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FAST OER (Federated Arts Search Tool for OER) a single search across multiple aggregated sources


Name of JISC Initiative: HEA/JISC OER Programme: Rapid Innovation

Unsuccessful bid: Feedback response from JISC:

For background, we received 34 bids and we are funding 13 projects (possibly 15). We have allocated more than the £200k we had initially anticipated. The field was very strong.

The reason for rejection were: Low likelihood of success and limited benefits. This was how the bid was interpreted. I hope that feedback makes sense.

We are looking into other ways of funning this or something similar:

In support of pursuing the search and find solutions here's some feedback from a recent small survey we did at UAL: (all below from same survey)

Question: Which digital skill sets are important to you?

  • Knowing where to search. Because there can be all this stuff out there but if you don’t know where to look… there should be resources to teach others how to narrow things down.
  • Knowing where to look and how. We should be told more about resources available, more advertising done for them.
  • Knowing how to search for information.
  • There should be a search engine in Blackboard to make it easier to find things.
  • Searching online for the right thing.

Outline Project Description (Section 1)

This proposal is to build a federated subject based resource (a single search across multiple aggregated sources) to assist the open search process.

  1. This initiative will build on OER research initiatives of UK OER programme at the University of the Arts London, Arts Learning and Teaching Online (ALTO), ALTO UK projects and UALs process.arts project, on SCORE fellowship research and the OU AVA search project at The Open University and the development and implementation experience of the British universities film and video council (BUFVC) federated search environment project Potnia Framework.  
  2. The problem of OER reuse remains consistently on the agenda for the movement as a whole. For some subjects the proliferation of open content resources in specific subject areas has made finding useful and quality content for use and reuse easier, although has also presented new challenges regarding search and find and surfacing content in the right places.
  3. One of the key challenges for open practice and research for teachers and students is finding or being directed to the useful open content. Google searches will produce some relevant resources but there are more risks in terms of the quality of the content and the re-usability of the resource. Finding resources for use in art and design teaching is difficult, and even advanced searches in google take time and may return little or no usable open content. The same search in centralised OER repositories would provide a high quantity of appropriate results within a very narrow ‘local’ field of view. There is a strong argument for a ‘national’ centralised subject specific OER repository; however in the current financial climate the long term sustainably of such a resource is questionable. A centralised service could also be seen as insufficiently addressing the needs of particular universities and subjects.  Many courses within Universities wish to manage, develop and host their own bespoke OER environments as far as possible, in preference to going outside and submitting to national repositories.    

The FAST OER project

  1. This FAST OER project aims to develop and explore new tools and standards for creating an ‘all-in-one’ open educational resources (OER) single subject specific federated search environment. FAST OER will ‘plug’ into and cluster various stand alone subject specific OER content websites and archives spread across many different locally managed platforms. The single search will enable users to search and find hjgh quality OER content quickly and efficiently for a broad subject-related field. The OER content creators will be better able to surface their content within a focussed federated environment with minimal effort.

The FAST OER team and partner community will develop standards for addressing inclusivity, and inform and support future OER search developments and frameworks.

  1. The FAST OER environment brings together experienced developers and federated search environment specialists:

The Open University AVA (Access to Video Assets)

AVA was a short-term project which aimed to address the increasing demand for exploitation of OU's rich media legacy assets.

SCORE is based at the Open University and funded by HEFCE as a three year project (2009-2012)

British Universities Film and Video Council (BUFVC) join the project as advisors having recently developed federated search environment project Potnia Framework. The BUFVC have agreed to provide skilled and experienced support and advice from key members of there team. 

The University of the Arts London will provide expertise and a testbed for use and reuse of OER environments.  UAL’s drupal developer will work on live site integration and piloting of FAST OER. This FAST OER project will be aligned with UALs DIAL project (digital integration into arts learning - )

The working prototype tool and concept could then be developed into the bigger national perspective in the future.

