Friday, 26 August 2016

Shared area moves

During the week beginning Monday 29 August we will be moving shared areas to new server locations. Each move will start at 19:00 and files will be unavailable for up to 2 hours as we carry out the work. You should make sure you have closed any shared files that you have open before 19:00.

The schedule for moves is:
  • Wednesday 31 August: windleden\shared3 will move to shareddata03\shared3
  • Thursday 1 September: ashopton\shared4 will move to shareddata04\shared4
  • Friday 2 September: langsett\shared2 will move to shareddata02\shared2

If you are using the University Managed Desktop, Yoyo Desktop or a Windows computer with the Novell Client your new shared drive location will automatically configure the first time you log in after the move. Most shortcuts and linked documents should continue to work, however, some may need setting to point to the new location.

Those using unmanaged Windows, Mac and Linux will need to replace the old server name with the new server name in their connection settings following the move. They may also need to reconfigure, or recreate any shortcuts which point specifically to the old server location. Instructions for setting up connections can be found here:

As a result of the move, these shared areas will now be available in UniDrive through MUSE.

New security warnings in Gmail

We know that you receive mountains of emails everyday, and it can be frustrating figuring out which ones don’t come from a trustworthy source. To help protect your information security and make your life a little bit easier, Gmail has introduced two new security warnings.

The first is a filter which can warn you if a message comes from an unverified source. Thousands of  ‘spoofed’ spam emails are received by University staff each year. These emails claim to come from a  email address, but actually originate elsewhere. With the new filters in place, when an email can’t be authenticated you’ll see a question mark in place of the sender’s profile photo, corporate logo or avatar.

The second will alert you if you receive a message which includes a link to a website known for phishing, malware or unwanted software.

Seeing either of these warnings does not mean that the email is necessarily fraudulent, but it does mean that you should be particularly cautious. If the email requests personal information or contains any links you must contact the CiCS Helpdesk before taking any other action.

This extra level of security may cause your legitimate mails to be flagged if you send emails using an unknown sender. You are most likely to be affected if you;
  1. Send mails via third party service. For example using an external mailing or survey service such as MailChimp.
  2. Send mails using your Internet Service Provider’s mail servers. You will not be affected if, like most people, you use Google Mail or University servers.

Our Helpdesk has been contacting everyone we think might be affected, but if you are concerned that this change could affect you, please get in touch. You’ll be able to discuss your requirements and available options.

If you have any questions or concerns about this change, please contact the CiCS Helpdesk on 21111 or

Friday, 5 August 2016

Phone lines busy during clearing and adjustment

Clearing and Adjustment Begins Thurs 18 Aug

On Thurs 18 August A Level results will be released and Admissions will begin the clearing process. During this time the University will receive a high volume of incoming phone calls from potential students.

Phone Lines Busy

External phone lines are expected to be busy 18-22 August, with the peak expected 9-11:30am Thursday 18th. During this time any outgoing calls you make may receive a busy tone. In addition, people may experience difficulty when calling you from off campus.

Avoid External Calls if Possible

We ask for your patience during this short period and, where possible, that you avoid making external calls from your University extension.

Internal Calls Unaffected

No issues should be experienced in calls taking place between internal University extensions.

Call Recording Limited

Understandably, our central call recording facilities, used for recording phone interviews, will be limited 18-19 August. If you need to use this facility please phone helpdesk on 21111 for advice.

PebblePad 5 brings improvements to a powerful reflective portfolio tool

August sees big improvements to PebblePad, with the launch of v5 meaning a better experience for users of the reflective portfolio tool.

PebblePad is a personal learning space, used primarily for e-portfolios, and evidencing achievements and skills. The focus of the system is on reflection, allowing learners not only to log experiences, but reflect on their learning journey as they progress.

Learners can create their own material in PebblePad, using it to log and reflect upon any experiences they feel important. Alternatively tutors can create resources for learners to complete, which can then be assessed using the part of PebblePad known as ATLAS (Active Teaching, Learning and Assessment Space). Anything students create belongs to them, with learner ownership an important part of the PebblePad ethos. Free alumni accounts can be set up allowing unlimited access to learners’ material even after they leave the institution. Students can share anything they create with others, even those without PebblePad accounts, and even publish their material to the web for all to see.

 PebblePad can be beneficial to learners as it allows for a scaffolding of reflective practice. This can be for an individual module or assignment, the entirety of a learner’s time at University, or anything in-between. Tutors can check in with their students’ progress at any point, giving formative feedback and identifying learning needs. It also allows learners to think about and log their experiences as they progress through their academic career, and easily draw upon those at a later date. It is very flexible and can be used for a number of situations – it can be used as easily for tracking achievements in societies, hobbies or pastimes as it can for academic and professional development.

