Why is my inbox still full of AllStaff emails?

QUESTION:
Why does my inbox continue to be clogged up with all staff emails containing nothing relevant to me? I thought we had switched to RSS?

 

ANSWER:
When the RSS Channels/University blogs were introduced as our main way of communicating information across the university, it was decided that the use of all staff email would be dramatically reduced in response to staff feedback about ‘over-clogged’ inboxes. This practice has continued with only a few relevant individuals across the University now able to send all staff emails in the rare cases where it is felt necessary due to the importance of the content.

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Why do answers take so long to appear on Ask Exec?

QUESTION:

Having asked questions via askexecutive@staffs.ac.uk in the past – please can you explain why responses to questions can take up to a month or more to appear and why there seem to be no follow up communications on actions taken?

 

ANSWER:

When a question is sent to askexecutive@staffs.ac.uk we endeavour to answer it as promptly as possible.  Unfortunately this is not always the case if the relevant member of Executive is on leave/away from the University, or needs to seek advice from University colleagues.  Many topics are covered by the Ask Executive channel and we appreciate the feedback received and try to follow-up wherever possible – a process we will look at improving throughout the development of our internal communications.

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Why are Blackboard down times scheduled to coincide with exams and assignment hand-ins?

QUESTION:

Why are Blackboard down times scheduled to coincide with exams and assignment hand-ins?

On 18 December staff in the School of Computing received an email announcing that Blackboard would be unavailable on 5/6 January and were told that this had been scheduled from the start of term. This was the first that I, and as far as I know other members of teaching staff had heard of this.

Exams began on 7 January which meant that students needed access to revision material. My students were scheduled to hand in via Blackboard on 6 January. Term had finished on 14 December which meant a scramble to email students to ensure they knew they had to download in advance/that the assignment hand in had been extended.

Can IS: (i) avoid scheduling downtime for the week preceding the January exams, the week preceding the start of the summer assessment period, the week before the referral week.  (ii) email teaching staff well in advance to inform them about downtimes so that we can make sure our students know.

 
ANSWER:
Information Services publishes a calendar of planned maintenance via the web and also provides updates of this regularly via RSS.

The first weekend of every month and the last weekend following the end of term was approved by Deans/Directors (at the Information Strategy Group) as the agreed period when IS may need to schedule planned IT maintenance.

The work on 5th and 6th January was the essential replacement of end of life core network equipment which would become unsupported if not replaced. This upgrade had been scheduled to utilise one of the defined maintenance periods and was publicised as follows:
•The downtime was first notified via RSS on 1st October as part of the published schedule to August 2013.
•A reminder was published on RSS on 23rd November and again 18th December.
•It was also included on the IS blog.

RSS is the University’s communication mechanism and we use this to publish information about planned downtime. We have added the following message now to these communications asking that staff consider the impact of the planned downtime and let colleagues and students know if they think it will have an adverse impact:

We do publish the details of this Scheduled IT maintenance unavailability in as many places as possible to give advanced warning, but appreciate it is sometimes difficult to inform everyone especially distance learners. If you feel the work detailed below may affect your colleagues or students please can we ask that you pass this information onto them too, to ensure all are aware of any interruption to their access to resources and services. As always if you have any queries please contact the service desk

Moving forwards, a cross University group is in the process of being formed to refine the principles agreed by ISG to minimise the impact on University activities.

Could we have suggestion boxes on campus?

QUESTION:
Can I ask, how open is the university to innovation?
Also, would it be possible to have suggestion boxes for improvements to the University?

 

ANSWER:
Thank you for the question. This is a great suggestion and we will consider how we can provide opportunities for staff to make comments on how we can improve both the way we work and improving the service to our customers. Watch this space.

Can we have an RSS channel for our job vacancies?

QUESTION:

Can we have an RSS channel for our job vacancies? It would make it easier for us to know when there were positions so that we could pass them onto contacts.  And I am sure that a lot of recruitment and jobs sites would find it useful and so provide free advertising for us.

ANSWER:

Thank you for your interest in the RSS Channels.  Although the blogs are currently an internal communications tool aimed primarily at staff, we are always looking to review and develop our communication systems as part of rolling improvements and appreciate all suggestions and feedback we receive.

The current method to receive job vacancy notification is via the e-recruitment system, which allows internal staff and anyone else outside of the university to register and receive information directly about vacancies in any specific areas of interest, either via e-mail or via an RSS feed system – this information can be passed on to any outside contacts so that they can be infomed directly of our opportunities.

