Update on technologies and standards from the Design Programme

We’ve completed another round of PROD calls with the Design Projects. I’ve summarized some of the key emerging issues on my CETIS blog.

The calls are incredibly useful way for us to engage with projects and talk about things that don’t necessarily need to be put into interim reports. I was heartened to hear that some new project staff members had found PROD useful to get an oversight of technologies other projects were using.

We are working at making the information held within PROD more digestable and useful – particularly when trying to show programme level activity. One thing I think we might need is an additional field or check box in the standards area to indicate if a standard is just mentioned in a project plan and/or being actually implemented. However if you have any thoughts or suggestions please let me know. The database is openly available and for those of you interested in linked data you might be interested to know that we are making it available as linked data (go to a project entry page and add “.rdf” and you’ll see an RDF version of that entry. We are also experimenting with the TALIS platform and explore ways to create some more (hopefully) useful queries and visualisations of the data.

Synthesis report for the Transforming Curriculum Delivery programme

In my role as synthesis consultant to this programme I have recently produced a final report which draws together the wide range of outcomes and outputs. The fifteen Transforming Curriculum Delivery Through Technology projects focussed on the processes that take place when learners engage with the curriculum. Their activities were very diverse and they used technologies to support a range of activities including:

  • assessment and feedback
  • personalisation
  • collaborative learning, peer interaction (assessment, mentoring)
  • student reflection and assessment
  • authentic professional and work-based learning experience
  • students as change agents
  • laboratory and practical learning
  • learner support mechanisms

The synthesis report is entitled Curriculum innovation: pragmatic approaches to transforming learning and teaching through technologies. One of the significant aspects ot the activites undertaken was the level of pragmatism in how projects chose which challenges to focus on and how they used technologies to achieve real change within their institutions… I have written before on this  blog about this – in relation to which technologies were adopted. This post highlighted the fact that these were not all ‘newer’ exciting technologies but a range of techs that were  appropriate, including those that have been around a while such as the VLE. The technologies themselves were not necessarily innovative, but the imaginative ways they were used to solve real problems and improve the experience of staff and learners was notable.

At a time when JISC is under review and people have raised questions about the ability of JISC to deliver innovation I think it is timely that these projects have demonstrated significant impact on student progression, retention and achievement as well as evidencing cost benefits to institutions and improved experiences for staff. After all that is what some of us have been hoping for from the use of technologies in education.  The report describes programme activities in detail and aims to inform other more accessible routes in to the range of useful outputs and lessons learnt. I say more accessible because the report is rather lengthy – as it attempts to provide a range of different views on the programme.

A useful appendix to the report is a benefits table which highlights evidence of impact in a range of areas, including efficiencies, enhancement and transformation. The link takes you to the table in the JISC Curriculum Design Studio –  which draws together existing and emerging resources around both curriculum design and curriculum delivery. This excellent resource provides a range of routes into programme outcomes and project outputs and does include excerpts from my report. Each project has a page which presents a ‘jump-off’ point to their outputs – ranging from case studies, gudiance and toolkits, evaluation documents, videos, and exemplar learning resources.

I hope the report offers a comprehensive account of this programme. Anyone interested in tackling challenges such as student engagement, retention and progression should check this out. For those needing to adopt different approaches to provide flexible learning to a wide range of diverse student groups or who are struggling with inreasing student numbers there are a wealth of excellent approaches that could be adopted in a range of contexts. There are also several great examples illustrating students as change agents.

The outcomes of the programme are way too rich to do justice to in a blog post but I hope I’ve given you enough of a flavour to encourage further investigation.  It will definately be worth it…

(This blog post is adapted from a post on my personal blog)

Transforming curriculum design: Transforming institutions

JISC has recently published a briefing paper produced by Gill Ferrell around the interim findings of the Curriculum Design programme. The paper highlights resources and lessons learned to date which may benefit the sector in a changing environment and looks in particular at how technology could transform the management and development of the curriculum at institutional level.
View and download the publication

A more detailed summary attempts to synthesise key findings from the October 2010 interim reports. This report draws out key ‘headlines’ and significant updates since the last set of reports received in May 2010. These reports are available on the JISC website.

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.

VLEs at the heart of curriculum delivery

The latest article on the JISC elearning Focus blog focuses on the Delivery programme. Through the experiences of four of the projects (e-biolabs, Cascade, Making the New Diploma a Success, and Morse) the article explores how VLEs are being used to support curriculum innovation and discusses why, despite all their shortcomings, VLEs are still are the heart of curriculum development. You can read the full article here.

Joint Making Assessment Count and CETIS meeting, 2 February

Earlier this week the Making Assessment Count project and CETIS ran a joint meeting focused on Assessment and Feedback.

The meeting explored a number of innovative uses of technology to enhance feedback on assessment including electronic and automated feedback, alternatives to the traditional form of written feedback, the student perspective on feedback. Of course examples of good practice emerging from the Curriculum Delivery Programme were highlighted by presentations from the MAC team and programme critical friend, Peter Hartley.

