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Using unsupported software and hardware in teaching


You may sometimes find that the software, hardware and services provided by the University does not meet your needs. First, you should ask for advice in the Arts TEAL teams space. There may be options that you don't know about.

If you want to go beyond what is available, you must evaluate the risks. Remember that you will be operating without support from the IT helpdesk and the Academic Technology Team.

This guide explains how to do this evaluation.

Evaluating the risks

There are three dimensions to this evaluation:

  1. How dependent will you be?
  2. How well guaranteed is it? - remember that if it goes wrong, or disappears, IT will not be able to help you.
  3. And is it safe and secure?

If you will have a critical dependency on it, but there is only a weak guarantee that it will remain available to you, then don't use it. If you will be storing personal details (even email addresses) or other sensitive information in it, and it has not been approved by the Information Security process, don't use it (or use it, but avoid storing personal data) - this is a legal requirement.

Use these criteria to assess the level of risk.

1. How dependent will you be on the software?

No dependency: we could remove the specific resource or facilities and it would have no impact on the students’ ability to successfully complete the module;

Mild dependency: removing access would have an impact on the ability of students to complete the module, requiring some reasonable effort by the teaching team and/or students to make up for the loss, but could be done without too much disruption and cost;

Serious dependency: removing access would have an impact on the ability of students to complete the module, and would require assistance from outside of the teaching team to make up for the loss;

Critical dependency: removing access would stop the students completing the module and cannot easily be solved with the available resources within the university.

2. How well guaranteed is it?

Solid guarantee: the university is fully in control of and guarantees the availability of the tools and services, provides support and fixes problems;

Good guarantee: you have a contractual arrangement with third parties that guarantees availability for a specified length of time – this still does not absolutely assure availability, but is enough to work with;

Weak guarantee: the resources or system are widely used, with a global user community, and backing from a major company or organisation;

No guarantee: there is no contractual or organisational reason why it might not just disappear.

3. Is it safe and secure?

Will you be storing personal, confidential, or sensitive data in the system on servers beyond your local computer? Does the system use cloud storage? If so, you need to make sure it has been checked and approved. Contact the IT Helpdesk for advice.

You can still use non-approved systems, so long as you do not store personal, confidential or sensitive data. But you will have to take responsibility for ensuring that doesn't happen by accident.