At the University of Sheffield, PebblePad is used effectively in a range of departments. It is used extensively across the Faculty of Medicine, Dentistry and Health in Doctoral Development activities, and in Postgraduate Training Needs Analyses and other activities across the Faculties of Science and Arts & Humanities. It is also the method for staff members creating HEA-accredited portfolios for the Learning and Teaching Professional Recognition Scheme. Other users include Careers, Sheffield International College, the Department of Lifelong Learning and Social Work, as well as it being used for a number of individual modules and assignments across all faculties of the University.

While always a powerful tool for undertaking this kind of work, it has been let down by a Flash-based interface, which was feeling dated, was not compatible with mobile devices, and many users found confusing and unintuitive. On the 8th of August we move across from v3 to v5, which addresses a number of issues with the system. 
Most significantly Flash is replaced with HTML5, meaning full compatibility with all browsers, including on mobile devices. With this comes a fresh new interface, looking cleaner, more modern, and easier to navigate. Much of the functionality has been simplified, and the language used has been made clearer and less confusing. Uploading and managing files in PebblePad has been vastly improved, and is easy to navigate. Creating portfolios, and templates and workbooks for others to use, is now an easier and quicker process than before, with the end results looking attractive and professional. There are not many new feature as such (PebblePad are wisely focusing on making existing features better), although there are a few additions to workbooks and portfolios that make them more flexible than before.

As the new version works on the same technical system, all material will be automatically transferred, with no downtime and no loss of data. ATLAS is not changing in the short-term, meaning those members of staff who only use PebblePad to administer assignments or mark work are unlikely to need additional training. Eventually ATLAS will be changed to match the style and feel of the rest of the system. 

While there are some significant changes in the way the system looks and is navigated, we feel strongly that this will be easier for learners to use, and greatly improve the experience of both staff and students using PebblePad. It is also hoped that the new version will address some issues that may have put colleagues off using it in the past, and that the simpler, attractive and responsive new interface will allow more people to consider its use when setting reflective, portfolio-based tasks.

If you have any questions about PebblePad, and how it can be used with your learners, please contact the TEL Team at

Pete Mella

Wednesday, 13 April 2016

The Badlock Bug

Following the disclosure of the Badlock vulnerability details, we have assessed the risk to University IT systems as being low. We will be patching all Windows servers maintained by CiCS, and all University managed and YoYo Desktop computers as part of our normal patching procedures. 

Please ensure that any servers, desktops or NAS drives you maintain are patched and have all updates applied. If you are unsure whether your system is affected by Badlock, please contact the vendor who will be able to provide you with more details.

More details on the Badlock Bug can be found here: 

If you have any further questions about Badlock then please get in touch.

Tuesday, 2 February 2016

Internet Outage (January 19) Report

At 11:21 on Tuesday 19 January the internet connection to the University failed. This left several important University IT services including MOLE and Google Apps inaccessible until our connection was restored at 16:35.

The internet outage affected the University of Sheffield, Sheffield Hallam University, and all the educational institutions in Yorkshire that receive their internet connection via the two Sheffield Universities.

Following the internet outage we had a debrief with JANet (the government funded HE network that provides our connections).

On Sunday 17 January monitoring systems run by the cable provider indicated a ‘low light’ fault causing significantly reduced performance on the back-up link connecting Sheffield Hallam University to the internet. The Hallam link serves as our own back-up internet link. Engineers were scheduled to locate and fix this fault for Tuesday the 19th of January and all internet traffic was diverted to our primary link. From this point onward our internet connection was entirely dependent on the primary link.

At 11:21, road excavations (a man with a jackhammer) severed the primary link and our internet connection was lost.

This double physical loss is a very unlikely event, but clearly our reliance on this connection is critical. We were already investigating the viability of alternative or additional solutions to mitigate against future loss of connectivity.  

This will take longer decide and plan for, and may require us to change the way some services are delivered. The nature of our plans will be communicated once we are clear what we are going to do.

Monday, 1 February 2016

Saving £100,000 a year with mobile contracts migration

Last year we agreed a new contract with O2 in an initiative that should save the University more than £100,000 a year. To help us reach this target, we are working with departments to coordinate the migration of old Vodafone or O2 connections to the new O2 tariffs. We will soon be getting in touch with the remaining departments to complete an audit of phone and tablet connections that need migrating or which may need disconnecting if they’re no longer used.

As well as saving a huge amount of money every year, the new arrangement with O2 means that all tariffs will include unlimited calls and texts. They will also be on 30-day rolling contracts, so they can be easily cancelled if they’re no longer needed, or changed to better suit your needs. For example, if you find you need more data than you originally thought, the allowance can be increased as quickly as the next month.

You may not need a new handset, but if you do, a new range of 4G-enabled phones is available to suit your work requirements and all work well with Google Apps. To look at the range of handsets and tariffs available, visit our mobiles page.