eXchanging course related information – XCRI timeline

One of the advantages of having being involved with JISC for a number of years (as a project and a service) is the opportunity to reflect on some activities that we’ve been involved in for some time. We thought it would be interesting to take the long view of some of our involvement with OER, XCRI and Learning Environments and reflect on what has worked and why, and where we think these activities are going next.

In this second story Lou McGill traces the history of the eXchanging Course Related Information (XCRI) specification, which is currently becoming a European and British standard (See Adam Cooper’s recent post). XCRI is a fine example of how the right people working together can develop interoperability standards that are truly fit for purpose.

A CETIS perspective of the XCRI story

Scott Wilson, Assistant Director at CETIS, describes XCRI as being ‘a community that formed to develop specifications related to course information’ (Wilson, 2010 [1]). This really captures the central aspect of the XCRI story as being about the community that came together, with the support of CETIS and JISC funding, to address a significant problem for institutions in managing their course information. Universities and colleges produce and utilise course information for several different purposes and duplication is a costly problem. The XCRI community drove forward the development of a shared vocabulary and domain map in the early days which ultimately led to the development of an internationally recognised specification. Their focus was on developing specifications to make generic aspects of a course description publicly available so they can be transferred easily between information systems. The formal outcome of this work is the XCRI-CAP (Course Advertising Profile) [2]. Lisa Corley from CETIS has written a blog post [3] which charts the development of XCRI, recognises work of these early pioneers and provides a very useful description of what it is and what benefits it offers to institutions. There is also extensive information available in the very well maintained XCRI Knowledge Base [4]. This community is still very active and now has fresh impetus from recent national HEFCE initiatives that require improved data exchange and transparency of institutional systems [5],[6] .

The XCRI and JISC CETIS timeline [7] has been developed to highlight the various activities that make up the XCRI landscape and includes JISC and CETIS activities since 2003. It also highlights some wider national and international initiatives which illustrate trends and changes in the last decade in this part of the Enterprise domain.

How we got here

The XCRI community emerged from the Enterprise SIG [8], a CETIS Special Interest Group established in 2003 that focussed on a range of standards, technologies and activities to facilitate the business processes of educational institutions. The Enterprise SIG was, essentially, a community of practice for people interested in, or involved with:

• the IMS Enterprise Specification and Enterprise Services Specification

• exchanging data about students and courses between educational systems (VLEs, Student Records, etc)

• joining up college systems to create Managed Learning Environments

• e-learning frameworks, architecture and web services

At the 2004 CETIS Conference the SIG identified a need for both a cohesive approach to standardising course descriptions and an agreed vocabulary, and in March 2005 the Enterprise SIG XCRI sub-group was formed. This group, led by Professor Mark Stubbs and Alan Paull, with the support of Scott Wilson from CETIS, became the XCRI community and have driven developments in this area in the UK since that date. In 2005 JISC funded XCRI as one of their Reference model projects [9] to define a vocabulary and appropriate (XML) technology bindings for describing course-related information. During this period XCRI produced an R1.0 schema, a repository demonstrator and surveyed 161 prospectus websites. This work happened alongside another JISC Reference Model project – COVARM (Course Validation Reference Model) [10]. Both of these reference model projects substantially mapped their respective domains and outputs fed into the eLearning Framework [11].

XCRI originally intended to ‘bridge the worlds of course marketing and course validation/quality assurance’ but, as Mark Stubbs describes [12], this became unwieldy;

“producing a course definition for validation/modification involves assembling fragments of information into a whole, whereas marketing a course involves communicating a serialized version of a subset of that assembly”

Feedback from the community, after testing the R1.0 schema in different contexts, identified a focus on a limited set of elements that supported course advertising and by 2006 XCRI-CAP was released as an XML specification. This was a very pragmatic outcome and presented something back to the community which responded to their needs and offered a usable schema for JISC to take forward with the wider HE and FE communities.

In 2007 JISC funded a range of projects [13] as part of the eLearning Capital programme around Course Management to build on the work of XCRI and COVARM reference projects. Within the course description and advertising strand a number of institutions specifically aimed to trial and refine XCRI-CAP. The resulting case studies from these projects [14] offer really valuable insight into the challenges and approaches that different types of institutions might encounter when implementing the specification and offer perspectives from a range of stakeholders such as policy makers, managers, administrators and technical staff.

