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Course Data - Myerscough College

Funded by the: Jisc e-Learning programme.

Lead Institution: Myerscough College.

Learner Provider Type: Further Education

Project Duration: January 2012 - March 2013

Key Words: Course Data

Case study tags: course data, process improvement, enterprise architecture (ea), course information, myerscough college

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

 

 

MYcourse Data

 

Myerscough College

 

Project Summary

The educational landscape has seen reduced funding and rising costs for students with a driving consumer led market demanding high quality course information that is easy to find, accurate and readily comparable between institutions. Project funding enabled our ‘MYcourse Data’ project to take the College on a journey which led to: 

  • a thorough overhaul of our course information including the redesign of our outdated course data management processes;
  • a successful electronic feed of course information which will contribute to sector needs;
  • a framework for initiating, planning and implementing projects and other initiatives.

 

The College has experienced a period of significant growth and change which necessitated the modernisation of Capita UNITe integrated MIS system. 

 

Our system developments have necessitated interim solutions for publishing course information.  Course fact sheets were word-processed, converted into a web format before publishing.  Manual intervention, duplication and re-keying were features of our processes which on investigation were found to include errors, limited audit trails, and a lack of quality assurance giving rise to inefficiency.  

 

These new processes mean that we can improve our competitive edge.  We thank Jisc for highlighting the importance of managing course data effectively!

 

Participation in the project enabled us to address national initiatives such as Key Information Sets (KIS) more effectively and we move forward with confidence in the development of initiatives such as the Higher Education Achievement Report (HEAR); and future Skills Funding Agency requirements. Given resources, we feel well placed in exploiting the ideas and the potential of electronic data feeds to meet the challenges of a number of internal information requirements.

 

Benefits of participating in the project have been numerous and outcomes will impact positively on the alignment of our existing internal practices.  Analysis of processes and work flows to support technological innovations, and an introduction to ‘Enterprise Architecture’ has helped us map processes, but more importantly opened our minds and given space to investigate the challenges and potential barriers of securing improved effectiveness and efficiency. Cross functional collaborative behaviour identified as a key ingredient to successful project management has been strengthened and formalised following the project.

 

Effective handling of course data will aid:

  • improvement in the availability and access to information, advice and guidance (IAG) for prospective students. This is essential to compare courses and make informed choices in the dynamic educational environment.
  • internal decision making
  • efficiency and reduce costs

 

The improved quality and accessibility of information will ensure that the right students are placed on the right courses, resulting in improvements in student retention and success that impact not only on Myerscough College but across the sector.

 

What did we learn?

Albeit with what felt like slow progress in the early stages, with reflection we are pleased to have made such progress and to have achieved our project outcomes and indeed gained some additional benefits along the way.  As well as producing a workable feed of course information we have gained considerably in our knowledge and understanding of course information. This new found knowledge will impact positively on the way we carry out project work and will help us to guarantee future initiatives and developmental projects yield successful outcomes that are in line with College strategic objectives.

 

Managing conflicting priorities often imposed through the needs of other projects has been a difficulty which has been largely overcome by focused project management, maintaining regular team meetings where progress was reviewed and decisions taken to mitigate adverse impact of the unplanned.

 

The storage medium for our course data became a cause for some concern as original plans to use our UNITe system were negated.  Support from other UNITe users through pre-arranged assembly meetings was valuable in this respect, but an in-house interim solution which built upon the design of an Access database solution enabled the project to keep pace. A more robust SQL server solution has now been developed and implemented with additional user interfaces for the input and editing of data.

 

Initial results from the SAF Evaluation were flavoured by our incomplete understanding of what we were about to embark upon.  Re-evaluation using the SAF highlighted that learning was taking place as the project progressed and it was felt important to keep ‘understanding’ under review during the lifetime of the project.

 

Immediate Impact

The project has already impacted in the following ways:

  • Improved understanding of the importance of managing course data
  • Improved relationships and cross functional co-operative behaviour
  • Improved, updated policies and processes relating to the production of course factsheets
  • Recognition of issues relating to the ownership of course data
  • Anticipated cost savings

 

The wider community has benefitted in the following ways

  • Improved course information through new and improved policy and procedures for the production of course fact sheets
  • Improved project planning through the Project Planning Framework

 

Future Impact

In the future the project will impact our ability to support

  • HE applicants – improved access to course information and improved quality of available information.
  • FE course data management – planning has commenced for the development of an FE course data information feed.  
  • Extension of technologies to facilitate the production of other course information.

 

The impact of this will be tracked through existing student surveys aimed at checking levels of satisfaction with course information and through recognised quality assurance frameworks  e.g. QAA, Ofsted, MATRIX.

 

Conclusions

In conclusion, this has been a very worthwhile project which has allowed us to ‘get to grips’ with our course information in a way that we are able to describe information as discrete elements, thus allowing ownership, storage locations and content easier to identify and manage. In turn the maintenance and updating of course data can be shared and will be less onerous.  We are confident that we will be able to offer our applicants more detailed, more up to date and therefore more accurate course data which can be considered like for like with other providers.

 

From a marketing perspective seeing our course information aggregated alongside that of other providers automatically prompted us to question the relevance and quality of information and led us to review content to ensure that it was fit for purpose and audience.   The project has enabled us to reflect on the presentation of our course data and alongside other internal projects we have developed and designed a more user oriented presentation of our course fact sheets which will be available via our website and newly implemented online enquiries and applications service.

 

Recommendations

  • Start out with the right mix of members in your project team - know what skills, knowledge and experience they can bring to the project.
  • Know where you are starting from - use the Self-Assessment Framework and seek the advice of others who are experienced in effectively managing course data.
  • Research best practice and build on the work of other projects.
  • Ensure shared understanding across your project team and with key people within your organisation.
  • Don’t under estimate the resource needed to implement effective course data management - commitment for the project is needed both from team members and supported wholeheartedly by senior management.
  • Keep things simple and straightforward from the outset – avoid the use of jargon and break down large scale projects into smaller more manageable parts.
  • Identify who owns the various elements of course data and ensure owners understand their responsibilities and the mechanism for keeping information up to date and relevant to applicants.  Ask the question who is the audience.
  • Identify who will be responsible for ensuring quality - how and at what points will it be assured?
  • Use plain English and provide interpretation of technical jargon!

 

Further details: email and contact names etc

Project Director Julie Youngs

Project Manager Benita Wiseman

Contact email jyoungs@myerscough.ac.uk

Project Web URL http://www.myerscough.ac.uk/?page=jisc-mycoursedata