All the presentations prompted a lively and engaging discussion from the audience, and it was great to have students fully integrated to the day to remind us all of the issues they feel are most important.

image of twitter quote

Presentations and more information on the day are available from the CETIS website. I’ve also collated tweets from comments using the #cetismac hashtag and the storify service, which is available from my work blog.

Some views of the standards and technologies used in the Delivery Programme

Following on from my previous post showing some visualizations from information recorded in PROD for the Design Programme, this post gives some views for the Delivery programme. I’ve also written a post on my CETIS blog expanding on these a bit more.

I’ve been going through the final reports and hopefully all the PROD entries for the the projects are accurate, but if anyone from a project notices any omissions (or errors) please let me know.

Delivery wordle November 2010 Many Eyes

Curriculum Delivery, Technologies and Standards in use, Jan 2011 Many Eyes

Tree map of technologies in use in Delivery Programme, Jan 2011 Many Eyes

Clicking on each of the pictures will allow you to explore the graphs in more detail. Hopefully they give some illustration of the range of technologies used across the programme.

Sustaining innovation in curriculum delivery

There was much discussion at last week’s Innovating e-Learning online conference around managing change and how these can support the embedding and sustaining of innovation and new practice within an organisation. This requires significant engagement with a range of stakeholders and linking new approaches and practices to institutional strategies and policies is an integral part of this process. Although each institutional context is different and there is no ‘one-size-fits-all’ approach to effectively embedding innovative change, there are good examples which we can learn from. In a session at the conference, three Curriculum Delivery projects talked about their approaches to sustaining curriculum delivery innovations across three very different institutions.

The Cascade project has introduced a number of technology interventions to enable more effective course design, online access and administration to support continuing and professional learners at the University of Oxford. Engaging a diversity of stakeholders has been a significant challenge but one approach which the project has found invaluable was developing a communications and engagement strategy early on. Key to embedding however has been “tapping into existing structures, talking to people through the channels they already use and engaging with them at the point where they want to use our outputs” (Marion Manton, Project Manager)

The eBiolabs project at Bristol has created an online site dedicated to supporting large cohorts of students in preparing for lab work and introduced automated marking and feedback to ease the assessment burden on teaching staff. Two years on the system is now supporting ten bioscience courses involving 800+ students. The project has successfully leveraged economies of scale and evidenced increased student engagement which has provided the impetus to scale up electronic support and roll out to other faculties and disciplines.

The KUBE* project has developed a range of blended learning models to enhance the use of technology in curriculum delivery and to support learner engagement, progression and achievement in HE business programmes at Kingston College. Engaging teaching teams and learners from the start and developing a sense of ownership of the process has been critical. Through a series of activities including workshops and focus groups the project has achieved ‘buy-in’ and a model of engagement which has seen the uptake of the approach emerging across the College. (*username: jiscguest password: welcome2KC)

A number of other projects across both the Delivery and Design programmes have valuable lessons to share around sustaining innovation, stakeholder engagement and managing change. See the Design Studio for examples.

JISC has also produced a Good Practice Guide on “Sustaining and Embedding Innovations” which draws on the work of the two programmes and other JISC initiatives and will continue to be developed.

Springboard for Success

Congratulations to the College of West Anglia’s Springboard TV project for recently winning a prestigious AoC Beacon Award for Leadership of Innovation in Curriculum Development. The project has developed an online TV channel which provides a creative environment for students and staff on the College’s media courses to share and showcase work.

The TV station forms part of a redesign of the curriculum to improve the student experience by increasing motivation and confidence and fostering a media work ethos. Student recruitment had been in decline with low satisfaction and poor levels of retention and progression. A large part of this was down to limited time for practical work and a poor technological resource base. To help address these challenges, the course team redefined the ‘learner journey’ and the core culture and values the curriculum needed to bring and explored they ways in which technology could enable and transform this process.

The development of the internet TV channel is at the heart of providing an innovative and exciting learning experience to support the development of contemporary media skills by providing a vehicle for sharing and showcasing work produced by the learners. “The facility has enabled development of a very learner centred, meaningful, realistic work environment which is challenging and engaging students leading to skills development and interactive assessment opportunities.” (College Principal, David Pomfret, p.12 project final report). Springboard TV has already been embedded within other curriculum areas at the College and is also being employed to improve communications, College links and support marketing initiatives. As a mark of its success the project has seen a marked increase in recruitment to the media course as well as student engagement in the curriculum resulting in higher retention and progression levels.

Further info:

JISC CETIS conference – fantasy curriculum management systems

Last week saw around 140 delegates gather in Nottingham for the annual JISC CETIS conference. A number of the Design projects contributed to the session “Integrating and Subverting Corporate Systems for Educational Purposes” which I facilitated. Session presenters, Mark Stubbs (SRC), Jim Everett (PiP), Sam Rowley (Enable) and Hugh Davies, University of Southampton (we had to let some other programmes in on the act too ;-)) set the scene by sharing their experiences of mapping and integrating their institutional systems and processes. We then had some time for group working where groups had a chance to set out their requirements for their “fantasy curriculum management system”.

A full report of the session is available from my blog, along with links to the audio/powerpoint files for each of the presentations and video clips of the group feedback.

A summary report on the wider conference is available from the CETIS website.