OUDA available externally

We are very pleased to announce that the Open University Digital Archive http://www.open.ac.uk/library/digital-archive  (OUDA) is now available externally. OUDA is a preservation archive, developed to international preservation standards and unique in its breadth of content types.

OU students, alumni and members of the public can access a selection of archival material that has been cleared for online access, including online exhibitions, featured archive items and collections of OU Archive video material.  For external audiences, OUDA will promote the Open University and foster a sense of community for all those who have a connection with the OU as well as increase the discoverability of some of our assets.

Key moments and figures of the OU’s history have been added to The OU Story – one of the two exhibitions currently available on the site, including clips of Harold Wilson’s proposal for a University of the Air in 1963, an interview with Jennie Lee, the Charter ceremony in 1969 and the first OU programme in 1971. The site also includes links to related content on other OU platforms, including OpenLearn and iTunesU.

Key elements of the OUDA system:

  • An underlying digital repository, uniquely capable of helping to manage the preservation of multiple types of material – including text, audio, video, images and archived websites – using international digital preservation standards.
  • A powerful search function with custom filters (e.g. module code, item type, collection) to allow users to find materials
  • Custom views of materials – including module view showing materials of different types relating to a module and ability to browse modules by faculty or date
  • A permissions structure to limit access to collections or specific items – depending on copyright licensing.
  • Different versions of the user interface, including a staff site, student site (currently the same content as the public site) and public site – highlighting different content of interest.
  • Online exhibitions and featured items – including the two initial exhibitions – Shakespeare at the OU and The OU Story
  • Links to related items in Open Learn and iTunesU – using linked data

Currently only a sample of the full archive collections is available on the site.  We will gradually add both functionality and content to the service to support re-use of course materials and research.

The digitised pages of course texts are not currently accessible from off campus, we are working on a fix. This only impacts OU staff, there are not yet any texts cleared for public or student access.

The OUDA public site’s current status is ‘live and in testing’. Additional user testing is planned for this Autumn.

The version of the site for logged-in staff has been available for over a year and contains a wider sample of materials.

OU students can sign in but won’t currently gain anything extra by doing so, although they will then see a purple version of the green ‘open’ site because they are signed in.

We would be grateful for any feedback, there is a link to a questionnaire from the OUDA homepage or if you have specific questions please send them to university-archive@open.ac.uk

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OUDA update September 2015

What’s new?

Over the summer there were two up-dates to OUDA. These were a 2.0 release in July and a 2.1 release in August. The release notes can be found on our ‘Release notes‘ page. The major changes are listed below.

We have continued our preparations for handover to service, the Archive team has been trained in Trello (the tool we use to help manage our tasks) and Ruth, the University Archivist is now managing the release process itself.

In preparation for OUDA’s public go-live, the OUDA site successfully completed Quality Assurance (QA) testing.  This included accessibility testing to ensure that OUDA works with screen reading software and is keyboard accessible.

 2.0 Release Summary

Following feedback received during usability testing (as reported in our March update) we have implemented:

  • A new “Collections page” for the public site. This displays materials available to view online, it includes a link to the full collections listing which includes materials with metadata-only available to the public.
  • New “list views” for the public site to highlight content available online. See (OU Staff will need to be signed out) Historical OU TV and Radio and Science Clips.

This release also included:

A “Featured content item” template (and administrator editing tools). The new template provides a one-page summary for featured items with video/audio/images and brief text. The McArthur Microscope is a featured item that uses this template.

A redesigned “Image browse” page to improve layout and to include new icons enabling users to zoom, get copyright information, or go to the record.

Changes to navigation tabs, the “Contact” tab was removed to allow for an additional “Exhibitions” tab to house all OUDA exhibitions. Contact was information added to the Homepage, About and Help. Breadcrumbs were updated to reflect changes to navigation tabs.

A fix to the Bookreader’s search functionality, it is now possible to search within the pages of text in the Bookreader (OU Staff only).

