This post is basically a thinly-veiled, massive plug for Box.net. You can read all about what it’s supposed to do on their website, but I’ve been using it here at Canadian Polytechnic as a media repository for one of the programs I work with.
Consider the problem (one not so unique): you work within a large unit that produces fantastic media for the institution on a daily basis. This media gets used by instructors and students via different channels–online courses using a CMS, websites, powerpoints, even paper manuals. The media is then dispersed through all these channels and sits in various locations–personal hard drives, servers, DVDs, CMS repositories. There is no central index to the media, therefore no way of locating a: what has been created and b: where it is sitting. Basically, imagine all the contents of your institutional library distributed across the cubicles of your institution’s 5 campuses, without knowing what is sitting at which cubicle.
Let’s say you need a series of images of boats. Given the size of your institution, you know that somebody must have some boat pictures that were created for XYZ program, since they talk about boats. You can go and find somebody in the program to see if you can “borrow” them. Alternatively, you have no idea that XYZ program even talks about boats, so you ask somebody at the institution to a: create some boat images or b: purchase some for you. Perhaps your saavy librarian could even see if there are any open access images of boats that could be used. But searching the open repositories is pretty time consuming, and not always fruitful, so that might not turn up anything.
Your institution might be in discussion about setting up a searchable repository for institutionally created media. But this might take a while for various reasons, and in the meantime XYZ program has decided that they want to a: locate all the media sitting in the CMS courses and have it in one place, b: make it searchable and shareable with other programs in the Faculty/School/Institute and other institutions. But it has to be super easy to:
1. get any kind of media into the repository (from docs to movies, with a drag and drop interface)
2. tag it
3. share it (simple link so borrowers don’t to have to set up accounts or login)
4. search it
5. control permissions (different media and programs require different levels of permissions)
Box does a lot more than all that, but this is what we’ve found useful. I like to think of it as a very small step towards an OER strategy at our institute–when the tools make it easier to share, then sharing might actually happen.