30 April 2004

Support for non-TSU Projects

Ground rules for student projects and individual staff developing computer-based systems are being discussed.

It is a time-honoured practice in Universities, including this one, for students to develop projects of all sorts as some part of their assessable work. For example each year IT students put out a call to UC staff for expressions of interest in having suitable projects developed for them by the students. Design students are also sometimes available to develop websites for clients who otherwise don't have the resources to develop them themselves.

In our own Division the Scribe website was originally developed as a student project and has now become a permanent service used in subsequent semesters for teaching: third year students maintain the site as part of their Professional writing course.

While such projects must be encouraged as a critical part of students' learning, they can provide some difficulties once the student has completed a project and moves on: often IT units are expected to host, support, maintain and upgrade the "project" as time goes by and the project becomes an important service that is relied upon.

In the case of the Scribe website, it was developed in a temporary student directory that in the normal course of events would have been deleted at the end of the semester: it was only the invitation from the Vice Chancellor to the launch of the website (with the student url) that alerted us to the fact that the service was expected to be continued. It had to be transferred to a different, permanent address (rendering the marketing materials developed to promote the site unusable), and is now another service that needs to be maintained technically by the TSU.

There are also other systems developed by end-users to support their own activities that become mission-critical systems. From time to time these systems require some support from IT sections, especially when the original developer moves on and the system needs to be supported, maintained, updated and sometimes developed further.

ICT Services is currently looking at a number of possible support mechanisms and guidelines to provide a framework within which these projects can expect to sit. In the meantime, student projects and end-user developed applications must be seen as 'proof of concept' applications that could become corporate application projects after re-development, but clients should not think that a such projects would become supported UC systems. Any proposals for these projects to become permanent services must be discussed with ICT Managers or ICT Services to avoid unnecessary or duplicate proposals or the development of systems not able to be integrated with current environments or supported long-term.