Focus group report

April 21st, 2010 by HALL Sarah

Geoff Walton has done some sterling work interviewing a selection of stakeholders employed by Staffordshire University. The aim of this study was to answer the question: ‘What thoughts and feelings (both positive and negative) do respondents have towards Open Educational Resources’.  Geoff has hours of recorded conversations and has summarised some key points in his report.


OpenStaffs focus group study



This study was commissioned by the OpenStaffs JISC funded project.  Interviews took place between 2nd March 2010 and 23rd March 2010.  Participants in the focus group were selected from range of stakeholders employed at Staffordshire University.  The stakeholders were drawn from academic staff, e-learning facilitators, academic librarians and also included the Information Protection Manager.  A total of seven respondents took part.


The aim of this study was to answer the question: What thoughts and feelings (both positive and negative) do respondents have towards Open Educational Resources.  This study used a qualitative approach and followed recommendations for the conduct of focus groups as put forward by Bryman (2003).  All interviews where semi-structured and followed a similar format (see Appendix).  Responses were recorded.  Given the inductive nature of the endeavour, it was envisaged that themes would emerge from the data and in so doing provide a rich picture of stakeholders views regarding OER. 


Themes appeared to emerge in six broad areas, promotion, quality control, copyright, purpose of learning objects (LOs), technical issues and implications for working practices.


This was a particularly strong theme throughout the interviews. 

Respondent A (elearning facilitator) noted that OER is:

                ‘A great way of raising the brand, giving us a head start on the local competition’.

Respondent B (academic) talking about the Design Collection and how it will be represented in OER said:

‘absolutely brilliant […] it means we can get our stuff out there, it’s pointless having a [Design] collection like this if nobody knows about it […]’

There was also a sense that promotion would be reputation enhancing, again Respondent B (academic) noted that:

‘It will enhance everybody’s reputation because there isn’t anything else like this [The Design Collection], it is unique and there’s no-one who allows the physical access that we do’.

This was also reflected in respondent D’s (academic librarian) response who noted that OER is:

                ‘A good tool to show what we are doing’.

Respondent G (academic) noted the wider potential for LOs:

                ‘It connects us potentially with industry’.

Purpose of learning objects

Producers of the LOs for OER had a very clear and well articulated vision of the purpose of learning objects, respondent G (academic) noted:

‘I think that what we, as a university, ought to be selling is assessment and credit accumulation, essentially, and that that assessment ought to be an expensive thing and not a cheap thing.  Once we have delivered lectures like this it’s quite reasonable that those [videoed] lectures should be able to stay on the web [for free] for three to four years, maybe until they become old hat – but the assessment should be advertised and sold.  […] supporting material and tutorial sheets should be at a cost to individuals so that we will send you a box of supporting materials.

People will, consequently, have a taster in the video and say, “actually I can understand what’s going on here, this sounds good, yes I need the supporting materials ‘cos if I’m going to attempt an examination without supporting materials I’m going to be a bit lost.  So yes I’ll spend the money on the supporting materials and then yes I’d get a qualification out of this so I’ll spend more money on doing the assessment and maybe more on having access to a tutor”.  Perhaps at a greater cost the student would get access to software and the library.’

Respondent C (academic) made several practical comments on how LOs need to be repurposed for OER:

‘I have thought about the more open nature of resources and have made some changes to them bearing in mind that it isn’t just a local delivery, potentially more global, so making resources generically accessible is important […] I still think there is a layer of competence involving the delivery and accessibility of them, just wanging them on the web isn’t the way forward’.

Quality control

There were a number of issues surrounding quality control apart from the separate but very strongly linked theme of copyright.

Respondent B (academic) highlighted the lack of confidence in this area when asked about quality control:

‘I don’t know the answer, I don’t know whether it is provided by the people harvesting the data, it’s not something I’ve actually thought about’.

Respondent C (academic) indicated that (in terms of creating LOs) it had not been on his agenda hitherto:

‘Haven’t thought about that, I’ll have to build that into my practice, I shall talk to our subject librarian and ask her to give me a nudge!’

