Students Staff
University of Essex

January 30, 2018

Managing your digital footprint – part 1

Filed under: Uncategorized — Tags: , , , — sgswaine @ 11:02 am
digital-footprint 2017

Managing your digital footprint (part 1)

I recently did a Google search on my name for a ‘health check’ on my digital footprint. I’m usually fairly careful about what I post online, but even I was surprised by how much unwanted content was floating around. It prompted me to spend a valuable half hour cleaning up posts, anonymising my numerous account profiles and checking my login and access history.

One of the things that popped up was a picture I tweeted in the summer of some guys playing naked rounders at ‘The End’ of term celebrations. Something that was a bit of harmless fun at the time, now looks somewhat dubious when taken out of context. In hindsight, I wish I hadn’t posted it because even though I’ve deleted my original tweet, that picture still pops up in Google images and links back to my twitter feed (I tagged the University’s twitter account), and there’s nothing I can do about it.

Managing your digital footprint needs regular attention or ‘housekeeping’ as I like to put it. It’s very easy to lose track – not only of what you’re posting and where you’re posting it to, but also who is inadvertently linked to you by proxy. For example, the default settings in WhatsApp means that photos and videos sent to you from other people are automatically added to your phone’s photo library. If you don’t like what you see, you have to manually delete it. You can change this default setting by turning off Save to Camera Roll in the WhatsApp Chats settings.


Riley Connor on CISCO job offer

Like it or not, employers are becoming increasingly interested in potential candidates’ online presence and will often look beyond the carefully constructed resume and cover letter to find clues online about the type of person you really are, not only professionally, but also socially. Employers want to know if you have the right personality to fit in to their team and ultimately their organisation.

Don’t make the same mistake as Connor Riley, a 22 year old information management graduate who, after being offered a job, wrote a Tweet that was eventually passed on to someone in HR and her job offer was subsequently rescinded.

The bad news is that unfortunately gaffes like this happen all too often. The good news is that we can learn from this and avoid making the same mistake in future. Business Insider has some more stories of How people who were fired for using Facebook.

There’s nothing wrong with being outspoken or having strong viewpoints, but you should never insult others because they think differently to you, nor write racist, offensive or abusive comments on social media, news articles or blogs. It will almost certainly come back to haunt you.


Given the current climate, you may be tempted to wade in on a political debate, but this rarely ends well and people can be much more aggressive when it’s anonymous than when face-to-face. If things are getting heated, it’s best to take a step back and think how a current or future employer might view your remarks. If in doubt, don’t say anything at all.










Of course social media can produce some spectacular wins when done right, like the Twitter conversation between customer @RiccardoEspaa7 and mobile operator @tescomobile. The ‘conversation took a surprising turn‘ when they were joined by @YorkshireTea, @RealJaffaCakes, @CadburyUK and @PhileasFogg.










How do I start my health check? Try viewing your Facebook profile as ‘Public’ to see how much of your personal life is on display. Just follow these steps:

  • Open your Facebook page
  • Click on the ? in the top right of the menu bar
  • From the drop down menu choose Privacy shortcuts > Who can see my stuff? > What do other people see on my Timeline? > View as

January 15, 2018

Getting the best out of FASER

Filed under: Uncategorized — Tags: , , , — Alex ONeill @ 1:44 pm


On Monday 22 January 2018, there will be a new version of FASER released to all staff and students.

FASER originally started life as a project in Computer Science and Electronic Engineering (CSEE). When it was adopted by IT Services in 2005/6, FASER had roughly 5,000 submissions per academic year. With ongoing increases each year, 2015/16 saw nearly 150,000 student submissions in addition to 120,000 items of feedback, which is over 50 times the number of items FASER was initially designed for. It became clear that drastic change was needed, so a new version has been developed.

Over the last year a lot of Learning Technology Services’ blood, sweat and tears has gone into developing a new and improved version of FASER that is more scalable, more robust and paves the way for future developments.

