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|PALET - The Programme Approval Lean Electronic Toolkit Project|
The second workshop in the 'Supporting Curriculum Design' programme of activity took place on 24 January 2012. The workshop was facilitated by staff from the Learning and Teaching Support Team and members of the JISC funded Digidol Project Team. In the below video, Dr Sarah Williamson (Head of Learning and Teaching Support) gives an overview of the second workshop.
In line with the new Education Strategy for Cardiff University, the PALET Project has recently launched a new series of staff development workshops titled ‘Supporting Curriculum Design’, which brings together staff involved in developing curriculum in an Academic Session to work together as a ‘cohort’. Staff from a range of discipline areas signed up to participate in the programme of activity and the first in the series of three workshops was held on 6 December. In the below video, Dr Sarah Williamson (Head of Learning and Teaching Support) gives an overview of the first workshop.
Alongside the Supporting Curriculum Design programme of workshops, we are exploring whether it is possible to create a system of ‘cohort electronic networking’ to link academics in individual and in different Schools, and between academics and education and quality assurance support staff, to continue collaborating between workshop sessions and have rich conversations about curriculum design. We have set up a ‘Community’ area in ‘Lotus Connections’ to support peer discussion and collaboration and to build up a ‘knowledgebase’ of curriculum design resources and guidance.
One of the main PALET project requirements was to create a single source of course data that can be reused across our corporate systems. This will provide students with a consistent view of programme and module descriptions irrespective of which system they are using e.g. school web sites, prospectus, VLE, printed handbooks and so on.
To achieve this we firstly extract, transform, and load data from our student records system to our data hub giving us a clean and simple structure to report from.
To allow access to this information it was decided to use a Representational state transfer (REST) architecture to provide standard web services. These can be used by schools to reuse the data as they wish, and allow other systems to consume the data.
Development of the RESTful service was undertaken in house using Grails (http://grails.org/). This is an open source web framework, which uses the Groovy programming language (which is in turn based on the Java platform). Grails incorporates Hibernate and Spring frameworks under one umbrella. It is intended to be a high-productivity framework by following the "coding by convention" paradigm, providing a stand-alone development environment and hiding much of the configuration detail from the developer.
It has been a challenge to get Grails to work with a legacy database. The framework works best when you allow it to control the database design and constraints. Once the framework ‘understands’ our database design, the process to create the services and map URL’s is very easy. Building functionality so that users can switch between output formats e.g. html, json, xml works very well.
The architecture used in this project is the first of its kind in Cardiff University and is rapidly becoming the standard to produce a whole catalogue of data services, which are robust and efficient.
Over the last few months I have been working with colleagues to develop a template for a harmonised Student Handbook. Early last year, I undertook a full review of the range of handbooks currently produced across the University. There is currently an inconsistent approach to handbooks across the University, with approaches varying between (and sometimes within!) academic schools.
I have also been exploring how other Universities have approached this area and achieved a more standard approach to handbooks. In particular, I have been working with colleagues from the T-SPARC project which is funded under the same programme, who have also been undertaking work in this area. Birmingham City University have been running pilots in which they have published University level information on the web and issued School and Programme level information to students in a ‘Course Guide’. You can find out more on the T-SPARC Project Blog here: http://blogs.test.bcu.ac.uk/tsparc/2011/04/15/student-handbook-course-guide-update/
In line with the new Education Strategy for the University, we planned to take this work forward in partnership with students. We began by working with the Academic and University Affairs Officer, Cardiff Students’ Union and held Focus Groups to explore what information students want to receive, when and in what format. The students that we spoke to gave a strong steer. They wanted:
To receive information about the University and their School in a handbook, provided to them early on in their studies;
To receive information specific to their programme of study in a separate programme handbook;
To receive the information in hard copy and to be available electronically;
For the University/School Handbook to be structured around the Student Lifecycle;
Following the focus groups, we have developed a suggested template, based around the Student Lifecycle. The template has been developed based on the concept that it will contain generic information about the University, which will be provided by the Directorates and updated annually, supplemented with further information that is specific to each School, which will be the responsibility of individual Schools to provide and maintain.
This work has become more important, as we work in partnership with students to develop the Student Charter, which will outline clearly and transparently the roles and responsibilities of the students and the University. The Student Charter will be developed during Session 2011-12 for publication in July 2012. The development of a consistent approach to information for students will be essential to support the delivery of the Student Charter and will be developed during August 2011.
The concept and approach to handbooks and the standard template was considered by ASQC in June, who indicated that this was a welcome development and resolved to endorse in principle the standard template for a Student Handbook that was presented. They asked that Registry Officers prepare fully worked examples of the pilot Handbooks and circulate to Members for further comment.
A production web-service for publishing module descriptions is now available and ready for testing. This service surfaces module data held in SIMS via the University data hub.
Upon completion of the PALET Programme Structures workpackage in July 2011, the data hub will be developed further to hold programme structures and programme information for students. A web service will then become available to share this information across systems.