Respondent A (elearning facilitator) was particularly keen to see robust procedures put in place because:

‘If the quality of material put forward is not to the correct standard and that becomes known, we don’t want our name to be synonymous with a certain standard, we need to ensure the correct standard of material, there needs to be a very robust quality control process’.

He put forward a possible solution:

‘Either a regular audit via a random sample or a similar quality control procedure that is used for standard teaching i.e., peer observation.’

This notion of random sampling is suggested again in the context of checking for copyright violations.

Respondent A also links quality control with copyright and how these issues will ultimately necessitate changes in working practices:

‘We need to vet what might be put out there before it goes to public consumption ‘cos not necessarily everything will be suitable, for instance the copyright issue is one reason for doing that.  It is really changing the whole process behind everything’.


Academic’s are clearly not confident in the area of copyright and welcome the support from elsewhere:

‘Yes I think a copyright expert [in this instance a subject librarian] is a very valuable resource to have’.

Respondent D (librarian) reinforced the practical implication of this issue:

‘Just from the sample pieces for the pilots, if that is mirrored in the wider community, there won’t be many pieces going through without copyright changes to them’.

This is an ongoing concern amongst support staff respondent D (librarian) noted that the service would need to think about:

‘[…] how we are going to police copyright, it will be a mammoth task to check every piece that would come in’.

He offered a possible solution but realised that it is fraught with problems:

‘In an ideal world a large team of say cataloguers who would take each piece in, check it for copyright, metadata.  At the moment this is impractical.’

He also put forward a more innovative solution:

‘At the moment the only way is to encourage good practice within faculty (with some guidance from us to raise awareness so that they can probably to police themselves) is  some sort of random spot checking’.

Respondent F (Information Protection) reinforced the need to have:

‘A lot of communication and training in a simplified form to make staff aware that it is an individual’s responsibility’

Technical issues

Two issues emerged regarding technical issues both from support staff (Respondent D – librarian).  There was a concern about access to the LOs themselves and that there needs to be policy and procedure to ensure that:

‘[…] resources can be searched through their metadata, we can set up controlled vocabularies then we can encourage use and best practice’.

Secondly, an issue around maintenance was identified:

‘[…] upkeep of the server on the technical side, our solution is quite expensive so it has to be funded continuously, so you have to prove that it is value for money.’

Implications for working practices

Most of the respondents remarked on the time implications for this endeavour.  Some noted that it would save time because it prevents duplication and ‘re-inventing the wheel’.  Whilst others saw the potential for it being very time consuming especially as it might involve re-formatting existing paper based materials into more exciting multi-media formats.

Several respondents noted that LOs need to be in a new format to make them engaging as noted by respondent A (elearning facilitator):

‘[…] rather than just put in paper based materials, one of my remits is to help staff who want to develop a module a bit further by creating activities, podcasts, incorporating videos depending on the subject’.


It is clear that the OER project is seen in a very positive light as being of reputation enhancing benefit to both staff and the university.  The purpose and structure of LOs appears to be very well thought through and producers of content have a very clear idea of their purpose.  It is also very obvious that staff creating LOs require, at least initially, a great deal of support both in terms of copyright training and in using new multi-media formats to create more engaging LOs.  What also emerges from this data gathering is that there is a concern amongst support staff that working practices will be tested especially if this project becomes mainstream.  There is a need to identify robust quality control procedures which do not lead to bottlenecks in the system both in terms of copyright and in the creation of metadata for each LO.  The most sensible suggestion seems to be to tackle this issue at source and give academic staff practical and meaningful training in copyright issues.

Reflexive comments

I’m delighted to say that the staff that I approached were both willing and able to give their time to be interviewed for this research.  There comments were interesting and honest making for a very rich data gathering experience and making my job an easier one.  A greater number of stakeholders would, of course, have given this research more depth, but sadly, time constraints preclude this – at least for now.  As ever one could always do with more time and I feel with a little more I could have further articulated, and added to, the themes identified so far.  There is more work to be done here but with a deadline looming this is the story so far.

