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Course Data - City College Norwich

Funded by the: Jisc e-Learning programme.

Lead Institution: City College Norwich.

Learner Provider Type: Further Education

Project Duration: January 2012 - March 2013

Key Words: Course Data

Case study tags: course data, process improvement, course information, city college norwich

Note: This is an abridged version of this project's final report.  The full version is available here. 



City College Norwich

Project Summary

The project report describes the drivers and processes behind the implementation of an XCRI compliant course data regime within a large College of Further and Higher education.


The Course Data programme was stimulated, in part, by the Report to HEFCE by the Online Learning Task Force, January 2011, http://www.hefce.ac.uk/whatwedo/lt/enh/oltf/, which stated

“…Only with better information can prospective students find what they want, judge value for money and make more accurate decisions about where and how to study. Better information will give institutions competitive edge”


The development and implementation of a European standard for course advertising information, XCRI-CAP (eXchanging Course Related Information, Course Advertising Profile) was designed to address the shortcomings in the clarity, extent and availability of course related advertising material and also, through providing a common standard for format and presentation, allow the repurposing and comparison of institutional information sets.


At the point of embarking on this project City College Norwich (CCN) was aware that there were issues with the creation and maintenance of its course marketing information. Processes for the generation, approval and creation of this information were not standardised and data was “owned” by a disparate group of individuals and departments.


The XCRI CCN project set out to:

  1. Assess the current content of all course related marketing information and update all information to establish a “clean” master data set.
  2. Create a single course marketing data repository that allowed data to be repurposed across the range of media outlets.
  3. Understand the flow of information within the institution and implement a set of processes around the creation and maintenance of the information.
  4. Ensure that all courses complied with the XCRI data standard
  5. Create a compliant XML data feed available from a “cool URI” for use by all external course marketing aggregators.


Through this process, CCN has come to have a greater understanding of its own products at the same time as cutting down on a great deal of wasted administration. It has ensured that prospective students and stakeholders have reliable and accurate data upon which to base decisions about study and it has a more robust reporting system upon which to base future decision making around its course offer.


The CCN XCRI-CAP xml data feed will be launched on 1st April 2013 along with a new College website. The feed can be found at the constant Cool URI http://www.ccn.ac.uk/coursefeed



What did we learn?

The most important lesson that this project could pass on to others in the sector is to not treat your course marketing information as an add-on. This information is crucial to your institution to “sell” its products but, more importantly, is absolutely crucial for prospective students having to make decisions about their future. Through taking the time to audit and review what was on offer we have had to stand in our students’ shoes and to understand that we could do better. If you have the opportunity to “professionalise” the creation of this information it is a recommended route.


Secondly, human input is vital to the creation of course marketing information. Your people must be enabled to communicate and must understand the importance of this information.


Third; data is data – ignore the systems. Initially this project conceived of embedding all course marketing information within EBS4, alongside the Course Master File. After initial investigations this looked impossible as the structure of the database simply couldn’t hold it. The option of forcing it in – square peg/round hole – was considered and rejected and it seemed to be an impasse. However, once the project team stopped concentrating on the system and started looking at the data it was a, relatively, simple matter to take two data streams from separate databases and combine in a manner that was required.


Fourth; management buy-in is essential. To address the professionalization/ownership and responsibility for course marketing information – wherever it is decided to put them – you need the understanding by your leadership team of the value of this data.



Immediate Impact

Immediate impact, to date, has been relatively minor. The subject of course marketing information has risen up the agenda of interests and there is an acknowledgement of the benefits that the project will bring in the longer term.


One area that is making immediate impact is the use of accepted vocabularies. This has given greater potential for the new web facilities being put in place with the ability (by users) to compare courses internally and in greater depth.



Future Impact

The future impact of the project is adjudged to be wide and prolonged.


Internal impact 

Internally, the outcomes from this project will:

  • Reduce administration - Single input of data that can be utilised across multiple media will release many hours of administrative work. Currently the College is manually supplying data to a number of regional and national databases – most of this is being re-keyed on an individual basis.
  • Reduce academic administration time - By freeing up completely or to some extent academics will be able to dedicate more time to areas that are more important to academic success
  • Reputation - The production of clear, well ordered and useful course marketing information can only enhance the reputation of the College
  • Recruitment (internal and external) - The College believes that it offers the right courses for its area. It has also come to understand that it is potentially losing recruits to other institutions through lack of the best course marketing information
  • Competition/Cooperation - The institution will be able to make comparisons of its own courses against those of others in the area and nationally. This will give the opportunity to enhance both competition and cooperation between institutions.
  • Process flow - As potential students will arrive in conversation with the institution better armed with information about what they want to do and what the institution offers the processes of course choice, enrolment etc should be eased.
  • Retention - It is believed that, through having a better understanding of what a course entails before enrolling students are more likely to make correct decisions about course compatibility – and thus dropout rates should fall.


External impact

External stakeholder projected impact is:

  • Potential students will be able to make more informed choices
  • Aggregators will be able to fully utilise the institution’s up-to-date data without barrier
  • All users of the CCN XCRI-CAP data feed will be assured that they have the latest available data




General conclusions

The fullest impact of the implementation of XCRI-CAP will be felt when all institutions and aggregators utilise the system. Stakeholders will benefit now from institutions utilising the system but institutions could really benefit from bodies such as the SFA and the Careers Service implementing XCRI-CAP aggregation. City College Norwich is working with its local area prospectus providers at HelpYouChoose.org to facilitate the implementation of course aggregation.


Community conclusions

One of the major issues that will beset any standardisation of information is “what do you do with information that doesn’t quite fit the standard”. It quickly became apparent for many of the projects on this programme (to judge from discussions) that this is a difficulty that is still being worked out for XCRI-CAP. If a course's criteria/fields don’t match the allowable or accepted fields in XCRI what should one do – lever them in where they fit best; create new fields that attach to the standard but are “extra” etc.


Vocabularies too have created issues. Standardisation of vocabularies is a difficult process and one that is not complete. It is only through the acceptance of a set of vocabularies that inter-institutional comparison is possible, which will greatly benefit potential students but acceptance of these vocabularies may prove difficult.



  • Continuing work on universal acceptance of XCRI-CAP.
  • Continuing work on the definition and acceptance of vocabularies.
  • A wider set of guidelines for institutions on what to do with non-conformist data sets.


Further details:

Project Director: Mr Geoff Sorrell, Deputy Principal

Project Manager: Mr Harry Greiner, Head of New Media, Marketing & Communications

Contact email: harry.greiner@ccn.ac.uk

Project Web URL: http://www.ccn.ac.uk/xcriccn