Curriculum Design Technical Journeys – Part 2

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.

*Project Prod Entry

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.

*Project Prod Entry

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.

*Project Prod Entry

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.

*Project Prod Entry

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 terms of use and standards, the project haven’t really deviated from their original plans. One of the few institutions to be have an implementation of xcri before the programme started, they actually haven’t done much more. They have looked at xcri-cap but, largely due to the current lack of vendor buy-in and wider external drivers, they haven’t felt the need to implement it.

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.

Curriculum Design Technical Journeys: Part 1

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. 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.

The main technical developments for the project have been the creation of the Cloudworks site and the continued development of theCompendium LD learning design tool.

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.

*Project Prod Entry

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.

Accreditation! A games based approach to supporting curriculum development

Earlier this week Rachel Forsyth and Nicola Whitton from the SRC (Supporting Response Curricula) Project at MMU led a webinar titled “Models of Responsiveness”. The session focused on the ways the team have been working with staff across the institution around the complex internal and external issues and drivers around developing “responsive” curricula. The project has done a lot of work in developing a model for measuring responsiveness (see screen shot below) and more information on their work around this is available in the Design Studio.

A Model of Course Responsiveness (SRC)

A Model of Course Responsiveness (SRC)

A core part of the SRC project has been around developing ways to engage staff in not only recognising the need for change but also in helping staff (technical, administrative and academic) make changes in an appropriate and timely manner. The team also recognised that certain aspects of the course approval process could be quite dry. So, to try and make a more engaging experience, as well as a series of traditional support materials, the team have developed a board game called Accreditation! which has been designed specifically to increase knowledge of course approval processes.



Working in pairs, players have to move through three zones, and are faced with a series of series of course approval related dilemmas. Five “quality” stars are needed in order for players to move from zone to zone. Although we only had time to look at a couple of the dilemmas during the session, it was clear that they have been based on very real experiences and are great discussion starters.

Of course games don’t appeal to everyone, and Nicola did point out that at a recent conference some players got a bit carried away with the gaming element and just wanted to win. However, I do think that this approach could have a lot of potential to engage and start discussions around the many aspects of curriculum design.

The game has been released under a CC licence and is available from the Design Studio, and if you did want to use it, you could also develop your own dilemmas too. The team are keen to get feedback from anyone who has used it too.

A recording of the very engaging presentation (c. 1 hour in duration) is available here.

Outputs, deliverables and other stuff

Sustaining and embedding changes to curriculum design practices and processes was the theme for the Curriculum Design Programme meeting held last week in Nottingham.

The projects are now in their final year of a four year funding cycle, and the focus of the activities and discussions were to:

“*Explore how projects can best ensure their activities result in real and sustained changes to curriculum design processes and practices and how to evidence this impact
*Showcase innovative practice from the Curriculum Design programme and explore and discuss how these outputs can assist in transforming curriculum design more widely in other institutions
*Further explore how projects can contribute to the programme level narrative around how institutions are changing the processes and practices relating to curriculum design and the role technology plays within this”

So that by then end of the two days, projects would (hopefully) be able to:

“* outline a clear approach to sustaining their innovations and changes to the curriculum design practices and processes
*outline benefits realisation proposals for embedding their outputs to support institutional enhancement and realising the benefits of their projects more widely
*all projects will have a clearer understanding of the good practice, innovation and findings which have emerged from programme and how this can enhance their own projects and practice.”

Unsurprisingly all the projects have been on quite a journey over the past three and half years. There have been changes to project staff; most projects have had at least one change of Vice Chancellor had to deal with the various re-shuffling of senior management teams which that inevitably brings. For projects concerned with institutional level change and indeed with any project tasked with embedding a change in practice these changes at senior management have been particularly challenging. Set this against the current political climate we have to give credit to all the projects for managing to navigate their way through particularly choppy waters. But will projects leave a legacy which actually is able to sustain and embed changes to practice?

