OU Library Jobs Round-Up (August 2008)

As I feel a flurry of Library related posts coming on, it’s perhaps appropriate to drop the following post in as something I can repeatedly link to over the next week or two (I live in hope that the OUseful.info blog will actually work one day as an OU job ad channel!) – a handful of OU Library jobs:

  • Access to Video Assets Project Manager, The Library and Learning Resource Centre: This is a superb opportunity to join a proactive world class Library service and provide leadership and excellent project management skills for an innovative digitisation project based at The Open University, Milton Keynes. The Access to Video Assets (AVA) project has been funded by The Open University to deliver a searchable collection of broadcast archives material for use in learning, teaching and research.
    You will report to the Learning Resources Development Manager based in The Open University Library and will be responsible for leading a small team consisting of the AVA Project Technical Manager and a Project Administrator to deliver the project’s objectives.
  • Access to Video Assets Technical Project Manager, The Library and Learning Resource Centre: This is a superb opportunity to join a proactive world class Library service and provide excellent technical project management skills for an innovative digitisation project based at The Open University, Milton Keynes. The Access to Video Assets (AVA) project has been funded by The Open University to deliver a searchable collection of broadcast archives material for use in learning, teaching and research.
    You will report directly to the Access to Video Assets Project Manager based in The Open University Library and be responsible for delivering a technical business case, a pilot repository for broadcast archive material and provide key input into a service implementation plan for this significant digitisation project.
  • Digital Libraries Programme Manager: Do you have the vision, creativity and project management skills to lead a programme of digital library developments for 2013?
    We are looking for a dynamic and highly motivated individual with an up to date knowledge of digital library technologies and their potential, rather than hands-on technical expertise, to manage the development of a range of new and exciting services for our students and staff. You will have excellent team working and communication skills and enjoy working with change and challenge.
  • E- Content Advisor, The Library and Learning Resource Centre: The Library’s use of electronic collections is expanding to meet the needs of students and staff for their learning, teaching and research. You will play a key role in developing operational support for the Library’s expanding range of subscriptions and electronic resources as well as co-ordinating the activities associated with purchasing and providing access to electronic content. You will provide support to the strategic development of electronic resources in line with the Library’s aims and objectives.
    A graduate in Librarianship/Information Studies or with equivalent relevant work experience, you will have good working knowledge of issues concerning the acquisition and delivery of electronic and print resources. You will also be able to demonstrate an understanding of technical issues concerning the delivery of electronic content to distance users. A flexible attitude, excellent communication skills, confidence and initiative with the ability to originate solutions are essential.

(I wonder if the video archiving project is DIVA, mark 2?!)

As ever, none of the above posts have anything to do with me…

Printing Out Online Course Materials With Embedded Movie Links

Although an increasing number of OU courses include the delivery of online course materials, written for online delivery as linked HTML pages, rather than just as print documents viewable online, we know (anecdotally at least, from requests that printing options be made available to print off whole sections of a course with a single click) that many students want to be able to print off the materials… (I’m not sure we know why they want to print off the materials, though?)

Reading through a couple of posts that linked to my post on Video Print (Finding problems for QR tags to solve and Quite Resourceful?) I started to ponder a little bit more about a demonstrable use case that we could try out in a real OU course context over a short period of time, prompted by the following couple of comments. Firstly:

So, QR codes – what are they good for? There’s clearly some interest – I mentioned what I was doing on Twitter and got quite a bit of interest. But it’s still rare to come across QR codes in the wild. I see them occasionally on blogs/web-pages but I just don’t much see the point of that (except to allow people like me to experiment). I see QR codes as an interim technology, but a potentially useful one, which bridges the gap between paper-based and digital information. So long as paper documents are an important aspect of our lives (no sign of that paper-less office yet) then this would seem to be potentially useful.
[Paul Walk: Quite Resourceful?]

And secondly:

There’s a great idea in this blog post, Video Print:

By placing something like a QR code in the margin text at the point you want the reader to watch the video, you can provide an easy way of grabbing the video URL, and let the reader use a device that’s likely to be at hand to view the video with…

I would use this a lot myself – my laptop usually lives on my desk, but that’s not where I tend to read print media, so in the past I’ve ripped URLs out of articles or taken a photo on my phone to remind myself to look at them later, but I never get around to it. But since I always have my phone with me I’d happily snap a QR code (the Nokia barcode software is usually hidden a few menus down, but it’s worth digging out because it works incredibly well and makes a cool noise when it snaps onto a tag) and use the home wifi connection to view a video or an extended text online.

As a ‘call to action’ a QR tag may work better than a printed URL because it saves typing in a URL on a mobile keyboard.
[Mia Rdige: Finding problems for QR tags to solve]

And the hopefully practical idea I came up with was this: in the print option of our online courses that embed audio and/or video, design a stylesheet for the print version of the page that will add a QR code that encodes a link to the audio or video asset in the margin of the print out or alongside a holding image for each media asset. In the resources area of the course, provide an explanation of QR codes, maybe with a short video showing how they are used, and links (where possible) to QR reader tools for the most popular mobile devices.

So for example, here is a partial screenshot of material taken from T184 Robotics and the Meaning of Life (the printout looks similar):

And here’s what a trivial change to the stylesheet might produce:

The QR code was generated using the Kaywa QR-code generator – just add a URL as a variable to the generator service URL, and a QR code image appears :-)

Here’s what the image embed code looks like (the link is to the T184 page on the courses and qualifications website – in practice, it would be to the video itself):

<img src=”http://qrcode.kaywa.com/img.php?s=6&d=http%3A%2F%2Fwww3.open.ac.uk%2Fcourses%2Fbin%2Fp12.dll%3FC01t184&#8243; alt=”qrcode” />

Now anyone familiar with OU production processes will know that many of our courses still takes years – that’s right, years – to put together, which makes ‘rapid testing’ rather difficult at times ;-)

But just making a tiny tweak to the stylesheet of the print option in an online course is low risk, and not going to jeopardise quality of course (or a student’s experience of it). But it might add utility to the print out for some students, and it’s a trivial way of starting to explore how we might “mobilise” our materials for mixed online and offline use. And any feedback we get is surely useful for going forwards?

