and students. The IT Help Desk are now getting hardly any calls, and we can see a steady high load of successful connections to WiFi across the Campus. As ever in these situations, there can still be a small “tail” of people who might have unusual problems, or something specific to their IT Account – if you are still experiencing any difficulty with WiFi access please do contact the Help Desk. Don’t be stuck – they are there to help you!

Back to the Student Facing Review. As part of our ongoing programme of quality enhancement, the University engages with students to take their input to help us improve non-academic support services in the University. This year, we decided to involve students in looking at IT resources across the University and we have also involved SPARQS (Student Participation in Quality Scotland) who are helping us in our approach and also keen to see how we get on.

We kicked the process off with a series of focus groups in December involving student representatives, and we also attended a meeting of the “Big Student Forum.” It’s been great meeting up with them – we have very committed and involved student representatives, and the feedback from each of the focus groups has been consistent which has helped us to draw up some priorities.

We also held a couple of further focus groups in February to involve the student reps in designing possible solutions to some of the suggestions they had made. Next step is to bring all of this together into our forward planning to create an action plan.

The key topics that have emerged in our discussions so far have been:

1) WiFi – and hopefully we have made good progress in addressing that now.
2) Printing support. Students like our print solution, but are looking for more rapid support, information and help when there are problems with the printers.
3) Access to Computing Facilities. Across the Campus there are open access facilities, and also IT labs which are partially timetabled and available outwith that. Students want better information on which IT spaces are free and when.
4) Information and Communication. Some students were unaware of valuable IT facilities available to them, and overall induction and communication emerged as a key theme which probably applies beyond IT.
5) Storage for student files, and how best to access such storage on Campus and off Campus.
6) Access to help and support. Students give great feedback on Help Desk support but they find it restrictive having it physically in one place on Campus (other than peak times when we do “popup” help desks). We’ve discussed a number of possible options to create more flexible access to support.

There’s lots more I could say on each of these topics even at this stage, but we’ll take some time to shape them up in more detail and then share progress on the blog.

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WiFi plans for January

We have continued to monitor our WiFi service across the Campus over the last couple of months and I’m aware that whilst it has now improved for many people, there are still some people having difficulty in using the WiFi network. Our own engineers have been testing the performance regularly across the Campus and gathering information on specific issues, and we have been working closely with the manufacturer throughout this period. We know that there are issues connecting some types of device, some issues when people move from one Campus location to another, and some specific areas of the Campus where people are consistently having more difficulty connecting to WiFi than other areas. On the plus side, we can see from our system monitors that there typically two to three thousand successful connections being made by people at any point in time during the day.

We have now reviewed the issues we are seeing with the manufacturer, and are getting support from very senior level within the company. We have agreed an action plan with them and they will be placing engineers on our Campus week commencing 5th January to carry out a complete review of our entire installation, and as part of that to make some specific changes that we have agreed. There will be some outages during the first week in January, but we anticipate these will be short.

Our own engineers and the manufacturer will carry out an initial assessment of the impact of this work over the first half of January. With such a large user population and range of devices it will be important that we do further checks after that so that we can be confident that we have resolved the issues people are experiencing and have a stable and reliable service across the Campus. We’ll do this by asking a group of staff and students in the first instance to keep a more detailed diary of their use of WiFi – when it works and when/where they have problems.

We are giving a high priority to resolving the remaining issues on WiFi and will work through this as quickly as we can. Please do keep providing feedback via our Helpdesk, visit the Georgina Scott Sutherland Learning Centre or contact us via ITHelpdesk@rgu.ac.uk if you need any help meantime.

WiFi

I outlined in a previous blog post the work we have carried out over the last several months to improve the WiFi service on Campus. We’ve been carefully monitoring the service since the start of semester, and over the first few weeks it performed well and we were seeing it handle a much higher load of users successfully when compared to the same period last year. We had good feedback from those users we were in contact with.

I’m aware, however, that over the past two weeks in particular there have been some problems which have affected people trying to connect to Eduroam over WiFi on our Campus. Once they are connected, the connection is good and performs well, but there have been a number of reports of people not being able to connect from time to time. The problem seems to be that the attempt to connect either hangs, or says that it can’t connect, or asks for a password.

