Today I went to JISC Curriculum Design Programme Meeting at Aston University. To start Sara Knight From JISC gave a brief introduction to the day and outlined some of the programmes achievements.

Next there was a brief annoucement about some future JISC publications….’Extending the Learning environment’…’Learning in a Digital Age’ (Institutional case studies). Developing digital Literacies Briefing Paper….which are all due for publication in the near future.

Unfortuantly Helen Beetham was delayed so a colleague stepped in to deliver; “What has changed in relation to curriculum design…” She outlined that curriclum was key to change which meant it these were  large scale projects…it was also recognised that this process was both academic and aministrative. During these  projects the external environment has changed,  the Brown report and the Bis report were published ….what impact has this had? Probably very litle so far, but some issues have come to be discussed eg. does widening participation mean widening participation to Russell Group unis rather that what ‘widening anticipation’ really mean…..however in the wider environment  there are changes taking place…rise in tuition fees and cutbacks in funding and so on. Over the last few years the projects have had a difficult balancing act….adjusting to external circumstances whilst maintaining the projects in the institutions. 

Next followed a session entitled ‘What we have learnt’ where all the project teams reported back to the whole group (they were divided into 3 main Clusters) :

Business process change (Cluster A) Tony Toole- Critical friend intoduced the report back from this first cluster.

Manchester Met Uni  reported on  the complexity of design and that “many projects with management of course related information….” engage the stakeholders but there needs to be robust way to ensure modules of constructive alignment. They concluded that the use the technology to facilitate and accelerate joined up processes worked v successfully at MMU.

Mark Stiles from Staffordshire noted that they use ‘Archimate’ This modeled large processes at the right level of management (‘levels 2 and 3’ i.e. not the lowest level of management) good for communication, stakehoder engagement, Gap analysis and provides enterprise view of information. He concluded that ‘poor governance encourages the creation of silos’. Therefore the biggest thing to encourage change is the have ann ‘Enterrise view’

Leeds Met had what they called ‘PC3 Top down Approach’ (Stronge senior management, Curriculum design process, aligned with Uni aims) but then along came internal change. The Vice Chanacllor resigned and this resulted in a major internal restructuring after the new appointment. Revised curriclum design , cuts in courses etc led to a change of approach to a ‘bottom up appraoch’ which then tried to ask the question ‘how do we get people to engage in new processes?’ They concluded ‘Top down good start, Bottom up where we ended’.

Bolton Uni addressed the issue of Sustainable technology and noted thegap between practtioners and IT people, essentially not talking to one another. They too used  ‘Archimate’ which allowed both sides to engage in a dialogue. As more pressure is put on efficiency savings,  people have less time to implement change. They also looked at generic open source tools and BaseCamp HQ and ended up using  Sharepoint in 2010.

Organisational change (Cluster B)reported on manageing large scale organisationa change. They devided their presentations up into 3 sections; Starting, Running and finishing a project.

1.Starting a project: Pam Parker fron City reported on starting a project ‘not to rush into the project’ but to  Take time to check the culture and curent practice. Birminghan City expected teams to be done a particualr ways so its best to fices on proces rather than the project. They also provided a model of syakeholder engagement that would empower these stakeholders. Greenwich uni said the key thing was building trust…esp the tension between schools and central admin so the answer was to increase dialogue through workshops brealing down the then and us hostility.

2. Running the project….key was to minimise formal reports and replace them with engaging use of technology such as videos…..Clare from Greenwich noted that ‘feedback and follow up’ were very inportant as well as  visual representations. Cardiff Uni developed a ‘Stakeholder and the Lean Project ‘ where they drew ‘aspirational ships’ and evaluated everything but there was a feeling that ‘the more they learnt the more it became less useful’. So they dropped the notion of the Stakeholder and thought more about power relationships in the Uni….which allowed then to work with the key ‘Gatekeepers’ which became more productive…

3. Finish of the project – Paul at Birminghan suggested that product is not as important as the system that you have built but it is the ‘use’ of the system that is important. All systems are socio-technical…change becomes ‘acted’…Pam at City described their roles and responsilbities in the project and the key issues were to 1.Meet early, 2.Ensure all was signed up,  3.check everone knows their roles, 4. have regular meetings to check progress.