Bung the Common Craft folk a few hundred quid for a “QR codes in Plain English” video and we’re done?

Just to pre-empt the most obvious OU internal “can’t do that because” comment – I know that not everyone prints out the course materials, and I know that not everyone has a mobile phone, and I know that of those that do, not everyone will have a phone that can cope with reading QR codes or playing back movies, and that’s exactly the point

I’m not trying to be equitable in the sense of giving everyone exactly the same experience of exactly the same stuff. Because I’m trying to find ways of providing access to the course materials in a way that’s appropriate to the different ways that students might want to consume them.

As to how we’d know whether anyone was actually using the QR codes – one way might be to add a campaign tracking code onto each QR coded URL, so that at least we’d be able to tell which of the assets were were hosting were being hit from the QR code.

So now here’s a question for OU internal readers. Which “innovation pipeline” should I use to turn the QR code for video assets idea from just an idea into an OU innovation? The CETLs? KMi? IET (maybe their CALRG?) The new Innovation office? LTS Strategic? The Mobile Learning interest group thingy? The Moodle/VLE team? Or shall I just take the normal route of an individual course team member persuading a developer to do it as a favour on a course I’m currently involved with (a non-scalable result in terms of taking the innovation OU -wide, because the unofficial route is an NIH route…!)

And as a supplementary question, how much time should I spend writing up the formal project proposal (CETLs) or business case (LTS Strategic, Innovation Office(?)) etc, and then arguing it through various committees, bearing in mind I’ve spent maybe an hour writing this blog post and the previous one (and also that there’s no more to write – the proof now is in the testing ;-), and it’d take a developer maybe 2 hours to make the stylesheet change and test it?

I just wonder what would happen if any likely candidates for the currently advertised post of e-Learning Developer, in LTS (Learning and Teaching Solutions) were to mention QR codes and how they might be used in answer to a question about how they might “demonstrate a creative but pragmatic approach to delivering the ‘right’ solution within defined project parameters”?! Crash and burn, I suspect!;-)

(NB on the jobs front, the Centre for Professional Learning and Development is also advertising at the moment, in particular for a Interactive Media Developer and a Senior Learning Developer.)

Okay, ranty ramble over, back to the weekend…

PS to link to a sequence that starts so many minutes and seconds in, use the form: http://uk.youtube.com/watch?v=mfv_hOFT1S4#t=9m49s.

PPS for a good overview of QR codes and mobile phones, see Mobile codes – an easy way to get to the web on your mobile phone.

PPPS [5/2010] Still absolutely no interest in the OU for this sort of thing, but this approach does now appear to be in the wild… Books Come Alive with QR Codes & Data in the Cloud

Can SocialLearn Be Built As Such? Plus an OU Jobs RoundUp

A tweet from Scott Leslie on Saturday alerted me to the fact he had a major post brewing…

And here it is: Planning to Share versus Just Sharing.

Do yourself a favour and go and read it now… Then come back and finish reading this post… or not… but read that one…

Here’s the link again: Planning to Share versus Just Sharing.

‘Nuff said? Here’s one thing it made me think of: Planning to Build versus Just Building.

Speaking of which, I wonder if we have any more SocialLearn planning meetings this week? ;-)

On another tack, it looks like the OU’s recruiting to some interesting posts again:

  • Director of Research and Enterprise, Research School, Strategy Unit: “The Open University plans to increase the range and volume of research of international quality and to expand its knowledge transfer activity at national and regional levels. We need an experienced, proactive and forward looking Director of Research and Enterprise who can help us achieve these ambitions.” I’d personally argue blogs like OUseful.info are in the KT business – if you get the post, feel free to buy me a coffee and vehemently disagree;-)
  • Online Marketing Manager, Marketing and Sales: “In this role, you will contribute to the new media strategy, setting strategies to achieve the online objectives to achieve student targets. You will manage the implementation and evaluation of PPC, affiliate programmes and third party partnerships and manage the development of existing and future marketing websites.” = you will spend lots of money with Google. Just beware Simpson’s Paradox
  • Development Advisor – Collaborative Tools, Learning & Teaching Solutions (LTS): “Collaborative tools are a key part of the online learning experience of Open University students. You will play a key role in both promoting the effective use of collaborative tools in new OU courses and the introduction of new collaborative tools across existing courses.” IMHO, don’t even think about mentioning Second Life, unless it’s to advocate the use of flamethrowers ;-)
  • Programmer/ Web developer, The Library and Learning Resource Centre: “Would you like to contribute in a key role in the development of the Open University’s Library systems, services and products to support all its business processes for both customers and Library staff? You will be providing technical input to projects and service developments, in particular maintaining and developing new services for the Library website.” Far be it from me to say that any Library website redesign should be informed by at least a passing familiarity with what the Library website analytics have say about how the site is used… And if you persuade them to dump Voyager, I’ll buy you a pint of whatever you want…
  • Broadcast Project Manager, Open Broadcasting Unit (OBU): “we need an additional Broadcast Project Manager to work with OU colleagues, the BBC and others to develop and manage detailed project plans for TV, radio and broadband commissions and associated support elements (e.g. print items). You’ll have your own group of projects and opportunities to contribute to process developments.” Tell ’em you watch OU programmes via the “OU Catchup Channel” on MythTV – the panel won’t have a clue what you’re talking about, so you could maybe follow up by suggesting a quick project that would produce a Wii front end for the the OU CatchUp Channel;-) (Hint condition: steal the BBC iPlayer Wii interface and ask Guy to make ice from it ;-)
  • e-Learning Developer, Learning and Teaching Solutions: “We are looking for an experienced e-learning developer with a web/software background. Working as part of a project team and in close collaboration with academics and other media specialists, you will play a key role in developing effective OU distance learning materials for delivery online or via disc.”
  • Research Fellow – SocialLearn, Knowledge Media Institute (KMi): “your responsibility will be to use your understanding of learning and sensemaking online to improve the SocialLearn platform.” I have no idea what this post is about? Maybe trying to think about ways we can mine the platform for data. I can offer you the 5k user records we have on Course Profiles to get started with, and suggestions about how to scale that app in terms of numbers and the data it can collect, but to date no else seems to think this is in anyway relevant to the data/insight that SocialLearn will collect, so maybe that’s just a red herring…;-)
  • Web Developer – cohere.open.ac.uk, Knowledge Media Institute (KMi): a Cohere hacking post. IMHO, Cohere isn’t yet what it may turn to be useful as…. (My attempts at grokking a simpler, more literal version of it, are Linktracks? Trackmarks? Linkmarks? and Doublemarks!)
  • Publicity and Evaluation Officer, Personalised Integrated Learning Support (PILS), Centre for Excellence in Teaching and Learning: “in this new role we are looking for an experienced secretary to support one of our PILS managers and our Publicity and Evaluation Manager. You will be required to use your IT, written communication and numeric skills to support the production of publicity and evaluation materials, and to update our websites.” Personally, I’d look to appoint an evangelist to the Open CETL, but I suppose we still have to service the old-fashioned markets (that aren’t so amenable to social network leverage) somehow?;-)