With a bunch of coursework marking coming up, now might be a great time to look at ways FASER can make marking easier for you:

  • Annotate coursework online
    No need to scribble on paper or carry loads of coursework around with you, you can login to FASER and edit coursework wherever you are. It’s just got better too – based on feedback from users, the system now uses an alternative supplier to provide improved online annotation.
  • See outstanding tasks
    There are now calls to action in FASER to guide you towards common outstanding tasks relating to an assignment, reducing how long it takes you to get through your work.
  • Support for you to support disabled students
    FASER now has increased visibility of and guidance about students with a Specific Learning Disability (SpLD) or Asperger Syndrome Disorder (ASD).
  • Improved performance
    New technology behind the scenes has made FASER quicker and will enable even more performance improvements in the future.

If you would like a sneak peek of the new version, simply click on the blue banner when you next log in to FASER.


Book onto one of our drop-in Lunch and Learn sessions running this term in Colchester:

  • 25th January, 1 – 2pm
  • 26th January, 1 – 2pm
  • 29th January, 1 – 2pm
  • 30th January, 1 – 2pm
  • 31st January, 1 – 2pm
  • 1st February, 1 – 2pm
  • 2nd February, 1 – 2pm

Or in Southend:

  • 30th January, all day

In addition to these, you can find out more about the new FASER by:

  • Using the Take a tour of this page link on FASER pages;
  • Browsing FASER’s help and support pages;
  • Looking out for updates to the FASER Training Moodle courses.

December 12, 2017

Digital Deep Dive: the first plunge

Filed under: Uncategorized — Alex ONeill @ 1:30 pm

Anti-clockwise from top: Simon Kemp, Niki Kearns, Emma Wisher, Ai Gooch, Marty, Jacobs, Alex O’Neill

This term a group of Professional Services staff from IT Services, the Library and the Technology-Enhanced Learning team embarked on a project with the School of Law to explore how digital tools and skills could make a difference to student engagement. Instead of taking a “solution first” approach and suggesting particular programs or practices that the School could implement, we chose to adopt a “Human-Centred Design” methodology (see video below), immersing ourselves in the day-to-day experiences of staff and students.

What is Human-centered Design? from on Vimeo. You can learn more about human-centred design and join’s online learning community at

The decision to take this approach arose from work done last year via the Digital Skills Delivery Stakeholder Group (or DSDSG) to try to map digital skills support across the University. What emerged from this was a realisation of how disparate provision is, and in some cases how little awareness there is of the full offer to students, with particular challenges around how to capture what individual schools and departments provide. We wanted to try to pull together a more coherent picture of what could be offered, but also of what was needed by staff and students. A partnership between some of the key support providers, working closely with one department in particular, would offer us the chance to get in-depth knowledge and to formulate a joined-up response.

The School of Law had already been in touch with the TEL team due to challenges arising from the growth in student numbers and upcoming changes to the process of becoming a solicitor. They agreed to work with us more generally on our “digital deep dive”, and after some initial discussions with a group from the School, we formulated our initial design challenge together: “How might we increase student engagement with teaching material and assessment feedback?”.

Inspiration, ideation and implementation

There are 3 phases of the HCD process: inspiration, ideation and implementation. In the inspiration phase, the idea is to immerse yourself in the world of the people you’re designing for to get a real sense of their needs. We therefore carried out a series of interviews with academic staff and students to discover their experience of teaching materials and assessment feedback. We also carried out observations of a lecture and a tutorial.

Moving into the ideation phase, the project team then shared insights from the interviews and observations to develop our sense of specific needs and to begin to identify opportunities where digital approaches might help. The next step is to check back in with the group from Law and to put forward ideas for prototyping. Prototyping possible solutions will help us gauge whether our ideas actually work for Law, before attempting to implement something on a wider scale.

The overall plan is to use our findings across the University to make improvements to the digital advice we provide. Our HCD work this term has been a bit of an experiment and we’ve discovered both good and bad things about the approach: it requires a lot more time than originally anticipated, but has also been incredibly useful in making us aware of how important local issues are (for example the introduction of the Solicitors Qualifying Exam for Law). It has also been fascinating to see what assumptions we all make about how other students and staff work and how different that can be to reality.

Our longer-term aim is still to be decided, but we would like to to do more work with individual departments to produce tailored digital solutions that are truly fit for purpose.

Watch this space…

December 5, 2017

Using encryption to keep your data safe

Filed under: Uncategorized — Tags: — sgswaine @ 11:55 am
Keeping data safe

Keeping data safe

Information and cyber security has been a hot topic for several years, and is becoming increasingly relevant as we all move towards a daily life dominated by technology.  Important documents, sensitive research data, financial and purchasing transactions and even private photos are data meant to be kept private – not for the whole world.

