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Digital education

BoB’s your Uncle! On broadcast audio visual resources

13 September 2014

by Catherine Emmett

Recently, our colleagues in the PgCUTL (Postgraduate Certificate in University Teaching and Learning) team talked about the possibility of a Brown Bag lunch related to using BoB materials in teaching. (Thanks to Fiona Morgan and Clare Kell for copying us in on this one.)

If you haven’t come across BoB before, it stands for “Box of Broadcasts” and is a service the University has recently signed up for. It allows us (in UK higher and further education) to share recordings of broadcasts with students from more than 60 TV and radio channels. It has an archive of broadcasts, with currently about a million available. Significantly, this year BoB introduced all BBC TV and radio content dating back to 2007. It’s definitely a growing archive! Check out the promotional video below from BoB to get a quick idea about it.

Embedded video used under Creative Commons from the British Universities Film and Video Council

We’re quite excited by the possibilities of this. The use of online audio visual materials like this can enhance independent learning in the same way access to eJournals and eBooks has done in the past. It offers students another type of resource they can use in learning; to provide a different aspect or viewpoint on topics, to give them other kinds of resources to supplement existing materials, to add another dimension to reflecting and collaborating in learning, to use as additional preparation material for tutorials and seminars, etc.

From a practical perspective, it can also be very difficult to find high quality audio visual materials with appropriate copyright permissions that allow you to post online (often we’re just licensed for a physical DVD). What this service offers, is the availability for students to play these programmes straight away online. It also benefits from being easily searchable (it even searches within the audio/video transcripts), mobile friendly (play them anytime from mobile devices – though there is a proviso to this, see notes below), and even provides students with a source reference.

Oh yes, and in case you’re wondering, a quick investigation of using these materials in Learning Central made it clear how easy it is to embed these resources (or you can also provide a link of, course). You simply create an item in a module, click the ‘HTML’ button, paste the embed code, and ‘BoB’s your Uncle!’ (Sorry, it was just too hard for us to resist the awful pun!) There is a proviso to this, however, which you will see in the notes below.

What do you think of BoB? Let us know if you’ve used anything yourself from the BoB services. We’d love to know.

Notes on BoB – limitations

BoB does have a couple of limitations you should be aware of before deciding whether to use it in your online modules (thanks to Helen Staffer and Sarah Hayton in the ULS for giving us this information).

  • There are geographical restrictions, so students need to have a Cardiff account with which to log in to the service itself.
  • Because this login is required, when you embed a BoB video somewhere (e.g. Learning Central) and a student clicks on it, they will be redirected to BoB to authenticate and then back to Learning Central. This will happen the first time they watch something, though if they subsequently click on another embedded link while their session is still valid, the embedded video should play straight away. If a user is already logged in then they will still be directed to BoB for authentication, but they will be re-directed straight back without having to enter their details again.
  • Not all BoB’s resources will work on a mobile device, only BoB programmes transcoded since its latest upgrade will work. This is because, up until then, videos were transcoded in Flash, which as we’ve previously explained, doesn’t work on mobile devices. So, you’ll be okay for programmes transcoded this year, but programmes before this will still be in Flash format for now. (If you’re interested, you can test this yourself using this pre upgrade video (, and this post upgrade video (
  • To see pre upgraded BoB videos, students need to make sure they are on a desktop machine, running a browser with an up-to-date Flash player (Chrome’s often the best bet).

This post was updated 24 October 2014.


  1. Karl Luke

    This looks like a great resource and thank you for promoting it. I shall be checking it out!

    Are you aware of any geographical restrictions on the content provided by “BoB”? Will Cardiff University’s distance learners, based in other counties, have unrestricted access to view content?

    Citation of audio-visual content is also worth considering and these BUFVC guidelines, designed to encourage best practice in citing any kind of audiovisual item, might be useful resource as a starting point:

    • Catherine Emmett

      Thanks, Karl. I thought it was a good resource too. Yes, there are geographical restrictions, it’s a UK service (a bit like iPlayer I suppose). So, no, distance learners in other countries won’t have access (although if they use a Cardiff email address, then it may be that they would be considered to be ‘in this country’ – not sure on that, awaiting advice from library service). It’s also restricted under an ERA+ license which means it’s for non-commercial educational use via secure authentication.

      For further information, the BoB T&C’s are useful, or discuss with your library colleagues!

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