As ever, I have nothing to do with any of the above…

Innovation in Institutions – and Yet More Jobs…

One of the things I’ve noticed about Twitter is that if you post a link there to a recent blog post, the post can start to get read very quickly. I’ve done a couple of experiments by tweeting links to old posts and comment threads to see if it can give them a little burst of renewed life, and I can anecdotally report that it does seem to work, if you get your twittertext right…

And it’s potentially also a way of using a subset of readers as a sounding board for whether or not to post more widely, to a larger set of readers. So for example, on Friday I replied to a comment on an earlier post (Printing Out Online Course Materials With Embedded Movie Links) with a rather <ranty> comment of my own… and got the following tweet back from @jukesie:

So here goes – I’ve blockquoted it, but it’s not strictly a quote – I have made a few minor changes – so if you want to read the comment in it’s original form, and in the original context, you can find it here.

The context was whether there was any value in adding a QR code visual link to a Youtube movie in the print stylesheet of a piece of online learning material that included an embedded video.

I picked up a catch phrase earlier today, about what UK HE needs: Flexibility, Innovation, Imagination.

So here’s my problem. The future lies around us, and some of us paddle in it. Innovation in the OU is hard to achieve – the feeling is whatever we give to our students, it has to scale and it has to be equally accessible to everyone. We often go for lowest common denominator plays, particularly with respect to assumptions about the availability of technology. The Innovator’s Dilemma rules…

Time out:

When I play with mashups – when I play with ideas – I’m balancing logic rocks. Sometimes they fall over, but that’s okay; if I wanted to build something a little longer lasting, I’d use concrete.

“if QR codes do take off here (they are used in industry but I mean, frequently used for general public) and all new phones start including the technology, and presumably by that time watching videos on phones will be more generally useful, the situation would change.”

QR codes may well not take off, but that’s as may be; something better may come along instead. But finding out how to teach effectively across multiple media at the same time is something I’d argue we don’t know how to do with contemporary devices and today’s lifestyles and expectations, assuming that the mean age of our students is less than the average age of OU staff.

The QR code was a throw away idea that made use of stuff that’s available and is low risk – a simple stylesheet change at its simplest, maybe switched by a preference cookie.

(Sharp intake of breath: “preference cookie – sheesh, that’ll be another week’s work, guv…” And if that is the case, then whither the OU student personalisation project. Here, the “QR code if cookie set” is a lite, but very real, test case of using cookie based personalisation.)

And if we can add a QR code into the print style file, we can maybe do other things – like print stylesheets that include registration patterns for augmented reality models.

So … by focussing on the fact that the QR code route won’t work, you’re missing the whole point. Which is that we need to find ways of exploring how to doodle with new technology in a distance classroom setting, and we need to build flexible components that make it easier – and quicker – to do related and next step things in the future.

The OU is probably unique in that we have a long tradition of using “blended” learning – teaching using different media – although arguably we have let those skills slide somewhat.

The future I have seen trending over the last year – that I’m willing to bet *will* come good over the next 3-5 years – is a “dual view” interaction with media. I sit with a laptop watching the TV – dual view; I read the Sunday papers with a laptop or iPod touch to hand: dual view; I read books and dip onto the web to chase references and look things up: dual view; researchers, designers and programmers at their desks – with two screen: dual view. The near-term future is: Dual View.

QR codes may suck – but that’s not the point. The point is looking for ways of using the technology that’s around us, and maybe the good will of some of our early adopter students, to explore how to use that technology. And also to cobble together building blocks and jisgsaw pieces. I have dozens of pipes and pipe fragments on Yahoo pipes. And it’s amazing how the old ones can come in useful…

And I believe in evolution; and in evolution, stuff fails. All the time. And still things move on…

Anyone who works for the OU knows it can take years to produce a course. So if we wait for the tech then learn how to use it, then write the course material to exploit it, a decade can have gone by. A decade…

I believe that once again we’re looking at various pilots of how to use text messaging with our students? Six or seven years ago, I spent 2-3 days clock time building a mobile WAP site around a course and a programme.

That experiment showed how to repurpose small chunks of info, and looked at some of the information design issues around “micro-sites”. I think I also built an SMS system that was architected in similar way, and explored the mapping between SMS and WAP sites. The app also provided a use case specification for what information might be usefully marked up in microformats on the OU courses and quals pages, which would have made scraping them easy (though of course an lite web service endpoint – maybe serving up a forerunner of XCRI) would have

WAP didn’t fly, but “micro info” has – tweets, SMS, the iUI aesthetic of iPhone apps. (I gave up the Micro Info blog 3 years ago because no-one grokked it.)

Exploring how to supplement text with video, and audio, in a dual view world, with navigation schemes that are natural to use and non-obtrusive (particularly to non-users) is something we need to explore by doing.

Maybe we all need to listen a little to what OUr Chancellor has to say?

(I guess one issue that now arises is that the potential for further commenting has been forked…?)

Just by the by, I’m also engaged in a, err, conversation at the moment about whether or not it will be possible to embed Youtube movies in learning materials delivered via our Moodle VLE. (We have already embedded Youtube videos in at least two of our online Relevant Knowledge short courses, but they use a different delivery environment.)

