Jisc case studies wiki Case studies / Course Data - Wigan and Leigh College
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Course Data - Wigan and Leigh College

Funded by the: Jisc e-Learning programme.

Lead Institution: Wigan and Leigh College.

Learner Provider Type: FE delivering HE

Project Duration: January 2012 - March 2013

Key Words: Course Data

Case study tags: course data, process improvement, kiscourse information, wigan and leigh college

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

 

Wigan and Leigh College

 

 

Project Summary

Wigan and Leigh College is a General FE College delivering HE courses, in a number of curriculum areas, to over 500 Full Time Equivalent students. The college recognises the importance of producing comprehensive up to date information to allow students to make an informed choice, as to their course of study. In these days of increased fees and competition, we understand that the student expectation is that information should be available on-line, embracing new technology.

 

The three main drivers for this are:

 

  1. prospective fee paying students want to know more about the academic experience a course will provide and be able to compare this with other courses
  2. better informed students are more likely to choose a course that they will complete and be more motivated to achieve better results
  3. increased scrutiny by quality assurance agencies and the Government’s requirement for transparency of publicly funded bodies.

 

Jisc has made it easier for prospective students to decide which course to study by creating an internationally recognised data standard for course information, known as XCRI-CAP. This will make transferring and advertising information about courses between institutions and organisations, more efficient and effective.

 

This project aims to bring together course information and to enable the institution to publish electronic prospectus information in the standard format for all types of courses. Specifically for our College this is to address a gap in Part Time HE Programmes. The feed will include all courses, not just the Part Time HE programmes.

 

During phase 1 of this programme, it was found that the College has some of this information in a number of systems, some electronic and some paper based. This data can be centrally held, or locally managed.

 

What did we learn?

One of the first lessons we learnt, was that we didn’t know what we didn’t know. There was a massive amount of locally held information, and finding out what was out there was an issue. Teams were reticent in releasing what they perceive as their data, to a central source, even though they were still controlling it. This made us realise that as an organisation we weren’t as “open” as we thought we were. We considered ourselves to have an open data culture, but in practice this wasn’t always evident. This has been an important reality check and will inform other project plans moving forward.

 

Timing and managing tasks, was also an issue. Getting buy-in from individual departments, was difficult at first. Obviously outside influences have a major impact on workloads, and local priorities take over. This can quite easily lead to slippage. Evidence of this was when we were trying to evaluate the current business processes, whilst the curriculum teams where undertaking their Curriculum Planning process. It was time consuming to take a step back and look at the process objectively, and if not carefully managed, would have been difficult to gain that time back.

 

Selling the benefits is key. Fortunately for us Key Information Sets came along fairly early in the process for us. The college adopted a manual approach to sourcing, recording and processing the data. This proved very time consuming for all concerned and once it was realised that the proposed system could do away with all the manual data entry, and then the benefits became clear and tangible. If we hadn’t had this then it might have proved a little more difficult to covert the more sceptical managers. I think a lesson for all projects is to find a quick win and labour that point so that people will get on board earlier.

 

Another lesson learnt, was on communication. Staff turnover can be an issue, and it has been an issue for us in the technical team. This in our organisation is quite a small team, which cannot stand the loss of staff for a sustained period. This has led to slower than expected development times, as more technical staff have had to get up to speed on the project. We would seriously consider going out to a developer if having to complete the task again.

 

Immediate Impact

The initial impact that the project is having on users/stakeholders within the College, is during the Curriculum Planning process. In previous years the Marketing department have had to source relevant marketing information about the course at a later date, whereas the process is now embedded within the planning process. The authorisation process will lead to more consistent data, which will be corrected at source rather than marketing proofing the information for one publication, and then having to repeat the process further down the line after a subsequent request for information. The wider community will benefit from the project as it will lead to higher quality, consistent information, and a more comprehensive coverage as evidenced by the scope and number of courses appearing in the feed. This will enable stakeholders to make a more informed decision based on the data. 

 

Future Impact

The College is currently engaged in a project to develop a new institutional website. We have engaged with a third party, to facilitate the tendering of this. Included within this project is the ability to search for course information and publish course data. The timing of this meant that we couldn’t use the feed to fulfil this in phase 1 on the website development. We intend to use it to feed the college website, once the feed has been established.  This will impact directly on marketing staff, who traditionally were tasked with generating marketing information. They can now get on with marketing the courses rather than spending time sourcing and checking the information.

 

We also intend to further develop the Key Information Set data, to use the XCRI-CAP as a data source. This will become more important as the use of KIS data becomes more widespread in FE.

 

The major impact we hope will be on the quality of information to prospective students. We currently survey our applicants, on a range of things including the quality of information. We have a benchmark prior to the establishment of the XCRI-CAP feed, and will re-survey once it has become live to establish any changes.

 

Conclusions

General conclusions that can be drawn from the project work:

  • The project has enabled us to look at a system that relied on local data, which wasn’t always of the highest quality or in the easiest format to manipulate.
  • The project enables us to move forward with a better level of Information Management, which we are all more confident in. This enables the College to market our courses in the best light in what is becoming a more competitive marketplace.
  • It also enables us to make use of technology to provide information in whatever format the stakeholder requires it, which in the current marketplace is a must.
  • Although by its nature XCRI-CAP is very technical, don’t lose sight of the fact that the information flow, ownership and quality of the data are key. The actual production of an XCRI-CAP feed is really an output of the whole process, it isn’t the process itself.

 

Recommendations

Recommendations that have arisen from the project can be summarised below.

  • Make sure you have senior management buy in. We have found that course teams were very protective of what they classed as their information and without the Senior Management buy in, getting them to release and bring forward that information can be a challenge.
  • Make sure that ownership of the data is clear, just because the data is central, doesn’t mean the course teams lose ownership.
  • Try and get a quick win, and prove the benefits of the system.
  • Don’t get too hung up on the technical aspect of the project. Make sure that the information flow, ownership and quality of the information is established first.

 

Further details: email and contact names etc

Project Manager Name: Dave Harrison

Position: Head of MIS

Email: d.harrison@wigan-leigh.ac.uk

Tel: 01942 761 556

Address: Wigan & Leigh College, Room 727, PO Box 53, Parsons Walk, Wigan WN1 1RS