JISC also funded a support project made up of members from CETIS, Manchester Metropolitan University and Kainao Ltd, who had been involved in the original XCRI sub-group. This project had a remit to further develop the specification, provide technical support to projects for the implementation of XCRI-CAP, provide a prototype online aggregation service, and promote the specification towards submission to an appropriate open standards process. The support project effectively continued the work of the XCRI reference project and proved so effective that funding was extended and continued until March 2011. Mark Power from CETIS describes [15] the various activities and achievements of this team and notes that this, and the work of the JISC funded projects, demonstrated the value of XCRI-CAP so successfully that it was placed on the strategic agenda of national agencies.

In 2008 the XCRI Support Project team engaged with other European initiatives in course information through the European Committee for Standardization (CEN) Workshop on Learning Technologies. Following this the CEN endorsed a Workshop Agreement for Metadata for Learning Opportunities (MLO) which defines a model for expressing information about learning opportunities including course information. MLO includes XCRI-CAP from the UK as well as other European specifications and is an attempt to unify these by offering a common subset, whilst still enabling local extensions and implementation architecture. This was ratified as a European Norm (EN 15982) in 2009 and was published in 2011.

Scott Wilson wrote in 2010 [16]

The formal standard defines the majority of the core concepts and information model used by XCRI. The engagement of XCRI in CEN standards development has provided an opportunity and an impetus for the XCRI community to progress to formal standardization. The current roadmap of XCRI is to develop a British Standard for its course syndication format as a conforming binding and application profile of CEN Metadata For Learning Opportunities: Advertising.

In 2009 XCRI-CAP 1.1 [17] was approved by the Information Standards Board for Education Skills and Childrens’ Services (ISB) as the UK eProspectus standard and on 1st March 2012 BS 8581 XCRI-CAP was released for public comment which would create a British Standard that is consistent with the European MLO-Advertising (EN-15982)

So far XCRI-CAP has enabled several institutions to transform practice around producing course information, especially for prospectuses, with reports of huge reductions in data duplication [18]. In 2009 the ISB estimated that a new standard for course information (XCRI-CAP) could save the sector in the region of £ 6 million per annum by removing the need to re-enter data into course handbooks and web sites.

Where we are now…

Scott Wilson from CETIS wrote a blog post in June 2011 entitled XCRI – the end of the beginning [19]. In this Scott notes a shift in the timeline of XCRI – taking us from a period of designing the specification and beta testing into ‘adoption, use and adaption’. This is a significant achievement for those involved in mapping and defining the terrain and testing out the specification across institutional systems. The community now has working exemplars which not only deliver proof of economies of scale, through reduced duplication of data, but also articulate the value of re-thinking a range of business processes affected by course information. It has long been recognised that barriers for institutions in adopting XCRI-CAP lie not in technical complexities of the schema but in the challenges around managing their data and processes to support course information, many of which involve several incompatible systems.

A range of current national drivers require educational institutions to consider how they manage and surface some of their information sets and those institutions that have engaged with XCRI-CAP are likely to find it easier to respond to some of these requirements. In early 2011 a report to HEFCE from the Online Learning Task Force [20] highlighted the challenges that students face due to insufficient, and hard to find, information about courses not dealt with by UCAS. As part of the Government Transparency agenda educational institutions are being required to provide KIS (Key Information Sets) [21] for the majority of undergraduate courses from September 2012 and to feed into the HEAR (Higher Education Achievement Report) [22] recording student achievement. Each of these initiatives provide significant impetus for institutions to consider how their course information is managed and how it links to other processes. Implementing XCRI-CAP can be a valuable way to consider this [23]. Towards the end of 2011 JISC launched a new programme called Course Data: making the most of Course Information [24]. The programme has two stages – the first which took place from September to November 2011 gave 93 institutions £10k to prepare an implementation plan to improve their course data flows and produce feeds for external agencies. 63 institutions have been selected for stage 2 to implement these plans and these began in January 2012 and will end in 2013. Outcomes and outputs of this programme are being synthesised on the XCRI Knowledge Base [25].