Paul Bailey and Peter Chatterton led a session on managing change and used a really nice visual metaphor of a snowball to represent the different push-pull and self momentum that projects can often find themselves in. I think it’s fair to say that most projects have found that in their discussions and base-lining activities that the “curriculum design” space was ripe for conversations. A number of projects have had to deal with some significant pressures of scope creep, and being seen as the panacea for whole host of related issues.

Stephen Brown and the projects from one of the programme cluster groups then led a session on sustaining change. This allowed for a very useful discussions around project identity, outputs and deliverables and how to “hand on” using that great catchall term, the “stuff” projects have produced. Helen Beetham has written up this session on the Programme Blog far more eloquently than I could. From the marketplace activity where projects were given an opportunity to show off their wares, there is a lot of great “stuff” coming out of this programme.

One of the high points of the meeting was the debate, where the quite challenging motion proposed was “This house believes that this programme will not actually change the pedagogic practice of curriculum design”. I won’t go into details on the substance of the debate here, however one question that I should have raised (but of course didn’t ) was – if this programme can’t, then what will? When JISC did fund a programme specifically around changing pedagogic practice (the Design for Learning Programme) one of the clear messages that came out was that projects couldn’t make any sustained impact on practice if they weren’t embedded in wider institutional processes around the curriculum design process. Whilst I can see that some projects maybe don’t see themselves as having direct impact on practice as they are more focused on the business process end of things; at a programme level I believe there is growing evidence that overall there are quite significant impacts being made. I’m not sure if this was planned or just one of those serendipitous coincidences but I think this post from Martin Weller whilst the meeting was in full swing is a good example of precisely how the programme is changing the pedagogic practice of curriculum design.

More information about the meeting is available from the Programme Blog and the storify version of the meeting and projects are continuing to share their outputs and “stuff” in the Design Studio.

Sustaining and Embedding Change: Curriculum Design Programme meeting overview

The penultimate Curriculum Design Programme meeting took place earlier this week in Nottingham. Three and a half years into the funding cycle, the meeting focused on life after programme. What are the most effective ways to share, embed, build on the changes instigated by projects within and across institutions?

I’ll be writing a more reflective post over the coming days but here is a summary of the two days, based on the #jisccdd twitter stream.

[View the story “Sustaining and embedding changes to curriculum design practices and processes” on Storify]

Design bash 11 pre-event ponderings and questions

In preparation for the this year’s Design Bash, I’ve been thinking about some of the “big” questions around learning design and what we actually want to achieve on the day.

When we first ran a design bash, 4 years ago as part of the JISC Design for Learning Programme we outlined three areas of activity /interoperability that we wanted to explore:
*System interoperability – looking at how the import and export of designs between systems can be facilitated;
*Sharing of designs – ascertaining the most effective way to export and share designs between systems;
*Describing designs – discovering the most useful representations of designs or patterns and whether they can be translated into runnable versions.

And to be fair I think these are still the valid and summarise the main areas we still need more exploration and sharing – particularly the translation into runnable versions aspect.

Over the past three years, there has been lots of progress in terms of the wider context of learning design in course and curriculum design contexts (i.e. through the JISC Curriculum Design and Delivery programmes) and also in terms of how best to support practitioners engage, develop and reflect on their practice. The evolution of the pedagogic planning tools from the Design for Learning programme into the current LDSE project being a key exemplar. We’ve also seen progress each year as a directly result of discussions at previous Design bashes e.g. embedding of LAMS sequences into Cloudworks (see my summary post from last year’s event for more details).

The work of the Curriculum Design projects in looking at the bigger picture in terms of the processes involved in formal curriculum design and approval processes, is making progress in bridging the gaps between formal course descriptions and representations/manifestations in such areas as course handbooks and marketing information, and what actually happens in the at the point of delivery to students. There is a growing set of tools emerging to help provide a number of representations of the curriculum. We also have a more thorough understanding of the wider business processes involved in curriculum approval as exemplified by this diagram from the PiP team, University of Strathclyde.

