Curriculum change and transformation: outcomes from the JISC Curriculum Design programme

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.

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