Where we are going…

Whilst the 2011 JISC programme will result in larger numbers of courses being advertised in XCRI-CAP format Scott argues that we need to see it taken up by major course aggregation and brokerage services. This was one of the themes discussed at the XCRI eXchange [26] in 2011 which was a National Showcase for XCRI, organised by the SAMSON [27] and MUSKET [28] projects, funded under the JISC Institutional Innovation Programme. Scott concludes his blog post with a suggestion that establishing an alliance could be the key to encourage high profile ownership and promotion of XCRI.

I think it would have to have the major aggregators on board (UCAS, Hotcourses), plus curriculum management solution providers (Unit4, Akari) and larger learning providers (e.g. the Open University, University of Manchester, MMU, Nottingham) as well as some of the smaller tools and services companies that are already working with XCRI (APS, IGSL, Smartways). It would develop the brand identity under which XCRI-CAP adoption would be recognised (not necessarily retaining anything of the original brand) and promote it beyond the reach of funded programmes into large-scale use.

Is this the future for XCRI?

I believe an Alliance like this would be a fitting development in the story of XCRI – a community driven specification having ongoing support and recognition from key stakeholders. It would be a fitting testament to the XCRI community and their achievements over the last decade.

About Lou

Lou McGill is currently working independently and has recently been involved in synthesis and evaluation activities for the HE Academy/JISC UKOER programme and the JISC Transforming Curriculum Delivery Through Technology programme. She lead the team that produced the Good Intentions report on business cases for sharing and worked on the LLiDA study (Learning Literacies in a Digital Age). She has experience of working in a range of HE institutions as a librarian, learning technologist and project manager and used to be a JISC Programme Manager on the eLearning team. In the distant past she worked for NIACE (the adult learning organisation) and in Health education for the NHS. Her interests and experience include digital literacy, information literacy, open education, distance learning, managing organisational change, and effective use of technologies to support learning. Further information on Lou’s work can be found at: http://loumcgill.co.uk

XCRI-CAP – now is the time

In her third post on Curriculum Design, Lou McGill reflects on the challenges and opportunities surrounding the effective use of course data in institutions.

JISC have recently released a call entitled ‘Course Data: Making the most of Course Information’. This is a different style of call which offers funding for a review and planning stage, during which institutions will develop an implementation plan to improve course data flows within the institution as well as producing feeds for external agencies. The second phase will see some of those institutions funded to take the implementation plan forward. JISC are hoping to fund a range of examples using different kinds of courses – online, postgraduate, distance and CPD courses so we should learn a lot from programme activities. A national XCRI showcase was held in June 2011 and highlighted some really useful exemplars. These are detailed on the JISC Benefits Realisation blog post which also documents some interesting discussions.

The call nicely reflects an increased interest in the role of course information across institutional processes and systems as the post 16 education sector prepares for increasing demands on course data from both students and from government agencies requiring increased transparency from publicly funded bodies. As I mentioned in my last post HEFCE requirements for institutions to provide KIS (Key Information Sets) for all courses from September 2012 and to feed into the HEAR (Higher Education Achievement Report) recording student achievement means that institutions need to collate, manage and provide consistent and complete data. These drivers provide the impetus for institutions to finally embrace and take forward the XCRI specification (Exchanging Course Related Information), which, up to now, has not been taken up widely in institution-wide contexts. This new impetus and the results of ground building work done by pioneer individuals and institutions means that there is now an excellent infrastructure of supporting information and knowledge to move forward.

Lisa Corley from CETIS has written an informative overview blog post which charts the development of XCRI, recognises the work of these pioneers and provides a very useful description of what it is and what benefits it offers to institutions. This, coupled with the excellent XCRI Knowledge Base should provide anyone interested in the call with the basic information to take this forward. Scott Wilson from CETIS has also written a more technically focussed blog post entitled XCRI – the end of the beginning.

One of the most useful things for those about to embark in this process is what they can learn from people and institutions which have already been through it – as they can highlight challenges, pitfalls, good practice and also illustrate benefits. The latter is particularly useful to use with reluctant stakeholders who may need convincing. This post focuses on the work of projects involved in the Institutional approaches to Curriculum Design Programme. Two earlier posts describe the business process approaches adopted by projects and looked in detail at course information.

Sheila McNeill, from CETIS has been working closely with these projects and produced a blog post in April 2011 which provided some excellent visual representations of the technologies being used by them. This wordle, reproduced from that post, illustrates just how significant XCRI is to these projects.