Use Case (Section 2)

Please include Use Case within proposal, as a separate attachment or provide a link

  1. Andrew recently taught a short animation course for international students and wanted to create some quick online resources to prepare the students before they arrived. He wanted to create an online resource to demonstrate the basics of animation and stop frame animation in context of the course brief; these resources were being prepared in his own time.
  1. Andrew was familiar with OER and attempted to create a resource based on ‘found material’. He spent many hours searching using google, local, national and international repositories. After much perseverance a basic resource was created out of OER creative commons content ( ). The time taken to search, find and create this basic resource does not support the OER use and reuse argument. If a tutor familiar with OER and the policies around appropriate use and appropriation has this experience sourcing and using ‘useful’ content what does this mean for the adoption of these open practices for the OER novice?  Without improving these open practice and tools to support open practice staff and students may result to the default quick fix, what Dave White describes as the 'learning black market'. The University of Oxford recently released their JISC funded OER Impact report the report illustrates the impact of resource use and reuse within learning and teaching (video extract).
  1. Andrew also created lots of other related resources and OER material on his colleges own locally run OER platform ( and would like to share these with other tutors teaching similar courses. He has created lots of resources and does not have the time to republish in other repositories.             With the gradual increases in institutional adoption of OERs and individuals adopting open educational practice as a default starting point we can begin to address modes of operating effectively in this new open space.

Bidders retain copyright of their use case and should clearly indicate ownership, but licence the use case as  CC BY SA. Bidders are encouraged to make their use cases public, and JISC reserves the right to publish submitted use cases.

Proposal (Section 3)

The University of the Arts London have recently been involved in the phase 2 of the JISC UKOER (ALTO) and are currently developing (ALTO UK) as part of phase 3 a combination of these developments and previously existing initiatives for the basis for the prototype testing of FAST OER.   

  1. UAL current landscape is an OER social media content community website; the drupal ( platform provides a locally user-friendly interface, rich media tools and easy integration with the rest of the Web 2.0 infrastructure such as Twitter and Facebook. The site is an ongoing agile development project and provides an open community space for UAL staff and students to discuss and develop resources; content from this ‘workshop’ space is harvested and deposited into the central university repository ALTO UAL and is open licensed to visitors. The process.arts drupal site code is being prepared for open source release.
  1. The ALTO UK project is a national pilot exercise.  The project provides four art, design and media partners an institutionally branded open space in a social media platform to share media rich OERs. The ALTO UK site is being developed using drupal and is based on the development and experience of at the UAL.
  1. The future landscape ALTO UK will provide an OER content community space for small art colleges and schools to publish OER content, larger art colleges like UAL may prefer to publish and manage their OER content in-house, process.arts is a working prototype example of this.  The ALTO UK project team have been in discussions with two other arts institutions and they are interested in installing there own local drupal process.arts installation, stripped out and designed and branded to fit into the institution.

The DIAL project is  integrating an OER resource community space later this year, the DIAL network space will be developed in drupal. By April 2012 we will have 3 locally managed instances of the OER drupal platforms.

Other drupal arts OER environments have also been identified as being developed and strengthen the case to develop a basic pilot environment at UAL with the future scope and ability to be cited as potential future members of FAST OER concept, the following may be approached and asked to consult on the project concept:

  • Open College of the Arts (OCA) are considering developing an OER drupal platform for there existing OER content, the platform may be based on there existing website and the
  • Sally Potter online OER archive - SP_ARK is being developed using drupal and will be launched September 2012.
  • 2 Other arts institutions involved in creating drupal bespoke local sites

FAST OER would explore options to plug into other potential external environments, wordpress, DSpace etc (specialist subject areas other colleges).

  1. Development Methodology and Structure for the work:

WP1 set up

Prepare detailed plan within 2 weeks / Arrange and brief staff / Project web site, Blog and Twitter/ Initial team and user workshops / Establish code sharing and open development methods / The OU organise  the first hackday with all the developers and project members and team meeting in London

Development notes

Month 1


Initially development, test and integrate the OER search tool into multiple mock instances of drupal, a basic drupal test with stripped out installations will be tested. Different search methods and processes would be explored and standards developed to align the most effective search methods that also meet the demands, constraints and needs of the working drupal OER platforms. Progress blog updates

The search will be adapted to sort:

  • Various metadata fields, materials, media, processes.
  • Various content types – videos, images, text, audio etc
  • Various data types – Video and image compression types, quality, length, file sizes etc 
  • Various collages and subject areas
  • Various peer ratted content – quality control
  • Various CC types and download options

Month 1 -3


Understanding current practice  (UAL, ALTO UK and sector partners, blog journals)/ Explain Concepts / Discuss paper and wireframe prototypes and examples / Identify User needs / identify user requirements/ Identify technical problems for early attention. Blog updates

Month 1 - 3


The UAL organise the second hackday with all the developers and project members. A team meeting at OU.