We are currently working with a number of pilot schools to develop ways for them to include the module web-service in school web pages, Learning Central (Blackboard) and the portal.
The next step is to write the specification for the Programme Management portlet. Features that may be included:
Direct access to SITS tasks to manage and seek approval for module and course data;
Facility to review existing module and course descriptions;
Tools to help schools develop course handbooks;
Support for curriculum design.
Last week, Sarah Ingram (Academic and University Affairs officer, Cardiff Students’ Union) and I attended the second ‘Students as Partners’ meeting, held as part of the Higher Education Academy ‘Future Directions’ work. The meeting was attended by staff from almost all institutions across Wales, who were accompanied by a range of current and incoming Student Union Officers.
The Student Union Officers described the current levels of engagement between staff and students at their University. The group also discussed the plans for the future, to ensure more opportunities for partnership working between staff and students. There were some good examples of how some institutions already work in partnership with students, but it was recognised that ensuring a consistent approach to partnership working across the whole institution was challenging.
Three projects/reports were then discussed as examples of good practice – links below:
We then broke into smaller groups for the rest of the meeting, to the definition of ‘Students as Partners’ and what we can do to establish more opportunities for partnership working going forward. We discussed the usefulness of working with members of student societies to gain discipline specific student views and also the importance of providing the appropriate training and knowledge to students to enable them to work in partnership with staff and feel enabled to make decisions.
Working with Students as Partners is a key to the new Education Strategy at the University. As we move forward with PALET, we are seeking to ensure that we work more closely with students to explore ways in which they can become more involved in the design and review of the curriculum.
For more information about the HEA Wales Students as Partners work, please visit wiki page for the group at:http://studentsaspartners.wikispaces.com/Meetings
Guest Blog Post from Richard Williams, PALET Project Team (Student Systems Development)
Each year, colleagues across the Registry, Governance and Students (REGOS) Directorate are invited to attend an away day. The away day this year (April 2011), included presentations from Dr David Grant (Vice-Chancellor) and Professor Elizabeth Treasure (Deputy Vice-Chancellor) on current and planned developments within and outside the University. The theme of the away day was, “Supporting and Enhancing the Student Experience and Managing Change”.
As part of the group discussions it was suggested that SITS system should be used as the single source of all student related information, in order to provide a more holistic, consistent and improved experience to students and avoid duplication of effort and information across different systems. It was good to hear that the work that we are undertaking as part of the PALET project aligns directly with the wider institutional aspirations that were being discussed at the away day. PALET is working to develop processes to facilitate the capture of student focussed module and programme information (i.e. to populate programme specifications) in the SITS system. This will enhance the Student experience by enabling the dissemination of accurate and reliable programme information, from a single source. The new programme structures that are also being worked on as part of the PALET project should help to provide clearer and transparent programme information to students.
The away day provided a good opportunity to discuss with colleagues the work undertaken across REGOS as a Directorate and how we are working to enhance the experience of our Students. It was encouraging to hear both Senior Staff in the institution and colleagues across REGOS supporting the principles of consistency, transparency and single source information – all of which are key principles informing the work of PALET.
Sarah Williamson, Head of Learning and Teaching Support at the University gives feedback from a student focus group exploring how students are/could be involved in Curriculum Design activities. At the students focus group, we explored the following areas:
- How do you learn best?
- What teaching methods or learning activities help you to learn best?
- Are different teaching methods or learning activities more appropriate to different topics/subject areas?
- Do you know how you'll be taught certain things? Where does that information come from?
- Do you think you have the knowledge/understanding to make decisions about course design? How would you want to use the knowledge?
- Would you like to be involved in helping to design how a course is delivered? How?
We have been exploring ways to document and communicate the broadened remit of the PALET project and clearly define the scope of the different workpackages/sub-projects that now fall under the PALET umbrella. In an attempt to do this, we have developed a 'SpicyNodes' map, which you will find below. This is a starter for ten and we intend to build upon this - but we thought we would share it sooner rather than later to communicate what the project is working on. Comments welcome!
Part 1: Friday 21 January 2011
Stephen Griffiths provides an update on the key principles that are informing the work of the PALET project and reports on a key paper being submitted to the Academic Standards and Quality Committee (ASQC) on 24 January 2011.
Part 2: Tuesday 25 January 2011
Stephen provides an update, following the ASQC meeting...
Stephen Griffiths, PALET Project Manger gives an update on the Module Management work that has been undertaken, following the broadening of project scope from focussing on New Programme Approval to Programme Management as a whole.
Stephen Griffiths (PALET Project Manager) gives and introduction to the series of PALET Video Blogs that will be made available in the near future.
Well, I have been managing PALET with Georgia for about six/ seven weeks. Having spent a long time on the 'outside' of the project looking 'in' it has been a revelation to be on the 'inside' looking 'around' and 'out'. I feel a bit like a poacher turned gamekeeper!
