UK Web Focus (Brian Kelly)

Innovation and best practices for the Web

The Open University’s Portfolio Of Web 2.0 Services

Posted by Brian Kelly on 3 Jul 2008

I’ve commented recently on the Open University’s use of Facebook (they have more ‘fans’ than any other university).

And it seems the Open University is proactive in making corporate use of several other Web 2.0 services.

Open University\'s Use ServiceAs can be seen from the accompanying screen shot the Open University are making use of iTunes University, YouTube and Twitter

Their use page describes how they are using these services – and encourages interested parties to make use of this content.

The Open University describes how it is the first UK university to have a dedicated page on YouTube, and they have stated that they’ll be making available a much greater range of their video materials available on the service.

And I wonder if they’re also the first UK university to have an official Twitter account?

I don’t think, though, that they’re the first to make use their institutional podcasts available on iTunes – indeed, as I posted about recently, the University of Bath won a European award for the quality of its podcasts, which are available for downloading from iTunes as well as from the University’ of Bath’s podcast page.

And finally, as well as their commitment to use of third party Web 2.0 services the Open University is also taking a high profile with its OpenLearn service which provides access to free learning resources.

I recently commented on how ‘Edupunks’ are challenging institutional inertia and conservatism by engaging with light-weight development. Is the Open University embracing an ‘edupunk’ approach in its use service, I wonder? And if so, does this mean that Tony Hirst, whose OUseful blog has often challenged conservatism in the Open University, is now being embraced by the establishment?


13 Responses to “The Open University’s Portfolio Of Web 2.0 Services”

  1. Martin said

    Hi Brian – re. the iTunes claim, it was that we were one of the first UK universities on iTunes U, the dedicated university part – others, including your good selves had gotten there before us on iTunes itself. They only rolled iTunes U out to Europe last month though.
    As for Hirst becoming part of the establishment, for his sake, I hope not ;)

  2. Tony Hirst said

    Seems like Martin beat me to the iTunesU comment ( ).

    Although I don’t think we have a widget strategy yet, a nicely polished ‘Fact of the Day’ widget was released a couple of weeks ago ( ) which publishes a daily fact and then links through to an OpenLearn Unit where you can learn more about that fact.

    I was involved with scoping out how we could an OU themed Grazr widget to embed OpenLearn content in the SkyLearning website, but I maybe because I didn’t argue it forcefully enough (or maybe because of sensitivities relating to our relationship with another broadcaster…!) the full content embedding never happened, just thematic links ( ). Still, maybe the next stop will be syndicated learning content?;-)

    The OU Library are exploring some “web2.0” things ( ), but the really polished offerings are still to appear… They’ve also been trying out Google Analytics on the Library website and I think they’re even using some of the metrics as KPIs for the website? (There’s a paper in at ILI2008 on this).

    As for being embraced by the OU, I think the projects that go through may do so because the project team can point at the chaos that is and say “look at the mess you get if we don’t do this stuff properly…” ;-)

  3. Ian Loasby said

    Hi Brian,

    although I cant claim its an official University of Sheffield channel, we have been feeding our Law School News blog via twitterfeed through to @lawsheffield for a few months now.

    Just a shame we only have 6 followers.

  4. Mike Nolan said

    Edge Hill have an “official” Twitter account – – but we’re still thinking about how best to use it. We want it to be more than just republishing the RSS feed (which seems to be OU’s approach) – we want to actively engage with Twitter users.

  5. Thanks for the information on your institutional use of Twitter, Ian and Mike.

    In light of UKOLN and ULCC’s JISC PoWR (Preservation of Web Resources) project I’ve an interest in the records management aspects of use of this type of technology e.g. keeping audit trails; handling possible discrepencies across various delivery channels; etc.

  6. As far as institutional use of Twitter goes, I know Birmingham City Unversity, Coventry and Aston have accounts.

    The difficulty is, as Mike points out, making the usage more than just a repurposing of existing material.

  7. It’s really interesting how polarising the lowcost, easy development web 2.0 stuff is becoming. I often get asked about the risk of all this i.e. service like Twitter and Facebook disappearing or changing terms etc.. But I wonder does it matter? After-all institutions spend a fortune on some systems and the companies that provide them can also disappear and change terms.

    Web 2.0 seems seems to be working best at the institutional level where the development is cheap and easy. This way you can keep up with the trends. But I suppose the real question that prevents this from going mainstream is what is the real cost? Anyone got any ideas yet?

  8. […] by Brian Kelly (UK Web Focus) on 10 July 2008 In response to my recent post on “The Open University’s Portfolio Of Web 2.0 Services” Stuart Smith described how “It’s really interesting how polarising the lowcost, easy […]

  9. […] a recent post on the UK Web Focus blog I described how the Open University has set up an institutional Twitter account. And a number of […]

  10. Hi there
    I am Media & PR Officer at Keele University and I have just (today!) created a Twitter account for the University at
    I’m really keen to see how we can use it and how many people are actually interested in following us!

  11. […] 21, 2008 · No Comments Brian Kelly, through his UK Web Focus blog, has discovered several UK HE institutions with institutional Twitter accounts. It will be […]

  12. I am just about to begin an MA in Philosophy at the Open University ( and I am excited to find out about the technical possibilities.

  13. […] a recent post on the UK Web Focus blog I described how the Open University has set up an institutional Twitter account. And a number of […]

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