My argument for embedding is that it presents the material in the flow of the text. A link is a click away, which means that some (possibly significant) percentage of students won’t click through to watch it, and it also takes the student to a different context – specifically, Youtube… which is a vehicle for pushing advertising and keeping visitors onsite…

(There is an advantage to sending students to Youtube, of course – they may find additional, related material there that is in context and relevant – but pedagogically speaking maybe it’s not so good? (The “pedagogy” word is like a Joker in the OU card game. You can play it to try to justify anything… ;-)

Another approach that I’ve idled around over the last couple of years is that we don’t embed videos in the text as such, but we find a way of using progressive enhancement to view a video, from a link, in a lightbox/shadowbox (I do try to be accommodating, you see?). (For a discussion on this, see Interaction Design – “Now Follow This Link” and Progressive Enhancement – Some Examples. For an example of this technique in use, see Animation – Not Just For Numerical Data and click on the “Heavy Metal Umlaut” video link. Note that I’m deliberatley pointing to a page where the video is outsize compared to the lightbox window, to make the point that I know there are “issues” with using this technique naively… I’m not sure that I’m using the most recent version of that particular lightbox script either..)

There are good reasons for not supporting embedding/streamed replaying of media from third party servers in the page resources of a Moodle course, of course, one of which seems essentially policy driven: that media resources are served using an embedded player that draws from a locally hosted content store (I’m not sure if this is a real policy, but it appears, from my limited experience, to be an almost de facto one? Maybe I’m being a little harsh and someone can correct me on that?). So if we were to grab a copy of a Youtube video, and host it ourselves, I believe it wouldn’t be such a technical problem… (Though it would be for the Youtube – who make the content available for embedding as long as you stream the content from their servers, which is how they keep track of how it’s being used…)

Hmmm – and I thought the idea was to make more use of third party content, and find ways of working effectively within a well lubricated rights environment? Now I wonder… can I embed a slideshare presentation in our Moodle VLE? A flickr photo? A scribd document? An IT Conversations podcast?

And finally, here’s a chaser to my recent recent OU jobs round-up post (which also referred to the concerns of institutions, in particular, sharing), in the form of a couple more newly opened up vacancies:

  • 2 x Senior Lecturer – Knowledge Media Disciplines: The Open University’s Knowledge Media Institute has two positions for the role of Senior Lecturer in Knowledge Media Disciplines. The posts are intended to strengthen KMi’s reputation as an internationally leading Research Centre, and to further raise the profile of the Open University.
    You will aim in the first instance to strengthen our research in mobile computing and semantic social software however, we will be open to strategic guidance from successful candidates to other related areas. You will be expected to bid for and win significant research funding, produce high impact research outcomes, build comprehensive collaboration networks, manage project teams to deliver against project tasks, publish your research both individually and jointly, and supervise PhD students.
  • 3 x Technical Developers, Learning and Teaching Solutions (LTS): Over the last three years The Open University has been redeveloping the systems we use to allow our staff to teach and our students to learn online – we are now extending the development team to allow us to continue this work. Do you want to come and join us?
    You will be able to solve complex technical problems, think strategically and work on collaborative teams. Applications are particularly welcome from candidates with experience using PHP, particularly of developing for the Moodle platform. Experience of developing within an open source community would be advantageous.

As ever, none of the above jobs have anything to do with me…

PS I guess this post is related to the On-Line Higher Education Learning Debate? (In case you haven’t guessed, I’m a Trackback whore…!;-)

New Year, New Job? OU Vacancies Round-Up

Given that OUseful.Info is a personal – rather than a corporate – blog, you may be forgiven for wondering why I post round-ups of OU job ads every so often. The answer is simple – I look at the OU jobs listings (via a public RSS feed) to find out about what projects are actually going on around the OU, and get some idea about where the institution’s current priorities lay, at least in terms of staffing needs. And then I post on details about some of the jobs that I think may be interesting in a OUseful.info context, both as a personal reminder to find out who’s been appointed to the posts but also because there’s an outside chance that a small percentage of the OUseful.info readership might actually be interested in applying…

So without further ado, here’s a quick round-up of posts that are currently being advertised. (Note that the deadline on some of them is – err – today…)

