This summer saw the launch of a new Jisc publication based on the outcomes of the Jisc Institutional Approaches to Curriculum Design programme. It is a short, assessible publication that provides practical tips and resources to enable those involved in curriculum design and approval in higher education to enhance their practices through the use of technology. The publication is available to download from the Jisc website.
Watch out for the launch of a related infoKit on ‘Managing course information’which draws together guidance and resources from both the Jisc Curriculum programmes and the Course Data programme. A taster is available on the Jisc infoNet website.
Challenges and context
The last four years have seen unprecedented change in higher education in the UK. During that time 12 universities funded under the JISC Institutional Approaches to Curriculum Design programme have been steering change projects through some significant challenges to transform their institutions’ approaches to curriculum design. The projects were focusing on a range of issues including: delivering a more flexible, responsive curriculum; developing fit-for-purpose quality processes; managing course related information more effectively and; enhancing the learning experience and meeting learners’ expectations. Many of these challenges have acquired greater urgency in a more constrained funding environment but the ultimate goal has always been to enhance the curriculum offer, making it more responsive to new markets and needs, more sustainably delivered, more flexible, and more attuned to the capabilities required by graduates in the 21st century.
Analysis and Findings
The programme’s final synthesis report authored by Helen Beetham provides a final analysis of findings, deliverables and outcomes. It aims to inform the sector of key issues and developments in curriculum design surfaced over the four years of the programme and evidence that institutional and technology-enhanced approaches to curriculum design are both possible and valuable (though challenging). It will also provide material for further communications aimed at specific parts of the sector. The analysis is focused around five core themes: transformed curriculum processes; transformed curriculum information; transformed design practices; transformed learning opportunities and; transformed organisations.
In summary, the programme has demonstrated:
• More transparent processes with shared, accessible representations of the curriculum can support better stakeholder engagement in curriculum design
• More efficient processes can save considerable administrative staff time, and may free up curriculum teams to focus on educational rather than administrative concerns
• A focus on the design process rather than its outcomes allows both for lighter-weight approval events and a shorter review cycle with more opportunity for continuous enhancement
• A single, trusted source of course information can be achieved through a centralised academic database, but similar benefits can be gained through enhancing the functions, interfaces and interoperability of existing systems.
• Trusted, relevant, timely information can support educational decision making by curriculum teams.
• Better managed course information also has benefits for students in terms of course/module selection, access to up-to-date information, and parity of experience
• Better managed information allows institutions to analyse the performance of their course portfolio as well as meeting external reporting requirements.
• Curriculum design practices can be enhanced through face-to-face workshops with access to resources and guidance.
• Particularly effective resources include concise statements of educational principle with brief examples; and tools/resources for visualising the learning process, e.g. as a storyboard or timeline, or as a balance of learning/assessment activities.
• With better quality guidance and information available, curriculum teams can build credible benefit/business cases and respond more effectively to organisational priorities.
To view the report (pdf and online version) and for support resources around curriculum design and delivery from JISC, visit the Design Studio.
This summer saw the launch of a new JISC On Air Radio show which explores curriculum design and the role technology plays in supporting changes to organisational practices and processes. The focus is on the different approaches to curriculum change and engaging stakeholders of two universities involved in the Curriculum Design programme – Birmingham City University (BCU) and Manchester Metropolitan University (MMU).
Reporter Kim Catcheside talks to staff and students at both universities about their experiences. This includes an interview with Sonia Hendy-Isaac, a senior lecturer at Birmingham City University who explains how the T-SPARC project has been developing a framework which facilitates better dialogue and transparency around course design and approval to enable more agile and responsive curricula. Kim also talks to Professor Mark Stubbs, Head of Learning and Research Technologies at Manchester Metropolitan University about transformational changes to the curriculum there and the role of the Supporting Responsive Curricula project in supporting this. Project Manager, Peter Bird, discusses how some of these system and process changes are enabling academic staff to focus more on teaching and Professor Kevin Bonnet, Deputy Vice-Chancellor for Student Experience, explains the business imperative for change at the institution.
You can listen to the radio show here.
