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Course Data - Cornwall College

Funded by the: Jisc e-Learning programme.

Lead Institution: Cornwall College.

Learner Provider Type: Further Education

Project Duration: January 2012 - March 2013

Key Words: Course Data

Case study tags: course data, process improvement, course information, cornwall college

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

Cornwall College

Project Summary

The aim of the Improving Course Information (ICI) Project was to help drive up the quality, efficiency and effectiveness of the collection, presentation, and sharing of course information.  Through the adoption of the XCRI-CAP standard, the college aims to accelerate the process that was started in the preceding 12 months with the introduction of an internal course database; Course Catalogue.

 

The first phase of the project, a self-assessment of the current position identified that whilst the development of Course Catalogue has included many of the data classes required for XCRI-CAP, there are some notable omissions.  The project has addressed these and developed new processes to ensure data quality and improve ease of exchange.

 

ICI has created a structure around data collection, improving the quality of course information.  It should also serve to reduce the time burden involved with sharing course information with aggregator organisations through the availability of a single XML-based catalogue. 

 

Due to a parallel project involving the redevelopment of the college’s website by a 3rd party, part of the development was undertaken by Nudge Digital as part of the implementation of the new Content Management System (Drupal).  XCRI provided a common framework to drive the collaborative development, negating the need to develop separate standards for course data sharing.

 

The changes have resulted in a change to technical infrastructure, the wider adoption of technical standards and open source software libraries. Similarly, as part of a wider change of approach within the development team, agile development techniques were adopted which helped to focus effort as timescales towards the end of the project become increasingly challenging.

 

The result of the project is the ability to quickly reuse and repurpose course information for multiple partners and internal uses.

 

 

What did we learn?

A number of lessons have been learnt;

  • Complementary projects should be aligned at project start up, and if necessary earlier projects delayed whilst clarity of delivery for later projects is defined. 
  • There is a need to schedule resources more effectively, as changing priorities (both internal and external) have impacted on the delivery of this project.
  • Maintain a  real reserve. 
  • The use of established standards has helped to quickly galvanise the technical requirements and approach to delivering the project.  It has also afforded the opportunity to network with other institutions, collaborating and sharing best practice.
  • The use of Open Source Software (OSS) can save time, resources and money.  As an institution making little use of OSS, we have now gained trust and confidence to make greater use of in the future.


Immediate Impact

The approach taken by this project has had additional benefits to technical aspects of other  projects through the embracing of Open Source Software.  As a direct consequence of implementing an XCRI feed the College,

 

  • has web farm hosting a central REST-based application
  • is able to authenticate users with social media identity providers
  • is an identity provider for internal applications, integrating identities from active directory, Facebook, Open Id providers and an integral authentication system.
  • has started to develop SOA interfaces based on message based architecture.
  • and is now using the following open source systems:
    • REDIS – for caching and messaging
    • Servicestack – for core services
    • DotnetOpenAuth – for authentication services
    • HAProxy – for network load sharing
    • UBunto – for Unix based components

 

Future Impact

The impact of this project will enable more rapid sharing of course information with partner organisations, as well as the reuse of course information for internal purposes.  The project has already provided the benefit of delivering course information to our new website (to be launched at the end of March 2013), saving in the region of 200 hours of developer time.

 

Refinements to the collection of course information, relating to the XCRI standard has resulted in an added flexibility with the way in which course information can be displayed to different client groups.

 

The standard may further inform how programmes of study are configured in our Course Catalogue to further reduce the current processes around “rolling” course over from year to year.

 

Conclusions

XCRI is a robust and well defined standard.  Adopting XCRI requires a considerable time commitment that may not on its own provide an immediate cost benefit, but when linked to other development activities and broader objectives can provide time savings.  Without the funding opportunity in place to support this project, it is unlikely that the college would have undertaken the work due to the cost and scope of system changes required.

 

The standard may further inform how programmes of study are configured in our Course Catalogue to further reduce the current administrative processes around “rolling” course over from year to year.

 

Recommendations

Jisc

The creation of central repository – possible GITHub – created for the sharing of extensions to the XCRI-CAP standard.  Whilst this may sound counter-intuitive, XML is designed to be extensible, for XCRI-CAP to be adopted by institutions; it needs to be to customised it to meet their needs (without comprising the standard).  The creation of a central repository would provide samples for how to extend the standard properly and should prevent duplication of effort through the sharing of solutions.

 

The need to deliver projects within a funding cycle has resulted in a number of challenges for the College in keeping this project on track whilst waiting for complementary projects to start and/or be defined to a state that can ensure the project dovetail properly to avoid wasted development effort.  This has largely been achieved, but some changes in the sector have had far reaching implications and it would be helpful if Jisc were able to provide some flexibility on delivery dates in exception circumstances for future projects.

 

Further details: email and contact names etc

Project Director Steve Cant

Project Manager Mike Trebilcock

Contact email Mike.trebilcock@cornwall.ac.uk

Project Web URL projects.cornwall.ac.uk/ICI