IT Services engineers have raised this as a high priority issue with the manufacturer, and they currently have an engineer on site from Europe backed up with specialist advice from the USA. They are able to trace what is happening on the system and are currently working on a number of options to address the situation. I’m sorry that people are experiencing some problems at the moment – we know how important the WiFi service is and we have stressed to the manufacturer the urgency of getting our WiFi system back to a stable state as quickly as possible.

If you do encounter difficulties in connecting meantime, the tips provided in the previous blog post may still be useful to help you get connected.

IT Help Desk – Happy to Help!

The IT Help Desk has a new home this year. Actually I think it’s had a new home every year for the last few years on the back of all our moves and changes to Campus buildings! It’s now located in the new Georgina Scott Sutherland Learning Centre in the Aberdeen Business School – the area that used to be the Library for those of you who have been here for a while.

You will see the Help Desk located in the middle of the Learning Centre. At the time of writing, they are using temporary furniture but we are expecting a proper counter and some new partitioning in the next few weeks to smarten it all up. Please do use the Help Desk – they are there for staff and students, and will be very happy to help you and provide advice on use of the University IT services. If in doubt – ask! If you are having problems, it really helps us to know so that we can identify commonly occurring issues and sort them out – not just for you but for everybody else.

You can visit the Help Desk, or call them on 2777, or email them at ithelpdesk@rgu.ac.uk . Remember you can also find information and guidance on the IT Help Desk Pages.

The Help Desk is open:
10am to 8pm, Monday to Thursday
10am to 4.30pm, Friday
10am to 2pm, Saturday
12pm to 4pm, Sunday

That’s the main Help Desk. The start of Session is always a busy time, so this year we are also running with “pop up” help desks for a few weeks. You will see these “popping up”:

– In the Library on level 5 which we hope to keep manned Mon – Fri, 10am to 12pm
– in Scott Sutherland manned on a Mon, Tue and Thu, 9.30am to 12pm near the reception area

If you want to know what a popup help desk looks like – here’s one in action yesterday in Scott Sutherland!

IT PopUp Help Desk

Printing on Campus at RGU from your own laptops and tablets

In my previous post I explained how to connect your own device to our Wifi service and where to find further information and assistance. I hope that has helped you to get online. A common request from students once they are online is how to print from their own device. You’ll be pleased to know that our “Print@RGU” Service allows you to do this.

Full instructions on what to do can be found on the IT Help Desk pages.

We also have information on print charges and how to pay.

Just as a reminder, our print service is designed so that you send your print to one, single, University-wide print queue called ”Print@RGU.” Once your job is in the print queue, you can visit any printer on campus and use your ID card to log in to the printer and print off your print job. You can pay for your printing online, or by cash at one of the print kiosks you will find around the Campus.

The easiest way to print from your own device is by using the “MyApps” service. This gives you access to your core desktop applications including Microsoft Office. (For licensing reasons, Microsoft Office is only available to students when you are on Campus and connected over the University’s Wi-Fi system. For students who are off Campus, we provide Open Office through MyApps. This has similar features to Microsoft Office.) You can access MyApps easily from a web browser on your laptop by going to http://myapps.rgu.ac.uk – see also the IT Help Desk web site for information on how to use MyApps for the first time:

Enter your normal user name and password and you will be taken to a secure web page from which you can access your desktop applications and your “H:” drive. You can open your documents just as you normally would, and print them just as you normally would from a University desktop by using the “print” menu in the application.

On a mobile device such as an iPad or Android, instead of using a browser to access MyApps, you will need to download a free App. The App you need is called the “Citrix Receiver.” Once you have downloaded it, configure it to access the MyApps service by following the instructions on the Help Desk web site. When you have done that, you should be able to open the app and you will be able to access your desktop software directly from your mobile device and print as you normally would.

When you are on Campus, you can also print by using a simple web page to upload documents to print. Simply go to the “everyoneprint” web page, log in as normal with your username and password, and upload the document(s) you wish to print. It is also possible to use this service from a mobile device such as an iPad or Android. It’s a bit fiddly on an iPad or other IOS devices because they don’t have a file system and you cannot upload files from the normal browser. As ever, there are some apps that can come to the rescue. “iUploader” is one, which has a free version, and allows you to upload files to web sites.

