Quick review of the Larnaca Learning Design Declaration

Late last month the Larnaca Declaration on Learning Design was published. Being “that time of year” I didn’t get round to blogging about it at the time. However as it’s the new year and as the OLDS mooc is starting this week, I thought it would be timely to have a quick review of the declaration.

The wordle gives a flavour of the emphasis of the text.

Wordle of Larnaca Declaration on Learning Design
Wordle of Larnaca Declaration on Learning Design

First off, it’s actually more of a descriptive paper on the development of research into learning design, rather than a set of statements declaring intent or a call for action. As such, it is quite a substantial document. Setting the context and sharing the outcomes of over 10 years worth of research is very useful and for anyone interested in this area I would say it is definitely worth taking the time to read it. And even for an “old hand” like me it was useful to recap on some of the background and core concepts. It states:

“This paper describes how ongoing work to develop a descriptive language for teaching and learning activities (often including the use of technology) is changing the way educators think about planning and facilitating educational activities. The ultimate goal of Learning Design is to convey great teaching ideas among educators in order to improve student learning.”

One of my main areas of involvement with learning design has been around interoperability, and the sharing of designs. Although the IMS Learning Design specification offered great promise of technical interoperability, there were a number of barriers to implementation of the full potential of the specification. And indeed expectations of what the spec actually did were somewhat over-inflated. Something I reflected on way back in 2009. However sharing of design practice and designs themselves has developed and this is something at CETIS we’ve tried to promote and move forward through our work in the JISC Design for Learning Programme, in particular with our mapping of designs report, the JISC Curriculum Design and Delivery Programmes and in our Design bashes: 2009, 2010, 2011. I was very pleased to see the Design Bashes included in the timeline of developments in the paper.

James Dalziel and the LAMS team have continually shown how designs can be easily built, run, shared and adapted. However having one language or notation system is a still goal in the field. During the past few years tho, much of the work has been concentrated on understanding the design process and how to help teachers find effective tools (online and offline) to develop new(er) approaches to teaching practice, and share those with the wider community. Viewpoints, LDSE and the OULDI projects are all good examples of this work.

The declaration uses the analogy of the development of musical notation to explain the need and aspirations of a design language which can be used to share and reproduce ideas, or in this case lessons. Whilst still a conceptual idea, this maybe one of the closest analogies with universal understanding. Developing such a notation system, is still a challenge as the paper highlights.

The declaration also introduces a Learning Design Conceptual Map which tries to “capture the broader education landscape and how it relates to the core concepts of Learning Design“.

Learning Design Conceptual Map
Learning Design Conceptual Map

These concepts including pedagogic neutrality, pedagogic approaches/theories and methodologies, teaching lifecycle, granularity of designs, guidance and sharing. The paper puts forward these core concepts as providing the foundations of a framework for learning design which combined with the conceptual map and actual practice provides a “new synthesis for for the field of learning design” and future developments.

Components of the field of Learning Design
Components of the field of Learning Design

So what next? The link between learning analytics and learning design was highlighted at the recent UK SoLAR Flare meeting. Will having more data about interaction/networks be able to help develop design processes and ultimately improving the learning experience for students? What about the link with OERs? Content always needs context and using OERs effectively intrinsically means having effective learning designs, so maybe now is a good time for OER community to engage more with the learning design community.

The Declaration is a very useful summary of where the Learning Design community is to date, but what is always needed is more time for practising teachers to engage with these ideas to allow them to start engaging with the research community and the tools and methodologies which they have been developing. The Declaration alone cannot do this, but it might act as a stimulus for exisiting and future developments. I’d also be up for running another Design Bash if there is enough interest – let me know in the comments if you are interested.

The OLDS MOOC is a another great opportunity for future development too and I’m looking forward to engaging with it over the next few weeks.

Some other useful resources
*Learning Design Network Facebook page
*PDF version of the Declaration
*CETIS resources on curriculum and learning design
*JISC Design Studio

JISC Curriculum Design Programme Synthesis report now available

For the past four years I’ve been part of the support team for the JISC Curriculum Design Programme, and it has been a fascinating journey for everyone involved and has provided the basis for many a blog post here.  The final synthesis report for the programme is now available from the Design Studio.

Making sense of the varied findings of 12 projects over nearly 4 years is no mean feat, but Helen Beetham (with support from the rest of the team particularly Gill Ferrell, Marianne Sheppard and a little bit from me) has done a fantastic job.  The report reviews the four main areas of investigation: improving curriculum processes, reforming course information, enhancing design practice and transforming organisations. 

