At the outset the project’s aim was to reveal and enhance Greenwich’s curriculum design processes and systems in order to enable the University to sustainably increase flexible provision (in line with stated strategic goals).The methodology for doing this was grounded in consultation with stakeholders – through workshops, meetings, presentations. Not surprisingly, what followed was a tide of issues and concerns related to how systems and processes work at Greenwich and the limitations of these and of mindsets, practices and attitudes which are not limited to Greenwich but arguably endemic across HE.This has resulted in one of the most significant lessons we have learned and one that we believe needs to be stressed as widely as possible, that systems changes in themselves will not deliver a more agile, flexile curriculum. Not are “the systems” in themselves exclusively the problem.The project tried to manage the inevitable scope creep by collaborating with colleagues and services and sharing information. So, for example the project is currently working with GRE on their CPD initiative and with EDU on their supported curriculum review initiative. We have also sought to narrow down the focus of our work to a specific, primary question relating to improving the experience for students of our systems and processes.The project team anticipated to some extent working in a context of a significant plurality of views and priorities in respect of flexibility (e.g. international and overseas markets) as well as organisational change and changing external factors, although we like everyone else have been wrong footed by the extent of the change and challenge! This has made our focus on enabling greater flexibility at times come to the fore, and at other pushed back and the project continues to operate in this context.
I’m not going to take you through the project chapter and verse. If you are interested you can read reams of reports written for our funders JISC and minutes of meetings, reports to the Steering Group etc. All available on JISC’s website and final report available shortly.
Back in 2009 we were tasked with changing the University’s systems and processes to make them more able to support an agile and flexible curriculum.We started by asking you to tell use your impression of curriculum design and delivery at Greenwich and your ideal worlds – some of you focussed on the student experience, many of you on “the systems”, paperwork, bureaucracy and what you couldn’t do!What we took from this was that there was an overwhelming percpetion that “the computer says No”Also that there were expectations that all students should have a high quality experience at Greenwich – not just full time undergraduates but all students, even those based abroad.What we heard about the many silos and poor communication – confirmed anecdotal evidence (since confirmed in the recent staff survey).In short we opened a Pandora’s box of issues! It simply wasn’t possible to address them all.We started off as all good projects should by defining our scope.
This was it. We started with a full process review of validation and review since was deemed to underpin everything. We then moved on briefly to course level admissions – in other words short courses and fortunately for the project, around that time GRE initiated a separateproject to introduce a piece of off the shelf software called WPM to run an online short course booking and payment system). So UG-Flex moved on to analyse requirements around facilitating variable speeds of study and non-standard start and finish dates. Literally hundreds of hours of analysis, research, modelling, discussion and debate over the period in late 2009 and early 2010.We realised quickly that the self service interface was taken as a given and also that a library of academic models was actually an outcome rather than a areas of investigation as such.
So, what does all this actually mean in practice???
At the beginning of the 2010/11 Academic Year the project rolled enhancements in the student records systems to facilitate the recording and management of information on programme approval and review. For the first time this data was systematised and centrally recorded and it can be used by all staff to help plan the timely review of the curriculum. As part of this enhancement some practices were tightened, for example – enrolling students only on programmes that were able to prove they had met the University’s quality standards. The project made a series of additional recommendations on how the unviersity’s quality assurance processes could be enhanced and a more quality enhancement approach embraced. These recommendations are still on the table , which I think has to be put down to a lack of resource and other priorities that are deemed more pressing. The external evaluation highlighted this area as one for further action.A training needs analysis was completed and training offered.Interestingly, a shift in attitude towards the SRS and web based functions in the VLE became apparent, and there were a growing number of instances when users were finding out all sorts of functionality that they didn’t know existed before. To them this was “new” stuff that had been introduced by UG-FLEX (thank you very much!) UG-Flex can claim to have been a catalyst for streamlining approaches to course data and documentation, which is being taken forward by the XCRI-CAP project led by PAS. The evaluator has suggested Greenwich might want to focus on further enhancements to student records systems to delivered more integrated systems to improve the learner/academic partnership (ie communication between lecturers and their tutees for example.) and enable academic analytics.