PiP Business Process workflow model

PiP Business Process workflow model

Given the multiple contexts we’re dealing with, how can we make the most of the day? Well I’d like to try and move away from the complexity of the PiP diagram concentrate a bit more on the “runtime” issue ie transforming and import representations/designs into systems which then can be used by students. It still takes a lot to beat the integration of design and runtime in LAMS imho. So, I’d like to see some exploration around potential workflows around the systems represented and how far inputs and outputs from each can actually go.

Based on some of the systems I know will be represented at the event, the diagram below makes a start at trying to illustrates some workflows we could potentially explore. N.B. This is a very simplified diagram and is meant as a starting point for discussion – it is not a complete picture.

Design Bash Workflows

Design Bash Workflows

So, for example, starting from some initial face to face activities such as the workshops being so successfully developed by the Viewpoints project or the Accreditation! game from the SRC project at MMU, or the various OULDI activities, what would be the next step? Could you then transform the mostly paper based information into a set of learning outcomes using the Co-genT tool? Could the file produced there then be imported into a learning design tool such as LAMS or LDSE or Compendium LD? And/ or could the file be imported to the MUSKET tool and transformed into XCRI CAP – which could then be used for marketing purposes? Can the finished design then be imported into a or a course database and/or a runtime environment such as a VLE or LAMS?

Or alternatively, working from the starting point of a course database, e.g. SRC where they have developed has a set template for all courses; would using the learning outcomes generating properties of the Co-genT tool enable staff to populate that database with “better” learning outcomes which are meaningful to the institution, teacher and student? (See this post for more information on the Co-genT toolkit).

Or another option, what is the scope for integrating some of these tools/workflows with other “hybrid” runtime environments such as Pebblepad?

These are just a few suggestions, and hopefully we will be able to start exploring some of them in more detail on the day. In the meantime if you have any thoughts/suggestions, I’d love to hear them.


Following on from previous successful events, I’m pleased to announce that on 30 September we are once again running a Design Bash at the University of Oxford.

As in previous years this event will be very hands on allowing people to share their learning designs, tools and systems and to explore potential collaborations. Once again, we’ll be using Cloudworks to share resources and activity on the day. This year we hope to extend out from our core learning design community to involve those involved with building and using tools and standards dealing with course information, describing learning opportunities (xcri), and competencies e.g. Co-gent.

We’re also experimenting with the Eventbright system for registrations which allows me to put a neat little registration widget in this post. So, if you want to come along, just click the registration button below. As ever the event is free to attend and lunch and refreshments will be provided.

I’ll be posting more information about the agenda etc over the coming weeks too.

Transforming curriculum delivery through technology: New JISC guide and radio show launched

A new JISC guide ” Transforming curriculum delivery through technology: Stories of challenge, benefit and change” has been launched today.

a mini-guide to the outcomes of the JISC Transforming Curriculum Delivery Through Technology programme, summarises the headline benefits of technology in curriculum delivery made evident by the work of the 15 projects in the programme The outcomes of these projects provide a rich insight into the ways in which institutions and individual curriculum areas can make use of technology to respond more robustly to the demands of a changing world.”

You can access PDF and text only versions of the guide, or order a print copy by following this link

The latest installment of the JISC on Air series, Efficiences, enhancements and transformation: how technology can deliver includes interviews with two projects involved in the programme, (Making the New Diploma a Success and eBioLabs) discussing the impact achieved in two very different contexts and disciplines.

If the mini-guide whets your appetite for more information about the programme, the Programme Synthesis report provides more in-depth analysis of the lessons learned, and further information and access to project outputs is available from Design Studio.

From challenge to change: how technology can transform curriculum delivery

A recording of the online presentation “From challenge to change: how technology can transform curriculum delivery” by Lisa Gray (JISC Progamme Manager), Marianne Sheppard (Researcher/Analyst, JISC infoNet and project co-ordinator for the Support and Synthesis project) and myself is now available online.