The new search tools would be tested with two drupal installations process.arts and one other, the two platforms would conform and be developed to meet the OER search project standards developed in collaboration with the team. The working prototype will be tested and standards and processes finalised for further integration into other drupal installations. Release code as open source.

Month 2 - 5


Explore write up recommendations for future development of the OER search tool to adapt to include other environments and platforms, such as wordpress and html websites. inclusivity

Month 4 - 6


Analysis and Design / Code Development / Iteration with test users / Testing / Release to users for testing / Final version

Month 4 - 6


Final review of code Final release of code under OSI licence with full user and developer documentation/ Project reports on website

Month 6


  1. Project Team: this will be composed of:

Project Manager: Chris Follows works at the University of the Arts London and is SCORE fellow at the Open University, Chris has been researching rich media arts OER use and reuse and social media content communities, Chris has identified and encountered problems in the cycle of rich media use and reuse within the arts.

The Open University/SCORE

OU development project manager Tim Seal (Assistant Director, SCORE)
James Alexander (OU AVA advisor)
OU developer (to be named)
Sarah Atkinson (SCORE fellow and Brighton University)

University of the Arts London
Grzesiek Sedek (UAL developer)

John Casey (ALTO UK)

Specialist advisors:

Interested wider OER community


Risk Assessment & Management: Risk exposure (i.e. significance) is expressed as the product of estimated risk probability, P (1-5): and risk severity, S (1-5) to yield a risk exposure score, E: 1-25.

  1. Risk Assessment & Management:

Difficulty integrating new search code into existing drupal platforms (P1*S5 = E5) alternatives methods will be explored

Problems assigning to specific meta data fields in the live drupal sites and lack of inclusive options to expand into different drupal platforms (P1*S5 = E5) mock stripped out drupal scenarios will be tested, current live UAL drupal developments are open to development and change and can adapt with the ptoject.

Lack of inclusive options to expand into different web platforms, wordpress, Eprints and Dspace etc, including Integration problems regarding standards and local meta data changes (P2*S5 = E10) the primary development focus for this project is to develop a pilot environment linking multple drupal installations, other potential future  platforms will be considered and explored where possible, no development in with these other platforms is guaranteed within the time and budget constraits of this project, although future scenarios in this area will be explored and documented.  

  1. Engagement with Users and Stakeholders

University of the Arts DIAL project – the DIAL project is currently developing interest groups who are addressing issues surrounding information literacies and open education, DIAL stakeholders will be involved throughout the project and inform its development.   

The OU SCORE fellows will be invited to contribute and feedback on project development.

The open college of the arts – The OCA are interested in being involved and testing FAST OER, "It would be just great to have a central point of art and design resources for the world to access” (Jane Horton OCA)

Brighton University & SCORE Fellow- are interested in being involved in the projects development and testing FAST OER and are currently involved in UK OER ALTO UK

  1. Potential benefits/impact

Quicker search methods; Improved quality of content; Vast range of UK subject specific resources in one search box; Potential to adapt code and concept to support national and local installations; OER profile search (search and find leading OER practitioners and resources); Replication of code and concept to be used in other subject specific scenarios

Develop new OER subject specific communities of practice, OER producers and colleges will want to be included in the search catch all, this will ensure: quality of resource, growth in the OER interest; Align with other OER tools (existing tools); Open Attribute Plugins for drupal -; Xpert Attribution tool -

  1. Outline Budget

Project management: £2500
Travel & subsistence + other = £250

External developer = £14,000

Drupal development and integration: £4000

Staff costs = £2,000

Travel & subsistence + other = £250


Advisor = £2000

This should include intended benefits/impact of the work, a schedule and structure for the work, risk assessment and a commitment to engaging with users and stakeholders


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This Work, FAST OER (Federated Arts Search Tool for OER) a single search across multiple aggregated sources, by cfollows is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution 3.0 Unported license.