At the beginning of the 2011/12 academic year the project rolled out a second enhancement to the student records system, which allowed for programmes to be recorded by start month for the first time. This means that users of the SRS can now view more detailed and accurate information on students and courses, according to different start months and also that related information, in Moodle can be tailored to different programmes depending on their start date in the year.The project also identified a solution to the issue of forced re-registration by students in September, irrespective of their start dates. This solution is very expensive since it requires fundamental changes to the SRS, finance system as well as reporting functions to HEFCE and HESA and is yet to be implemented.A stark question is perhaps why haven’t you done more up to now to deliver flexibility? Because it is very complex, expensive and time consuming: The custom and practice of the university and the wider HE sector is inherently inflexible. Put another way Greenwich’s prevailing attitudes, customs and practice are built on the underpinning principle of the standard academic year running from Sept – July. The underpinning traditional academic year still dominates – HEFCE, HESA and the SLC all work within these parameters. Further, unusually among our peers, Greenwich has a term schedule (popular with the red brick universities) rather than semesters. Still, in both systems the summer period is perceived as a non-teaching/learning time. The project has provided the evidence to show that this position is becoming increasingly unsustainable. Of our current student population there is a rising trend towards “non-September starts”.The outcome was (as many of you will know) that on 2 May 2012 Academic Council accepted a proposal to introduce an academic calendar from 2013/14 organised into 3 trimesters of equal length from Sept-Dec, Jan-April and May-August. This model is deemed to be the one that best reflects the current patterns of teaching and learning at Greenwich and while we don’t have a crystal ball, it is also hoped that such an academic framework will put the university in the best possible state of readiness for changes in demand in the future. As well as recognising the complexity of fleixibility, I want to point out something there is a recognition that it is not the systems like the SRS in themselves that dictate flexibility – quite the opposite – the systems are designed to reflect and replicate custom and practice which is inherently inflexible..
I spend quite a lot of time in 2011 working closely with the Educational Development Unit in order to introduce staff there to a range of tools developed by other universities to faciliate more effective curriculum design.One worth noting is the University of Ulster’s Viewpoints project (curriculum planning activity), another are the games based tools designed by Manchester Met to help staff grasp the intricacies of quality assurance and quality enhancement (“Accreditation” The curriculum game)I also worked closely with Sally Alsford in EDU to develop a staff development workshop activity (again based on a games metaphor called “Snakes and Ladders”) relating to improving the retention and success of new students. We have trialled this with lots of staff at Greenwich and also at 3 external events.What this adds up to in a nutshell is creating opportunities for creative conversations on the curriculum. Again this activity was commended in the external evaluation and a recommendation made to exploit and embed these tools across the institution.
Something else that has come out of the project’s external evaluation is the value that stakeholders have got from the approach the project has taken to communication. Meetings with stakeholders have deployed a range of strategies that have emphasised discussion and exchange of views in a low risk environment.Techniques have included holding open workshops for all schools and central offices (Rich Pictures), establishing a formal project infrastructure that emphasises informality by building in time simply for discussion and debatewhere conversations could run, rather than wading through business. The project has tried to tackle some unspoken “hierarchies” among stakeholders and to break down the “them and us” mentality between academic and professional staff. In the early stages of the project this was tackled this using techniques including NGT (to allow everyone to speak without interuptions). I think this was probably only partly successful.The project has attempted to feedback to stakeholders to show that we have listened to what you have said and taken action. Again I would say partly successful.If there is one thing I think could have been done better is to engage more stakeholders from across the different groups in the University – more on the ground staff and also students. I think I should have had higher expectations of stakeholders. On a more positive note the evaluation recommended a cross-institutional forum to combine blue-skies thinking with addressing practical issues.
This brings me on to what I think has been the biggest challenge and the potentially biggest impact (I hope) of the UG-Flex project in the longer term.The biggest challenge has been to try to deliver change in what is an inherently conversative sector and more specifically in an institution that doesn’t deal with change effectively.
And yet, UG-FLEX has raised expectations and fostered a recognition by many of those involved in the project (not all) that change is possible and will bring positive benefits. Not suprisingly our external evaluator recommended that Greenwich seek to build on the change management techniques introduced through the project.So on this note, I’ll start the ball rolling finish with some reflections:
Ug flex project final event presentationv3
UG-Flex Project (2009-2012)MANAGING CHANGE AND CHANGING MINDSETS: A WORK IN PROGRESS Claire Eustance UG-Flex Project Manager firstname.lastname@example.org / x8918
OBJECTIVES of this event• To paint you a picture of what has changed since 2009;• To acknowledge your contribution to this;• To share with you some of the lessons learned about managing change;• To inform you of suggested next steps.
Over the past 3 years….we did…… Enhanced management of information relating to the curriculum Improved capacity for flexible curriculum design and delivery, (informed by student experience) Developed strategies for better communication Introduced tools for programme teams to review and enhance programmes and courses
BETTER INFORMATIONMANAGEMENT relating to the curriculum
IMPROVED CAPACITY FOR FLEXIBLE curriculum design
TOOLS FOR CREATIVECONVERSATIONS ON THE CURRICULUM
CHANGE IS SIMPLE……• As Is To Be Implement ISN’T IT?....• As Is To Be
MAYBE NOT…..BUT IT IS POSSIBLE…… STARTING POINT IN 2009: PROGRESS SO FAR IN 2012: NO TRUST = NO CHANGE NEW ENVIRONMENT FOR CHANGE curriculum design recognition that systems dictated by systems and reflect underlying problems, they do not create them and bureaucracy. so solutions must address the underlying problems; “them and us” tensions between schools and dialogue and greater understanding; central administration acknowledgement of shared learned helplessness; commitment to continuous improvement & raised expectations;
CHANGE MANAGEMENT: SOME LESSONS LEARNED• It is the transition rather than the change that people resist;• Relationships are empowering;• Deal with issues not people;• