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Trying to find useful things to do with emerging technologies in open education

OU/BBC Co-Pros Currently on iPlayer

Given the continued state of presentational disrepair of the OpenLearn What’s On feed, I assume I’m the only person who subscribes to it?

Despite its looks, though, I have to say I find it *really useful* for keeping up with OU/BBC co-pros.

The feed displays links to OpenLearn pages relating to programmes that are scheduled for broadcast in the next 24 hours or so (I think?). This includes programmes that are being repeated, as well as first broadcast. However, clicking through some of the links to the supporting programme pages on OpenLearn, I notice a couple of things:

Firstly, the post is timestamped around the time of the original broadcast. This approach is fine if you want to root a post in time, but it makes the page look out-of-date if I stumble onto either from a What’s On feed link or from a link on the supporting page on the corresponding BBC /programme page. I think canonical programme pages for individual programmes have listings of when the programme was broadcast, so it should also be possible to display this information?

Secondly, as a piece of static, “archived” content, there is not necessarily any way of knowing that the programme is currently available. I grabbed the above screenshot because it doesn’t even appear toprovide a link to the BBC programme page for the series, let alone actively promote the fact that the programme itself, or at least, other programmes from the same series, are currently: 1) upcoming for broadcast; 2) already, or about to be, available on iPlayer. Note that as well as full broadcasts, many programmes also have clips available on BBC iPlayer. Even if the full programmes aren’t embeddable within the OpenLearn programme pages (for rights reasons, presumably, rather than techincal reasons?), might we be able to get the clips locally viewable? Or do we need to distniguish between BBC “official” clips, and the extra clips the OU sometimes gets for local embedding as part of the co-pro package?

If the OU is to make the most of repeat broadcasts of OU-BBC co-pro, then I think OpenLearn could do a couple of things in the short term, such as create a carousel of images on the homepage that link through to “timeless” series or episode supporting programmes. The programme support pages should also have a very clearly labelled, dynamically generated, “Now Available on iPlayer” link for programmes that are currently available, along with other available programmes from the same series. The next step would be to find some way of making more of persistent clips on iPlayer?

Anyway – enough of the griping. To provide some raw materials for anyone who would like to have a play around this idea, or maybe come up with a Twitter Bootstrap page that promotes OU/BBC co-pro programmes currently on iPlayer, here’s a (very) raw example: a simple HTML web page that grabs a list of OU/BBC co-pro series pages I’ve been on-and-off maintaining on delicious for some time now (if there are any omissions, please let me know;-), extracts the series IDs, pulls down the corresponding list of series episodes currently on iPlayer via a YQL JSON-P proxy, and then displays a simple list of currently available programmes:

Here’s the code:

<html><head>
<title></title>

<script type="text/javascript" src="http://ajax.googleapis.com/ajax/libs/jquery/1.2.6/jquery.min.js">
</script>

<script type="text/javascript">
//Routine to display programmes currently available on iPlayer given series ID
// The output is attached to a uniquely identified HTML item

var seriesID='b01dl8gl'
// The BBC programmes series ID

//The id of the HTML element you want to contain the displayed feed
var containerID="test";

//------------------------------------------------------

function cross_domain_JSON_call(seriesID){
 // BBC json does not support callbacks, so use YQL as JSON-P proxy
 
 var url = 'http://query.yahooapis.com/v1/public/yql?q=select%20*%20from%20json%20where%20url%3D%22http%3A%2F%2Fwww.bbc.co.uk%2Fprogrammes%2F' + seriesID + '%2Fepisodes%2Fplayer.json%22%20and%20itemPath%20%3D%20%22json.episodes%22&format=json&callback=?'
 
 //fetch the feed from the address specified in 'url'
// then call "myCallbackFunction" with the resulting feed items
 $.getJSON(
   url,
   function(data) { myCallbackFunction(data.query.results); }
 )
}

// A simple utility function to display the title of the feed items
function displayOutput(txt){
  $('#'+containerID).append('<div>'+txt+'</div>');
}

function myCallbackFunction(items){
  console.log(items.episodes)
  items=items.episodes
  // Run through each item in the feed and print out its title
  for (prog in items){
    displayOutput('<img src="http://static.bbc.co.uk/programmeimages/272x153/episode/' + items[prog].programme.pid+'.jpg"/>' + items[prog].programme.programme.title+': <a href="http://www.bbc.co.uk/programmes/' + items[prog].programme.pid+'">' + items[prog].programme.title+'</a> (' + items[prog].programme.short_synopsis + ', ' + items[prog].programme.media.availability + ')');
  }
}

function parseSeriesFeed(items){
  for (var i in items) {
    seriesID=items[i].u.split('/')[4]
    console.log(seriesID)
    if (seriesID !='')
      cross_domain_JSON_call(seriesID)
  }
}

function getSeriesList(){
  var seriesFeed = 'http://feeds.delicious.com/v2/json/psychemedia/oubbccopro?count=100&callback=?'
  $.getJSON(
   seriesFeed,
   function(data) { parseSeriesFeed(data); }
 )
}