Although we feel this is still the most appropriate way at the moment, we will take forward your suggestion for consideration in the internal communications developments, thank you.

Are there any Stoke City ticket deals for staff?

QUESTION:

Now that Staffordshire University sponsors one of the stands at the Brittania Stadium, are there any ticket deals or offers available for staff members? Quite often I hear that Stoke offer tickets for £5 to staff members of sponsors but I have never seen anything where Staffordshire University staff can access these deals.

Also, does Staffordshire University have access to an executive box at the stadium?  If so is there any opportunity for staff members at all levels to use this – or incentives in place for staff to win a place in the executive box?

 

ANSWER:

The corporate hospitality package (ie Waddington Suite corporate box) the University has negotiated with Stoke City is mainly used to network with and strengthen relationships with existing and potential business clients and partners. Corporate guests for hospitality are carefully selected on a set of business benefits criteria and we ask the members of staff who attend  to write a short report following the match on the outcomes and business opportunities gained by hosting this type of event at the Britannia Stadium.

We do however feel that hospitality should be opened out to staff and students as reward for some of the great work that they do, so for example the Winners of the Celebrating Staff Success ‘Cross University team’ will be taking one of the Waddington Suite hospitality slots for 12 people at the upcoming Stoke City vs West Bromwich Albion match.

As well as staff, we have also invited 18 of our international students to watch the West Bromwich Albion game and have a tour of the Stadium.

Our partnership with the Club has opened up lots of other ‘money can’t buy’ opportunities for our students. The Students’ Union are working with the Club on a number of projects including offering recreational sport sessions as part of their Premier Sports Project and the Union’s  Active Uni’s project. They are also working with Stoke City for the upcoming ‘One Game One Community’ Week of Action.

In addition, Stoke City have said that they will look into the special £5 ticket deals for staff (as club partners) for one or maybe two of the 2012 home games.

Why is the Carol Service not held on a Wednesday afternoon?

QUESTION:

I’d like to enquire as to why the carol service was advertised so late, just a week before the event on the 6th. Was it not going to take place? I’d also like to ask why it can’t be fixed much earlier in the calendar on a Wednesday afternoon (perhaps fixing the date as the last Wednesday afternoon of the teaching term), so that people like me, who would otherwise be teaching, can actually attend.

ANSWER:

The traditional Christmas Carol Service is a corporate event and while we do our best to hold it at the convenience of all staff and students, consideration must be given to the availability of the Vice-Chancellor, Students’ Union President, University Chaplains, together with the availability of Stoke Minster.

We realise that not everyone can attend the service and therefore will consider your suggestions when planning next year’s carol service.

As in previous years, both Christmas carol services have been advertised around campus with a poster campaign and information has been sent out to Deans and Directors of Service in which to filter down to members of staff. This year with our additional electronic communication tools, such as the RSS channels, IS icon on staff PCs and plasma information screens around campus, we hope to have reached as many staff and students as possible at this seasonal time.

What are Exec’s plans for part-time study?

Question:

What are the plans for part-time study? Does Executive expect part-time study will recruit students who are either maybe put off by full-time fees, or who want to study while working?

Answer:

Re part-time study, we expect the market to drive the offer. In particular, we are considering whether PT UG Programmes, offered over three years, will be popular in the future.  We would be interested to hear staff and student views on this subject.

Will joint awards be looked at individually?

Question:

Taking up the point about looking at combined honours and concentrating on what we are good at, in journalism we have many combined honours students who are very successful and who bring a diversity and new ideas that also inform the core single honours course. I would like reassurance that each joint honours award would be looked at individually rather than a decision being made in general to cut these courses.

Answer:

When we are making our decisions about  the programme portfolio going forward, we will be considering a range of factors in relation to all the programmes. These include application rates,  different quality  measures, financial viability and other fields.

Then we will be asking academic staff to compete information  on how the 3 Es are delivered within programmes, whether elearning is a factor, what the competition is like, the strategic value of programmes and a range of other considerations. 

Once all the information is gathered, we will revue the data together and make decisions about how we shape the portfolio going forward.

In this way there is the opportunity for any individual Award to be considered in its own right.
That said, We do need to simplify our offer with less titles overall. The number of options  available on any programme has to be dependant on the number of students. We need to work towards a situation where ideally all modules have an optimum number of 20 students studying in seminar and lab based groups.