Session Synopsis:
During 2008–2010, the JISC Transforming Curriculum Delivery through Technology Programme investigated the potential of technology to support more flexible and creative models of curriculum delivery in colleges and universities. The 15 projects within the programme sought to address a wide range of challenges such as: improving motivation, achievement and retention; managing large cohorts; supporting remote and distance learners; engaging learners with feedback; responsiveness to changing stakeholder needs; delivering resource efficiencies which enhance the quality of the learning experience. Through the various project investigations, the programme has learned how and where technology can not only add value but can transform the way in which the curriculum is delivered in different contexts.

This session summarized the key messages and findings emerging from the work of the projects and demonstrated some of the outputs from the projects available from the Design Studio.

For more detailed information I can thoroughly recommend the programme synthesis report by Lou McGill which provides detailed information on programme theme, key lessons learnt and project outputs.

Communicating technical change – the trojan horse of technology

As the JISC funded Curriculum Design Programme is now entering its final year, the recent Programme meeting focused on effective sharing of outputs. The theme of the day was “Going beyond the obvious, talking about challenge and change”.

In the morning there were a number of breakout sessions around different methods/approaches of how to effectively tell stories from projects. I co-facilitated the “Telling the Story – representing technical change” session.

Now, as anyone who has been involved in any project that involved implementing of changing technology systems, one of the keys to success is actually not to talk too much about the technology itself – but to highlight the benefits of what it actually does/will do. Of course there are times when projects need to have in-depth technical conversations, but in terms of the wider project story, the technical details don’t need to be at the forefront. What is vital is that that the project can articulate change processes both in technical and human work-flow terms.

Each project in the programme undertook an extensive base-lining exercise to identify the processes and systems (human and technical) involved in the curriculum design process ( the PiP Process workflow model is a good example of the output of this activity).

Most projects agreed that this activity had been really useful in allowing wider conversations around the curriculum design and approval process, as there actually weren’t any formal spaces for these types of discussions. In the session there was also the feeling that actually, technology was the trojan horse around which the often trickier human process issues could be discussed. As with all educational technology related projects all projects have had issues with language and common understandings.

So what are the successful techniques or “stories” around communicating technical changes? Peter Bird and Rachael Forsyth from the SRC project shared their experiences with using and external consultant to run stakeholder engagement workshops around the development of a new academic database. They have also written a comprehensive case study on their experiences. The screen shot below captures some of the issues the project had to deal with – and I’m sure that this could represents views in practically any institution.

MMU have now created their new database and have a documentation which is being rolled out. You can see a version of it in the Design Studio. There was quite a bit of discussion in the group about how they managed to get a relatively minimal set of fields (5 learning outcomes, 2 assessments) – some of that was down that well known BOAFP (back of a fag packet) methodology . . .

Conversely, the PALET team at Cardiff are now having to add more fields to their programme and module forms now they are integrating with SITS and have more feedback from students. Again you can see examples of these in the Design Studio. The T-Sparc project have also undertaken extensive stakeholder engagement (in which they used a number of techniques including video which was part of another break out session) and are now starting to work with a dedicated sharepoint developer to build their new webforms. To aid collaboration the user interface will have discussion tabs and then the system will create a definitive PDF for a central document store, it will also be able to route the data into other relevant places such as course handbooks, KIS returns etc.

As you can see from the links in the text we are starting to build up a number of examples of course and module specifications in the Design Studio, and this will only grow as more projects start to share their outputs in this space over the coming year. One thing the group discussed which the support team will work with the projects to try and create is some kind of check list for course documentation creation based on the findings of all the projects. There was also a lot of discussion around the practical issues of course information management and general data management e.g. data creation, storage, workflow, versioning, instances.

As I pointed out in my previous post about the meeting, it was great to see such a lot of sharing going on in the meeting and that these experiences are now being shared via a number of routes including the Design Studio.