Building on the work of the JISC OULDI project, the Open University will be leading a MOOC (Massive Open Online Course) on the theme of curriculum design with OERs (open educational resources) (see announcement). This will run from September to December 2012 and will be valuable for anyone seeking to develop their professional skills and experience in curriculum design, learning design and use of OERs in education. In particular the course will appeal to new and established HE and FE lecturers, to those completing professional certificates in teaching, and to researchers and managers of teaching and learning innovation.
Eight core themes will provide the focus for weekly activities, speaker presentations, discussions and postings of useful resources and tools. It will give access to, and the opportunity to learn from, successful UK JISC and HEA projects in addition to some of the best of European initiatives. The resulting aggregate resource will remain online for future use.
Further details regarding how to get involved, start dates, and core themes will be announced during the summer. In the meantime, please register your interest here: http://goo.gl/j5jIe. The Curriculum Design MOOC will be funded by JISC and the Open University and supported by the OULDI project, Learning Design Grid and other partner organisations, including the University of Greenwich.
For the last time, I’ve pulled together a summary of the twitter activity from last week’s final programme meeting in Birmingham. View the story “#jisccdd Celebrating Success and Continuing the Journey” on Storify.
As the programme has developed, it has been great to see the connections between and beyond the programme. Using Martin Hawksey’s google twitter archive template, it has been possible to create an archive of the programme hashtag #jisccdd.. From this we are also able to create an interactive visualisation of twitter interactions.
As the Design projects come to and end and are compiling their final stories of their four year journeys, I’ve been thinking about timelines. So, in preparation for next week’s final programme meeting, here’s a timeline which pulls pictures and videos from youtube and twitter that have been tagged with #jisccdd (thanks to my colleague Martin Hawksey for creating the template to do this).
I also set up a couple of other timelines using the Diptiy timeline service way back in 2009:
This one pulls a feed from the CETIS Curriculum Design web site topic area
This the #jisccdd twitter feed.
And this one has various feeds relating to #jisccdd
**NB this post has been amended from a post on my CETIS blog**
Continuing from my last post, the next part of the programme technical journey focuses on the Cluster B projects: Co-educate, SRC, P3 who had similar objectives in terms of organisational change.
In terms of organisational change, SRC (Supporting Responsive Curricula) is part of larger set of project EQAL which is radically changing the way the MMU provides learning services (in the broadest sense) to its students. Other JISC funded initiatives e.g. the W2C project are connected to this major organisational change, of which SOA approaches is key. Professor Mark Stubbs’ keynote presentation at this years CETIS conference gives an overview of their overall technical approach.
MMU is in the processes “introducing a new curriculum framework, new administrative systems and processes, revised quality assurance processes and new learning systems to transform the student experience” and the SRC project has been at heart of the complete revision of all undergraduate courses, through developing a processes and workflows for a common curriculum database which feeds into a range of other learning services a part of their “corePlus” learning environment provision.
All course module and assessment structures have been completely revised (starting with first year and now extending to 2nd and 3rd). A new course database is now being populated using a common set of forms which provide a common set of tags (including competencies) and unique identifiers for courses which can be used a part of a wider set of “mash up” activities for students to access. When redesigning the course database, extensive stakeholder engagement and mapping was undertaking (using Archimate) in relation to QA processes which formed a key part of the project’s baseline report. A case study details this work and this blog post provides a summary of the new course documentation and QA processes including a map of the new peer review process.
A key part of the project has been to explore effective ways for students to showcase their experience and abilities to employers. A number of systems have been explored and an institutional e-porfolio strategy produced. A decision has now been taken to provide institutional support for Mahara, beginning in September 2013.
In terms of standards/specifications, this being MMU, XCRI is integral to their systems but hasn’t been a core part of the project. Like other projects, the institutional demand for xcri is still not widespread. However members of the team are key to developments around the integration (and thereby extension) of XCRI into other specifications such as MLO and various competency related initiatives.
Now the major technical implementations have been implemented, the team are now focussing on the wider cultural changes, engagement with staff e.g. the development of the Accrediation! Board game which I’ve written about before, and evaluation.
“Coeducate is a cross institutional project that will focus our staff on a re-engineering of the professional curriculum. It will develop new processes and technical systems to support curriculum development and design that start with the needs of the learner and their organisation. This will be negotiated and delivered in partnership and with full recognition of in-work and experiential learning.”
