EA, the Design Studio & Curriculum Design

I have found recent debate within the support team about the Design Studio thought-provoking. Since its inception we have wrestled with the fact that the Curriculum Lifecycle represents a particular view of the territory that is not necessarily shared by all potential users and hence we have looked at providing other pathways through the resources in an attempt to cover the ‘world views’ of the different stakeholders. It has struck me that what we are grappling with here (and elsewhere in the Design Programme) is not dissimilar to the issues that Enterprise Architecture (EA) was designed to tackle.

EA has its roots in work by IBM’s John Zachmann in the 1970s. He worked with the aeronautical industry and saw similarities between what he was trying to do in making sense of complex information systems and bringing together the parts that make up a plane. The difference was that the aeroplane manufacturers had an architecture that allowed them to bring together plans, models and specification on many different levels and turn them into a plane that actually flew. It’s not difficult to take this analogy further and say that the industry as a whole also involves the processes that actually fly people to places with differing levels of in-flight service and different forms of marketing and administration. We want our curricula to actually fly although I wonder how many institutions would respond to the current climate by becoming the Ryanair of the sector?

Zachmann also looked at traditional building architecture. Again there is a many stage process of creating different representations of the end product from rough sketches to architectural blueprints. Different representations are needed to communicate with interior designers, builders, electricians, those responsible for fire safety etc, etc. Zachmann realised that the representations weren’t just different in their level of detail: they differed in ‘essence’. He used this idea to create similar ways of working that could be applied to information systems. This in turn led to the development of EA. EA is much wider than technical infrastructure: it is a strategic management technique that links organisational mission and goals, processes, information and technology.

Is this just idle musing or does it get us anywhere? There are so many similarities with our struggles over representations of the curriculum and indeed in making sense of the overall programme through the Design Studio that I feel it might be worth exploring. Many of the Design Projects are now at the stage where they are looking for ways of measuring institutional transformation. Many of them are already using EA approaches to solve specific problems. Could EA provide a means of describing that journey of transformation? Could it be a way of reconciling world views that necessarily differ in essence not just detail?

I look to those more experienced in actual EA practice to respond but maybe trying some generic models of curriculum design even at a department or faculty level could give us some ideas both about measuring transformation and about better describing our achievements.

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