OU Social Media Strategy is a Blast to the Past?!

Readers over a certain age, ex-pats included, will probably remember (hopefully with fondness) a time when the only TV programmes on air in the early hours or on weekend mornings were OU broadcast items on the BBC:

From time to time, (eg OERs: Public Service Education and Open Production), I’ve thought that was the actual heyday of OU broadcasting in terms of get “authentic” Higher Education level teaching content to large audiences, nothwithstanding the popularity of some of the more recent flagship co-produced programming the OU has worked with the BBC on. (For a view of OU/BBC co-produced content currently on iPlayer, see OU/BBC co-pros currently on iPlayer; and for clips from co-pro programmes: clips from OU/BBC co-pros currently on iPlayer.)

As well as the BBC content, there’s also a wealth of OU video material on both YouTube and iTunesU. A great way into this content is through some of the OU’s YouTube playlists, such as 60 Second Adventures in Thought or Seven Wonders of the Microbe World. (See also this full list of OU Learn playlists on YouTube.)

ANyway, one thing that seems (to me at least) to be lacking is a social media strategy (on Twitter at least) relating to broadcast events – academic commentaries or OpenLearn links being tweeted alongside a live OU/BBC co-pro broadcast, for example – that could be used to help drive a second screen experience or community.

But then I realised I was looking in the wrong place – or at least, the wrong time… because it seems the lessons from the past are being heeded… and the @OUpahParr account is actually tweeting out links to OU content to a variety of hashtag streams throughout the early hours, picking up not only the global audience but the UK’s insomniacs and shift workers. It seems that as well as what are presumably scheduled tweets to content, there’s also someone from the comms team (^AF), staffing the account for anybody who wants to chat, or learn more…

Good stuff ;-)

The Invisible Library, For Real…

Somewhen last year I started thinking about what the consequences of an “invisible library” might actually be (Joining the Flow – Invisible Library Tech Support and The Invisible Library (Presentation)) and it seems like one consequence might be – no books!

Following a series of workshops on Library futures, it seems as if the OU Library is going to get rid of it’s book stock… Now this isn’t actually as daft as it first might sound: the OU Library doesn’t loan out physical books to students as a rule (except maybe to local students) and the book stock is maintained for scholarly (course writing) purposes, as well as to support research.

It also turns out that maintaining the book stock is expensive: the cost of shelf space and overheads on top of the costs associated with issuing loans and returns, as well as restacking books, binding and cataloguing (i.e. the total cost of ownership of the book) means that the annual cost per book loan per year exceeds the cost of users just buying the equivalent books for themselves and reclaiming the costs.

So it seems that the Library will be ramping up its disposal policy and getting rid of its book stock over the next year, apart from a small collection of books donated to the University by the books’ authors (the “vanity collection”, apparently?!) and books authored by members of the university (the “repository collection”).

In place of the book stock, university members will be encouraged to purchase books themselves, and reclaim the costs via a faculty managed fund. Once the book has been finished with, it will place on the ‘virtual bookshelf’ (i.e. an ‘invisible’ bookshelf ;-), using one of the first devlab_alpha applications, a revamping of the old KMI bookshelf application. (This application allowed individuals to maintain a list of ISBNs of books they had in their office on a personal profile page, so that other people could see what books were available ‘down the corridor’ and then borrow them at a local/personal level.)

I’m hoping that a variant of my Library Traveller script will become part of this invisible library play, though rather than looking up books on the soon to be redundant OPAC, it’ll look books up on the Virtual Library shelves, as well as integrating with the expenses claims system (so when you buy a book on Amazon, for example, you can automatically file a claim at the same time).

I’m also hoping that the incredible Fran Thom, who’s managed to argue this initiative through, will be able to come up to the second Mashed Libraries event in July – Mash Oop North – and motivate some of the other HE libraries that will be gathered there to drop some of their collections too…

PS it seems that user surveys ranked the smell of books in the library higher than the actual book stock in terms of what people expected from the new library building when it was being designed, which maybe explains why we have the scented air in the library? At the moment, they pipe in an aroma somewhere between pine forests and olive groves, on top of the natural smell of the building, but whether this is to mask the disappearing smell of the book collection when it does go, or to allow the Library staff to pipe in a replacement “essence of books, number 23” scent when the book collection disappears, I don’t really know?)

PS Always check the date stamp of a post..;-) But it makes you think, doesn’t it…?!

OU DevLabsAlpha

Oh, great day! It seems that keen to jump on the bandwagon, the OU will soon be opening up a “Uni-API”, in part inspired by the opening of the Grauniad and New York Times APIs. And taking a lead from Google in more ways than one, the new OU site will pilot not yet for mainstream use services (in much the same way that Google Labs does), on the “devlabs_alpha” site (http://dvla.open.ac.uk I think, but I need to check that…)

Hopefully a couple of applications I’ve been involved with will make it on to devlabs_alpha, such as the Course Profiles Facebook app (not sure how many users it has now? I’d hope upwards of 6,000?) and the OU/iPlayer 7 day Catch Up iPhone webpage.

One of the features of the site will be a voting mechanism for people to vote up the applications they like, and feed into the more traditional process of allocating formal resource to a project and developing it as a fully blown production system.

The Google influence goes further with the adoption in LT/AAC-S of 10:10 time, based on the famous (apocryphal?) 10% time that allows Google employees to work on development projects of their own devising. In order to regain some semblance of control, 10:10 requires two developers to each dedicate their personal 10% time to the same project, and work on it using a pair programming approach. It is hoped this will guarantee that useful rather than frivolous projects will result (in part because anyone with an idea has to persuade someone else to work on it too…). (A cynic like me would see this as introducing friction to the system in that hope that a Prisoner’s Dilemma situation occurs, no-one pairs up and no 10% is used up; but more fool me, maybe… ;-)

The pair programming feature is there to get around the lack of a formal development cycle, in the hope that pairwise testing will result in pretty robust code (good enough to be rapidly upgraded to production code if the service is adopted as a mainstream service).

Anyway, I think this beats the likes of MIT to this sort of initiative (I don’t think we’ll ever forgive them for letting them get to be the first institution to take their wares open!) and hopefully we’ll see this as just the first of many such similar offerings….

PS Always check the date stamp of a post..;-) But it makes you think, doesn’t it…?!