Coeducate, has taken an the almost opposite approach to MMU in terms of a top down approach to creating and managing new courses. They have connected their SITS database with their new Moodle installation see this blog post for an overview, but unlike MMU do not have a set of course templates, or the same level of automatic course population. Instead, staff now have more flexibility in terms of creating courses suited to their specific needs, as this post and linked documentation describes. The IDIBL framework has also been developing as template for course creation, however the institution has developed an alternative undergraduate curriculum framework. The team have also produced a report on approaches to developing open courses, which again should provide a useful staff development resources.
Following this more bottom up approach, the team have also instigated an series of innovation support network seminars and produced a set of online resources (housed in Moodle) to support staff as new institution validation process are being introduced. Like so many of the projects being caught up in a sea of other institutional change initiatives that aren’t as tightly coupled as MMU, the project has focused effort on providing support to staff to guide them (and in turn the institution) through changes such as course revalidation. The project has been able to to influence and inform institutional strategy to initiatives such as course revalidation through some light weight data analysis of the VLE in terms of course structure, numbers and types of assessment etc.
Over the past year, the team have also been exploring the Business Model Canvas tool in terms of its suitability for learning design planning and/or conceptual modelling. The flexibility of the tool has been identified as a key strength. The team have found other more specific learning design tools such as the LDSE too prescriptive. This post outlines the approach of integrating this tool within Archi (which is being developed by colleagues at the University of Bolton). The tool is currently being trialled with PGCHE students, and again will hopefully provide another design tool for the University and the rest of the community. The team have been using the tool to support staff in course revalidation process, and are lobbying for its adoption into the formal revalidation process.
The team had hoped to do more work on integrating widgets into Moodle for course authoring. However staff issues and a refocus of project priorites has meant that not as much progress on this has been made as originally intended. However, over the last few months the team have been able to build a customisable 8LEM widget (more information and a link to a beta version is available here). The principles outlined in the 8LEM methodology are also the basis for the work of the Viewpoints project, and by the end of this June, it is hoped that there will be at least two versions of the widget available based on the approaches of the Viewpoints project as well as the “vanilla” version.
Bolton has also been successful in gaining funding for one of the JISC Course Data projects and this project will extend work started in Co-educate. The work done through the CoEducate project has help to articulate some of the key requirements for data reporting and practical uses of data collection, including key indicators for retention and drop out.
As with other projects, the challenge for the team is to ensure that the resources and approaches explored and advocated through the project continue to be embedded within institutional frameworks.
“As a ‘hub’ initiative, the project aims to enable the University to join together its various change initiatives around curriculum development into a coherent and radical overall change process, which will ensure all stakeholder needs are understood, identify overlooked problems areas, and provide a sustainable solution . . .”
The Enable project started out with the vision of connecting and enhancing institutional processes. As with all the other projects, senior management buy-in was always a critical part of the project and a Senior Management Working Group was set up to ensure this buy-in. Part of the wider institutional story has been the relatively high number of changes at senior executive level which have impacted the project. The team have shared their experiences around managing change and information processes.
In terms of technologies, as well as being part of the Design Programme, the project has engaged with a number of other JISC funed initiatives. The team have been an early champion of EA approaches and have been involved with the JISC FSD EA practice group initiative. They have piloted TOGAF approaches in an Archimate pilot. Their experiences of using Archi in for their work in external examiners pilot are summarised in this blog post and embedded slides. Phil Beavouir, the developer of the Archi tool has also posted a thoughtful response to this post. If you are interested in EA approaches , I would recommend both these posts.
The team have also been experimenting with a number of different ways to automate their code build, acceptance, testing and deployment processes. These tools and techniques are being adopted and used in other areas now too. Again the team have promised to share more via the blog, in the meantime a summary of the technologies they are using are detailed in the project Project prod entry.
The team have been looking at Sharepoint and, another example of cross JISC programme fertilisation, were able to gain some of the benefits realisation funding for the Pineapple project to experiment with its software. An overview presentation is available here. The pilot was successful, but, at this point in time, no institutional decision on an institutional wide document management system has been made, so no further developments are being introduced in respect of this work.
The team feel that the EA approaches have “enabled” them to define with stakeholders the key areas to be addressed in terms of developing effective processes. And, have found that having “just enough backing” for developments has been effective. Particularly in gaining senior management buy-in whilst Executive decisions are not possible. The project has been able to illustrate potential working solutions to recognised problem areas. They have also been sharing their experiences of EA extensively with the rest of the sector, through presentations at various institutions.