  • Enterprise Content Management Programme Manager: ECM will touch all aspects of our business; from committee minutes, to product catalogue workflows, to learning materials production. This is just not about technology; it is about changing our culture, understanding business processes, and building intelligent workflows.
    You will work with many other parts of the University including Computing Services (who manage the technical developments of ECM), and Learning and Teaching Solutions (LTS), who manage the production of our learning materials.
    Our core tool for ECM is EMC Documentum; released to a number of early adopters we have just upgraded to version 6.5.
  • JISC TELSTAR Project Manager : This is a superb opportunity to join a proactive world class Library service and provide leadership and excellent project management skills for The JISC (Joint Information Services Committee) funded TELSTAR (Technology Enhanced Learning supporting students to achieve Academic Rigour) project. TELSTAR is a collaborative project between the Library, Learning and Teaching Solutions and Proquest and is based at The Open University headquarters in Milton Keynes.
    The project aims to deliver; more integrated systems solutions for managing course and programme related references within web based courseware; an improved personalised student experience for the management of bibliographic references for learning, teaching and research purposes.
  • Research Associate/Assistant: Semantic Web: The Open University’s Knowledge Media Institute has an opening for a Research Associate to participate to the research activities realized within the NeOn EU-funded integrated project on knowledge sharing and ontology publication. This work is part of our ongoing research program on enabling the development of the Semantic Web, and in particular, of the next generation of Semantic Web applications, by providing the necessary foundation for the realization of such applications. More precisely, this work is at the forefront of emerging semantic technologies, combining infrastructure components for Semantic Web search (i.e., the Watson Semantic Web gateway) and peer-to-peer knowledge sharing with principles of social networks for collaborative evaluation and trust management in ontologies. Core to the work is the development of a new ontology sharing and publication system (Cupboard), which addresses the need for an open, distributed ontology repository system for the Semantic Web.
  • Senior Lecturer in Education (‘Educational ICT’ and Professional development): You will lead the development of courses to extend practitioners’ ability to support the effective use of new technologies in both formal and informal educational contexts (e.g. playgroup, school, home, youth club). This will require understanding how ICT can be used as a tool to enhance subject learning and its assessment across the curriculum as well as in informal settings and workplaces. In addition you will provide academic leadership in the use of ICT to enhance course design within the Department. In this respect you will support course teams in using ICT as pedagogic tools in a way that models the practices that students are expected to develop as an outcome of their study. You will be contributing to the development and transaction of a range of courses as well as playing a key role in extending research in the area of ‘educational ICT’ and the future of education.
  • Senior Learning Developer: Are you interested in on-line learning development? Can you help meet the growing demand for professional learning and development? The Centre for Professional Learning and Development (CPLD) is looking for a Senior Learning Developer to join the team. This appointment offers the opportunity to help shape the OU’s Professional Learning and Development provision that is key to diversifying the learning opportunities we provide to current and potential students and alumni and to our commitment to engage with employers’ skill development needs.
  • Producer Sound & Vision: Learning and Teaching Solutions (LTS) is The Open University’s media production centre. We take academic ideas and turn them into multimedia products for the OU’s distance learning courses.
    We are looking for an imaginative producer to work with academics and within media teams to create innovative ways to deliver educational ideas and content.
    What are you like? You are most likely to have started out in television, video, or radio, and will have taken those narrative and storytelling skills into the world of interactive media. You understand the value and uses of video and audio in education and in multimedia products. You will have had experience of overseeing production teams to ensure high quality and on budget deliveries.
  • Internal Communications Manager: We are looking for a top-flight, Internal Communications Manager to help us align our internal communications with our external image. Working within Communications you will play a strong part in developing effective communications systems, including our intranet, with professionals from within the unit and with colleagues throughout the University. You will be a skilled communicator with a strategic approach.
  • Media Relations Officer, Communications: We’re looking for a creative media professional to help us tell the world. The university needs an experienced media officer to join a small team working in a busy and dynamic environment. We are looking for a media professional with proven experience in a press office or journalism. Experience in the corporate sector, TV publicity and social media would be an advantage. You will need to have strong communication, interpersonal and organisational skills to service the needs of internal and external clients, and the drive and enthusiasm to take advantage of an almost inexhaustible source of PR opportunities.
  • Publications Co-ordinator, Marketing and Sales: You will be responsible for project managing the production and delivery of some of our University publications, aimed at both prospective and existing students. This will involve managing the output to print, digital and online formats of all the university prospectuses and subject-specific prospectuses. You will also be responsible for the production project management of the core publication which conveys the OU/BBC partnership and its activities.
  • Information Literacy Specialist: We are looking for an enthusiastic and creative information professional to help us to develop and embed information literacy skills through all areas of the curriculum.
    You will be a superb communicator with experience of developing effective and engaging learning materials and an up to date knowledge of both information and digital literacies.
  • Business Performance and Planning Manager, The Library and Learning Resource Centre: We are seeking an enthusiastic, highly motivated individual with sound experience of managing budgets and working with complex financial information.
    Providing direct support to the Associate Director (Business Performance and Management) you will be ensuring delivery of the business performance and management agenda.

Please note, that (as ever) I have nothing to do with any of the posts mentioned above – though if you do apply for one, and get called to interview or even take up a post, feel free to ping me for a coffee sometime ;-)

All Jobs Digital at the OU…

Is something in the air?

Currently advertised on the OU jobs website are the following:

  • Information Technology, Assistant Director IT Programmes
    What’s it worth? Senior Salary band 3 £79,171- £91,167
    This is a challenging time for the Higher Education sector which is seeing significant changes in state funding. The entry of more private providers has also increased the consumer power of fee-paying students, placing a premium on service delivery and cost efficiency.
    The University recently appointed its first Chief Information Officer and he is now building the Systems Futures programme and the IT executive team which will lead the work in delivering the systems to enable the University to achieve its ambitions. The OU is well placed to respond to these challenges and this team will play a crucial role in enabling the University to adapt and be successful in this changing environment.
    We are seeking a dynamic, innovative and value focused individual to join this team and support the development of robust, enterprise-scale IT Systems to lead the University into its next chapter.
    You will play a key role in the transformation of the OU’s systems and capability. You will achieve this by leading the Systems Futures programme which will establish the future organisational process and service needs and deliver the systems to meet them.
  • Information Technology, Assistant Director – IT Service Delivery
    What’s it worth? Senior Salary band 2 £69,574 – £81,570
    We are seeking a dynamic, tenacious and value & service focused individual to join this team and support the development and operational delivery of robust, enterprise-scale IT services to lead the University into its next chapter.
    You will play a key role in the transformation of the OU’s IT services and capability. You will achieve this by championing and leading the drive for service excellence and the introduction of world class methods and standards.
  • Assistant Director IT Development , Information Technology
    What’s it worth? £79,171- £91,167
    We are seeking a dynamic, innovative and value focused individual to join this team and support the development of robust, enterprise-scale IT Systems to lead the University into its next chapter.
    You will play a key role in the transformation of the OU’s systems and capability as well as providing effective business-as-usual delivery using a mix of bespoke software and package solutions. You will achieve this by establishing the IT Development Strategy and take advantage of industry best practice.
  • Media Project Manager, Learning and Teaching Solutions (LTS)
    What’s it worth? Temporary contract until 31 July 2011, £36,715 – £43,840
    Do you have an excellent record of managing media production and building successful relationships with clients? Would you enjoy leading a team of media specialists working on a portfolio of distance-teaching modules?
    As Media Project Manager, you will manage the development, production and maintenance of teaching materials across a range of media, from early planning through to the finished product. You will work closely with academic and media production staff on specifications, product development and delivery of module materials to quality, time and budget.
  • Research Assistant/Research Associate in Digital Scholarship, Institute of Education Technology
    What’s it worth? £27,319 – £35,646 p.a, Temporary until 31 July 2011, Part-time and job share applications considered
    We wish to develop work aimed at understanding the changes in communication and publication practices of academic researchers in higher education due to the impact of the information age. The impact consists of a changed landscape which offers researchers new ways of working and offers new kinds of academic output for educators to use in their teaching. The focus therefore is a programme of research to explore the ways that changes in technology are changing the discourse and practices of academic researchers, and the consequences that these changes have for professional practices of educators.
  • Two Research Fellowships in Technology Enhanced Learning, Institute of Educational Technology,
    What’s it worth? Temporary posts for 24 months, £36,715-£43,840 p.a.
    Research Fellowship in Technology Enhanced Learning (Educational Futures)
    Research Fellowship in Technology Enhanced Learning (Pervasive, Ubiquitous and Ambient Computing)
    Applications are sought for two independent researchers to conduct a programme of research linking the work of the Institute of Educational Technology (IET) to colleagues in the Centre for Education and Educational Technology. The general themes of the research would be ‘Educational Futures’ and ‘Pervasive, Ubiquitous and Ambient Computing’ and candidates would be expected to specify a 2 year programme of work. The proposal should demonstrate how this work be relevant to at least one of the Digital Scholarship, Next Generation Distance Learning or Learning in an Open World research programs running in IET. Researchers would be required to demonstrate a strong record of Publication and a track record of successful external funding bids.

