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Course Data - City of Bristol College

Funded by the: Jisc e-Learning programme.

Lead Institution: City of Bristol College.

Learner Provider Type: Further Education

Project Duration: January 2012 - March 2013

Key Words: Course Data

Case study tags: course data, process improvement, kis,

hear,course information city of bristol college

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

 

 

City of Bristol College

 

Project Summary

Aims

Improving the reliability of course data in Higher Education (HE) courses to:

  • Provide information for potential students, which is clear and visible in external search engines.
  • Exchange information with partner HEIs (Higher Education Institutions) effectively and reliably.
  • Meet the requirements of government agencies by providing robust and detailed learner-related data.

 

Overall approach

Systems and processes providing course-related and learner-related data were analysed and restructured so the college can now have confidence in its public-facing data. The XCRI CAP feed will take information from the college website so one strand of the project has been to ensure that the website was the ‘single point of truth.’


Research identified inconsistencies or errors in advertising across college and HEI (Higher Education Institutions) partner websites: processes are being set up and quality assurance protocols agreed across the partner colleges to ensure accuracy of shared data.


Research to check the visibility of the ‘bite-sized’ courses identified that they were poorly represented in external search engines. The implementation of the XCRI CAP filter raises their visibility when aggregators start to take the feeds.

 

Findings

  • Individual faculties were managing HE (Higher Education) courses as part of their subject portfolio, resulting in a lack of control over HE course data, exacerbated by the variety of HEI partners, each requiring data in different formats.
  • Bite-sized modules had poor visibility in external search engines.
  • New systems were required to provide the data for KIS (Key Information Sets) and HEAR (Higher Education Academic Report).
  • Data for learner monitoring was at programme not module level.

 

Achievements

A wide-ranging overhaul of processes and systems associated with course advertising and learner monitoring has resulted in:

  • More robust data, going down to module level.
  • Improved sharing of data with partner universities and government agencies.
  • Improved internal access to data.
  • Moving the ‘ownership’ of HE courses to the HE unit has improved quality assurance of data.
  • Improved visibility of courses, including those previously ‘hard to find’, with a live course feed.
  • Improved cross-college understanding of the systems used in managing learner and course data.

 

Conclusions

Business processes and data quality have improved so that potential students should be better

informed about their choices and the college can have more confidence in its public-facing data.

The management of information systems is more effective when people can understand what is happening upstream and downstream of their own part in the data flow.

 

Lessons Learned

This work would not have been possible without Jisc funding which has enabled the team to focus on a range of learner-related information issues and to prioritise solutions.  Comments from the evaluation evidence that the staff involved in the project have valued the opportunity to learn about the different aspects of managing course-related information and a lesson to take forward would be that when people can sit round a table to talk through changes they can explore how those changes affect their areas and can provide a joint solution.

 

For future projects key tips would be to:

  • Explore what success will look like – what exactly will happen once the project objectives have been achieved.
  • Ensure stakeholder involvement.

 

Immediate Impact

  • The XCRI CAP feed makes information on HE and FE courses available to aggregators, improving the visibility of this information.
  • The college website is now more robust: this has improved course visibility in external search engines.
  • The focus on ‘hard to find’ courses has resulted in improvements in managing the relevant course information in Publisher and in displaying that information on the website.
  • Public-facing information is now more robust and reliable.
  • There are processes for ensuring that information on courses shared with partner HEIs is accurate and relevant.
  • The college has been able to produce the required information for KIS and HEAR.
  • A further gain has been the shared understanding of the processes and systems used to obtain and manage the information - getting people to understand what happens upstream and downstream of their data pool.
  • The Marketing Unit has provided a staff guide aimed at helping staff to write more effective course descriptions.

 

Future Impact

A keynote of the analysis and redesign of systems has been the need to have a ‘single point of truth: this is a principle that will live on beyond the life of the project.

 

The project focused on the issues which were going to arise due to the requirements of KIS and HEAR. This sparked a review of the management of HE courses resulting in a restructuring so that HE courses will now be managed by the HE unit not by the subject faculties.

 

‘. It has taken the collective understanding to a new level with regard to many facets associated with HE and public information. ’

(College manager) .

 

The HE unit will now have more control over quality assurance

 

Some FE courses are already being included in the XCRI CAP feed and this will be extended.

 

College management benefits from having more reliable data for decision-making.

 

KIS and HEAR data has been provided largely by the HEI partners this year but the project has helped to establish systems and processes for managing the data which will be required for these 2 initiatives.

 

Conclusions and Recommendations

This project has been timely in enabling the college to respond both to government initiatives for greater transparency in course data and to consumer requirements for data that helps them to make choices.. The restructuring of the systems and of the HE Unit have put the focus on managing the course data not merely supplying it.

The college has been able to meet the requirements of the KIS and HEAR initiatives and is more confident about the robustness of its public-facing data.

 

‘The scrutiny of data for the project made us aware of where data was, what was missing. It focused attention and, crucially, got the right people in the same room to discuss the issues. It helped us understand the relative responsibilities of different areas of the college in providing data. It was extremely useful to have people from different units getting together and looking at it at the same time. There is now a much greater understanding of the impact of any changes and how these feed in and cross-over to affect different areas..’

(College manager).

 

The real success of the XCRI CAP feed cannot be fully evaluated until it is being used by aggregators. Currently the aggregators are awaiting a critical mass of feed providers. This has been a case of ‘build a better mousetrap and the world will beat a path to your door'. If the National Careers Service website takes the XCRI CAP feed, that will make a significant difference to the visibility of City of Bristol courses on that website, which could then increase applications for courses. Certainly if the college did not produce an XCRI CAP feed it would be disadvantaged on aggregator sites and would lose advertising opportunities.

 

‘ We will be better able to manage the consistency of the data on external websites. It will be easier and more reliable, with better quality information.’

(Marketing).

 

Further details:

hazel.english@cityofbristol.ac.uk