We have funded a number of innovation programmes that have made a significant contribution to improving the management of course information across the post-compulsory education sector. This section gives a brief overview of the key programmes and looks at some of the enabling tools techniques and approaches that have allowed participating organisations to deliver suitable efficiencies and other benefits.
Improving course information management
From September 2011 through to March 2013 we funded a sector-wide programme, the course data programme: making the most of course information, to support improved management of course information:
- 93 universities and colleges participated in stage one of the programme to review their readiness for standardising their approach to managing course information for advertising purposes and to develop an implementation plan
- 63 of those continued into stage two of the programme to implement their proposals and deliver ‘feeds’ of course information for external use.
At a casual glance, the scope of the programme may seem quite limited and strictly technical in nature. The requirement on HE providers could be stated quite simply as: ‘The production of a machine readable ‘feed’ of course information in a standardised format’. This does however mask the considerable distance many universities and colleges needed to travel in order to be able to collate and present their data in this way. The overall intention of the programme was always to expose the wider issues around the management of course information and to offer a standards-based approach as a common way for the sector to move forward.
Curriculum lifecycle transformation
Much of this guide is based on the experiences of those institutions in trying to make the most of one of their most important data assets. It also draws heavily on (very similar) experiences on our four-year programme on institutional approaches to curriculum design (2008 – 2012) which worked with 12 universities on very large-scale projects to look at how technology could support transformation of the entire curriculum lifecycle from aligning the portfolio of courses to institutional mission, through market research and course development to quality assurance and enhancement, resource allocation, timetabling, recruitment and assessment.
These projects too found that the management of course information lay at the heart of the problems they were trying to solve.
This section concentrates on improvements made through better data management and business process change. See also the section on course information systems for examples of how technology has been used to assist in these changes.
One very clear message from the participating organisations is the value of working together as part of a Jisc community. Although the sector has a reputation for openness and sharing, these qualities are used to best advantage when they are expertly supported and facilitated as demonstrated by the HEFCE funded CAMEL project which developed a model of peer support now widely used by Jisc, the Higher Education Academy and others.
Projects found that our reporting requirements, although on the face of it a burden, helped clarify thinking and some organisations eg Brunel University have now built similar requirements into their own project management frameworks. The value of sharing in terms of delivering efficiencies and avoiding reinventing the wheel was widely noted as was the value of peer-reviewing ideas and proposed solutions.
"…we solved more issues and generated more ideas through talking to colleagues in other institutions than we would ever have done on our own."
City College Norwich
"One of the most stimulating consequences of taking part in the Jisc scheme has been the interaction it has encouraged between institutions."
The Courtauld Institute of Art
"We continue to learn from other organisations by being part of the Jisc community and have initiated a number of additional conversations which are assisting us in the design and development of future projects and services…"
"Having a sector wide approach to understanding and resolving a similar issue has many benefits…"
"The programme has been very successful in bringing together and building a community of staff drawn from different roles from across the HE sector who are looking at process improvement in their course data."
University of Leicester