The main conclusions are:

*More transparent processes with shared, accessible representations of the curriculum can support better stakeholder engagement in curriculum design
*More efficient processes can save considerable administrative staff time, and may free up curriculum teams to focus on educational rather than administrative concerns
*A focus on the design process rather than its outcomes allows both for lighter-weight approval events and a shorter review cycle with more opportunity for continuous enhancement
*A single, trusted source of course information can be achieved through a centralised academic database, but similar benefits can be gained through enhancing the functions, interfaces and interoperability of existing systems.
*Trusted, relevant, timely information can support educational decision making by curriculum teams.
*Better managed course information also has benefits for students in terms of course/module selection, access to up-to-date information, and parity of experience
*Better managed information allows institutions to analyse the performance of their course portfolio as well as meeting external reporting requirements.
*Curriculum design practices can be enhanced through face-to-face workshops with access to resources and guidance.
*Particularly effective resources include concise statements of educational principle with brief examples; and tools/resources for visualising the learning process, e.g. as a storyboard or timeline, or as a balance of learning/assessment activities.
*With better quality guidance and information available, curriculum teams can build credible benefit/business cases and respond more effectively to organisational priorities.
 
I would thoroughly recommend reading the the full report to anyone who is involved in any kind of curriculum design activity.  

The report does signify the end of the programme, but plans are in place to ensure that the lessons learnt continue to be shared with the wider community. A number of openly available resources from the programme will be released over the coming months, including an info-kit style resource looking at business processes and curriculum information, and a resource pack including a number of tools and techniques developed by the projects for course development.

The Design Studio itself continues to grow with inputs from the Assessment and Feedback and Developing Digital Literacies Programmes. 

Books from blogs

This blog is a major dissemination channel for my work, thoughts and general ponderings. In some ways it is my memory! Although it is searchable particularly by tags and topics, there are times when a straightforward and simple way of collating several posts and converting them to another format would be really useful. It’s something I’ve been thinking about for quite a while now, but never actually got round to doing anything about it.

Just now the final synthesis of the JISC Curriculum Design Programme is being produced. Over the programme life-cycle I have written quite a few posts relating directly to the programme and in particular a number of technical summaries and reviews. So yesterday I decided to try and actually stop thinking about collating them and actually try doing it.

My first port of call was Martin Hawskey as I know he has looked at this before and has the rather neat MASHezine PDF available on his blog. Unfortunately I can’t easily and quickly update my blog to include his plug in. This is due to the way our blogs are centrally hosted in CETIS. I’d need to ask someone else to do a wider upgrade -which isn’t impossible but not a huge priority and so could take a bit of time. However Martin did remind me of blog booker. Using this system you can export the content of a wordpress (and other major blogging platforms) and upload the file to the site, and it will automagically create a PDF “book” of your blog posts.

Again because of the way our CETIS blogs are set up, I had to export the content of my work blog into another wordpress site, export and then import in to the system. It works well, but didn’t give me quite the level of control of selection of posts I would have liked. I could get all the posts for a topic such as curriculum design (which again is one of the central topics our CETIS blogging system uses for aggregation on our website) but I couldn’t get just the posts with the programme tag which is what I really wanted. Note to self to discuss topics/tags in blogs. However, as a quick and (almost) free (you can donate to keep the service running) way to create a PDF book of blogs posts it’s certainly worth exploring.

This morning I had a wee search for alternatives and came across zinepal – another free (but with paid for options) which creates a variety of formats ( PDF, ePub, Kindle and Mobipocket). Again using an RSS feed or just a blog url the system will automagically create a book based on blog posts.

There is slightly more control on the actual posts you want to include once you enter a feed/url. You generally get the most recent 10 posts from any site/feed, so you may have to do a bit of feed manipulation if you want to use older posts. There are various controls over layout – number of columns, font etc, It is also possible to re-order and edit posts, and to add introductory text. If you pay $5 you can get extra features such as adding a logo and getting rid of their advertising. You can see the finished result (and download whatever version you like) here . Below is a screenshot of the PDF version.

Screen shot of zinepal PDF
Screen shot of zinepal PDF

Martin has also experimented with the service today and his alternative MASHezine using the free version of zinepal is available here.

If you have used any similar services or have any thoughts/tips, I’d love to hear about them.

Curriculum change: designing for the future – latest edition of JISC On Air

Curriculum change is the theme of the latest JISC On Air radio show and it highlights some of the projects from the JISC Curriculum Design Programme.