“The Personalised Curriculum Creation through Coaching (PC3) project is developing a framework that places coaching at the heart of the personalised curriculum design. Learners will be able to select provision suitable to their needs, construct an award (or module set), access resources and learning support, and negotiate assessment, with structured support from a personal coach. The PC3 Framework will facilitate this process by developing the necessary processes, documentation, training and technological support, within the context of Leeds Met’s flexible learning regulations and systems.”
Again the PC3 project has been on quite a journey over the past three and and a half years. Changes at senior management level have meant that, whilst not changing the underlying principles of the project of using coaching (as explained in its curriculum model ), the project team have had to adapt some of their anticipated approaches and have experienced delays in decisions around key institutional wide provision of technologies.
A major milestone for the project has been decision to adopt PebblePad as the institutional portfolio system. The team acknowledge that there is still work to be done around the integration of resources in the VLE and in Pepplepad, in terms of the user experience of switching between systems. Perhaps Pepplepad’s planned LTI adoption will help mitigate some of these issues.
The project is now reaping the rewards of their early work in staff development and are now working increasingly to support students, and their use of technology whilst implementing the PC3 coaching methodology. The approach is now embedded into the Sport Business Management Degree programme (see this post for more information) and students are playing an increasingly important role as coaching ambassadors.
Earlier in the project the team had created a number of video based resources around coaching. Now they are supporting students in the creation and sharing of videos as part of their course work and as coaching ambassadors. The team are working with institutional AV staff around developing approaches to creating video resources with students. The project is also planning a conference, where students will be key contributers, and plan to video sessions and make the recordings available as a set of resources.
The team are also seeing increasing use of social media sites such as Facebook for communication and even for running coaching sessions. This has very much been student driven and developments are being monitored with interest.
The team have also been using a number of google products (forms and documents) for sharing of project information and for part of their evaluation by using google forms to collect session feedback.
Where possible, the project are releasing resources as OER. To this end have they have benefited from the experiences of the Streamline project which was funded through the JISC/HEA Academy OER programme. Institutionally there has been a significant development around workflow of OERs with the institutional repository and the JORUM national repository that the project has benefited from. Again another example of cross programme sharing of experience.
So, another set of projects with common aims but very different approaches to organisational change. In many ways, a top down approach as exemplified by MMU may well be the most effective way to gain widespread adoption. However, MMU have benefited from a more stable senior management perspective and have not had to re-articulate their vision to a different set (or sets) of stakeholders during the project lifecycle as some of the other projects have. Engaging staff and students at different levels, as Bolton and Leeds, have done may well be just as effective in terms of seeing real pedagogical change in the longer term. But whatever approach, the importance of modelling and being able to visualise, and develop conversations and engagement has been central.
**NB this post has been amended from a post on my CETIS blog**
Continuing from my last post, the next part of the programme technical journey focuses on Cluster B projects: T-Sparc, PALET, UG-Flex and PREDICT who all had a broad common theme of organizational change.
In many ways this cluster represents the ‘business end’ of the programme. With Cardiff, Greenwich and City Universities all having pretty robust institutional system integrations in place before the programme started. The programme was a way to develop these existing systems to allow more effective and pedagogically driven processes to be developed and incorporated.
Unlike the other 3 projects in this cluster, T-Sparc didn’t have as robust an infrastructural starting point, however providing a means for organizational change around curriculum design was a key driver.
The project had four key aims;
“• To inform programme design activity through the improved provision of relevant information to those stakeholders engaged in curriculum design.
• To redesign the ICT infrastructure which supports the workflow of curriculum design and programme approval processes.
• To develop and pilot mechanisms for supporting, through electronic means, course team discussion during their programme design activity.
• To develop and pilot the electronic representation of programmes and underpinning evidence for the purposes of approval.”
One of the key findings from previous technical conversations with the programme was the number of instances of Sharepoint, and its central role for a number of projects. As I commented then, that probably wasn’t that surprising given the that over 90% of UK universities have an installation. The T-SPARC project initially were looking towards utilizing Sharepoint as a definitive document repository and take advantage of its document version control abilities. However as the project has progressed, it has evolved to become the central part of their curriculum design system. A number of workflows were created from their stakeholder enagement and baselining processes using combination of modeling techniques including experiments with BPMN, UML and Visio as outlined in these blog posts.
