Selection of projects funded by the University

Academic departments within the University previously directly funded the Academic Computing Development Team (ACDT) in the LTG to run projects. Below is a list of a few of the more prominent projects that happened over the years. You can also read about a selection of externally funded projects.

Selection of ACDT projects:

1. WebLearn Evaluation Tool - Pilot

Weblearn Logo

Work with selected people and units to road test WebLearn’s Evaluations tool, get feedback and experience and improve tool based on this feedback. Generate documentation and case studies. Publicise the tool.

2. Roman Provincial Coinage

The database of the Roman Provincial Coinage in the Antonine Period project is one of the largest collections of images from the ancient world, searchable by iconography, place, and time. The database is based on the ten most important and accessible collections in the world (one of which is the Ashmolean's collection), and on all published material. The project made this database available online, primarily as a research tool, but also as an aid to teaching, encouraging the widest possible use. Collectors and museums are able to contribute additional information in advance of conventional publication, enabling a more comprehensive and error free edition.

3. The Dynamics of Rotating Fluids

The study of fluid dynamics is essentially about the motion and evolving patterns of flow in a body of fluid, under a variety of boundary conditions and applied forces, The clearest way in which to appreciate the form and diversity of such systems, and to gain insight into the processes involved, is thus to be able to visualise fluids in motion. This is most vividly achieved through the use of movies and animations, either from experiments in the laboratory or through computer-generated animations. For more than 30 years now, Profs Hide and Read have accumulated a considerable (and, in some cases, historic) collection of movie footage (amounting to more than 5 hours of continuous running), mainly on 16mm film, derived from visualisations of laboratory experiments and other systems pertaining to the dynamics of rapidly-rotating fluids under a wide range of circumstances.

The project provided a system for uploading and cataloguing this videos, the system also enabled the presentation of the vidoe material within a framework of supporting material.

4. Structured Problems in Molecular Biology

The Department of Biochemistry has already created a series of structured data handling exercises for the study of molecular and cellular biochemistry. The template for these exercises covers: a description/animation of the experimental system; a multi-part data handling question; a series of hints leading from question to answer through the question parts; and a glossary of terms.

This model was extended to cover complex extended problems in molecular biology and DNA sequence analysis (such as those often faced by students in their exams).

5. Oxford Earth Sciences Image Store

The Earth Sciences are rich in visual data. The geologist has to learn not only to identify rocks, minerals and other features, but also to interpret them. Developing observational skills is vital: important clues lie in the pattern and detail in images at all scales from electron micrographs to satellite observation. This project aimed to get the best possible use out of visual materials by pooling the resources of individual lecturers, generating new libraries, and making the resources accessible and re-usable by both lecturers and students.

6. Archaeology Through Maps and Satellite Images

The wealth of satellite images now freely available make an invaluable teaching tool in many disciplines, and particularly now in archaeology. Historical processes take place in space and time, and while the time dimension is frequently taught, in archaeology the spatial dimension is often taken for granted. In addition to this, many of the entities discussed cannot be found in modern atlases and undergraduate students are not always familiar with the regional terminology. Historical atlases that do attempt to cover these two dimensions rarely show either detail or growth through time on comparable basemaps. There is thus a pedagogic need (a) for initial teaching systems which simply explain (for instance) where are "Mesopotamia" and "Mesoamerica", and (b) for more advanced systems which allow a systematic grasp of historical processes in the complementary dimensions of time and space. The intended learning outcome for the project is thus a 4-dimensional grasp of historical processes.

7. Web-based Randomisation Facility - Perinatal Trial

The National Perinatal Epidemiology Unit (NPEU) is an internationally recognised, multi-disciplinary research unit attached to the Department of Public Health at the Institute of Health Sciences (IHS) in Oxford. The Unit was established at Oxford University by the Department of Health in 1978 and is one of fourteen Research Policy Units in England. The NPEU undertakes research about pregnancy, childbirth and newborn babies, as well as long term outcomes for mothers and babies.