 2.1 Release Summary

Accessibility statements have been added to the About page and Accessibility FAQs have been added to both the public and external sites.

An additional “online only” page has been implemented for the Historical TV and Radio collection for the public site.  This provides non-logged in users with a list of items available online in this collection.

Changes have been made to the layout of the Home page, including spacing between collections and featured content headings and alignment between search box and search button on IE.

A cookie banner has been added to the site.

New image icons have been implemented, including zoom, go to record, copyright info.

Subtitles have been added for the science clips.

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OUDA update June 2015

What’s new?

There have been two recent up-dates to OUDA. These were a combined 1.7/1.8 release at the end of April and the 1.9 release in early June. The notes for both releases can be found on our newly created ‘Release notes‘ page. The major changes are listed below.

In preparation for handover to service, the Archive Team was trained in the release checking process. The checking process involves confidence checks to ensure that the release is working on our acceptance server and, once the release is live, to ensure that the live site is as it should be. The Archive Team successfully pre and post release checked these two most recent releases.

We have been preparing the OUDA site for Quality Assurance (QA) testing. QA related tasks were the focus of the 1.9 release. The QA testing has now started, this includes accessibility testing to ensure that OUDA works with screen reading software and is keyboard accessible.

1.7/1.8 Release Summary

Following feedback received during usability testing (as reported in our March update) we have revised the search box to include an “Available online” filter for non-OU staff (Staff will need to log out to see it). The filter is applied by default, but can be removed via the search box, or via the results page.




We are working on other usability related changes to the homepage, they will be implemented soon.

Related content has been added to the following record types: audio, module, video, text and clips.

Work on layouts for item records (module, image, video, text, WARC, audio, etc) has been completed and we have implemented layouts for when content is not available.

1.9 Release summary

Captions have been created and added to all clips in the Shakespeare exhibition.

We have fixed issues with the page turner, it is fully functional once more within the staff version of the site.

The layout of the plain text files that accompany each of the texts in the page viewer has been improved and page number links have been included at the top of each document.

The media players on the site (flash and HTML5) have been updated so that they can be operated with the keyboard in Internet Explorer.

All pages on the site have had metadata added to meet the University Metadata standard.

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OUDA update March 2015

What’s new?

We recently carried out a round of usability testing on the forthcoming public version of the OUDA site using OU Students and Alumni as testers. We are using the findings to make refinements to the presentation and functionality of the public version of the site prior to opening up the digital archive to students and the public later this year.

What students / alumni liked

Our testers were generally positive about the design of the site, the layout and the navigation and they found the site easy to use. There were positive comments about the banner and the fact that this provides a welcome addition of colour. There was a good understanding of the purpose of the site, and the fact that it provides access to archive content produced by the OU or about the OU and its history. Conversely, testers were clear that OUDA is not the place to find details of current OU modules. There was enthusiasm for the content available, especially the video clips from past OU course materials, although there were often high expectations about the amount of content on the site. The exhibitions were popular, these present selected OUDA content with additional background information in the format of an online display.

Testers commented that the search results were very clear, and that the use of icons and the layout of results make it easy to identify the different content items.

OUDA search result

Search result

The “View all” option was easily discoverable, and testers found the zoom option for images useful.

Summary of development work

One of the key findings from the usability testing was that testers quickly formed unrealistically high expectations about the amount of content currently available in the digital archive. Based on the information communicated by the OUDA interface participants were expecting to find a large volume of material, particularly past course material. We realised that we needed to make some changes within the interface to make the amount and type of content on OUDA more evident to external users before they started to browse or search.

We identified the homepage and the collections page as the key parts of the site which communicate the extent of materials available to the public via OUDA. We have redesigned these pages to make it clearer exactly what content is available to view online. One key change will be the addition of a new block of content on the homepage which clearly groups the available online content and allows users to quickly and easily browse the content (see wireframe below). We are adapting the current collections page to highlight the content that is available online.

Wireframe for revised public homepage

Public home

We are also making some changes to the behaviour of search so that the default search will only bring back items that the public can view online. Users of the public site will need to turn off the available online filter if they also wish to view metadata-only records. Along with this change to search, in the results view we will also be making it clearer which resources are available to view online and which are metadata-only records.

We plan to carry out further investigations into user expectations and use the outcomes to inform the OUDA content strategy.

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OUDA Update January 2015

What’s new?
We have recently released an update to OUDA.

The main changes in this update are to the behind-the-scenes infrastructure.  In preparation for our external launch this Spring, we have now implemented the OU’s login system across OUDA. So it is now possible for content to be restricted to particular groups of users. This is important because when we go live we have to ensure that those accessing the external OUDA site can only access copyright-cleared content. OUDA’s external site is currently available to OU staff on the OU network or via VPN, it displays if they are not logged in.

A small change that OU staff will notice is that we have created staff and external versions of the ‘About’  and ‘Help’ pages. This means that we can tailor content to better meet the needs of internal (OU Staff) and external (public and OU students) audiences.

[As previously, the OUDA service is currently available to OU staff on the OU network or via VPN. It  is targeted for external launch to the public and OU students early this year.]

OUDA usability testing
We have been usability testing the external OUDA site with OU students and alumni during December and January, making use of the specialised  IET labs.  Gaining student and alumni views is  invaluable, it enables us to ensure OUDA meets their needs. We are currently writing up and analysing our research findings.  The results will feed into refinements to the site’s presentation and functionality prior to the external launch.

Agile working
We (the OUDA Project Team) have developed our own project methodology based on Agile and we continually refine it. This helps us to ensure that we meet the deadlines in our system release schedule whilst maintaining a degree of flexibility through task review and re-prioritisation.  We use Trello to manage our task list (‘burn list’ in Agile-speak).

The team reviews progress and looks at any issues (‘obstructions’) that have arisen on a weekly basis. However any very urgent/important issues are highlighted as soon as they arise and action is taken to resolve the issue and if necessary re-prioritise the schedule.  We regularly review OUDA priorities and hence our schedule taking into account the business benefits (both for the Archive service itself and its users). This is important for example when a task on our ‘doing’ list is taking longer than expected or we discover a dependency, perhaps with a task scheduled for a later release. Following task review and re-prioritisation we move tasks between releases where necessary.

This approach works well for our very small team, in particular it allows our one developer to focus on the ‘doing’ tasks for the maximum possible time.

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OUDA Update November 2014

What’s new?
We released an update to OUDA on Wednesday evening. As previously, the service is currently available to OU staff on the OU network or via VPN. It  is targeted for external launch to the public and OU students early next year.

The main change is that OUDA’s external interface is now available internally to OU Staff.

First version of the External interface

When not-logged into the OU network you (OU staff) will see the green ‘external interface’. This is an early version of the site that we will launch to OU students and the general public in the new year. The external version of the site is currently only available to OU staff. 

OU staff must sign in using the link at the top of the page to view all available content. When signed in you will see the purple ‘staff’ interface and a message at the top of the screen “Hi xxxx xxxxxx (signed in)”. If you are not signed in you will only see content that has been cleared for use by students and the public. 

There are known issues with the external interface, it is in the process of being set up and will be improved prior to launch.



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OUDA Update October 2014

What’s new?
We released an update to OUDA yesterday evening. The service is currently available to OU staff on the OU network or via VPN. It  is targeted for external launch to the public and OU students early next year.

If you have used OUDA before you may find that its display is now out of alignment. To solve this please press “Shift” and refresh your screen to clear your cache for the OUDA site.

Here follows a summary of the latest developments.

‘View All’ tab
We have introduced a new tab called ‘View All’. This enables you to see all OUDA content within the results listing. You can use the filters on the left to look at selections of materials e.g. all video from a certain time period. This will also help you to get an idea of the scope of the material currently in OUDA. We hope this will provide another useful way to browse the contents of OUDA. The ‘View All’ tab was tested during a recent round of user testing and received positive comments.