Concluding remarks

Notwithstanding the issues identified surrounding copyright and potential skills gap in creating multi-media objects the data indicates that producers of LOs are very positive regarding the OER project and the need to produce LOs.  Again support staff indentified the need to address the copyright issue but were nevertheless very positive towards this endeavour. 


Geoff Walton


Repository developments

April 15th, 2010 by HALL Sarah

Work on the University repository is continuing with the IT Servers Group undertaking the upgrade of Hive from version 3.0 to 4.1 this week. 

Throughout the project it has been intended to develop a working repository with policies and roles to support the reuse and repurposing of learning materials with a sustainable approach to the release of OER. There have been delays in establishing the repository which have impacted on this project, however experiences gained over the last year is invaluable in planning the future of the repository.  To take the repository forward we invited Dominic Tate from the RSP to lead a consultation day to help us develop an action plan for the next few months. A summary of the day with action points is below.


Repository Management – Consultation Day

19 March 2010


The University has an institutional repository, Hive, which is managed by Information Services with LDI leading on the technical development of the repository. It is anticipated that the repository will be ‘live’ from April 2010.  The development of the repository has been an objective of the OpenStaffs institutional Open Educational Resources project, April 2009 to April 2010.  Delays in the upgrades to the repository have meant that some of the objectives of OpenStaffs have not been met in terms of repository interfaces, workflows, depositor training and advocacy.  However during the course of the project issues have been raised concerning the content that would be exposed to open access through the repository, for example file size and type, quality issues around compliance with data protection, accessibility and copyright.  Experience gained by staff in IS and LDI can be used to inform the management and development of a sustainable University repository.

It is an objective of the University to make educational material created within the University more accessible for reuse and repurpose by internal developers of learning material, saving time and effort and avoiding ‘reinventing the wheel’.

In addition the University intends to make quality resources available on open access to raise the profile of the University, support recruitment and contribute to the freely available material to support current and potential students nationally and internationally.


Outcomes from consultation day

  • Identify the purpose of the repository and develop an action plan for the next few months.
  • Consider a plan of approach to some barriers already identified and some potential barriers to the development and use of the repository.
  • Recommendations from Dominic, as an external consultant, on priorities and the way forward

Action plan

Theme Lead
  1. Identify the purpose of the repository and write policy documents to support the repository


IS Management
  1. Identify Item types to go into the repository with priorities


This may include

  • learning material from Blackboard
  • learning material created outside the Blackboard environment
  • University documents
  • material to support the Research Excellence Framework (REF)
  • research archive
  • electronic content managed by the Library and IS



IS Management
  1. Identify contributors to the repository and establish access and authentication, interfaces, training
IS Management/Repository Manager
  1. Metadata
  • Understand the metadata that is automatically extracted as learning material Hive and Blackboard are integrated
  • Understand the metadata that is automatically extracted at each new deposit
  • Additional descriptions required
  • Who adds any additional details? Contributor? Cataloguer? Repository manager?
  • Controlled vocabulary or free text?
  • Review dates?
  • Links to permission documentation for records (e.g. permissions from third parties or CLA records)


IS Management/Repository Manager
  1. Interface
  • Single interface for depositors (academics)
  • Maintaining deposit through Blackboard will maintain a procedure already familiar to many
  • Interface for other contributors and repository administrators


IS Management/Repository Manager
  1. Quality
  • Quality check required
  • Are existing checklists adequate
  • Who conducts quality checks
    • Depositor
    • Faculty quality assurance procedure
    • Information Services
  • Are additional checks required for open access material beyond checks made on material for internal learning and teaching?
IS Management/Repository Manager
  1. Standards
  • Compliance with legislation and licences e.g.
    • DDA
    • Data protection
    • Copyright
    • Creative Commons