Some websites have taken steps to ensure confidentiality by using end-to-end encryption.  Secure webpages begin with https:// and display a padlock net to the URL. So how can you help protect your data?

The UK Data Archive has over 50 years of experience  in handling data and we offer guidance, support and training to anyone who wants to process, store, transmit and share sensitive data. In other words, you are in good hands, so let’s walk you through the basics…

What is Encryption?

Encryption modifies (encodes) digital information using a mathematical formula (algorithm) and a key (password), in such a way that only parties who have the correct key can view the information.  The situation is similar to locking the door to your house – to get into the locked house you need to use the correct key or resort to breaking in. You can encrypt individual files, folders or even entire disks (including USB disks).

Why use Encryption?

Encryption is essential for safeguarding personal and sensitive digital data.  It also helps to demonstrate compliance with the Data Protection Act and upcoming GDPR. Some types of encryption provide greater protection than others, the type and level of encryption used should correspond to the sensitivity of the data being protected eg a personal interview with a participant would be more sensitive than anonymised microdata. As a general rule, more bits equals stronger encryption ie 256-bit encryption is stronger than 128-bit encryption. The encryption key (ie the password strength) is also critical as strong encryption is rendered useless by a key. In addition to securing data, encryption can also be used to verify a sender’s identity and the integrity of the data.

What Encryption software to use?

You should choose your encryption software based on your device, operating system and the sensitivity of the information being protected. Below are some commonly used encryption software:

  • BitLocker – standard on selected editions of Windows; for the encryption of disk volumes and USB devices
  • FileVault2 – standard on Apple Macs; for full disc encryption
  • VeraCrypt – multi-platform encryption software (Windows, Mac and Linux); for full disk and container encryption
  • PGP – Encryption using PGP is very strong and requires a public/private key pair.  The recipient’s public PGP key is used to encrypt files and only the recipients the private key and passphrase can decrypt them.
  • Axcrypt – open source file-level encryption for Windows

The UKDA also have video tutorials on how to use a variety of encryption software programmes to reinforce our training sessions. These are available on our You Tube channel:

What is Ransomware?

Encryption is not always used for good.  A subset of malware called ransomware is used to encrypt user data without permission.  The user then has to pay the attacker to regain access to the data. Earlier this year ‘WannaCry’ ransomware recently brought the NHS to its knees.

Want to learn more?

In collaboration with the Research and Enterprise Office and the Library Services, the UK Data Archive is hosting several training sessions at the beginning of January as together we are launching NEwComERs (Network for Early Career Essex Researchers). These sessions are aimed at Early Career Researchers and PhD students and are designed to help researchers in the various stages of their research – from funding to data curation and publication. You can find out more and get an overview of the whole programme by visiting the NEwComERs website. To book on to any of our courses, please follow the links below (new users will need to register with Proficio before you can book on a course).

November 24, 2017

Referencing made easy

Filed under: Uncategorized — Tags: , , , , — sgswaine @ 12:23 pm


Cmplaya. (2016) Card catalog room at the Frick Art Reference Library taken during Open House New York 2016. Available at: (Accessed: 24 November 2017).

Referencing made easy

Whether you like it or not, referencing is one of the essential parts of academic life. It can also be daunting as recording the details accurately and citing correctly require constant attention to detail. Incorrect references can be incredibly annoying and you can waste a lot of time locating the correct resource. Reference Management Software (RMS) won’t take away ALL the burden of referencing, but it can save you a lot of time and work.

What is RMS?

RMS can also be referred to as citation management software, citation manager, and bibliographic management software. Whatever the name is, it’s important to note that it’s not a citation builder or citation generator, which many of you may have used, like the ‘cite’ function in Google Scholar or JSTOR. A citation generator provides you with a one-off, ready-made reference, whereas RMS will help you to collect, store, manage, generate and share references.

Why use RMS?

1. Collect

RMS allows you to export one or many references in one go from databases or to collect an individual reference with one click using a browser extension. A word of advice – it’s important to choose a good source when possible. The quality of the reference depends on metadata, and some sources have better metadata than others. For example, citations from Google Scholar often don’t have a place of publication for books or page numbers for articles. This means you’ll need to find these details from other sources and manually add them to the reference. It’s much easier if you make a habit of using sources with good quality metadata.