The programme explores curriculum design and the role technology plays in supporting changes to institutional practices and processes.  The focus is on the different approaches to curriculum change and engaging stakeholders of two institutions involved in programme – Birmingham City University (BCU) and Manchester Metropolitan University (MMU).

Reporter Kim Catcheside talks to staff and students at both universities about their experiences.  This includes an interview with Sonia Hendy-Isaac, a senior lecturer at Birmingham City University who explains how the T-SPARC project has been developing a framework which facilitates better dialogue and transparency around course design and approval to enable more agile and responsive curricula.  Kim also talks to Professor Mark Stubbs, Head of Learning and Research Technologies at Manchester Metropolitan University about transformational changes to the curriculum there and the role of the Supporting Responsive Curricula project in supporting this.   Project Manager, Peter Bird, discusses how some of these system and process changes are enabling academic staff to focus more on teaching and Professor Kevin Bonnet, Deputy Vice-Chancellor for Student Experience, explains the business imperative for change at the institution.

Another useful insight into the different approaches institutions are taking to using technology to develop their provision for the future.

The role of coaching in enhancing the student experience – webinar now available

Early this week Janet Finlay and Dawn Wood from the PC3 project (part of the JISC Curriculum Design Programme) shared their experiences of embedding coaching into the curriculum as Leeds Met.

The original aim of the PC3 project was “to develop curriculum structures and tech support to allow students to build their own curriculum supported by coaching”. However, as the project has evolved this overarching aim has been adapted so the focus of the project now is to: “embed coaching in the curriculum to provide personalised support for students and to enable them to make independent, informed decisions about their learning.”

Janet and Dawn gave an overview of the role of coaching and how it differs from mentoring,

Coaching diagram
Coaching diagram

and then shared some of the very positive experiences their coaching model is gaining with the BA Sports Management course. As well as embedding coaching as part of the PDP process within the course, the project has also supported the development of student coaching ambassadors and the session included audio reflections from a number of students of their experiences and reflections on the role of coaching in terms of their own development.

The team are now working with other schools across the University to embed coaching in to a range of different subject areas. A recording of this informative webinar is available to download from the Design Studio. The team are also running a one day event on coaching on 31st May in Leeds which is free and open to attend. More information is available from the PC3 project blog.

#jisccdd timelines

As the JISC Curriculum Design projects come to and end and are compiling their final stories of their four year journeys, I’ve been thinking about timelines. So, in preparation for next week’s final programme meeting, here’s a timeline which pulls pictures and videos from youtube and twitter that have been tagged with #jisccdd (thanks to my colleague Martin Hawksey for creating the template to do this).

I also set up a couple of other timelines using the Diptiy timeline service way back in 2009:

This one pulls a feed from the CETIS Curriculum Design web site topic area 

This the #jisccdd twitter feed.

 And this one has various feeds relating to #jisccdd

Managing large scale institutional change webinar now available online

Managing changing is an underlying challenge to most,if not all, development projects. Managing large scale institutional change magnifies these challenges and brings a host of new challenges. Over the past four years, projects in the JISC Curriculum Design Programme have not only had to manage large scale institutional change projects with all their internal complexities, but also do that in the wider context of rapidly changing external political and funding contexts of the last four years.

Earlier this week, four of the projects (Predict, UG-Flex, PALET & T-SPARC) shared their experiences, reflections and top tips for stakeholder engagement, scope creep, creating safe and constructive places for dialogue to take place, managing internal and external pressures and expectations. An overriding message was that as with most technology based projects it’s changing culture, and not processes that is key to success. To get sustainability and impact, the former is crucial. As Paul Bartholomew from the T-Sparc project pointed out

“the product isn’t the system you build, the product is the environment you have created plus the people who act within it”

The projects also agreed that when building and sustaining stakeholder engagement you can never underestimate the power of cake 🙂

A recording of this informative session is available to download now from the Design Studio.

Curriculum Design Technical Journeys – part 3

Continuing from my last post, the next part of the programme technical journey focuses on the Cluster B projects: Co-educate, SRC, P3 who had similar objectives in terms of organisational change.

SRC
*Project Prod entry

In terms of organisational change, SRC (Supporting Responsive Curricula) is part of larger set of project EQAL which is radically changing the way the MMU provides learning services (in the broadest sense) to its students. Other JISC funded initiatives e.g. the W2C project are connected to this major organisational change, of which SOA approaches is key. Professor Mark Stubbs’ keynote presentation at this years CETIS conference gives an overview of their overall technical approach.

