Jisc case studies wiki Case studies / Course Data - Plymouth College of Art
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Course Data - Plymouth College of Art

Funded by the: Jisc e-Learning programme.

Lead Institution: Plymouth College of Art.

Project Duration: January 2012 - March 2013

Key Words: Course Data


Case study tags: course data, process improvement, creative assembly, course information, stakeholder engagement, change management, plymouth college of art

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


Plymouth College of Art CA Aggregator poster Plymouth College of Art Moodle Block Demonstrator Poster

Project Summary

For Plymouth College of Art the implementation of the XCRI-CAP feed has provided an opportunity to undertake process re-design whilst also managing the developmental changes required to enable the institution to prepare for the increasing demands for course advertising information. As a specialist art institution, Plymouth College of Art had also however discovered, through Stage one project research, that prospective Art & Design students wish to see not only information relating to course details, but also relevant course staff profiles and related research/professional practice, before making a decision about where they wish to study.


In addressing these concerns and also the creation of the XCRI-CAP feed the College identified three essential and overlapping, domains:

  • Technical Domain Issues
  • Content Domain Issues
  • Interface Domain Issues


Reflecting these domains the project was formed into three primary areas of work. A further dissemination domain was also added to the project to ensure the work undertaken was shared with as wide a community as possible.


Each area therefore dealt with a different aspect of the project as follows:


  • Technical Domain Issues related to the implementation of the XCRI-CAP feed as a COOL URI. Courses included within the feed included all College core provision (undergraduate and postgraduate) totalling approximately 35 courses and this will be further extended in the future to include short courses, further education and CPD provision following the successful creation of the COOL URI.
  • Content Domain Issues innovatively developed user-friendly and sustainable staff profiles based upon a system that supports automatic links between course information and the profiles of the staff teaching within these areas. To do this the College maximised its membership of the GuildHE Consortium for Research Excellence Support and Training (CREST) by building upon the Mahara system implemented by the University London Computing Centre (ULCC) to support CREST staff research profiles.
  • Interface Domain Issues maximised the use of the extended XCRI-CAP feed (outlined above) as the College created, maintained and shared through planned Creative XCRI-CAP Assemblies an aggregation site for specialist art and design institutions, further promoting the XCRI-CAP feed and standard and the extended XCRI-CAP feed which stakeholder analysis/research within the institution has proven to be of interest to prospective art and design students.
  • Dissemination Domain Issues formed the final domain and this was an integral part of the project. This aspect of the project aimed aimed to ensure project outputs were disseminated appropriately and as extensively as possible.


What did we learn?


Technical Domains

Within the Technical Domain learning has largely related to the gaining of knowledge and the greater understanding of the XCRI-CAP feed and associated schema. This has resulted in increased knowledge and a better understanding of the nature of course advertising information and the data requirements of feeds such as the XCRI-CAP feed, in terms of both this project and also in the longer term. In addition to this, the nature of this project has resulted in the highlighting, for the internal project team and wider College project stakeholders, of the external requirements of course advertising information and the necessity for the College to plan for the greater demands for this type of data requirement in the future.


Lessons learnt within this domain also relate to a greater understanding of the manner in which process redesign and cultural change occurs within the institution and the necessity of ensuring that key actors within the process are fully engaged with the project and the activity being undertaken. Furthermore the importance of senior management support within any process of cultural change cannot be underestimated and this was an important aspect of the success of this aspect of the project.


Finally within this domain the importance of careful project management could be clearly seen as the monitoring of deadlines and milestones ensured that this aspect of the project did not suffer from substantial time delays. Even with careful management some time delays occurred within this domain due to changes to core College systems, which were integrally linked to the project. Due to the project management planning that occurred at the beginning of the project and the responsive project management approach throughout the project any changes that were required to the project plan during the life of the project were made in a timely manner and changes did not therefore affect the outputs of this project. This has therefore highlighted the importance of careful project management within a project of this nature.