Hmmm… where did it all go so wrong for me…?!;-)

PS what’s a finder’s fee on a a £90k job? If by chance you saw the ad here, go for the post as a result, and get it, you owe me a coffee. Every time I’m in MK… And I will maybe see if I can get promoted into HR…

PPS Oops – forgot this one… Make a difference, protect the vision – join the OU Council

What is a Data Journalist?

Jod ads come and go, so I thought I’d capture the main elements of this one from the BBC:

Data Journalist – Role Purpose and Aims

You will be required to humanize statistics; to make sense of potentially complicated data and present it in a user friendly format.

You will be asked to focus on a range of data-rich subjects relating to long-term projects or high impact daily new stories, in line with Global News editorial priorities. These could include the following: reports on development, global poverty, Afghanistan casualties, internet connectivity around the world, or global recession figures.

Key Knowledge and Experience

You will be a self-starter, brimming with story ideas who is comfortable with statistics and has the expertise to delve beneath the headline figures and explain the fuller picture.
You will have significant journalistic experience gained ideally from working in an international news environment.
The successful candidate should have experience (or at least awareness) of visualising data and visualisation tools.
You should be excited about developing the way that data is interpreted and presented on the web, from heavy number crunching, to dynamic mapping and interactive graphics. You must have demonstrated knowledge of statistics, statistical analysis, with a good understanding of the range and breadth of data sources in the UK and internationally, broad experience with data sources, data mining and have good visual and statistical skills.
You must have a Computer-assisted reporting background or similar, including a good knowledge of the relevant software (including Excel and mapping software).
Experience of producing and developing data driven web content a senior level within time and budget constraints.
A thorough understanding of the BBC World Service’s aims and the part this initiative plays in meeting them.
Excellent communication and interpersonal skills with ability to present information concisely to a broad audience including journalists and commissioning editors. You should be able to demonstrate the ability to influence, negotiate with and persuade others.
Central to the role is an ability to analyse complicated information and present it to our readers in a way that is visually engaging and easy to understand, using a range of web-based technologies, for which you should have familiarity with database interfaces and web presentation layers, as well as database concepting, content entry and management.
You will be expected to have your own original ideas on how to best apply data driven journalism, either to complement stories when appropriate or to identify potential original stories while interpreting data, researching and investigating them, crunching the data yourself and working with designers and developers on creating content that will engage our audience, and provide them with useful, personalised information.
You will work in a multimedia way, when appropriate, liaising with online but also radio and TV and specialist output producers as required, from a range of language services. You will help lead the development of computer-assisted reporting skills in the wider news specials team.


To identify a range of significant statistics and data -driven stories that can be developed and result in finished graphics that can be used across BBC News websites.
To take a lead role in devising compelling ways of telling data-driven stories on the web, working with specials team designers, developers and journalists as required. Also liaising with radio and TV and specialist output producers across World Service as required, providing a joined-up multi-platform proposition for the audience.
To work with senior stakeholders and programme teams and be an internal expert who can interpret and concisely explain the significance of data to others, and related good practice.
Support the College of Journalism – to help devise training sessions in order to spread the knowledge and best practices of data driven journalism
To help inform the future development by FM&T of tools which enable data-driven stories to be told more quickly and effectively on the web.
To keep abreast of developments in data driven journalism, and pursue collaboration with other teams working on the same area, both within the BBC and also with external organisations.
Willingness to work across a range of online production skills in a flexible manner to BBC standards and values.
· Using their own initiative the successful candidate will be required to build relationships with major sources of content (e.g. BBC networks, programmes, external interest groups) and promote opportunities for cross-media production


Editorial Judgement
Makes the right editorial and policy decisions based upon a clear understanding of the BBC’s distinctive news agenda, the requirements of news and current affairs coverage.

Planning & Organising
Is able to think ahead in order to establish an effective and appropriate course of action for self and others. Prioritises and plans activities taking into account all the relevant issues and factors such as deadlines and resources requirements.

Analytical Thinking
Able to simplify complex problems, process projects into component parts, explore and evaluate them systematically.

Creative Thinking
Is able to transform creative ideas/impulses into practical reality. Can look at existing situations and problems in novel ways and come up with creative solutions.

Can maintain personal effectiveness by managing own emotions in the face of pressure, set backs or when dealing with provocative situations. Can demonstrate an approach to work that is characterised by commitment, motivation and energy.

The ability to get one’s message understood clearly by adopting a range of styles, tools and techniques appropriate to the audience and the nature of the information.

Influencing and Persuading
Ability to present sound and well reasoned arguments to convince others. Can draw from a range of strategies to persuade people in a way that results in agreement or behaviour change.

Managing Relationships and Team Working
Able to build and maintain effective working relationships with a range of people. Highly effective team player.

Educative Media?

Another interesting looking job ad from the OU, this time for a Web Assistant Producer with Open Learn (Explore) in the OBU (Open Broadcasting Unit).

Here’s how it reads:

Earlier this year the OU launched an updated public facing, topical news and media driven site. The site bridges the gap between BBC TV viewing and OU services and functions as the new ‘front door’ to Open Learn and all of the Open University’s open, public content. We are looking for a Web Assistant Producer with web production/editing skills.

You will work closely with a Producer, 2 Web Assistant Producers, the Head of Online Commissioning and many others in the Open University, as well as the BBC.