IS Management/Information Protection & Security Manager/Repository Manager
  1. Advocacy

Advocacy should be a managed project with an implementation strategy

  • Identify faculty champions
  • Work with faculty elearning co-ordinators if possible


IS Management/Repository Manager/ Faculty librarians/Faculties
  1. Staff provision to implement the repository in the short term and maintain a sustainable repository
  • Repository workflows
  • Time
  • Priorities
  • Quality assurance checks
  • Random sampling?
  • Training
  • Roles and responsibilities
  • Financial benefits/costs
  • Added value to the University


IS Management
  1. Training and supporting material
  • Case studies
  • Guides for depositors
  • Understating copyright and other legislation
  • Examples of good practice
  • Advocacy


IS Management/Repository Manager


Next Steps

The management of the repository should be sustainable and realistically managed and resourced by existing staff in IS and LDI with the support of University senior management teams.

  1. Write repository policy documents and take them through University committee structure for approval
  2. Identify a repository manager/ repository management team
  3. Complete Hive/Blackboard integration
  4. Identify a realistic and achievable starting point for working with the repository and adding new material to the repository
  5. Policy for retrospective checks on material already in Blackboard/Hive (especially for material intended for open access)
  6. Establish and evaluate workflows based on the Hive structure, identify bottlenecks and delays
  7. Work on metadata
  8. Work on repository interfaces
  9. Evaluate metadata and interfaces in terms of searching and finding
  10. Establish access and authentication levels to contribute and administer the repository
  11. Work on advocacy – key to making the repository a success.  Different contributor groups and faculties may require different approaches
  12. Work on good practice advice for creators of learning material especially in terms of compliance with DDA and copyright

m.  Identify a trial Faculty or programme area for development and testing – recommended to stage repository roll out

  1. Work with faculty e-learning facilitators if possible
  2. Consider ways of measuring impact through statistics, case studies, etc

Dominic Tate suggests returning for a further workshop in 8 – 10 weeks when the Hive/Blackboard integration is complete and the IS restructure is in place with some roles around repository management and technical support established.

Dominic will be sending some recommendations following this consultation day.

Links to some of the supporting material mentioned during the day

Contacts for advice on managing sustainable learning object repositories

  • Huddersfield University (Graham Stone)
  • Oxford Brooks University
  • University of Worcester

Economics of open access

Alma Swan – The open access citation advantage



Sarah Hall: Information Services                       

Copying material from Blackboard using bFree

April 15th, 2010 by HALL Sarah

Christa’s account of her experiences with bFree Software

bFree Software: this is the software used by a colleague to package material for a course totally independent of BlackBoard and the Internet (running from a CD). The software is easy to use and the course produced navigable but there is no obvious index as a starting point, any html page will open the package in a web browser but viewing the full folder of content in the raw so to speak could be confusing to the end user. Full courses also make large files , even when zipped. The example course is 24MB

This package uses CSS structure and accessibility options and links within it work. It is possible with a little knowledge to amend the CSS and in that way customise the way the pages look. Drawbacks to the bFree package are mainly the slightly clunky navigation and lack of an obvious index page to launch it. In this particular course the Course description came up blank but course title and module number is present.

 A separate issue aside from packaging came to light when reviewing the tested course as some links and content was included which it would be preferable to remove manually, or if possible *exclude from export (*to be investigated) is part of the usual course content. In particular a link existed to feedback that would allow the user to access the Staffordshire University course possibly live Qualtrics survey. Also included among the notices was an internal notice about the BlackBoard upgrade, while it may not matter greatly about this notice some course notices may not be the type of content we would wish to expose outside the institution. Therefore I conclude that feedback and notices are content to look at (or exclude) in any course exported and destined for OpenStaffs.

 *Solved by reducing the type of export to course content only

 Other issues with bFree was the inclusion of apparent navigation with no actual content at that point and inappropriate titling of menu items but mainly the module title, where the module number is picked up but not its name. This would be meaningless to the user.