The team were also able to negotiate dedicated time from an specialist Sharepoint developer in the institution to work with them using an agile development process. A dedicated area in the project blog documents their experiences in working with Sharepoint, and agile project methodology. The posts in this area are particularly useful in sharing real experiences of a project working with agile methods, as well as with corporate IT services – worth a look if you are new or going to be working with others new to this type of approach. Their prototype PADS (programme design and approval system) system is now being trialed by eight programme teams. A key challenge in terms of sustainability and embedding is how to ensure that the system is integrated into wider institutional initiatives such as the recent implementation of SITS. However, as with many other projects, cultural interoperability is perhaps more of a challenge than its technical counterpart.
Perhaps the leading light in terms the use of video narratives, the T-Sparc team have invested time and money into capturing the stories and experiences of their key stakeholders (staff and students) included a very innovative video baseline report. The team have used a mix of video caputure methods including flipcams and the ipad based MiiTuu sytesm. The later is a relatively new development which the team have been using with students and employers. The allows exporting and sharing of questionnaires across devices and allow for time reductions in the setting up and gathering of data. The system utilizes i-Tunes, BCU has an institutional wide itunes provision, so again sharing is simplified. The use of video for personal reflection is fairly mainstream within the institution now too. The team have made extensive use of free editions of video editing/compression packages (Handbrake, Microsoft Expression), however they are still searching for a real time video compressor. Ideally one which would compress on the fly and have an automagic deposit to repository feature to suit their needs – and budget. Again storage for video is an issue (as highlighted in this post) – is this where cloud storage could play a useful institutional role?
The team are also developing a Rough Guide to Curriculum Design which is outlined in this post which will synthesis all aspects of the project.
In contrast to T-Sparc, the PALET project was working within the context of a fairly robust internal technical infrastructure based largely on IBM websphere and Lotus tools. Institutionally, the Lean methodology was also being widely supported. Cardiff also had previous experience of Enterprise Architeture and, as the project developed, through other institutional projects, links to the JISC FSD programme.
The PALET project’s aims were to:
“Utilising the Lean Thinking methodology for process improvements, the PALET project will develop revised procedures for the approval of new programmes to create a more agile, efficient and flexible approach to the design of new curricula and the subsequent programme approval process. In the context of the University’s Modern IT Working Environment (MWE) project, a service-oriented approach will be utilised to develop a toolset to support academic and support staff through each stage of the new programme approval process, which will also ensure that the resulting programme and module information is clearly defined and can be seamlessly utilised by other business applications.”
Key to the project has been the creation of a single data source which contains all relevant curriculum design and approval information which can be easily re-purposed and accessed by various stakeholders. Interestingly the project has ended up taking a scaled down approach and building their own webservices and not using IBM tools.
They have moved away from using websphere as their main data source and SITS is now core for the storage of course related information. This has allowed the team to write their own webservices using Grails, and taking restful approaches and the Groovy programming language. This was quite a sea change for all involved as outlined in this blog post. As highlighted in the post, the team have found this experience very useful, and this generic web services approach/architecture is now being rolled out in other parts of data provision in the University. This should help with sustainability and the embedding of more data services/ provision as and when needed. Again the successful managing of change during the lifecycle of the project has been key for everyone. Sometimes a simple approach is best.
Parts of the their larger infrastructure remain and there are now better connections with for example Lotusnotes and bringing feeds and topics into one overarching portal for end users. However, the team have developed a dedicated portlet for course information which links to the main websphere portal. Details of which are outlined in their portlet technical specification. The work done on the underlying technical infrastructure ensures that the progress in terms of redesigning course and module templates can be fully utilised.
Like T-Sparc, the team are still analyzing the need for XCRI, and are confident that they could easily create a feed if need, however there still aren’t key internal drivers for this as yet.
A full technical specification for the project is also available.
Like PALET, UG-Flex also had a robust infrastructure (based largely on SunGard Banner ) in place which they planned to build on.
“We envisage that our technical outputs will be of use to other institutions using SunGard’s Banner system and we plan to feed these outputs into the European and international Banner community. The project also intends to share the lessons learned about the challenges of working with a proprietoriaml product based applications with the wider education community.”