Image showing the View All tab

Colour scheme
We have introduced more colour to the site design in preparation for the launch of the public version. Currently OUDA is only available to OU staff, but in early 2015 we will launch a public version which will provide access to selected content that has been rights cleared. The staff site is currently purple, the public site will have a different colour scheme. Colour is one of the ways that we hope use to signify which version of the site you are viewing (we will also be introducing a log in prompt and a welcome message for those staff and students who are logged in).

Changes to the carousel
During usability testing we discovered that many people didn’t explore the content within the carousel on the homepage. We decided to keep the carousel because it provides the opportunity to display engaging content in a prominent area of the page. We have turned on the auto-scrolling function so that you can see the content of the carousel without having to navigate through it yourself. We’ve added in a pause button so that the carousel can be stopped if preferred. We have also worked hard to ensure that the carousel is accessible for keyboard users (i.e. no mouse) and for screen reader users (e.g. JAWS).

Shakespeare exhibition
We have added a new feature for OUDA called ‘exhibitions’. The idea of these is to highlight content from OUDA by selecting items on a common theme and providing some background narrative alongside the items, a bit like an online version of an exhibition in a museum. We have been working on content for our first ‘exhibition’ and also building the page templates and tools required to enable non-technical staff to create further online exhibitions.

Our first exhibition, Shakespeare at the OU, has been written by OU Associate Lecturer Brendan Jackson. The twenty one video clips span forty-three years of archived OU study material and illustrate the way in which the Open University has been able to use visual media to teach Shakespeare. For example, in the ‘Theatre games, workshops & rehearsals’ theme,  clip 8 from A100 in 1971 shows Arnold Kettle’s insight into the rich complexities of Shakespeare’s language. The teaching in this early clip still holds true today. Its formal style contrasts nicely with the first clip (clip 6) in this theme which is from AA306, a more recent course with different teaching methods.

All of our exhibitions will be made available to the public and OU students when we launch externally next year.

Image showing the shakespeare exhibition page

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OUDA AL access update

Having launched OUDA to OU Staff earier this year we have been working on a solution so that Associate Lecturers (ALs) can access it.

We are trialling a possible solution, it has a few issues that we are working on. From off campus you will find that the video/audio/image/text content isn’t available to you. However, if you are an AL and would like to have a look at OUDA please do so: http://ouda.open.ac.uk.libezproxy5.open.ac.uk/.

If you come across any other issues please email OUDL@open.ac.uk with your oucu, the nature of the issue and if possible, the link that caused the problem.  We may not be able to respond to every email but please be assured that we will be working on all issues raised.

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March project update

OU Digital Archive home pageFollowing a successful launch of the OU Digital Archive at the Learn About Fair at the end of February the project team is now focusing on the next steps.  

The work we are going to concentrate on now breaks down into three main areas:

  • Content, particularly around increasing the material available for the public launch;
  • Design tweaks, mainly to accommodate the new public content; and,
  • Planning the tasks we are going to need to complete to launch the public interface

A lot of the content that the University Archive deals with consists of old study materials and a large proportion of this material contains third-party content that isn’t licensed for open access.    So this means that we can’t make it available publicly through the Digital Archive, it will only be availlable to staff as a tool to help identify material for potential re-use, or for other purposes.   Consequently we have less content that we can make publicly available than we’d like to have for the public launch.    We have 160 images of the University’s people, places and events, and a collection of 30 or so Open Forum videos. [Open Forum was an OU news-type TV programme that talked about the University, new developments and the experiences of studying and ran throughout the 1970s and 1980s].   