MMU is in the processes “introducing a new curriculum framework, new administrative systems and processes, revised quality assurance processes and new learning systems to transform the student experience” and the SRC project has been at heart of the complete revision of all undergraduate courses, through developing a processes and workflows for a common curriculum database which feeds into a range of other learning services a part of their “corePlus” learning environment provision.

All course module and assessment structures have been completely revised (starting with first year and now extending to 2nd and 3rd). A new course database is now being populated using a common set of forms which provide a common set of tags (including competencies) and unique identifiers for courses which can be used a part of a wider set of “mash up” activities for students to access. When redesigning the course database, extensive stakeholder engagement and mapping was undertaking (using Archimate) in relation to QA processes which formed a key part of the project’s baseline report. A case study details this work and this blog post provides a summary of the new course documentation and QA processes including a map of the new peer review process.

A key part of the project has been to explore effective ways for students to showcase their experience and abilities to employers. A number of systems have been explored and an institutional e-porfolio strategy produced. A decision has now been taken to provide institutional support for Mahara, beginning in September 2013.

In terms of standards/specifications, this being MMU, XCRI is integral to their systems but hasn’t been a core part of the project. Like other projects, the institutional demand for xcri is still not widespread. However members of the team are key to developments around the integration (and thereby extension) of XCRI into other specifications such as MLO and various competency related initiatives.

Now the major technical implementations have been implemented, the team are now focussing on the wider cultural changes, engagement with staff e.g. the development of the Accrediation! Board game which I’ve written about before, and evaluation.

Coeducate
*Project Prod entry

“Coeducate is a cross institutional project that will focus our staff on a re-engineering of the professional curriculum. It will develop new processes and technical systems to support curriculum development and design that start with the needs of the learner and their organisation. This will be negotiated and delivered in partnership and with full recognition of in-work and experiential learning.”

Coeducate, has taken an the almost opposite approach to MMU in terms of a top down approach to creating and managing new courses. They have connected their SITS database with their new Moodle installation see this blog post for an overview, but unlike MMU do not have a set of course templates, or the same level of automatic course population. Instead, staff now have more flexibility in terms of creating courses suited to their specific needs, as this post and linked documentation describes. The IDIBL framework has also been developing as template for course creation, however the institution has developed an alternative undergraduate curriculum framework. The team have also produced a report on approaches to developing open courses, which again should provide a useful staff development resources.

Following this more bottom up approach, the team have also instigated an series of innovation support network seminars and produced a set of online resources (housed in Moodle) to support staff as new institution validation process are being introduced. Like so many of the projects being caught up in a sea of other institutional change initiatives that aren’t as tightly coupled as MMU, the project has focused effort on providing support to staff to guide them (and in turn the institution) through changes such as course revalidation. The project has been able to to influence and inform institutional strategy to initiatives such as course revalidation through some light weight data analysis of the VLE in terms of course structure, numbers and types of assessment etc.

Over the past year, the team have also been exploring the Business Model Canvas tool in terms of its suitability for learning design planning and/or conceptual modelling. The flexibility of the tool has been identified as a key strength. The team have found other more specific learning design tools such as the LDSE too prescriptive. This post outlines the approach of integrating this tool within Archi (which is being developed by colleagues at the University of Bolton). The tool is currently being trialled with PGCHE students, and again will hopefully provide another design tool for the University and the rest of the community. The team have been using the tool to support staff in course revalidation process, and are lobbying for its adoption into the formal revalidation process.

The team had hoped to do more work on integrating widgets into Moodle for course authoring. However staff issues and a refocus of project priorites has meant that not as much progress on this has been made as originally intended. However, over the last few months the team have been able to build a customisable 8LEM widget (more information and a link to a beta version is available here). The principles outlined in the 8LEM methodology are also the basis for the work of the Viewpoints project, and by the end of this June, it is hoped that there will be at least two versions of the widget available based on the approaches of the Viewpoints project as well as the “vanilla” version.

Bolton has also been successful in gaining funding for one of the JISC Course Data projects and this project will extend work started in Co-educate. The work done through the CoEducate project has help to articulate some of the key requirements for data reporting and practical uses of data collection, including key indicators for retention and drop out.

As with other projects, the challenge for the team is to ensure that the resources and approaches explored and advocated through the project continue to be embedded within institutional frameworks.

Enable
*Project Prod entry

“As a ‘hub’ initiative, the project aims to enable the University to join together its various change initiatives around curriculum development into a coherent and radical overall change process, which will ensure all stakeholder needs are understood, identify overlooked problems areas, and provide a sustainable solution . . .”