// Tell JQuery to call the feed loader when the page is all loaded
//$(document).ready(cross_domain_JSON_call(seriesID));
$(document).ready(getSeriesList())
</script>

</head>

<body>
<div id="test"></div>
</body>

</html>

If you copy the (raw) code to a file and save it as an .html file, you should be able to preview it in your own browser.

I’ll try to make any updated versions of the code available on github: iplayerSeriesCurrProgTest.html

If you have a play with it, and maybe knock up a demo, please let me know via a comment;-)

PS seems I should have dug around the OpenLearn website a bit more – there is a What’s on this week page, linked to from the front page, that lists upcoming transmissions/broadcasts:

I’m guessing this is done as a Saturday-Friday weekly schedule, in line with TV listings magazines, but needless to say I have a few issues with this approach!;-)

For example, the focus is on linear schedules of upcoming broadcast content in the next 0-7 days, depending when the updated list is posted. But why not have a rolling “coming up over the next seven days” schedule, as well as a “catch-up” service linking to to content currently on iPlayer from programmes that were broadcast maybe last Thursday, or even longer ago?

The broadcast schedule is still a handy thing for viewers who don’t have access to digital on-demand services, but it also provides a focus for “event telly” for folk who do typically watch on-demand content. I’m not sure any OU-BBC co-pro programmes have made a point of running an online, realtime social media engagement exercise around a scheduled broadcast (and I think second screen experiments have only been run as pilots?), but again, it’s an opportunity that doesn’t seem to be being reflected anywhere?

Written by Tony Hirst

March 28, 2012 at 11:09 am

Posted in BBC, OBU, OU2.0

Tagged with ,

6 Responses

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  1. First time I’ve heard about openlearn. It has never come up on my rather extensive web radar until now. I think they have a marketing problem that needs to be addressed.

    Are these truly free courses? Or are they free to taste and then requires payment for the whole course? After a quick 5 minute poke around the site it comes across as “here are a few tasters, but the real content has to be paid for”.

    I’ve just subscribed to the OU youtube channel.

    But I cant find an RSS feed for the “Whats on” section and my RSS reader finds nothing when using auto-discover. Further poking around I found a tabbed box with “feed” on (CTRL-F RSS found nothing). Clicking on the “latest pages from openlearn” I get “page not found” (Current version of firefox + noscript + all javascript allowed).

    Care to share the impossible to find RSS feed?

    alan

    March 28, 2012 at 3:58 pm

    • @alan the OpenLearn courses on the OpenLearn LearningSpace http://openlearn.open.ac.uk are units taken from OU courses, either currently running ones or recently expired ones, and yes: they are free… To that extent, they are most definitely “real” course units, but they do not come with accreditation (I’m not sure about the extent to which you could use them as “equivalent experience”).

      As far as the What’s On feed goes, that’s on the broadcast related OpenLearn site: http://www.open.edu/openlearn/ Here’s the feed I use: http://www.open.ac.uk/openlearn/whats-on/rssall.xml

      Tony Hirst

      March 28, 2012 at 5:10 pm

  2. Also tried finding the feed’s using an out of the box install of Win 7 & IE 9 with all updates applied.

    Again. “Page not found”.

    alan

    March 28, 2012 at 4:16 pm

  3. @tony thanks for the RSS feed.

    Yup those are the sites I was looking at. The links to the feed are BROKEN. Auto-discover is BROKEN.

    I love to learn, not interested in accreditation; never needed it.

    alan

    March 28, 2012 at 6:30 pm

    • @alan re broken – yep; it’s been logged as an issue for some time, but there’s not many of us who are aggReSSive feed users;-)

      Tony Hirst

      March 28, 2012 at 9:08 pm

  4. [...] quick update to yesterday’s post on OU/BBC Co-Pros Currently on iPlayer: I’ve popped the first draft of a daily scraper onto Scraperwiki that looks at my delicious [...]


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