2. Manage

There are a lot of functions available in RMS to help you manage your references. You can create folders and smart groups/searches, and you can add your own keywords, tags and notes. You can check for duplicates to avoid saving the same references. You can also attach files to the references and annotate PDFs.

3. Generate

All the major RMS packages offer a plugin for word processing software that allows you to insert your citations into your document and automatically create a bibliography. The usability varies so it’s worth doing a little research on how each one performs eg Endnote’s ‘Cite While You Write™’ allows you to generate in-text citations using the formula {author, year} so you don’t have to use a mouse.

4. Share

The sharing feature is relatively new but gaining popularity quickly. Some people use this to share references with people who share the same interest and others use as a teaching platform. One of my colleagues, for example, has been involved with a systematic literature review. The project is cross-continental, so it is essential to be able to share references at ease.

What RMS to use?

There are a lot of different software packages available on the market. The university officially supports Endnote and the library can also offer a general advice on using Zotero and Mendeley. Other software packages include Citavi, Paperpile, BibText, and RefWorks. The question is, which one should you choose? There are all sorts of things you need to think about. For example:

  • Is it free or do you need to pay for it?
  • What level of support is available?
  • How much storage is provided?
  • Which browser does it work with?
  • What kind of resources do you usually work with?
  • What information do you need to collect?
  • What features are most important to you?
  • Do you need to collaborate and share your libraries?

Keep in mind that no package is perfect. So you should choose based on what you need from RMS. You may prefer a package over another because it has a nifty function, but keep in mind that others are likely to develop similar functions to keep up. If you’re not sure which one to choose, we’ve put together a comparison-chart for EndNote, Zotero and Mendeley, or you can find a more detailed RMS comparison chart on Wikipedia. We suggest you just try one, and remember that if you don’t like it, it’s relatively easy to move references from one package to another.

Classroom training (via Proficio*)

29/11/17    09:30-12:30 – Getting started with EndNote
15/12/17    09:30-12:30 – Getting started with EndNote
11/01/18    13:00-14:00 – Introduction to Reference Management Software
22/01/18    09:30-12:30 – Getting started with EndNote

* All sessions are free, you just need to register with Proficio, then book on a course.

Online training

November 13, 2017

Small is beautiful – small data in Moodle can help track student engagement

Filed under: Uncategorized — Simon Kemp @ 9:41 am

When we think about learning analytics, we often imagine big data with complex systems mining databases of thousands of records gathered from whole cohorts of students. This is not necessarily something that individual academics can use to improve the educational experience of their students in the short term. ‘Small data’, on the other hand, can quickly provide academics with insights into student behaviour using very simple tools. Professor Clive Holtham and Dr Martin Rich at Cass Business School have defined small data as:

“The smallest amount of data that can provide actionable information, eg on student engagement, without front-line academics needing specialist expertise.”


Drop-in sessions (Talis, Moodle, Faser)

Filed under: Uncategorized — Tags: , , , — Hannah Groom @ 9:00 am

Feeling stressed about the different learning technologies that the University uses? Don’t know the difference between Moodle or Talis or don’t know why you should be using them? Or maybe you know how to use them but want to make it work better for you. Then these drop-in sessions are for you.

Every fortnight, TEL in combination with the library will be holding drop in sessions for anybody who would like help with Talis, Moodle, and Faser.

Whilst we ask that you sign up on HR organiser, you can come along for any help whether it is a quick simple question or whether you have never used the software before and would like someone to go through it with you from scratch.

The first session was held on Wednesday 18th October and since then both academic and professional services staff have come along to get help with a variety of issues; indeed, often coming along for one issue but then solving another in the same session.

Members of staff are on hand to go through things with you at a pace to suit you and as it is 1-to-1 it can be productive as well as helping you feel more confident with using the technologies (or at least be confident with asking us for help!)

The next session will be on 15th November 8:30 until 13:00. Sign up here.

November 6, 2017

Access for All!

Filed under: Uncategorized — Tags: , — Hannah Groom @ 9:00 am

SensusAccess and what it can do for you.

