Author Archives: Dan Brown

Computer Availability App is here!

If you want to see where free computers are around campus then you’re in luck. The Edge Hill computer availability web app is up and running in some key locations around campus ( And here it is!

Each area’s unfoldable map shows which computers are free (green is free!). We chose a salmon colour for used computers, because salmon are busy fish what with all the swimming and laying eggs. Or maybe it has something to do with being distinguishable from green for colourblind people.

Like salmon, people move around really quickly so you might find the computer you were hoping for has gone by the time you get there, and another one has appeared. So you can use the app to get a general idea of which computer area would be good to aim for. That’s why we used the signal strength indicator – so you can see at a glance your likelihood of finding a computer in that area.

That means likely.

There’s also a link to the room booking system, so feel free to come here just to book a room.

As well as showing computer usage, it also just shows where there are computers, which can be useful to new students who haven’t fully explored yet.

There’s a shiny new building overview page, that unsurprisingly gives an overview of the computers used in buildings. You might see this around screens on the campus.

There’s also a series of single map pages, just focusing on one computer area:

These single maps will be part of a slideshow shown around campus. We have one for the library which will rotate through the single maps and overview screens, so people can see at a glance where computers are being used. It should hopefully save some time in students’ days so they can so they can find a place to study more easily.


The app is responsive – a liquid version that fills to fit the container device window – so use it on your phones and tablets as well.

 Desktop Version

And that’s it. The plan is to expand to show more computers around the campus. So go ahead and use it, and let us know what you think. Feedback is what sculpts the greatest software. So what would you change to make it better? Does it help you? Let us know.







The Tales of Xcri-Cap

One of the first projects in my new job here at Edge Hill was JISC’s XCRI-CAP. Where would we be without acronyms? I was thoroughly pleased to have some new ones. Here’s the definitions:

  • JISC – a company that pushes innovative digital technology into UK education
  • XCRI-CAP – eXchanging Course Related Information, Course Advertising Profile. It’s a UK standard to describe course information for marketing.

JISC’s goal with XCRI-CAP is to share course information with the organisations who publish it, such as

Xcri - eXchanging Course Related Information




We’re making a feed for our Health CPD courses in the XCRI format so prospective students can find the course they’re looking for.

We moved all our health courses onto WordPress – our CMS (Content Management System) for most of our course information now. It was a good clean break, as we got to redesign the information’s structure to fit the XCRI specification. With the health courses in the CMS, we made the XCRI feed. It passes the course information to the feed aggregators so they can share the information.

Here’s a little information about each phase:

Database Mapping

This involved translating the old database content into the new xcri fields, where possible, and retaining the other useful information. We used the opportunity to strip out any useless information.

Database Mapping

This was the ‘get out your spreadsheet and be very thorough’ phase. It was pretty important because the information had to be labelled right so websites could understand it and use it properly.

We continued to the content management system…

Built a new Content Management System (CMS)

We actually extended WordPress, the CMS we use for most of our courses, by making a plugin that saves the health CPD modules. WordPress makes it fairly easy to add new functionality by providing hooks you can latch onto to adapt the software – basically slots to inject your customisations in.

Using WordPress’s custom post types we added courses and presentations to the CMS, and customised the admin area with the right input boxes. A presentation is a living instance of a course – for example, on the Tissue Viability course the Feb 2012 intake and July 2012 intake are different presentations.

WordPress makes it quite easy to add functionality by using existing plugins. We wanted more precise control over the admin page, so we did some of the building ourselves.

Customised WordPress admin menu

Once the CMS was done we transferred the course information into it.

 Built new web pages

We made a page template that displays an individual course’s information.

Front end website page template

We’ve still got some work to do on the template, like adding side navigation that links to similar courses.

Making the feed

We built an example feed that holds dummy information first.  We passed this through the Xcri 1.2 validator to make sure it was right. Eventually it stopped telling us we had made massive human errors, so the feed was right. Here’s the static version:

Static Xcri Feed

We made the real feed by passing the course information into this template from database.

And that’s where we are so far. Its nearly finished, and hopefully will make it much easier for people to find the right course.