Although the institution did have dedicated business analysts the experience of the project has had an impact on approaches to business processes in general and the use of and techniques applied for modelling. For example although their Business Analyst were conversant with various visual modeling techniques and languages (BPMM, BPEL, UML) to illustrate and developed technical infrastructures, having resource dedicated to the project allowed them to work at a far greater level of detail. This experience has allowed the for the processes used in the project be incorporated into day to day techniques in other large scale projects throughout the University. Exploration of TOGAF methodologies is ongoing and staff are undertaking accreditation training..
In previous conversations with the team, they had expressed an interest in XCRI. Greenwich has been successful in gaining one of the JISC Course Data projects and it is now embarking on their xcri-cap production stage. A nice example a synergistic relationship with the outcomes and findings of UG-Flex, and future institutional planning e.g. KIS returns.
Through Banner, there is use of IMS enterprise compliant tools, but there has never been a plan to develop anything at the enterprise level. However, in terms of future developments there are some major changes for the IT team. The new versions of Banner are now component based as opposed to Oracle based. Whilst on the one hand this does allow for greater flexibility and more agile approaches, as well as an improved UI; on the other this is a major change for some more traditional database developers, and so an issue for staff skills and development.
Again we had talked about Sharepoint in previous discussions, and concerns had been raised about its suitability for managing data as opposed to documents which it has undoubted strengths in. Now there is a fully supported installation in their Business School. Preparatory work is been undertaken around implementing some automated workflows, in particular around QA processes which have been developed through UG-Flex. As an adjunct to this work, and UG-Flex, a personalized timetabling service is being developed and trialled in the Business School. The team have also kindly agreed to write this up as a guest post in the CETIS other voices blog.
During the project lifecycle the institution has also migrated to Moodle (more details of some of their approaches and the lesson learnt about stakeholder involvement and process mapping have been included in this summary post from Lou McGill )
Overall the team have found that the UG-Flex project has been exemplary in terms of academic needs driving developments, and not the IT department. Particularly with the VLE migration, there is a strong sense of ownership from the academic community as they feel they have been fully part of the decision and migration process.
PREDICT was again a project with a pretty robust architecture and like UG-Flex, they have noticed a perceptible change in attitude during the lifecycle of the programme. The use, and understanding of the term, Curriculum Design is now far more commonplace in conversations within the IT department, and the core business of the University – teaching and learning – is being considered more at the start of discussions about new IT developments.
“The project focus is to develop a new curriculum design process that is efficient, flexible, focuses on enhancing educational development and the student experience and, is supported with responsive technology to accommodate our curriculum models. It is essential that the design process takes account of our diverse stakeholders – whether learners, staff or employers.”
In light of the KIS requirements they are reviewing their current data provision and in particular their local course information database (Prism). They are considering some re-engineering and simplification of the UI, taking a more component/SOA approach. They have also been in discussions with other institutions about building similar tools in SITS. SITS and in particular StuTalk has proved to be central for developing more business processes, and they have “service enabled” their installation for wider business processes. Like Cardiff they use IBM Websphere and it provides their key middleware stack. In conjunction with these back-end developments, the project has also made progress in the redesign of their course and module documentation for staff.
The PREDICT project, and other internal projects relating to blended learning have been useful in terms of developments in their Moodle deployment, and getting people to engage more about using it, and not just using it as a defacto course notes repository.
One area the PREDICT project has highlighted is a gap in up to date information on staff in the HR system. There is basic employment/payroll information but not an awful lot on what they actually do day to day. Creating more personalised timetables is something they (and many others) are currently investigating. The potential for joining up curriculum information, student information with staff information so, for example, a student would see which lecturer was taking each class, and have links to the staff members research interests; publications etc is very attractive. But again, requires more work on the sharing of the appropriate information between systems.
Overall the project has shown that it is worthwhile to allow staff and students and the IT department time to think through their IT service provision together. Enhancing business processes alone can’t make a poorly designed course better (the supporting pedagogically guidance the project has produced will help with that!), but they can make some tasks easier/less time consuming. Like UG-Flex there is now more IT provision planning being done in conjunction with educational development staff which wouldn’t have happened before the project.