The library is currently trialling SensusAccess; accessibility software that can be used on any device that converts a file into a more accessible file type. Anyone can access the software via the library website on the Accessibility Page, all it requires is a valid University of Essex e-mail address and the file you wish to convert.


The software tries to be as flexible as possible to meet as many different needs as possible. The main focus of files being uploaded are text based, such as .doc and .pdf, but the software also allows image formats such as .jpeg and .png. You can then choose how you want the document to be converted. This can be to other text files, such as .mobi or .epub, into e-brail, and even into speech in .mp3 or DAISY format. This conversion can allow students to access course material they may have originally struggled with, and can be used in conjunction with other software such as screen readers.

How do I use SensusAccess?

Using SensusAccess is a 4 step process:




1. Choose/enter the information you would like to have converted, and upload it.

  • You can choose files, urls, or just input text directly.




2. Choose what type of file you would like the information to be converted to.

  • This can be to text, sound, or images files.





3. Choose some of the finer details

  • This helps the software convert the file and allows you to choose how you want your file to look/sound.






4. Enter your university address and click submit.

  •  You’re done!!





Once you’ve submitted the information, the server will whir and spin, and you should receive an e-mail with the new file or  a link to your new file (This is dependent on file size, but shouldn’t take longer than 10 minutes.) If sent via a link, the file will be available for the next 10 minutes, so be sure to download it! That file is now yours to keep!


(We also recommend that you take a look at the Best Practices Guide to ensure that the information conversion goes as smoothly as possible.)

Why use SensusAccess?

Firstly, the software itself is highly versatile; it aims to meet the needs of many people who need to access resources in alternate ways. Secondly, this allows them to get more involved with their resources and more involved with their course. Thirdly, the software can be used by anyone at the University of Essex; it allows the user to get exactly what they want, when they want it.

Get your students involved!

If you think it would help any of your students engage with their course materials, let them know about the service.

We’d love to hear your experiences or tips you have when it comes to accessibility, so let us know in the comments below.

SensusAccess Tips:

–       Mark-up your file so that it is easier to read by the software.

–       SensusAccess has the ability to turn images based text into editable text.

–       Make sure that the item being uploaded is as straight as possible.

–       Try out the different ‘specify’ options. You may find different speeds/font sizes work for you.

If you’d like help or a demonstration on how to use SensusAccess, please get in contact with use via


October 24, 2017

Introduction to Open Access

Filed under: Uncategorized — Tags: , , , , , — sjkelly @ 11:41 am

Open in order to...

Open Access is a hot topic in publishing at the moment, though it is infamous for being confusing and can therefore be something researchers and support providers shy away from. Fear not, as yesterday marked the beginning of the global Open Access week; the Digital Skills Group is here to explain Open Access with the help from two researchers and our very own repository manager.

So, what is Open Access?

If a publication is Open Access, it simply means that it is free to read, download and reuse. There have been a huge increase of Open Access publications in the UK; a lot of this is due to new policies from funders (e.g. RCUK and Wellcome Trust) or HEFCE. This has had a large impact on research in the UK, for example; Journal articles and some conference proceedings submitted to the next REF must be Open Access in order to be eligible. Our team checked in on Jim Jamieson, our Institutional Repository Manager to see how University of Essex is dealing with the new Open Access requirements.

“Since HEFCE’s new policy in April 2016, consistently about 80% of all articles in our repository are Open Access” – Jim Jamieson

From this statement you might think we don’t need to create awareness, but a lot of articles are Open Access simply due to the work by Jim Jamieson (not to mention our new Research Information System – managed by our Research Systems Manager, Phineas Wenlock , which has made depositing publications and tracking citations a lot easier!). However, it is not Jim Jamieson’s responsibility to make sure publications are Open Access, so here’s a quick introduction:

How do you make a publication Open Access?

There are two main routes:

Gold Open Access OA2This means publishing in an Open Access journal. The article is peer reviewed and an Article Processing Charge (APC) is paid by the author when the manuscript is accepted. Once published, it is immediately accessible online free of charge via the Journal.

Ps. the University of Essex have funding to pay for Gold Open Access for any research funded by RCUK. Email Jim Jamieson at to find out more.

One thing to be aware of with Open Access Journals is something called predatory journals – these journals are only interested in money, and will accept any manuscript as long as the fee is paid. Predatory journals often contact authors asking for manuscript, so if you or your colleagues receive an email like this, just ignore it.