You need to demonstrate a real interest in finding and building links between popular media/news stories, OU curriculum content, research and more. You must have experience of producing online educational material including: Researching online content, writing articles; sourcing images or other assets and/or placing and managing content text, FLASH and video/audio content within a Content Management System.

(I have to say, I’m quite tempted by the idea of this role…)

One of the things I wonder about is the extent to which “news” editorial guidelines will apply? When the OU ran the Open2.net website (now replaced by the revamped OpenLearn) content was nominally managed under BBC editorial guidelines, though I have to say I never read them… Nor did I realise how comprehensive they appear to be: BBC Editorial Guidelines. (Does the OU have an equivalent for teaching materials, I wonder?!)

As a publisher of informal, academic educational content, to what extent might editorial guidelines originating from a news and public service broadcaster be appropriate, and in what ways, if any, might they be inappropriate? (I think I need to try out a mapping from the BBC guidelines into an educational/educative context, if one hasn’t been done already…?)

Anyway, for a long time I’ve thought that we could be trying to make increased mileage of news stories in terms of providing deeper analysis and wider contextualisation/explanation that the news media can offer. (In this respect, I just spotted something – now a couple of days old: oops! – in my mailbox along exactly these lines. I’m working towards inbox zero and a shift to a new email client in the new year, so fingers crossed visiting my email inbox won’t be so offputting in future!) So it’s great to see that the new OpenLearn appears to be developing along exactly those lines.

A complementary thing (at least in the secondary sense of OpenLearn as open courseware and open educational resources) is to find a way of accrediting folk who have participated in open online courses and who want to be accredited against that participation in some way … and it just so happens that’s something I’m working on at the moment and hoping to pitch within the OU in the new year…

PS in passing, as the HE funding debate and demos rage on, anyone else think the OU should be license fee funded as a public service educator?!;-)

So You Want to be a Data Scientist…?

Just a quick post to remark on a coincidence of job ads I’ve spotted over the last couple of weeks:

  • Linked In – Senior Data Scientist: The Senior Data Scientist will play a leadership role on a focused existing team consisting of data scientists and business leadership to work on a series of high-value activities:

    1) Build predictive models to help the Hiring Solutions sales & marketing leadership team with expansion planning, account allocations and prioritization. Use machine learning techniques to optimize over time
    2) Create self-serve reports and dashboards for our leadership team, marketing personnel, and sales executives to better understand our overall business, as well as specific opportunities
    3) Provide customized analysis to help us work with our most valuable prospects and customers, including building some of our reporting capabilities to share with our thousands of customers
    4) Above all else, drive and enable our team to take fullest advantage of our valuable & quickly expanding proprietary data set

  • Last.fm – Data Scientist: We’re seeking a top notch data scientist with strong programming skills to join the small and very enthusiastic data and recommendations team at Last.fm. This is a full-time position, based in London.

    Are you a superb data analyst as well as a hands-on implementer that understands the trade-offs of the memory hierarchy and is able to work around constraints in disk speed, memory size and CPU cycles? Are you familiar with all common data structures and their complexity? Do you take pride in being clever and solving difficult problems creatively? Are you full of ideas and always looking for new ways of making use out of data? Are you an advocate for data-driven development and fully capable of conducting a proper A/B test? Do you love music?

    We need a motivated data hero to explore and learn from our rich datasets, build data-related services and infrastructure, conduct data-driven evaluations and experiments, improve our recommendations and other data-based products, and show off on http://playground.last.fm.

  • Foursquare: Data Scientist: We are just starting to ramp-up our data science and analytics team and are looking for talented individuals to help us with projects ranging across the full spectrum of Machine Learning and Statistical Programming disciplines. We are aggressively building out predictive systems and methods for improving our data quality and improving our core algorithms. We are specifically interested in people with experience with prediction or recommender systems, search and ranking algorithms, and classification algorithms.

    Our ideal candidate will be comfortable in a fluid start-up environment and will bring an energetic, fun and creative approach to their work. You have experience building real products in the real world from the ground up or extensive research experience dealing with large datasets. Your teammates see you as a rock star, and go to you with their toughest problems. You’re comfortable jumping in the deep end, learning new skills on a bleeding edge platform, and pushing out tons of high quality work fast.

  • Aviagen Ltd: Analytical Data Scientist: We are seeking an outstanding Analytical Data Scientist, reporting to the Global Head of Technical Systems, to develop and apply statistical and optimization techniques to internal and external production databases to identify trends in performance, opportunities for improvement and formulate best practice advice. You will also contribute to the development of software tools to enhance product technical support.

Give it a year and I reckon we’ll be seeing an increasing number of these, as well as bleeding edge ads for “visualisation engineers” or “data visualisation analysts”…such as this one:

Senior Visualisation Engineer
Fantastic opportunity to join and organisation that has a 1b Turnover and over 140 offices globally.
You will be working specifically on Transportation projects a taking a lead role in visualisation project work to include developing business both internally and externally, supervision of junior staff and some direct technical work creating visualisation

Or maybe it was always thus…? Time to start tracking things on IT Jobs Watch, maybe?

Corporate Data Analyst and Online Comms Jobs at the OU

Though I’m sure these sorts of job have been being advertised for years, it’s interesting tracking how they’re being represented at the moment, and the sorts of skills required.

Corporate Data and MI Analyst, Marketing (£29,853 – £35,646)

Main Purpose of the Post:
The post holder is a member of the Campaign Planning and Data team and will be required to play a pro-active role in that team, balancing the needs and recommendations of their own areas of responsibility with the wider needs and priorities of the team and the whole Marketing & Sales Unit.

This post has been constructed to assist the University to develop its marketing capacity so that challenging targets can be met. It will be essential for the post holder to work to harness the energies of academic and academic related staff in the University’s academic units, service units and regions to develop a more effective marketing strategy. This will require influencing and networking skills and an ability to adapt engagement style to an academic context.

The post holders work within a team producing Campaign Plans for both new and continuing students. The plans drive the allocation of over £10M of promotional activities (acquisition and retention campaigns).