So from this cluster, agility and greater communication between central IT provision has been key. Agile approaches can allow for more rapid development of light-weight, but effective web services as highlighted by PALET. However, this change of approach can bring with it issues of staff skills and development. Effective communication is always central to the success of any change process, and maintaining the links fostered through these projects will be key for future sustainability and embedding.
**NB this post has been amended from a post on my CETIS blog**
This is the first of a series of posts summarizing the technical aspects of the JISC
Curriculum Design Programme, based on a series of discussions between CETIS and the projects. These yearly discussions have been annotated and recorded in our PROD database.
The programme is well into its final year with projects due to finish at the end of July 2012. Instead of a final report, the projects are being asked to submit a more narrative institutional story of their experiences. Rachel’s recent post gives a great overview of this approach. As with any long running programme, in this instance, four years, a lot has changed since the projects started both within institutions themselves and in the wider political context the UK HE sector now finds itself.
At the beginning of the programme, the projects were put into clusters based on three high level concepts they (and indeed the programme) were trying to address
• Business processes – Cluster A
• Organisational change – Cluster B
• Educational principles/curriculum design practices – Cluster C
I felt that it would be useful to summarize my final thoughts or my view of overall technical journey of the programme – this maybe a mini epic! This post will focus on the Cluster C projects, OULDI (OU), PiP (University of Strathclyde) and Viewpoints (University of Ulster). These projects all started with explicit drivers based on educational principles and curriculum design practices.
OULDI (Open University Learning Design Initiative)
*Project Prod Entry
The OULDI project, has been working towards “ . . .develop and implement a methodology for learning design composed of tools, practice and other innovation that both builds upon, and contributes to, existing academic and practioner research.”
The team have built up an extensive toolkit around the design process for practitioners, including: Course Map template, Pedagogical Features Card Sort, Pedagogy Profiler and Information Literacies Facilitation Cards.
Cloudworks, and its open source version CloudEngine is one of the major technical outputs for the programme. Originally envisioned as a kind of flickr for learning designs, the site has evolved into something slightly different “a place to share, find and discuss learning and teaching ideas and experiences.” In fact this evolution to a more discursive space has perhaps made it a far more flexible and richer resource. Over the course of the programme we have seen the development from the desire to preview learning designs to last year LAMS sequences being fully embedded in the site; as well as other embedded resources such as video diaries from the teams partners.
The site was originally built in Drupal, however the team made a decision to switch to using Codeigniter. This has given them the flexibility and level control they felt they needed. Juliette Culver has written an excellent blog post about their decision process and experiences.
Making the code open source has also been quite a learning curve for the team which they have been documenting and they plan to produce at least one more post aimed at developers around some of the practical lessons they have learned. Use of Cloudworks has been growing, however take up of the open-source version hasn’t been quite as popular an option. I speculated with the team that perhaps it was simply because the original site is so user-friendly that people don’t really see the need to host their own version. However I think that having the code available as open source can only be a “good thing”, particularly for a JISC funded project. Perhaps some more work on showing examples of what can be done with the API (e.g. building on the experiments CETIS did for our 2010 Design Bash ) might be a way to encourage more experimentation and integration of parts of the site in other areas, which in turn might led to the bigger step of implementing a stand alone version. That said, sustaining the evolution of Cloudworks is a key issue for the team. In terms of internal institutional sustainability there is now commitment to it and it has being highlighted in various strategy papers particularly around enhancing staff capability.
Compendium LD has also developed over the programme life-cyle. Now PC, Mac and Linux versions are available to download. There is also additional help built into the tool linking to Cloudworks, and a prototype areas for sharing design maps . The source code is also available under a GNU licence. The team have created a set of useful resources including a useful video introduction, and a set of user guides. It’s probably fair to say that Compendium LD is really for “expert designers”, however the team have found the icon set used in the tool really useful in f2f activities around developing design literacies and using them as part of a separate paper-based output.
The project focus has focused on the development and facilitation of its set of curriculum re-design workshops. “We aim to create a series of user-friendly reflective tools for staff, promoting and enhancing good curriculum design.”
The Viewpoints process is now formally embedded the institutional course re-validation process. The team are embarking on a round of ‘train the trainer’ workshops to create a network of Viewpoints Champions to cascade throughout the University. A set of workshop resource packs are being developed which will be available via a booking system (for monitoring purposes) through the library for the champions. The team have also shared a number of outputs openly through a variety of channels including delicious , flickr and slideshare.