Educational practice (to benefit learners) (Cluster C)

1. method/procedure. Pip;Principles in Patterns, Ulster Uni along with StrathClyde, The OU made the point that to establish the ‘need’ was really important at the start of the project,  for example the NSS survey. 2. Making educational principles and research acessible to staff. Key to this is ‘critical pedogogy’ and evidence (people want to be convinced that a change will be effective) Sutble changes in technology can be quite radical to the institution. 3. The social and cultural aspects of embedding. So for example the issue of ‘language’ of change can be a barrier to making that change happen. Very rarely its the Stakeholder figurehead  the most important person,  quite often its a junior person who is often quite a difficult person to identify. 4. The economics and other competing non learning arguments. Cost and time are still impportant factors (and how to prioritise these). Replicating the existing process using IT often leads to immediate results which can help bring further radical change.supported processes  for agile and responsive curricula. Helping to design new courses , redesign ICT infrastucture…Novel use of multimedia in project reporting and programme design and embedding this in the culture of the uni. Finally they reported that the system works and is fully up and running. Need to streamline the interface and the roles of those conferring approval. It upsets peaople…which is a positive thing! because its very revealiing and possible to make timely interventions

Project presentations :

University of Bolton: CoEducate. Stephan Powell’s starting point was that  ‘curriculum would grow out of the workplace’. This involved 1. Create new model and framework, 2. creating tools and new technology and 3. capacity and capability building. IDIBL model is an action research model has been used several timessince its inception. He ended by outlining Ross Ashby’s model of ‘Requiste Variety’. 2 bits of technology were also used: 1. a ‘curriculum widget’ which help lecturer build their modules and 2. ‘Course Business Planning Canvas’. Finally, he ended with a model from Sense making, Disruptive innovation by Clyton Christensen (2003)

Cardiff University: PALET;  Design Management system set out to Influence startegy and policy, ‘Hardcoded’ curriculum decisions. The benefits, staff development, clarity and focus on need’ quality and standards links. More holistic, more personalised and more sustainable.  

City University: PREDICT. ( Promoting Realistic Engaging Dicussions in Curriculum Teams). Pam Parker outlined the project ams which were to raise the profile of curriculum design and develop flexible and responsive curriculum. This has resulted in huge cultural change in City Uni. Documents were designed and written in ‘student language’, those students used to consulted not engaged – students are now working with satff on projects and students will lead projects. Staff have now started to use the term curriculum design and this is planned across the uni. They also developed the school liason teamm with increased funding for curriculum design and innovation. She also outlined the institutional model based on Teaching learning and assessment principles. Major change in terms of sharing good practice within City Uni. All this against a backdrop of major changes in the senior management team.

University of Greenwich: UG-FLEX Change management at the Uni of Greenwich. Major benefits have been; Improvred capacity to support more agile curriculum design, improved capacity for flexibility in curriculum design, better information mangement, better communication. Recognition that the Uni’s committe stucture is not fit for purpose…huge cheer from the audience!), supported curriculum design (staff development tool kit), project management is valued (but not widely owned yet), Recognition of new values

Leeds Metropolitan University: PC3 Personalised Curriculum creation through Coaching. Coaching was integrated into modules and student led. 6 coaching ambassadors were employed to promote coaching across the uni. This coaching was captured with individual and group stories in a variety of media. Biggest impact has been on the team on their on CPD (to the extend that they are launching their own business on coaching!!!)

Manchester Metropolitan University: SRC Mark Stubbs 2009 a process audit took place From this they tried to produce a model that linked employers, financial services, Physio and  creative digital . However the deperty vice chancellor asked why only 4 areas? So a mission was developed to standarised the curriculum, reduced the amount of summative assessment, increased constructive alignemt. On top of this the Uni was moving to a new VLE….so brought in personalised timetables and handin dates. Lessons leant – massive institional change was possible, web services can bring mass personalisation (for 37 thousand students!) He imphasised how important it was to have the right team in place if a project of this size was to be successful.

If there is one theme that emerged from the projects I heard a report back from,  is that it is the people that are key to implementing curriculum change, even if this change is assisted by new technology. Having the right people in the team can make all the difference in implementing these large scale (and in MMU’s case – massive) projects…I guess that’s not such a big surprise!

Finally there followed presentation from; The Open University: OULD, Staffordshire University: Enable, University of Strathclyde: PiP,  University of Ulster: Viewpoints, but I had to catch my train so I didn’t get to see these presentations

 Useful websites

The Design Studio – http://www.jiscinfonet.ac.uk/curriculum

JISC e-Learning programme – http://www.jisc.ac.uk/whatwedo/programmes/elearning.aspx

Institutional Approaches to Curriculum Design – http://www.jisc.ac.uk/media/documents/publications/managingcurriculumchange.pdf