Content Domains

In the Content Domain aspect of the project learning has largely related to the research conducted in relation to the information needs of students within the Art and Design sector and the manner in which this has been dealt with within the project.


This domain therefore resulted in learning in relation to the information needs of students within the Art and Design sector and also the feedback received in relation to these findings from both internal and external College stakeholders, members of the Creative Assembly and stakeholders within the wider Jisc programme.


Learning within this domain has also occurred in relation to the development and commissioning of a Mahara system for academic staff and the manner in which this system could be used to support the information requirements of Art and Design students within the parameters of the XCRI-CAP feed. The project also demonstrated the manner in which a feed such as the XCRI-CAP can utilise innovative technological solutions in order to provide greater contextualised information that may at first viewing not appear to fit within the XCRI-CAP schema.


Within this domain learning related to the manner in which the relationships with external partners and contractors require careful management and the manner in which a system such as the Mahara system is commissioned, tested and signed off.


This domain has also led to learning about the manner in which a system to capture staffing profiles may be created, developed and utilised in order to fulfil the additional needs of students within the Art and Design sector.


Furthermore within this domain the need to ensure the system created met the needs of the multiple stakeholders involved was of high importance and the need to balance these requirements with the expectations of stakeholders. This also led to learning in relation to negotiation skills and the need to prioritise the differing needs of various stakeholders. Issues of feature creep also arose within this domain and the need to deal with these issues but to keep stakeholders engaged with the project were all areas in which learning occurred.


Throughout this domain the importance of keeping “end users” of the Mahara system was important and the need to ensure “buy-in” was identified. This was achieved through a variety of means such as through the appointment of influential project champions at the start of the project that allowed their engagement throughout the project and allowed early user testing to occur. In addition providing an opportunity for staff to be assisted in creating content for their portfolios through the arrangement of a photography shoot created a “buzz” around the project and enabled users to engage with the system at an early stage. The project team believe that this was instrumental in ensuring that the system was viewed positively by users and resulted in a high level of engagement with the system.


Infrastructure Domains

Within the Infrastructure Domain learning has largely occurred through the development of an aggregator website which enables Art and Design institutions to demonstrate what is distinctive and different about studying within a small and specialist Art and Design institution.


For both the aggregator website development and for the institutions involved within the project this element of the project provided the opportunity to explore the manner in which in the XCRI-CAP feed could be utilised in a “real life” situation and potential issues and problems with feeds could be dealt with at an early opportunity because of this.


For other institutions involved within the programme the development of this aggregator site also provided an opportunity to learn from our experiences and to see how the XCRI-CAP feeds could be used by individual institutions in order to promote their own courses. Through this development other institutions could also see that the programme can be used to promote institutional priorities and objectives in additional to the core outputs produced. This learning was shared at events such as the Jisc Show and Tell event in Birmingham on 29th January 2013.


For the project team the manner in which this aspect of the project required the creation of a specification, which needed to meet the requirements of multiple stakeholders involved within the project and therefore negotiation, and a clear specification was required from the start of this aspect of the project.


Further learning occurred throughout this aspect of the project as the website was developed and the requirements for consideration of issues such as the changing manner in which students access and use the internet, the taxonomies of language within courses within the art and design sector and the need for a focus on design and usability of the site were all aspect through which learning occurred and have been valuable to the project team.


Dissemination Domains

One of the areas in which most learning has occurred within this project has been through the Dissemination Domain. Within this domain the project team have been able to both disseminate the findings of the project and additionally learn from the feedback given by others. Through engagement in all Jisc programme events it has also been possible for the project team to learn from others and to form new contacts and networks that will continue to be useful to the institution following the completion of this project.


Within this domain it has therefore become clear that the findings from the Stage One project and the results of research considering the information needs of students within the Art and Design sector are of high interest to a range of stakeholders and to the wider Jisc programme community. Internal institutional presentations and workshops, Jisc programme workshops and other opportunities that have been utilised to present the findings from the project and all have all resulted in good feedback from audiences and requests for further information in most cases.