Georgia and I are now deep in the process of scope 'shaping' and 'refining' with colleagues, and process development in respect of the 'approval' element, the business case, and curriculum design.
Having moved from 'approval management' (AM) in the first half of the project to 'programme management' (PM) in the second half, we are working on module management and programme structures (all things that will come to fruition in 2011). We are also looking at the business case again, thinking our way through curriculum design (especially the tricky relationship between the formal process and informal support elements), and exploring how we could 'fuse' the two to simplify the process for academic schools and 'ease' the burden of support for the administrative directorates.
Now that I am getting on top of everything (thanks to Georgia!), we are starting to make progress on all fronts.
I was planning to do this as a video log but I can't trust myself to not cough (after flu last week) in the middle of it. So, a shortened written entry for now and a promise that we will do regular video logs in 2011.
Trust you all have a great Christmas and a Happy New Year.
The PALET motherboard has been developed to provide a visual snapshot of some of the key links that exist between the PALET Project and a number of other projects and strategic initiatives underway at Cardiff University and in the wider HE environment. It is important that the project links with, feeds into and feeds from these initiatives to allow PALET to achieve maximum value and to ensure that the outputs are sustainable and can be further developed after the life of the project.
To download a Powerpoint slide of the motherboard, please visit THIS LINK.
It has been a while since the last blog post
- and there have been a number of development and changes with the PALET
Project to report, which are summarised below: From one Lloyd to Another In May of this year, David Lloyd (Senior
Assistant Registrar) took over from Andy Lloyd (no relation!) as Project
Manager of PALET. Andy has taken on a new role here at Technical Options The team from Information Services have been
working on an options analysis paper, analysing the requirements gathered by
PALET to date and exploring the most appropriate technical solutions. It has
now been agreed that the formal programme approval process will be managed by
SITS Process Manager. Technical options are still being explored for the
delivery of the "knowledgebase" and the facility for online support, guidance
and dialogue, but it is looking likely that the tool 'Connections' within the
University's Modern Working Environment will be able to deliver what we want. Project Scope Having read the overview of the Interim
Reports submitted by all of the design projects, changing project scope seems
to be a common challenge for many. There has been ongoing debate about
precisely what might realistically be achieved with the time and resource
allocated to PALET. I.e. whether the new process will accommodate the design of
only New Programmes (around 5% of programme
level developments) or whether it might be extended to deal with major changes
to existing programmes (around 95% of programme level developments). Now that the technical solution has been
agreed, it appears that it will be
feasible to design a process that can accommodate major changes to existing
programmes as well as entirely new programmes. This is good news, as it means
that PALET will have a much larger impact across the Institution than
previously thought. Defining
the Detail It is within the context described above
that the Project Team have been working to develop the detail of a New Process.
There are also a number of wider University initiatives/discussions with which
PALET must align, particularly those around the areas of Portfolio Planning and
Programme Information. The Project Team are still in the process of
developing the detail of the New Process, and intend to present it to the
University’s Academic Standards and Quality Committee later this year for
consideration. Watch this space…
It has been a while since the last blog post - and there have been a number of development and changes with the PALET Project to report, which are summarised below:
From one Lloyd to Another
In May of this year, David Lloyd (Senior
Assistant Registrar) took over from Andy Lloyd (no relation!) as Project
Manager of PALET. Andy has taken on a new role here at
The team from Information Services have been working on an options analysis paper, analysing the requirements gathered by PALET to date and exploring the most appropriate technical solutions. It has now been agreed that the formal programme approval process will be managed by SITS Process Manager. Technical options are still being explored for the delivery of the "knowledgebase" and the facility for online support, guidance and dialogue, but it is looking likely that the tool 'Connections' within the University's Modern Working Environment will be able to deliver what we want.
Having read the overview of the Interim Reports submitted by all of the design projects, changing project scope seems to be a common challenge for many. There has been ongoing debate about precisely what might realistically be achieved with the time and resource allocated to PALET. I.e. whether the new process will accommodate the design of only New Programmes (around 5% of programme level developments) or whether it might be extended to deal with major changes to existing programmes (around 95% of programme level developments).
Now that the technical solution has been agreed, it appears that it will be feasible to design a process that can accommodate major changes to existing programmes as well as entirely new programmes. This is good news, as it means that PALET will have a much larger impact across the Institution than previously thought.
Defining the Detail
It is within the context described above that the Project Team have been working to develop the detail of a New Process. There are also a number of wider University initiatives/discussions with which PALET must align, particularly those around the areas of Portfolio Planning and Programme Information.
The Project Team are still in the process of developing the detail of the New Process, and intend to present it to the University’s Academic Standards and Quality Committee later this year for consideration. Watch this space…
© Dr Sarah Williamson. Powered by Apache Roller 4.0.1-dev.
|« May 2013|
Tagsalt approval assessment blog camel cardiff change charter collaboration connections curriculum description design digidol enagement flexible handbooks hea information jisc lean mwe palet programme quality stakeholders students technology university webservice
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