This type of package does not allow preview of content in JorumOpen either, its not recognised as an IMS package.

Link to bFree Blackboard Course Content Extractor

Copying material from Blackboard and preparing it for JorumOpen

April 15th, 2010 by HALL Sarah

Christa’s account of some of her challenges and experiences in copying material from BlackBoard to work on for JorumOpen

Issue with BlackBoard modules was how to access & download the content & ensure no student data was indirectly made available in OpenStaffs.

 First problem for me was not having enough permissions in BlackBoard, therefore changed my status to Course Administrator; this allowed me to find courses and export content.

Next issue was what to export, originally I exported all content but then changed to just course content as it was only teaching content I wanted. The more compact export removed some files that were superfluous to requirements and helped ensure that no student data was included.

Due to the way BB makes the export package available I then realised that as Course Administrator  I did not have enough permissions to clear up as I went and remove the export package from the BB system. Consequently changed my BB account status again, this time to System Administrator, that allows me to delete the export from the BB system once I have downloaded it.

BlackBoard Exports are not usable of the VLE in any navigable sense although the download includes a IMS Manifest it is not an IMS package, just a collection of HTML links and content files (PDFs, PPT,Docs etc) I have not investigated whether it would be possible to bring it back in to BB as it is and use it but suspect not.

The big question then was what to do with the content having exported it to make it usable.

Two main audiences of the material are envisaged: teaching staff at other institutions and learners. Until JorumOpen becomes much more widely known its more likely to be teaching staff but in either case we wanted content to be navigable and viewable both in Jorum and outside of it.

Befree was tried as a quick and easy way of packaging content – see separate content on Befree

In conclusion Befree was ruled out due to its poor presentation in some way (messy navigation & not picking up course title on our module number). JorumOpen does not see this as an IMS package either and therefore does not allow a preview of Content.

Next method was to create a HTML index and hyperlink to the relevant content. First problem was I had no editing software for HTML, to get around that I downloaded the trial version of Dreamweaver, this will expire very soon (in about a week). This methodology works well in creating an attractive interface and access to all the materials in a logical manner. It does however take longer to put together not so much the physical aspect of typing it up, I have a basic template with embedded CSE giving a clean look and displaying Staffordshire University discreetly in the footer (Creative Commons & UKOER could be added but have not up to now). Slowness originally was because I needed to learn to use the software on the fly, fortunately to the level that I’m using it that is not difficult. The time however for both this and IMS packages is taken by making sense of the content. It would actually be easier to have the documents and a rough plan direct from the academic rather than via BlackBoard export due to the fact that I have to log in, find it, export it , unzip, delete unwanted files, take wanted files out of individual folders so they are together or create a new more sensible file structure, open files to find out what they are (they often  have numbers for names that make no sense). In addition while some modules are straightforward and the order and therefore navigation of content is clear other are not like that at all. I then need to open the course in BB to recreate the course structure. Sometimes this is necessary even with straightforward content just to add some appropriate information about the module to the index.


Once we decided we really wanted IMS packages I initially abandoned creating a HTML index due to the time involved however with IMS I found that I still needed to spend time understanding the course structure which still meant looking at the actual course in BB and either writing or typing a layout plan so I decided that I may as well use the index as it was useful to me and quite possibly to an end user.

My strategy then was to create an IMS package that also contained the HTML Index. The first IMS package did not call the document but it was included as a read me file to allow navigation of the web. In subsequent units I have included the HTML index in the package as the first resource, this provides a content s list and in effect double navigation of the package in a VLE or repository as the hyperlinks all work within the package (the package also offering the simple sidebar navigation typical of IMS in repository or VLE). Having recently been presented with some quite large courses with much more complex structures I have moved on again to splitting content into individual units in order to create more usable IMS packages. I will then also upload an ordinary zip file with all content and a HTML index as an alternative.

More on IMS packages

Exe was considered and ruled out because while it works well with content that is all HTML it does not work so well with other types of documents and our BB content tends to be a mixture of all types of Microsoft Office plus Adobe PDF files.

