Press Release

PRESS RELEASE: Innovative new software for managing the production of course content released for Education Market.

For Immediate Release: 8 November 2017

A new software system for Higher Education Institutions has just come on the market. The Cloud-Based system is called Production Mill and it is specifically aimed at providing Universities with a single end-to-end system to manage their processes for creating course content and managing licensed copyrighted materials.

Production Mill is the commercial version of a unique, award-winning Content Production Management System first designed for The Open University - the institution that pioneered and is a world leader in media-rich distance learning. Each year more than 10,000 pieces of audio & video content are commissioned and produced for the University. This system not only manages the production of all this audio and video output, it manages the production of all types of educational output from the University - including books, e-books, promotional material and TV and radio programmes.

Founder and CEO of Production Mill, Glen Harding believes his system will help educational institutions to benefit from the experience of the pioneers of online learning at the Open University.

Glen Harding said: “As more and more Universities offer a distance learning option to students and implement blended learning to enrich the experience of traditional campus-based students, they will encounter the same challenges faced by the Open University. When the Open University contacted me, they had been looking for an off-the-shelf system that could manage the production of all their audio and video output and help capture the complex 3rd party copyright licenses that are part and parcel of creative output. They had found various software vendors that offered part of a solution, but couldn't find one, or even two systems that did it all. They asked me to design and develop a bespoke system, which their project team called the Production Portal – it is the basis of Production Mill.”

Since it went live in April 2013, the Open University’s version of Production Mill has been continuously used by some of the most creative minds in the UK. It now has over 700 users, both internal University staff and external production companies. Their feedback has been incorporated into Production Mill, making it a system that not only supports and facilitates the creative process, but producers enjoy using.

Mr Harding said: “Production Mill is the culmination of 4 years of simultaneous development and real-life usage at one of the world’s most prolific creators of content – written, recorded, photographed and filmed. If organisations are looking for one system that can manage all their production workflow needs, then Production Mill offers a tried and tested solution that will transform the way they work.”

Alma Hales, was the Head of Intellectual Property at the Open University from 20XX to 2016 and she commissioned the system for the University and oversaw its phased development over 3 years. She led the team that does copyright licensing and worked daily with part of the Portal that manages copyright. She also worked closely with the team that commission the vast array of video, audio and television produced for the University, both by internal and external producers. Alma witnessed first hand the positive impact of the portal on a daily basis since its introduction in 2013. She said:

"The Production Portal has made the lives of our commissioners, producers and copyright licensing staff so much easier, and their work more efficient. I was often told that they would not wish to return to the 'old ways' where email exchanges, telephone conversations and pieces of paper were archived in a variety of places to keep track of rights clearances on projects. At a glance, commissioners can see how the intellectual property rights for each of their commissions are progressing and keep a close eye on costs. Accurate negotiation trails are stored in one place for easy access alongside transcripts, PasCs and third-party documentation.”

“They can refer to these details at any time. They are able to swiftly update information themselves and share it with numerous stakeholders: external suppliers, internal studio resource and the Rights department. So it saves a lot of people a lot of time and saves the University money.”

In 2015 the project won two awards. It was chosen as the Best Cloud Project of the year at the Computer Weekly European User Awards, for its "innovation and creativity" in utilising Microsoft's Azure Cloud.

It also received The Digital Innovation of the Year Award at The Times Higher Education Leadership and Management Awards (THELMA), where judges recognised the Production Portal’s contribution to “technology to improve the administration or management of an institution.”

Martin Hamilton, is a Futurist at Jisc, the organisation that sponsored the THELMA Digital Innovation of the Year award. Mr Hamilton was on the judging panel and his job is to spot emerging trends and new technologies with potential for the education and skills sector. Speaking at the time of the award, Mr Hamilton said:

“Rights management for audio visual content is a major issue for all institutions, given the enormous growth of digital media in teaching and learning.”

“With this award submission it was great to see how The Open University has exploited technology to simplify these processes and also control the risk of litigation and reputational damage that might arise from inappropriate re-use of third party material.”

“At Jisc we are seeing institutions moving more and more towards online education and blended learning. The Production Portal has great potential for transferability, across both higher and further education.”

Since winning these awards, Mr. Harding had been working to develop this potential and has founded Production Mill to bring a commercial version of the Production Portal to the education market. He also continues to work with the Open University, supporting their system and developing further features for Production Mill.

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Media contact: Anna Marriott [email protected] or 07525 422 308

The main features of Production Mill are:

• Logging 3rd party copyrighted material that have been used in a piece of educational output, and the rights the University has licensed for those assets.

• A rich multi-media cloud-based digital asset library, that content producers and academics can log into from anywhere to search, view, download and reuse existing content; and also upload new content they have created.

• A production workflow and approval system for commissioners, producers and academics to keep track of production paperwork, budgets and timelines.

• Automatic contract generation, to streamline the process of creating commissioning contracts for the large number of external production companies the University uses.

• Reporting. Tracking everything being produced in the system allows University department heads to budget for new productions and to adjust staffing levels to cope with the demands of the University’s productions.

The Open University’s version of Production Mill now has over 700 users, both internal University staff and external users from the many production companies the OU uses.

The system has been used to produce over 29,000 pieces of audio & video content, from an 18 hour long Massive Open Online Course (MOOC) on Managing Personal Investments, to short audio clips that are only a few seconds long.

Over 88,000 3rd party copyrighted assets have been cleared for use through the system, including: 40,000 images, 15,000 pieces of film footage, 17,000 human contributors, 800 locations and 4500 pieces of music.

Further information on Production Mill can be found at:

About Production Mill

Production Mill is the multi-award winning cloud-based system, built for all members of your production teams to plan, commission, track, create and deliver great content.

Contact Details

272 Bath Street,
Glasgow, Scotland,
G2 4JR

+44 (0)141 356 5111