The project has focused on f2f interactions, and are using now creating video case studies from participants which will be available online over the coming months. The team had originally planned on building an online narration tool to complement (or perhaps even replace) the f2f workshops. However they now feel that the richness of the workshops could not be replaced with an online version. But as luck would have it, the Co-Educate project is developing a widget based on the 8-LEM model, which underpins much of the original work on which Viewpoints evolved, and so the project is discussing ways to input and utilize this development which should be available by June.
Early in the project, the team explored some formal modelling approaches, but found that a lighter weight approach using Balsamiq particularly useful for their needs. It proved to be effective both in terms of rapid prototyping and reducing development time, and getting useful engagement from end users. Balsamiq, and the rapid prototyping approach developed through Viewpoints is now being used widely by the developers in other projects for the institution.
Due to the focus on developing the workshop methodology there hasn’t been as much technical integration as originally envisaged. However, the team has been cognisant of institutional processes and workflows. Throughout the project the team have been keen to enable and build on structured data driven approaches allowing data to be easily re-purposed.
The team are now involved in the restructuring of a default course template area for all courses in their VLE. The template will pull in a variety of information sources from the library, NSS, assignment dates as well as a number of the frameworks and principles (e.g. assessment) developed through the project. So there is a logical progression from the f2f workshop, to course validation documentation, to what the student is presented with. Although the project hasn’t formally used XCRI they are noting growing institutional interest in it and data collection in general.
The team would like to continue with a data driven approach and see the development of their timetabling provision to make it more personalised for students.
PiP (Principles in Patterns)
*Project Prod Entry
The aims of the PiP project are:
” (i) develop and test a prototype on-line expert system and linked set of educational resources that, if adopted, would:
· improve the efficiency of course and class approval processes at the University of Strathclyde
· help stimulate reflection about the educational design of classes and courses and about the student experiences they would promote
· support the alignment of course and class provision with institutional policies and strategies
(ii) use the findings from (i) to share lessons learned and to produce a set of recommendations to the University of Strathclyde and to the HE sector about ways of improving class and course approval processes”
Unlike OULDI and Viewpoints, this project was less about f2f engagement supporting staff development in terms of course design, and focused on designing and building a system built on educationally proven methodology (e.g. The Reap Project). In terms of technical outputs, in some ways the outputs and experiences of the team actually mirrored more of those from the projects in Cluster B as PiP, like T-SPARC has developed a system based on Sharepoint, and like PALET has used Six Sigma and Lean methodologies.
The team have experimented extensively with a variety of modelling approaches, from UML and BPMN via a quick detour exploring Archi, for their base-lining models to now adopting Visio and the Six Sigma methodology. The real value of modelling is nearly always the conversations the process stimulates, and the team have noticed a perceptible change within the institution around attitudes towards, and the recognition of the importance of understanding and sharing core business processes. The project process workflow diagram is one I know I have found very useful to represent the complexity of course design and approval systems.
The team now have a prototype system, C-CAP, built on Sharepoint which is being trialled at the moment. The team are currently reflecting on the feedback so far via the project blog. This recent post outlines some of the divergent information needs within the course design and approval process. I’m sure many institutions could draw parallels with these thoughts and I’m sure the team would welcome feedback.
In terms of the development of the expert system, they team has had to deal with a number of challenges in terms of the lack of institutional integration between systems. Sharepoint was a common denominator, and so an obvious place to start. However, over the course of the past few years, there has been a re-think about development strategies. Originally it was planned to build the system using a .Net framework approach. Over the past year the decision was made to change to take an InfoPath approach. In terms of sustainability the team see this as being far more effective and hope to see a growing number of power users as apposed to specialist developers, which the .Net approach would have required. The team will be producing a blog post sharing the developers experience of building the system through the InfoPath approach.
Although the team feel they have made inroads around many issues, they do still see issues institutionally particularly around data collection. There is still ambiguity about use of terms such as course, module, programme between faculties. Although there is more interest in data collection in 2012 than in 2008 from senior management, there is still some work to be done around the importance and need for consistency of use.
So from this cluster, a robust set of tools for engaging practitioners with resources to help kick start the (re) design process and a working prototype to move from the paper based resources into formal course approval documentation.