Reload  this has been the IMS packager of choice because it copes with all types of files. Again this was software brand new to me and its taken a little time to feel confident with it. Even now I find it hs some peculiarities which are annoying and cause time to be lost, if something is wrong with a package I a have found it easier to re-create the whole thing from scratch rather than amend an existing package, that may be partly a lack of experience/understanding of how the software works but that takes time to improve.

Progress with repository

February 24th, 2010 by HALL Sarah

Hive test has been upgraded to version 4.1, so we now have a repository to work with. Training started this week with people who will be depositing items into the repository. Lots of work to do on  technical support and respository management ready for Live Hive.

In terms of OER content we are fairly pleased, new content is being offered with is encouraging and Christa has worked hard on some of the modules we have for the project; packaging content and uploading to JorumOpen.  Some modules have taken a number of attempts to load and display in a satifactory view for users of JorumOpen. 

Dave Parkes and I attended the strand meeting in Nottingham, 12 February and I found it reassuring to know that there are common issues to all the projects and we are not the only institution working through copyright and recognition. We are looking again at policies, workflows and metadata now we have a repository to work with.

Giunti (project partners) are demonstrating their packager software to us 3 March. This is client-side (standalone) software which may have relevance to people creating OERs for deposit, viewing and reuse.

Copyright quiz – summary

February 15th, 2010 by HALL Sarah
OpenStaffs Open Educational Repository (OER) Copyright Element

OpenStaffs Open Educational Repository (OER) is a pilot project sponsored by JISC and the Higher Education Academy; it runs from May 2009 until April 2010.

OER can include all types of resource: full courses, course materials, complete modules, notes, videos, assessments, tests, simulations, worked examples, software, and any other tools, materials or techniques used to support access to knowledge. These resources will be released under an intellectual property license that permits open use and adaptation.

Copyright, IPR & OER

Aim of this part of the project is to ensure University staff understand the legalities of Copyright and IPR (Intellectual Property Rights), how it relates to OER and to what extent that understanding is.


Planning Meetings
  • Meeting to discuss copyright challenges.
    • What do people know?
    • How to promote and deliver?
  • What did we want to achieve?
    • Discover how well staff understand copyright legislation
  • Plan of Approach
    • Copyright Quiz
    • Type of delivery
      • Electronic?
      • Paper?
      • Chalk and talk?
      • Multimedia ?
      • Create Learning Objects
    • Measured learning
    • Pedagogical model


Copyright Quiz

First steps, working with a Librarian colleague, a set of appropriate questions were devised. It was decided that using Qualtrics (electronic) online survey software would be the most appropriate, immediate and cost effective method of delivering the questions to a target audience.

The tutor of the PgCHPE cohort was approached and asked for his students’ participation in the survey as part of this course.

Pedagogical Model


Working with an E-learning Models Co-ordinator there was discussion around the best model for the desired result. Several options were considered and the decision was as follows:

Delivery pattern – This is likely to be a ‘single session’ input with online activities before and after the face-to-face session

Learners – Participants are a PgCHPE cohort at Staffordshire University, likely to have some experience of using technology.

Learning outcomes – to be aware of copyright issues and apply correct regulations to resources.

Tools used – podcast.

Models discussed: Blended learning model (for individual activity) and underpinning principles.

These learning objects will also be made available on Blackboard in the near future.

Measured learning

The aim of the quiz was to ask them to engage with the quiz before a learning face to face session. Part of their session would be a presentation on copyright and IPR and then they would be given an opportunity to listen to the podcast and then access the quiz again a few days later.

Analysis of copyright quiz data

The twenty participants for this questionnaire were drawn from the PgCHPE course and all are staff employed at Staffordshire University.  The quiz was administered in the November of 2009.  This was administered before the podcasts were played.