Wordle of techs & standards used in Curriculum Design Prog, April 11

However as Sheila points out ‘ we are still some way off all 12 projects actually implementing the specification. From our discussions with the projects, there isn’t really a specific reason for them not implementing XCRI, it’s more that it isn’t a priority for them at the moment.’

This reflects what I was saying above although some notable exceptions are the Supporting Responsive Curricula (SRC), Predict, and Co-educate projects which have engaged significantly with XCRI implementation and development. Early conversations among projects highlighted some shortcomings in the specification, which also reflected a wider community concern that the XCRI-CAP (Course Advertising Profile) profile concentrated on marketing elements and did not support pedagogical information. The recognition of the CAP profile in the European Metadata for Learning Opportunities (MLO) standard in 2011 is a major step towards consolidating XCRIs place in the wider course information landscape. Publishing course information in the standard format means that it can be found and aggregated by services such as UCAS and offers potential for collation in a range of ways.

Although appearing to focus on a fairly narrow aspect of course information (advertising and marketing) the elements that make up XCRI-CAP are central to a much wider range of institutional processes and systems that require accurate and up-to-date course data. This links to wider course information, inputs into institutional systems such as VLEs, and can be connected to student data. The notion of having one accurate definitive source of data should be appealing to many stakeholders in an institution: fundamental for administrators and marketing staff, supporting decision making for senior managers, easing the burden for teaching staff and better informed students – but also for people outside the institution: clarity for prospective students, employers and other interested agencies as well as fulfilling requirements from funders. The implementation process should highlight the different elements of course information and how they connect. It should also help institutions articulate which information is relevant for which stakeholder.

Implementing XCRI-CAP
We learned from the JISC XCRI mini projects (2007-2009) that there are no major technical difficulties in implementing the specification, but as Sheila says in her blog post ‘As with many education specific standards/specifications, unless there is a very big carrot (or stick) widespread adoption and uptake is sporadic however logical the argument for using the spec/standard is.’

So if the KIS and HEAR requirements represent the stick then I think the outcomes and outputs from the Institutional Approaches to Curriculum Design illustrate the carrot – the rewards for taking on this challenge. I describe it as a challenge, not for technical reasons, but because it relates back to issues discussed in my first two posts – the challenge and the benefits that come from having institution-wide conversations. It is time consuming and demanding for institutions to take a ‘big picture’ view of the many processes that link together, to rethink some of these processes and to articulate where they all connect and which data is central to this. However the benefit of this approach has been strongly emphasised by all of the project staff that I have spoken to. In early stages projects typically found a lack of articulation between course review, approval, advertising and enrolment/reporting, and between quality assurance, marketing and student records.

Whilst these projects have a focus on curriculum design processes all have had to take a broad view of whole institutional processes involving course information and student data. Many of the projects worked in parallel with other institution-wide initiatives (such as the University of Bolton Co-Educate project which linked to the development of a module database) reflecting the breadth of scale of their activities. It is hard to tease out the benefits of implementing XCRI-CAP from the benefits of those wider scale activities, because they naturally augment each other. Benefits include:

  • Increased understanding across the institution of how processes connect and how the data and systems facilitate or hinder these processes.
  • Improved efficiencies – such as less duplication of data, time savings, one accurate source of data that feeds into several systems, less paperwork.
  • Transparency of information for registered students, prospective students, and external agencies (e.g. government bodies and employers) has the potential to increase student intake and enhance the experience of students once they register with the course/s.
  • Automatic feeds to comply with funder requirements.


There is a consensus that implementing XCRI-CAP is fairly straightforward – once the data is in a database it is fairly uncomplicated to maintain – but when institutions try to broaden this to develop a definitive set of course information, linked to key processes such as quality control or curriculum design activities, then it becomes much more challenging. The Institutional Approaches to Curriculum Design projects have been documenting their experiences and producing some really useful outputs that should be of interest to the wider community. There is a particularly well written report from the University of Bolton Module database project which describes how they took experience from a JISC mini XCRI project and the Co-Educate curriculum design project to redesign and implement their module database.