You can if you wish to be more adventurous set up a print driver (“EveryonePrint Driver Print”) on your laptop so that you can print directly from software which you have on your laptop. Full instructions again can be found on the IT Help Desk pages. Note – this is only for setting up the print driver on your own laptop, not University desktops.

Wi-Fi Access for the new Session at RGU

It’s now the beginning of September and time to restart the IT Blog after a bit of a break over the summer. It might have been a break as far as the blog is concerned, but it has been a busy period of time for IT Services. For the first blog post of the new Session I thought I would update you on some of the changes we have been making to the Wi-Fi system on Campus.

Last year we rolled out a new system, based on “eduroam”. For many people it worked well from the outset, but we know from feedback that others had problems connecting to Wi-Fi, especially in the earlier part of the Session. We also know that we did not have sufficient Wi-Fi cover in all parts of the campus and this was frustrating for people trying to connect in areas where there was a poor signal.

I’d like to start with a reminder on how to connect and the key benefit of “eduroam.” If you look at the Wi-Fi networks available on campus you should see two in particular:

RGU_Connect
eduroam

The very first time you connect any device to our Wi-Fi, you should use RGU_connect. This will ask you to enter your RGU username and password, and will guide you through a series of steps to automatically set up your device to connect to the eduroam Wi-Fi service. Don’t try to set up the eduroam service manually – it won’t work.

After you have done this, you should not normally need to use RGU_Connect on that device again. Please don’t try to configure RGU_Connect to use as your main Wi-Fi network- it is not designed for this, and you will prevent others from being able to log in. Once you have completed the initial setup, your device should from then on automatically connect to the eduroam service. If you have more than one device, then you will have to go through RGU_Connect once on each device you wish to use.

You will find full instructions for all the main device types in the IT Help Desk website.

You may find when moving around the Campus that eduroam occasionally drops the signal so that it can reconnect to the Wi-Fi access points in your new location – sometimes this can take a minute or two but it should connect again automatically. If your device for any reason is not connecting, try turning Wi-Fi off for a minute or so and then back on.

If you find that your device does not automatically connect to eduroam or you are having persistent problems connecting, then please do contact the IT Help Desk for assistance. It’s important for us to know if people are having specific problems so that we can resolve them.

Eduroam is an International service used by Universities and Colleges across the world. This means that once you have successfully set up your device to connect to eduroam at RGU, it will also automatically connect to eduroam at any other University or college in the UK or the world that uses eduroam. You don’t need to do anything else to set this up. In summary, eduroam is your normal Wi-Fi service when you are on our Campus or visiting another institution.

We are aware that some “apps” on mobile platforms do not work fully across our Wi-Fi system. We do not block any apps deliberately, but we believe that the design of some apps is such that they do not operate across some of the network management tools that we use, in common with many other large organisations. We are continuing to look at what we can do to alleviate this.

As far as coverage goes, we have been installing additional access point across all of our campus buildings. This is a major piece of work which has been taking place over the summer, and should be completed by the start of Semester. This means that you will get a good wireless signal inside most areas in our buildings.

Moving On, travelling light . . . ?

Well, today is the last day that IT Services will be in St Andrew Street. Tomorrow, we move down to the main Garthdee Campus of the Robert Gordon University. The last 12 months have been an exceptionally busy time for us as we have been fitting out new buildings and helping to move many other Departments in the University. Not to mention two datacentre moves into the bargain! And then of course, we have all the work to reconfigure the University’s voice and data network so that we can “unplug” the St Andrew Street Building.

I’ll be downsizing too – I think my new office is quite a bit smaller than my existing one. That said, it was interesting going through my filing cabinets, desk and cupboards. With very little hesitation I emptied more than 50% of the contents into two confidential waste bags for secure disposal. The rest I fitted into two cardboard boxes (for files) and two blue boxes (books, photos, memorabilia and some IT stuff). Clearly over the last decade there’s been a huge shift away from paper to electronic and you see that manifesting itself when you have so little physical belongings to move. When I get down to Garthdee at least one of the boxes is earmarked for further pruning, and hopefully shredding!

office

Next blog post will be from Garthdee, meantime I’m off to a cake cutting ceremony!

cake