The majority of respondents (75%) described themselves as lecturers.  Almost half (45%) were from the Faculty of Health, and 25% from FCET the rest were spread evenly through the faculties and schools. The majority (65%) work full-time.

Most of the participants (70%) described themselves as ‘fairly aware’ of copyright and only 25% described themselves as ‘not very aware’.

Intellectual property drew more uncertain responses where 35% of respondents described themselves as ‘not very aware’.  Plagiarism gained the most positive response where participants described themselves as either ‘fairly aware’ (50%) or ‘very aware’ (50%)

Using guidance appears to be a problematic area.  Only 15% of respondents answered ‘definitely yes’ to the question on using copyright guidance.  By contrast 25% of respondents reported that they may use guidance and 45% answered that they ‘probably or ‘definitely’ would not use guidance material.

The majority of respondents (95%) recognize that copyright applies to all materials and 50% understand that copyright is in place for the life of the author plus 70years.

Ownership is a more problematic area with only 50% of respondents recognizing that copyright is held by the employer.

Only 35% of respondents recognize that when permission for copyright clearance is needed they should obtain it from the rights owners before using the work.

Worryingly, regarding webpages, 69%of respondents in total either believe they can copy webpages without permission (37%) or believe webpages are not covered by copyright (32%).

Unfortunately, take up of the post podcast quiz was only a tiny fraction of the original survey and so no comparison can be drawn.

In conclusion it appears that whilst there is a general recognition regarding the concept of copyright there is a significant gap in knowledge relating to the detailed issues surrounding it.  Therefore it is recommended that the copyright podcast are promoted more widely and are more via the webpage, staff induction and training eve

BlackBoard Courses for OER

January 29th, 2010 by HALL Sarah

Update from Christa who is working on uploading material from Blackborad to JorumOpen

As we have quite a number of BlackBoard courses donated to the OpenStaffs project my attention had turned to how we will take these out of BlackBoard and present them as useable objects in JorumOpen and ultimately Hive. Unfortunately it does not seem possible to take content out of BlackBoard in a learning package format (e.g. IMS or SCORM) but exporting whole courses proved straightforward and quick, producing zipped HTML. The other option is  “Files and folders” which for someone able with HTML may be a useable format (most content is on notepad pages, HTML language).


To present the content in a more useable way for most users I have started to investigate different content packaging options for the zipped BlackBoard content. So far I have experimented with one of the nominated courses; Mobile Applications and Systems : CE00213-M-030109-0704090 .



Befree Software: this is the software used by Ben Schofield to package the RAF course totally independent of the BlackBoard and the Internet (running form CD). The software is easy to use and the course produced navigable but there is no obvious index as a starting point, any html page will open the package in a web browser but viewing the full folder of content in the raw so to speak could be confusing to the end user. Full courses also make large files , even when zipped. The example course is 24MB

This package uses CSS structure and accessibility options and links within it work. It is possible with a little knowledge to amend the CSS and in that way customise the way the pages look; Ben Has done this for the RAF course. Drawbacks to the Befree package are mainly the slightly clunky navigation and lack of an obvious index page to launch it. In this particular course the Course description came up blank but course title and module number is present.


A separate issue aside from packaging came to light when reviewing the tested course as some links and content was included which it would be preferable to remove manually, or if possible *exclude from export (*to be investigated) is part of the usual course content. In particular a link existed to feedback that would allow the user to access the Staffordshire University course possibly live Qualtrics survey. Also included among the notices was an internal notice about the BlackBoard upgrade, while it may not matter greatly about this notice some course notices may not be the type of content we would wish to expose outside the institution. Therefore I conclude that feedback and notices are content to look at (or exclude) in any course exported and destined for OpenStaffs.





Befree package (above)



Exe Trial

Fleur Corfield  recommended Exe, she has successfully used this to upload packages (not BlackBoard Courses) to JorumUK. Experiments with this have however established that JorumUk is a more sophisticated repository than JorumOpen.