‘The resulting system supports the capture of information from course inception, the development of modules, through the validation process, to approved and published status. A database application has been implemented with the functionality to support collaborative development of courses and manage the version control for module specifications subjected to minor modification. The system provides the capability to assemble pre-validated modules into new courses using the University’s pre-validated IDIBL course framework. The use of XCRi CAP 1.1 to render module specification in standards based XML, enables module details to be accessed and reused without having to use the database application. This opens up new possibilities for the reuse of module information. The University’s JISC funded Co-educate curriculum design project will be developing further tools for collaborative curriculum specification and design that will now use the XCRI capability.’

The report is really worth reading and they describe their approach and highlight the lessons learned.

The SRC project at Manchester Metropolitan University ran alongside an institutional initiative to Enhance the Quality of Assessment for Learning (EQAL) which is introducing a new curriculum framework, new administrative systems and processes, revised quality assurance processes and new learning systems to transform the student experience. The SRC project has been led by Professor Mark Stubbs, Managed Learning Environment Project Director who has been affectionately described as ‘The Godfather of XCRI’. Mark talks eloquently in a recent presentation on the origins of XCRI. In the video Mark re-iterates the fact that the technology behind the standard is not complex and describes how the Curriculum Delivery and Design programmes have highlighted the business process challenges that need to be worked through to ensure that it is possible on an institution-wide scale.

The project has produced some excellent resources which map and describe their journey and some of these have recently been added to the JISC Design Studio. One of these is a game called Accreditation! which is a training resource for those trying to encourage stakeholder engagement when embarking on a major change process involving program design and approval.

Screen shot of Accreditation board game

They have also produced a case study outlining academic database stakeholder requirements which includes some useful visual representations of their processes.

So the consensus is that ‘now is the time to embrace XCRI’. The JISC call presents a really great opportunity to get started on this. The first phase simply requires a Letter of Commitment from eligible institutions which provides evidence of support from Senior Managers responsible for Teaching and Learning, Marketing, Management Information Systems/IT and the institutional course web sites by12:00 noon UK time on Wednesday 7 September 2011. There is an Elluminate recording of the live briefing session in case you missed it and lots of information described here to convince these various stakeholders of the benefits.

Curriculum Design: X marks the spot?

In her second post on Curriculum Design Lou McGill considers how institutions connect and manage course information, and the role that XCRI can play.


This ‘middle earth’ style map produced by Professor Mark Stubbs, Managed Learning Environment Project Director at the Manchester Metropolitan University (MMU) shows the extent of information about courses that exist in further and higher education institutions. What is missing on the map, and sometimes within institutions, are the paths which connect the breadth of processes and systems that link up this data. It would certainly make for a more complex picture but this is actually what many of the Institutional approaches to Curriculum Design projects are doing through business process mapping and through their baselining and early stakeholder engagement activities. The previous post introduced some of the approaches adopted by projects to map their processes. This post offers a bit more detail of the ways they managed their information and made sure that systems share and utilise this effectively.

Course information comprises a range of data from several fundamental processes including course creation, approval, validation, documentation, QA, resource management (timetabling, resource allocation), modification and review. It seems rather obvious to say that the management of this information presents many challenges but feedback from the projects has seen common use of terminology such as ‘grappling’ and ‘wrestling’ to describe their efforts to prevent duplication and disconnected silos of data. Projects also highlighted a need for different views and pathways into course information for different stakeholders. However, course information does not exist in isolation and projects really benefitted from taking a broad view of the whole institutional landscape and thinking about how the different processes and data across other functions connect. This rich picture emerging through conversations with several projects nicely highlights the need for joined-up thinking across organizational boundaries between Student Records, Quality Assurance, Marketing and Course Teams.


Course approval, as an example, is a key activity in curriculum design and during baselining activities several projects identified challenges with existing processes as they involved formal (with a strong emphasis on QA) and well established paper-based methods. The format of this activity shaped the kinds of information collected and resulted in the need for augmentation and modification at later stages when inputting the data into different systems. Projects highlighted that many staff responded to the process as a ‘form-filling’ exercise rather than an opportunity to think about and re-consider their practice. At a practical level course related documents (such as handbooks, online module descriptions) were usually developed locally and quite separately to the course approval process. At a more strategic level, course-related information to support decision making and planning was often poorly collated and managed. How institutions utilise diverse course feedback information such as external examiners reports, evaluation data and broad market research is often subject to localised departmental approaches.