If you want to check whether the journal you want to publish with is safe you can use the Think.Check.Submit. Checklist. Alternatively (or in addition) you can also find safe and trusted Open Access journals via DOAj (Directory of Open Access Journals).


Silke Paulmann from the Psychology Department is an example of one of our academics who has been embracing the Gold Open Access route to make sure her publications are REF eligible. She chose this route because the publishing timeline is quicker and more automatic, therefore making it a more convenient option for her. In addition, most of the Open Access articles she has published have a strong focus on quality rather than novelty alone, and are therefore ideally suited to complement her publications in more traditional outlets.

Green Open Access OA4

This route is probably the more common, but sometimes less known way to Open Access. Wait… How on earth can that be possible? Green Open Access means that you are able to add a copy of an accepted manuscript to a repository, for example our institutional repository (see how to deposit to the repository via the RIS here).

PS. If you take the Green Open Access route you may NOT add an identical copy of the published version; it has to be a version without the formatting from the journal.

Please note that most, but not all journals allow authors to do this. If you want to check restrictions for a specific journal, you can use an online tool called Sherpa/Romeo. In the example below we have searched for Nature, and as you can see we can archive a pre-print (this is the submitted version, before peer review). However, we need to consider the restrictions where it says “6 months embargo”.


Embargo is like a timer – if the embargo is 6months, it means that the deposited version cannot be available to read or download as full text from a repository until 6months after the publication has appeared in the journal.

Got it?Great!

Now this is where it can get a little complicated… To comply with the REF, an article needs to be in a repository within 3 months of acceptance.

OA6 But… how can we comply with both REF AND the embargo when they want different times?

This is where Jim Jamieson comes in again. All deposits to the repository are reviewed by him. After checking that the correct version is uploaded, he sets the embargo and the article will not be available to read or download until the embargo is over. This way it can comply with both requirements. HEFCE’s open access policy has maximum allowed embargo periods of 12 months for STEM subjects and 24 months for Humanities and Social Sciences. This is mainly the reason why the Green Open Access route is less known; many do not know they are allowed to make an accepted version available. However, it is the author’s responsibility to make sure the deposit is made within the time frame.

Working papers

This is a way to share research freely without worrying about embargo, fees or journals restrictions.

Working paper repositories are a great way of sharing research within a specific field and get feedback from others before submitting to a journal. Working papers are not peer reviewed, though often read and discussed within a community. They are deposited into a repository depending on subject area (e.g. IDEAS/RePEc for Economics or arXiv for Physics/ComputerScience/ Mathematics and more). OA7

One of our academics, John Mills, recently founded a repository for Sport Science papers, SportRxiv. The main reason for creating this repository was that, before going into higher education, John was working as a football coach and wanted to include new, scientific methods into his training. However, he wasn’t able to because he could not access journals without paying a lot of money. He believes research and science should be available for all, and created the repository to help make this happen. This is what the Open Access movement has been about; making research available to everyone and not just for those who can afford it.

If you are still confused about Open Access, you can email Jim Jamieson with any questions. You are also welcome to come and talk to library staff in Square 3 Wednesday 25th October from 11am to 3pm. In addition, we are hosting a Q&A drop-in session in the library on Wednesday 1st November (Special Collections Room, Floor 1). Read more about these events here.

What can you do to celebrate Open Access week?

by Kat Sundsbo, Scholarly Communications and Research Support Manager

October 16, 2017

Designing for digital capabilities in the curriculum

Filed under: Uncategorized — Tags: , , — Alex ONeill @ 9:41 am


Are you interested in building digital capability for your students through your teaching?

Although we know digital skills are imperative to the personal and professional future of most students, it is often hard to see where they can be incorporated into the curriculum, or find the time to do it. This course will support participants with designing in opportunities for students to develop relevant digital capabilities into their course, module or unit of learning. There will be associated resources to take away so that activities can be completed and followed up afterwards.

The course has been designed and run by Jisc, an organisation who work to support IT and digital skills in Higher and Further education institutions. This course draws on the learning from their Building digital capability project.

Course details

Date: 16th November 2017
Time: 9:30 – 16:30
Location: Birmingham
To book:

If you do go, let us know how you get on at!


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