IMS packages in JourumUK

Here the structure is clear & it is possible to include instructions for use, Html & IMS in the one upload, all viewable within the repository




JorumOpen (above) unsophisticated navigation tree. Example is not one of our deposits & packaging is unknown.



When I added our IMS package (as a zipped file) to Jorum Open it did not create any type of navigation at all, not even as shown in the course above. There was no option to preview material in a viewable format, only the zipped archive or download. Exe relies on the repository to create a navigable contents menu/tree this is not included in the download meaning the downloaded package is not properly linked, each document needs to be clicked on it then opens separately with no links to any other page.



I made three deposits yesterday (29 Jan 2010) into Jorum Open to test out how they would appear in the repository, results were disappointing and help files included  with Jorum Open not detailed enough to help. I then sent an email requesting advice, while waiting for an answer my next course of action will be to look on the shared project website for any further advice. I am also intending to investigate other packaging formats



Other issues arising: Is the nominator also the author, or the only author? A significant question as sometimes guest lectures are included within a BlackBoard course or it may be used by different lecturing staff.  For Example the trial course here (Mobile Applications and Systems : CE00213-M-030109-0704090 was given by one individual but course announcements are made by another (Khawar Hameed) probably the lecturer on the course at the time, but who created it originally? In other instances other staff (usually internal) have contributed content to the course and or delivered a number of lectures.

January update

January 28th, 2010 by HALL Sarah

We are currently in a position where there is a significant delay in the progress of the project. The delay is mainly due to technical problems in the upgrade of the Hive repository.  The problems are being addressed, but the upgrade is likely to run into February and until we have Live Hive we are limited in the work we can do on workflows through the repository.

The OpenStaffs team has taken a pragmatic approach and decided to start uploading material into Jorum and make some interim arrangements so that uploading can commence this week.

We have some images that we would like to bulk upload and are hoping that this will be possible, if not it will be a long and boring task for some of us.  On the positive side, going straight to JorumOpen gives us the opportunity to look at our metadata and review our metadata fields for Hive.

IASK Conference December 7-10

December 17th, 2009 by HALL Sarah

Mark Stiles, OpenStaffs project director,  attended the IASK – International Association for the Scientific Knowledge Conference in Porto 7 – 10 December. He was invited as a keynote speaker and presented a paper titled Sustaining Innovation: Influences, Barriers and Possible Answers. 

Through the paper and discussions at the conference Mark disseminated and promoted oer initiatives and the OpenStaffs project.

OpenStaffs round-up

December 3rd, 2009 by HALL Sarah

We’ve taken the opportunity this month to work with the Centre for Professional Development – we approached Chris Wakeman, award leader for  the University PgCHPE programme for academic staff.  People on the award come from different faculties so this group gave us a cross discipline group to sample.  With Chris’s help we have surveyed a group of about 30 on their knowledge of copyright and we are using their feedback and questions to help build up copyright FAQs on the University web site. Some of the Questions and Answers we have so far are available as short podcasts on the OpenStaffs web site with links from University Copyright pages 

In addition I was invited to give a presentation on Openstaffs and OER opportunitites and issues at a session with the PgCHE group this week.   There were quite a few questions around copyright as you’d expect and we also touched on licenses and Data Protection, there was interest too in workflows. There were questions about advice and support for anyone preparing material for open access.  I think the most interest in the session was for and OpenLearn - because, I think, this illustrates so well the benefits of Open Access as a user and developer of educational material.  

There is a news item on OpenStaffs in the University Information Services Autumn newsletter. The newsletter is available as a link from the IS web site at and is distributed across the University by email. 

Four members of the OpenStaffs team attended the Open Learning Conference in Nottingham last month. As usual a good opportunity to network and learn something new.  Mark Stiles and Dave Parkes delivered their session on OpenStaffs and OER in a institutional context to an appreciative audience!

Meanwhile work is progressing on the upgrade to the Hive repository with the upgrade to the operating system complete and the project moving to the database and software phase. There have been a few delays and it’s expected that the work on Hive test will be completed this month.