The UG-Flex project team carried out a business process review for the University of Greenwich’s existing Programme Approval and Review process in order to identify stakeholders, issues and inform system requirements. The resulting documents are now informing ongoing system review at Greenwich. Other course process maps from other projects are included in the previous post and more will eventually be available on JISC Design Studio.

Linking student and course information

Student data, which includes information about enrolment, admissions, registration, progression, assessment, records and e-portfolios, links to course information at several points and project activities have also included work in this area. A significant issue to emerge during the review process was that many existing institutional systems reflect the more traditional standard academic year course patterns. Departments which had adopted more flexible teaching approaches and models to respond to changing learner demands were frustrated by centralised systems that did not fit their needs and were using workarounds to fit their students in or developing parallel local systems. UG-Flex project stakeholders described cases where some students on short courses who had actually finished their course before gaining access to the VLE, which highlighted the need to organise their information differently to ensure timely access for different student cohorts.

Claire Eustance, Project Manager at UG-Flex emphasises the need to establish and maintain trust when undertaking business process mapping to ensure that initial talks with staff are followed-up, with them being shown the outcomes and solutions to problems and keeping them involved throughout the process.

‘When we first started talking to our stakeholders their perception tended to be that problems lay in the systems and what they could, or couldn’t do. Eventually though more people are beginning to understand that the systems merely reflect existing institutional mechanisms which have either simply evolved over a period of years or have been based on the needs of ‘mainstream’ students. I can’t stress enough how significant this has been. Now at Greenwich, at the highest level, there are moves to ensure that our organisational mechanisms and processes reflect the needs of all of our students. Once we have these in place then the systems will be redesigned around them.’

UG-Flex’s efforts to reveal and map Greenwich’s institutional processes and how systems support these have helped strategic and operational managers recognise and articulate the need for change. UG-Flex aspires to see this approach to business process review and mapping embedded into mainstream strategic planning at Greenwich, anticipating long term benefits as systems and processes develop through cycles of change and review. Whilst this can appear to be about efficiencies such as reducing the administrative burden, duplication and clerical error, the crux is the real value that comes from being able to enhance the experience for all students.

Where VLEs link into wider systems

One of the places that most learners connect with institutional systems is through the VLE, and whilst they may not be interested in the underlying processes and systems, their learning experience can be significantly affected by them. VLEs are just one of the systems that benefit from well managed course and student information.

The PREDICT project at City University have been looking at how course information links to student data with a particular emphasis on the admissions process and through linking information about student module choices to the VLE. The new student registration system at City has led to improved quality of information and significant reduction in administrative time (from 3 hours to 10 minutes) with about 90% of students registering online before their courses started. The vision is that on day one a student at City University will log into the VLE and see their own space with appropriate course information, discussion areas and content, and ultimately assessment and grading information. This will be achieved through the use of middleware to establish automatic links between the VLE , the admissions system, course information systems, the student record system, the library, finance and identify management functions to facilitate the sharing of data.

Quite apart from the cost efficiencies (saving £20K per year on printing postage and data entry) time is freed for staff to do other activities and the student experience at the very beginning of their relationship with the University is significantly enhanced. The way that information is now being made available across systems immediately is a vast improvement on the traditional data-dump scheduled transfer that those of us who have been around for a while are very familiar.

With an imperative to reduce duplication and the drive to enhance the student experience it is also possible to personalise the student view of their modules through the creation of rules which link content within the VLE. So, for example, a student registered on one course may automatically have relevant content from a different course or module revealed. There are also plans to incorporate module information so that students can select elective modules online, requiring links with timetabling and resource planning information. This can be quite a drawn out process as their selections may depend on results due in several months time – hence a need to incorporate attainment data. This currently necessitates some backward data exchange as marks entered into the VLE need to be seen by the student records system.

Like other projects the activities of the PREDICT team have resulted in revised documentation and data collection mechanisms. One example is their module and programme revision documents which are available on the project website. In the longer term the institution is also considering linking the VLE to the student application and enquiry processes and the potential of using university OERs to feed into broader marketing processes. Future plans also include addressing staff and research data. The pragmatic incremental approach taken by City has some merit making sure they achieved some quick wins and using those to push forward more challenging tasks.