The Enable project started out with the vision of connecting and enhancing institutional processes. As with all the other projects, senior management buy-in was always a critical part of the project and a Senior Management Working Group was set up to ensure this buy-in. Part of the wider institutional story has been the relatively high number of changes at senior executive level which have impacted the project. The team have shared their experiences around managing change and information processes.

In terms of technologies, as well as being part of the Design Programme, the project has engaged with a number of other JISC funed initiatives. The team have been an early champion of EA approaches and have been involved with the JISC FSD EA practice group initiative. They have piloted TOGAF approaches in an Archimate pilot. Their experiences of using Archi in for their work in external examiners pilot are summarised in this blog post and embedded slides. Phil Beavouir, the developer of the Archi tool has also posted a thoughtful response to this post. If you are interested in EA approaches , I would recommend both these posts.

The team have also been experimenting with a number of different ways to automate their code build, acceptance, testing and deployment processes. These tools and techniques are being adopted and used in other areas now too. Again the team have promised to share more via the blog, in the meantime a summary of the technologies they are using are detailed in the project Project prod entry.

The team have been looking at Sharepoint and, another example of cross JISC programme fertilisation, were able to gain some of the benefits realisation funding for the Pineapple project to experiment with its software. An overview presentation is available here. The pilot was successful, but, at this point in time, no institutional decision on an institutional wide document management system has been made, so no further developments are being introduced in respect of this work.

The team feel that the EA approaches have “enabled” them to define with stakeholders the key areas to be addressed in terms of developing effective processes. And, have found that having “just enough backing” for developments has been effective. Particularly in gaining senior management buy-in whilst Executive decisions are not possible. The project has been able to illustrate potential working solutions to recognised problem areas. They have also been sharing their experiences of EA extensively with the rest of the sector, through presentations at various institutions.

PC3
*Project Prod entry

“The Personalised Curriculum Creation through Coaching (PC3) project is developing a framework that places coaching at the heart of the personalised curriculum design. Learners will be able to select provision suitable to their needs, construct an award (or module set), access resources and learning support, and negotiate assessment, with structured support from a personal coach. The PC3 Framework will facilitate this process by developing the necessary processes, documentation, training and technological support, within the context of Leeds Met’s flexible learning regulations and systems.”

Again the PC3 project has been on quite a journey over the past three and and a half years. Changes at senior management level have meant that, whilst not changing the underlying principles of the project of using coaching (as explained in its curriculum model ), the project team have had to adapt some of their anticipated approaches and have experienced delays in decisions around key institutional wide provision of technologies.

A major milestone for the project has been decision to adopt PebblePad as the institutional portfolio system. The team acknowledge that there is still work to be done around the integration of resources in the VLE and in Pepplepad, in terms of the user experience of switching between systems. Perhaps Pepplepad’s planned LTI adoption will help mitigate some of these issues.

The project is now reaping the rewards of their early work in staff development and are now working increasingly to support students, and their use of technology whilst implementing the PC3 coaching methodology. The approach is now embedded into the Sport Business Management Degree programme (see this post for more information) and students are playing an increasingly important role as coaching ambassadors.

Earlier in the project the team had created a number of video based resources around coaching. Now they are supporting students in the creation and sharing of videos as part of their course work and as coaching ambassadors. The team are working with institutional AV staff around developing approaches to creating video resources with students. The project is also planning a conference, where students will be key contributers, and plan to video sessions and make the recordings available as a set of resources.

The team are also seeing increasing use of social media sites such as Facebook for communication and even for running coaching sessions. This has very much been student driven and developments are being monitored with interest.

The team have also been using a number of google products (forms and documents) for sharing of project information and for part of their evaluation by using google forms to collect session feedback.

Where possible, the project are releasing resources as OER. To this end have they have benefited from the experiences of the Streamline project which was funded through the JISC/HEA Academy OER programme. Institutionally there has been a significant development around workflow of OERs with the institutional repository and the JORUM national repository that the project has benefited from. Again another example of cross programme sharing of experience.

So, another set of projects with common aims but very different approaches to organisational change. In many ways, a top down approach as exemplified by MMU may well be the most effective way to gain widespread adoption. However, MMU have benefited from a more stable senior management perspective and have not had to re-articulate their vision to a different set (or sets) of stakeholders during the project lifecycle as some of the other projects have. Engaging staff and students at different levels, as Bolton and Leeds, have done may well be just as effective in terms of seeing real pedagogical change in the longer term. But whatever approach, the importance of modelling and being able to visualise, and develop conversations and engagement has been central.

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.

T-SPARC
*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.

PALET
*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.

UG –FLEX
*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.

PREDICT
*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.