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Challenges and successes in developing an XML-based content creation system for multiple-format delivery via Moodle

Since its inception, The Open University (OU) has delivered innovative teaching through a variety of channels, from books and TV programmes to internet and digital technologies. One of our strategic priorities is to maximise student success by providing flexible and accessible ‘anytime/anywhere’ learning options so that our students can fit their study around complex work-life commitments. To achieve this, we have developed a streamlined digital production platform (OU Structured Content) that delivers content and assets to our Moodle Virtual Learning Environment. Although created as an in-house solution to produce learning materials at the OU, in this presentation we’ll give an overview of aspects that are applicable to anyone working in the same space.

OU Structured Content is an XML-driven single-source input/multi-format output system that enables simple authoring of platform-agnostic learning materials (e.g. HTML for web, ePub for offline digital, PDF for print, etc.), which conform to web standards and accessibility guidelines. It is tightly integrated with our Moodle VLE, creating a scalable, end-to-end digital publishing tool that can support academics, production staff and external partners creating effective ‘digital first’ teaching.

Our presentation will cover the evolution of the system and its significant features from the perspective of educational technologists and system support staff, rather than developers. Our aim will be to take a user-focused view of the system components to draw out broad themes. Along the way, we’ll share some of our experiences – both positive and negative – of the associated technical and cultural challenges that face an institution supporting a growing user base of 200 direct content developers, maintaining around 450 live module websites and over 180,000 active student users.

Presented by...

Ian Blackham
Product Development Manager, Learning Systems
The Open University, UK

Ian Blackham, Steve Rycroft and Sam Marshall have been using and, in the latter case, developing Moodle for over 10 years at the Open University. In a combination of roles (users, tech support, developer, manager) they have been working with the OU's XML-based content creation system since its inception and have the scars to prove it.

Steve Rycroft
Head of Learning and Teaching Environments, The Open University, UK
Sam Marshall
Senior Developer, IT Delivery, The Open University, UK


Submitted by:
Ian Blackham
Last modified: Friday, 18 March 2016, 9:12 AM
Email address:
[email protected]
Presentation slides: Powerpoint presentation Moodlemoot_SC_2016_challenge_and_success_v2.pptx
Slides visiblity:
Your educational sector: University
Roles in which you usually use Moodle: Teacher
Instructional Designer
Type of presentation: Short presentation (15min + questions)
Relevant to audience from which sectors: Education
Relevant to audience in which roles: Teacher
Instructional Designer
Permission: By submitting, I grant permission to promote, record and share my presentation before and after the MoodleMoot.
Committment: Should my proposed presentation be accepted, I commit to attend the MoodleMoot to present it.
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