The Unit's research makes use of a wide range of methodological approaches including randomised controlled trials. These randomised trials, which are large enough to evaluate the effects of a treatment or procedure with reasonable confidence, compare outcomes of similar groups of participants either treated with the new intervention or with the current standard intervention (or no intervention). Selection of treatment is independent of the preferences and prejudices of doctor and participant. Randomised controlled trials within NPEU come under the umbrella of the Perinatal Trials Service (PTS), and are funded by research charities on the Medical Research Council.

The project developed a web-based randomisation service for clinicians to use directly, greatly easing the task of administrating international and large trials

8. Geographical Techniques Online

Geographical Techniques is an undergraduate foundation course taken by about one hundred students each year. The course is spread over three terms, and involves both lectures and classes in three main areas: quantitative analysis; remote sensing; and qualitative analysis.

This project created a web site to support students on the course, allowing them to do more of the practical work at their own pace, and at a convenient time.

  • Project Partners: Dr Mary Bourke, Dr Mark New and Dr Greg Tucker School of Geography
  • Completed: 2003

9. Pacific Pathways

The Forster collection, obtained on Cook's second voyage of discovery from 1772 to 1775, is one of the great collections of eighteenth-century Pacific art and material culture. In 2001 the Academic Computing Development Team and the Pitt Rivers Museum (both at the University of Oxford) launched a website devoted to the collection at Work is now underway to create an innovative and interactive new area to the site entitled Pacific Pathways.

The Pacific Pathways project developed a facility to allow anyone with access to the internet to create virtual "paths" through and beyond the existing website. They are able to add their own commentaries as well as additional images, video and sound clips, and links to other material on the web. For the museum, Pacific Pathways allows those outside the conventionally defined research community to research, comment on, and contribute to the contextualization and interpretation of the Forster collection. The pathways model can in fact be traced as far back as Vannevar Bush in 1945, and his ideas of trails and trailblazers. In the context of his memex, he envisaged a system where the user 'inserts a comment of his own, either linking it into the main trail or joining it by a side trail to a particular item...Thus he builds a trail of his interest through the maze of materials available to him.'

Pacific Pathways is actually a new incarnation of the Path Creation Scheme, a web-based tool that was first developed by the Humanities Computing Unit here at Oxford as part of The Virtual Seminars for Teaching Literature, a JTAP funded project in the late 90s. The intention was to provide a tool that would allow users to group together individual resources from across a rich multimedia digital archive, and to annotate them with their own information, ideas and learning. The original Path Creation Scheme was first used with WOMDA (The Wilfred Owen Multimedia Digital Archive) and proved very popular with students and teachers of First World War poetry at both school and undergraduate level. However, there were a number of unresolved technical issues, and the software was not developed further for a number of years, until funding was secured to redevelop and refine the original system.

10. Online edition of the Vindolanda tablets

Between 1974 and 1995 over 1500 wooden writing tablets were excavated from waterlogged levels at the roman fort of Vindolanda, a few miles south of Hadrian's Wall. The tablets date to the earliest phase of the northern frontier of Roman Britain, immediately preceding the construction of Hadrian's Wall. Most were written in ink on post-card sized slivers of wood between one and two millimetres thick and comprise three principal types, military documents, accounts/lists and letters. The texts have made significant contributions to research on the Roman world, including the Roman army, Roman Britain and the frontiers of the Roman Empire, Latin linguistics and palaeography. The tablets are used in teaching at Oxford and other universities and in secondary and primary school teaching.

This project created an online resource that will cater for the large and diverse audience interested in the tablets. There were two main areas; an online scholarly edition of the Vindolanda tablets, a key primary source of material for the study of the Roman empire; and secondly an online exhibition to bring together archaeological and textual material.

11. Human Anatomy Image Database

Images play an important part in the teaching of medicine at the University, both for clinical and pre-clinical students. At the moment the image collections that exist within the Division are not accessible from a central resource, and so the choice of images available for people to use is generally limited to their own personal collection. Of the individual collections that have been built up, as well as being geographically dispersed they are also highly variable in size, subject, depth of cataloguing and image quality.

The project created a central web-based resource for finding and sharing medical images within Oxford, initially only for use by Human Anatomy. The system has an interface and back-end system that can use the MeSH cataloguing scheme in a user-friendly way.