We will also be able to include a small collection of video clips from S100, the first OU science foundation course from the 1970s, which we’ve had selected by colleagues in the Science faculty and have paid to clear the Rights .  To increase the amount of open content we’ve been working with a couple of academic staff to identify some more clips of material and we’re clearing those clips for public access.  The aim is to be able to use clips from the archive to illustrate a particular aspect of the work of the OU, so for example, how the way the University taught changed over forty years, for example.  Material that is available for open access will have an OU educational and personal use license.

This piece of work is aimed at designing a ‘featured content’ page for the ad hoc collections or ‘exhibitions’ .  The idea behind these Wireframe mockup for S100 featured content pagead hoc collections is that they allow us to showcase individual items, or materials brought together around a particular theme.  So far the ones we’ve put together for the staff side of the system are  either single items or a search query result, so the exhibition ‘landing page’ is either an item record or a results page.  But we’ve been thinking that we will want to draw together material from across the main collections and add some narrative to link the items together.  This needs some form of ‘magazine’-style layout with explanations and links to the items in what might be an ‘ad hoc’ collection.  So, for example, around a particular event, we might want to pull out some illustrative material from the Digital Archive and add a bit of text.  An early wireframe (using Balsamiq – our tool of choice for wireframing) is shown here.  We’re now working with our design colleagues in Learning and Teaching Solutions to find a suitable design.

Public site planning
We’re also planning in detail the work that we will need to undertake to create a public version of the site.  This is going to cover the design and technical aspects of setting up the site, as well as the communication and other aspects that we will want to tackle.  We use the One Page Project Manager tool to map out the tasks and timescales of the project, so are building up a new version for the public site work.

One of the great things about talking to people about digital archiving is that it generates new leads of people to talk to about potential content that could be captured for the Digital Archive.  So the Learn About Fair has turned up some contacts who know where there are collections of older, pre-VLE course materials and even a collection of software created by the OU.  All are of great interest to the University Archive and we’re following up the leads. 

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OU Digital Archive launches to OU staff at the Learn About Fair Wednesday 26 February 2014

OU Digital Archive home pageWe are pleased to announce that the Open University Digital Archive is now available to OU staff and is being launched on Wednesday 26 February 2014 at the Learn About Fair at Walton Hall.   Access at the moment is restricted to OU staff and is only available via the OU network.  If you are a member of OU staff you can access the OU Digital Archive once you have connected to the network via VPN.  Later in the year we will be launching a public version of the digital archive that will contain material that is cleared for open access.   For OU staff the URL is at http://ouda.open.ac.uk (OU staff only). For Associate Lecturers who don’t have VPN access we are investigating a solution so that they can access OUDA.

The OU Digital Archive (OUDA) has been developed by the OU’s Library Services to preserve, manage and provide access to digital and digitised heritage content from the University Archive.  OUDA includes study materials, videos, audio recordings, images and other digital materials selected from the University’s 45 year history.

OUDA is a beta pilot with aim of adding more content and functionality over the next few years. It aims to meet the needs of OU staff, researchers, students and other educators seeking archival OU content for personal or wider educational / research use.

 Benefits of the system

  • Content will be managed to ensure materials are preserved for use in the future in line with the OU Digital Preservation Policy and international standards.
  • Collections include OU Study Materials (including course websites), Historical OU TV & Radio, Historical OU Images and Broadcast Programmes. 
  • Search across a wide range of content, filter by type, collection, module code and date.
  • Supported by the University Archive Service and the wider Information Management and Innovation Team within Library Services

Find out more
OUDA will be at the Learn About Fair on Wednesday 26th February – please come along and see us! If you can’t make it to the Fair, but would like to send us your thoughts on OUDA, please do so via our short survey https://www.surveymonkey.com/s/oudafeedback.  We will also be giving a presentation and answering questions in Meeting Room 1 in the JLB at 13:00 on the 26th February.

Next Steps after the internal launch
We will be launching OUDA to OU students and the public later this year. OUDA will provide a “taster of the History of the OU” through selected Rights-cleared materials. Themed collections will highlight the History of the OU and the stories of OU innovation.

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