Description of Duties of the Post:

Contribute to optimising the University’s customer targeting capability via regular reappraisal of segmentation policy with a view to increasing market share in high yield segments
Contribute to development and delivery of robust models, tools, skills and resources to enable segmentation, competitor and market analysis and data mining within the Campaign Planning Team and more widely within Marketing and Sales.

Planning 60%
Input into overall marketing plans and support planning process.
Segment the prospect data mart by developing key prospect indicators to provide Response, Reservation, Registration, Retention and other key metric predictions for each.
Support quantification of product performance predictions to provide Response, Reservation, Registration, Retention and other key metric predictions for each.
Maintain and contribute to development of a targeting model, which overlays product performance predictions/actual by segment over the agreed marketing plan to provide a targeting matrix.
Communicate targeting matrix to stakeholders and overlay tests and current campaign activity to provide an agreed campaign plan based on minimising Cost per Registration and maximising marketing mix and integration strategy.
Monitor performance daily and update segmentation, product and targeting models to maintain a data driven test and learn cycle. Identify significant deviations from forecast and potential actions.
Continually review the Customer Journey through input into creation of a Retention model based on a balanced scorecard approach. Work with key stakeholders to prioritise and implement developments.
Input into model validation and quality control.

Data 20%
Support development of a marketing data mart to primarily support marketing analysis and campaign execution.
Provide input into marketing data developments encouraging sharing of data and best practise.
Support development of in-house tools and processes to improve marketing analysis and campaign execution, primarily SAS and SIEBEL. Support other areas in evaluating tools and systems.
Where appropriate, maintain the relationship with OU data providers ensuring relevant data processing, development, quality and SLA’s are controlled.
Promote data use within marketing and other OU areas, maximising the use of data and providing a hub for data developments to be controlled

MI 20%
Input into development of key performance measures to be used across the OU.
Develop relationships with key OU stakeholders to ensure common goals are met.
Facilitate the use of marketing data across the OU and develop tools to support.
Support data focused research and tests with analytical input.
Input into development and maintenance of campaign performance measures.

Person Spec – Essential
Substantial experience in a campaign planning, analysis or similar role including for
example; campaign execution, data extraction, the development of data infrastructure.
Experience of Direct Marketing.
Experience of B2B and / or B2C marketing.
Experience of data propensity and segmentation modelling.
A balance of marketing analysis and technical skills, including data quality and protection.
Experience of test and learn data driven analysis, targeting processes and systems;
Proven ability to see trends in data and drill down to issues or key data.
Proven ability to develop relationships with key decision makers and stakeholders.
Proven ability to translate marketing requirements into planning / execution requirements.
Excellent presentation and facilitation skills.
Provide analytic support and direction to colleagues to ensure understanding.
Proven ability to meet challenging deadlines without compromising quality.

Still no adverts* for a “learning data analyst” though, tasked with analysing data to see:

– whether effective use is being made of linked to resources, particularly subscription Library content and open educational resources;

– whether there’s anything in the student activity data and/or social connection data we can use to predict attainment and/or satisfaction levels or improve retention levels.

* That said, IET do collect lots of stats, and I think a variety of stats are now available relating to activity on the Moodle VLE. I’m not sure who does what with all that data though…?

PS I wonder if any of the analysts that companies like Pearson presumably employ look to model ways of maximising the profitabilty, to those companies, of student acquisition and retention, given education is their business? (See also: Apollo Group results – BPP and University of Phoenix, Publishing giant Pearson looks set to offer degrees).

PPS This job ad may also be of interest to some? Online Communications Officer, Open University Business School (£29,853 – £35,646)

Again, it’s interesting to mark what’s expected…

This brand new role in the School will drive the development of online communications. Focusing on increasing engagement and traffic through the website, you will ensure this work is appropriately integrated into the wider work of the University’s Online Services, Marketing and Communications teams. Reporting to the Director of Business Development and External Affairs, it will be your responsibility to develop the website including content, usability, optimisation, interactivity and driving increased visitor numbers and online registration. You will continually find new and inventive ways to engage with our stakeholders and promote the reputation of the Business School through the online channel.

Your responsibilities will also extend to the School’s virtual presence through social networks, iTunes U and YouTube and utilise these channels to our advantage. You will increase our presence as well as delivering virtual campaigns to improve the overall student numbers. In this role, it will also be your responsibility to develop relationships with other areas of the University engaged in this work and will play a key role in the management of these relationships.

Summary of Duties
The main duties of the Online Communications Officer are detailed below.

• Advance the social media strategy ensuring it is inline with the Universities media position, market response and the development of new technology.
• Manage the online activity of the Business School’s social media communities
• Liaise, as appropriate, with units within The Open University, such as Online Services to keep up to date with policy changes and AACS regarding technical developments.
• Liaise with the Business School’s Information Officer for the maintenance and feeding of the Research Database into the website
• Generate assets to host on the website e.g. an Elluminate Demo Video
• Keep abreast of trends and developments to ensure that the Business School’s online presence remains at the forefront
• Work alongside Online Services, to monitor the visitor traffic of the website and establish appropriate and effective KPIs for dissemination across the Business School, for example through the creation of a dashboard.
• Engage in personal development based on organisational needs and developments to foster a high level of professional skills and technical ability
• Ensure that corporate branding and media guidelines are adhered to
• Understand and appreciate internal procedures and standards and be proactive in recommending improvements
• Ability to apply best professional practice to deliver effective solutions that take into account technical, budgetary and other project considerations
• Edit the content of both the internet and intranet
• Collate, interpret and select key information for dissemination on the latest trends and research in social media both within the OU and externally
• Produce graphics where necessary or liaise with designers in the University or outside agencies to produce graphics.
• Create/collate digital assets including audio and video files
• Post moderate discussion forums
• Disseminate best practice through a variety of communications channels eg project website, OU Life news, brief updates etc.
• Develop and maintain awareness of different audience needs in relation to appropriate communications channels (eg email, screensaver, website, print).
• Act as a flexible member of the Business Development and External Affairs team.
• Carry out other tasks as specified from time to time by the Project Director

Related: Joanne Jacobs’ Are you social or anti-social?: “How to employ a Social Media Strategist, and how you should measure their performance. (Social media isn’t going away. But some Social Media Strategists should go away.)”