The student experience can be greatly enhanced by quite pragmatic approaches to incorporating information into VLEs and making them transparent to learners. Some of the projects in the sister programme Transforming Curriculum Delivery Through Technology saw significant enhancement through these kinds of approaches, such as course enrolment and payment, timetabling, attendance data and assignment handling. At the heart of these achievements is the need to create core sets of data that can be exposed in number of places… Perhaps the most significant example of this in relation to course information is XCRI.

XCRI (Exchanging Course Related Information)

The value of XCRI as a standard to facilitate exchange of course related information is fairly obvious, but an imperative for implementing it on a wide scale in institutions has been lacking. However the HEFCE requirements for institutions to provide KIS (Key Information Sets) for all courses from September 2012 and to feed into the HEAR (Higher Education Achievement Report) recording student achievement have both provided strong drivers to encourage the implementation of XCRI.

Mark Stubbs, mentioned earlier, has been involved with both the SRC Project (Supporting Responsive Curricula) which was featured in the earlier blog post and with the development of XCRI said “Although being able to make prospectus information available on course comparison websites without retyping will doubtless become a plus, the real value of XCRI lies in re-thinking business processes used to manage course-related information so that definitive data are available freely for re-use: for transcripts, for course approval, to provide context for VLE activities, to support personal development and for business intelligence-driven continuous improvement”

I plan to talk in more detail about XCRI in a future post…

It’s hard to capture the range of activities of a whole programme in a few blog posts but some key issues to emerge from talking to projects and reading their outputs so far are:

  • need for creation of core data sets that can be exposed in a variety of places
  • technical systems are sometimes perceived as the root of problems but simply reflect traditional and sometimes outmoded practice
  • integrated technical solutions can have significant impact on reducing inefficiencies and duplication if based on institution-wide dialogue and examination of processes, and through streamlining systems to share data more effectively
  • need for changes to documentation to facilitate better data collection – and best done after business process modelling has been undertaken
  • value of integrating business process review into ongoing core practice
  • stakeholder engagement and ongoing involvement
  • utilising modelling methods that suit the organisation
  • curriculum design and delivery can become embedded into core institution planning by making sure that people involved in making key decisions start with the learning and teaching requirements
  • informed curriculum planning can result from streamlined systems and people that understand , engage with, view and contribute to curriculum development processes in more meaningful ways

Perhaps it is better said by the SRC Project from MMU when talking about the development of their central academic database…

‘The change to an authoritative single source of courses information from pre-validation through advertising, enrolment, teaching and learning, and to production of HEAR records and even alumni support is a powerful one. It involves breaking down self-standing silos of information and addressing information technology and process issues across the whole institution. It results in a deeper knowledge and understanding of curricula by staff in the institution, and potentially by partners, by students and other learners, by employers and employees. This knowledge and understanding can be used to develop new curriculum elements, both pro-active and reactive to demands from inside and outside the institution, from learners in general and from employers in particular. At the heart of this is a customer-centric view that sees the organisation’s processes from a student viewpoint, the student customer journey being an end-to-end lifecycle that cuts across institutional functional silos.’

Excerpt from SRC case study.

A shorter two year sister programme ran in parallel to the Institutional approaches to Curriculum Design programme which focussed on curriculum delivery – the space where students engage with the curriculum. Both programmes naturally involved some overlap with curriculum design and delivery having close synergies. The Transforming Curriculum Delivery Through Technology programme has now completed and outcomes (lessons learned) and outputs (case studies, guidelines, etc.) are incorporated into the JISC Design Studio. Both programmes are feeding into this resource which was created during the programmes to provide both a resource for projects and ultimately a source for the wider community. http://jiscdesignstudio.pbworks.com/w/page/40379712/Transforming-Curriculum-Delivery-through-Technology


About Lou

Lou McGill is currently working independently and has recently been involved in synthesis and evaluation activities for the HE Academy/JISC UKOER programme and the JISC Transforming Curriculum Delivery Through Technology programme. She lead the team that produced the Good Intentions report on business cases for sharing and worked on the LLiDA study (Learning Literacies in a Digital Age). She has experience of working in a range of HE institutions as a librarian, learning technologist and project manager and used to be a JISC Programme Manager on the eLearning team. In the distant past she worked for NIACE (the adult learning organisation) and in Health education for the NHS. Her interests and experience include digital literacy, information literacy, open education, distance learning, managing organisational change, and effective use of technologies to support learning. Further information on Lou’s work can be found at: http://loumcgill.co.uk