The dissemination via the Creative Assembly and via the CREST GuildHE network have also shown that utilising opportunities to collaborate with other institutions can provide a good way in which to share findings and gain insightful feedback on work undertaken.


Throughout the project it has been clear that the opportunities for dissemination have been invaluable to the project and have resulted in a high level of engagement for the project team within the Jisc programme in addition to greater value for the project and the wider Jisc programme.


Project Management

Throughout the project the overall approach utilised has been a simplified version of PRINCE2 as recommended by Jisc infoNet. The use of this strategy has been useful and has ensured that any potential issues that arose during the life of the project and which could have resulted in project failure were mitigated at the earliest opportunity.


The manner in which the project was compiled of a smaller number of domains which each dealt separate aspects of the project and had individual teams and monitoring processes also ensured that the project was able to be monitored easily and effectively. This approach ensured there was clarity of roles and responsibilities in each aspect of the project, which assisted in achieving the successful completion of the project.


Further learning has occurred for the project management team through the additional discussions that have taken place as part of the wider programme in areas such as change management and enterprise architecture. The opportunity to engage with such activities has been useful and its dissemination to others within the institution has been useful.


Future Impact

The future impact of the project can be considered to have occurred in a number of key areas; a summary of the primary areas are shown below:


Institutional Impact

  • Ease of production of course advertising information within the institution
  • Greater awareness of sector wide initiatives relating to course information
  • Greater awareness of student information requirements
  • Better informed students, choosing the appropriate courses
  • Experience of project management which can be used in future projects
  • Development of software which can be utilised within the institution
  • Further development of information provided to students utilising information from Moodle and Mahara
  • Greater information available to students based on Mahara on institutional website
  • Further dissemination of development via conferences in the future.


Jisc Programme Impact

  • Possible extension of “Tutor” aspect of the XCRI-CAP feed
  • Further dissemination of project outcomes to the wider JISC community
  • Development of further aggregators based on the development undertaken
  • Increased engagement with the project due to dissemination activities undertaken
  • Increased engagement with the project due to system developed
  • New areas of development have been investigated which could be utilised in future Jisc programmes


Wider Sector Impact

  • Art and Design institutions not involved within the programme may choose to engage with the XCRI-CAP standard due to the outputs of this project including
  • The ability to be added to the Art and Design aggregator site
  • The ability to provide greater contextualised information to the feed
  • To collaborate with like-minded institutions and work together to tackle issues in a collaborative and innovative way
  • Disciplines other than Art and Design may choose to adopt a similar approach and could use the model and website template created here to further their own course advertising information
  • Publication of paper within journal should highlight the information needs of students to a fuller extent
  • The future development of the aggregator website to incorporate European Art Schools will be investigated possibly incorporating translation services. This could potentially utilise the XCRI-CAP standard in a cross borders way depending upon the appetite for such a development.


General Impact

In the future students, parents and other stakeholders should have greater clarity in relation to course advertising information and be able to make more informed decisions as a result of this programme and its outputs

Further reporting on the success of the website and aggregator site, the changing demands of students within the art and design sector and the success of the “Tutor” aspect of the XCRI-CAP feed will all be investigated following the end of the project. One manner in which this will be done is through the use of Google analytics in relation to the aggregator site



Conclusions relating to the Institution. 

In relation to the institution the programme and project has allowed the institution to gain a greater understanding of the information requirements of prospective students and to address these needs in an innovative and transformative way that has not been considered before.


The effectiveness of the project within the institution has also been to ensure that data processes relating to course information are clearly articulated and all actors within the process are fully aware of their responsibilities in relation to the production of the XCRI-CAP feed. Institutionally the need for high quality course advertising information has also been highlighted and the manner in which auto-generated feeds can assist the institution to develop this is now better understood.


Overall the project has been considered to have been a successful exercise for the institution and has allowed the College to gain vital project management experience and has allowed the College to engage within a national level programme which has led to a number of benefits as outlined above.


Conclusions relating to the Jisc Programme. 

In relation to the Jisc it would appear that this project demonstrated added value to the programme and has provided not only the core outputs but has additionally demonstrated the manner in which the project has been able to innovatively utilise the XCRI-CAP feed standard in order to better meet the needs of Art and Design students.


Furthermore this project has enabled a number of specialist Art institutions to work collaboratively in order to deliver a key output for the programme which has not only therefore resulted in greater collaboration amongst these institutions and a greater understanding of the value of the XCRI-CAP programme to them, but has also enabled a demonstration of a real world usage of the XCRI-CAP to the wider programme.


The manner in which the project team have also engaged with the dissemination aspects of the programme has been useful to the Jisc programme as this has allowed the aims, objectives and outcomes of the programme to reach the widest possible audiences.


Conclusions relating to the wider sector. 

In relation to the wider sector the work undertaken within this project has allowed the wider to sector to not only engage with the results of primary research undertaken but additionally to be able to view the added value that this project has made to the programme in terms of the deliverables such as the aggregator website and extended XCRI-CAP feed.


It is hoped as a result of this project the wider sector additionally will see the deliverables made by this project as desirable and will seek to engage with the XCRI-CAP feed and additionally the aggregator site or extended feed in the future.


General Conclusions. 

Across the length of this project the project team have aimed to fully engage with the programme and other institutions involved within the programme and respond with innovative and high quality outputs in a timely manner. It is hoped that the deliverables made and outputs of this project will continue to be useful long after the project has ended and in this way the project will have achieved true sustainability and therefore success.



Institution Recommendations

  • To continue to engage with the XCRI-CAP programme to the fullest extent following the completion of this project
  • To continue to maintain the College’s XCRI-CAP feed and ensure it is valid and available for aggregator sites and any other organisation who may wish to utilise the data
  • To continue to engage with Art and Design institutions involved within the Creative Assembly to ensure collaborative working still continues following the end of the project
  • To continue to utilise and develop the Mahara system in liaison with CREST GuildHE in order to limit the number of differing systems staff are requested to enter information in and to create an industry standard for the education sector.


Jisc Recommendations

  • To continue to support the XCRI-CAP feed and promote the extended feed and to support the programme if it is extended to additional institutions
  • To utilise the aggregator website created by Plymouth College of Art as a driver for other specialist Art and Design institutions to engage with the XCRI-CAP feed
  • To utilise the aggregator website created by Plymouth College of Art as a model for other sectors, to demonstrate the usefulness of the XCRI-CAP feed and to act as a driver for XCRI-CAP feed creation
  • To utilise the extended XCRI-CAP feed further and incorporate within the schema for the XCRI-CAP feed
  • To utilise lessons learnt from existing institutions in order to engage additional institutions within the programme
  • To consider the extension of the XCRI-CAP feed and Art and Design aggregator website to include European partners and include translation in future iterations of the site.
  • To consider whether the use of Mahara could be extended across other institutions in order to produce a standardised and yet flexible approach to the recording of information relating to staff possibly on a cross institutional basis allowing for greater collaboration between staff with shared research interests across differing institutions.


Wider Sector Recommendations

  • For organisations who may utilise course advertising information it is recommended that the use of the XCRI-CAP standard is adopted wherever possible to automate and standardise the provision of course advertising information
  • For institutions not currently involved within the making the most of course information project, engagement with this standard is encouraged in order for the XCRI-CAP to reach a saturation point and usage becomes an accepted standard for the sector. This will also encourage the usage of such standards by aggregators such as UCAS, HEAR and the KIS.
  • Other institutions should consider the information needs of students within their own disciplines in order to explore whether students are gaining the information they require


Further details: email and contact names etc

Project Director      Malcolm Ferris

Project Manager     Elaine Garcia

Contact email          egarcia@pca.ac.uk

Project Web URL http://www.jisc.ac.uk/whatwedo/programmes/elearning/coursedata/plymouth.aspx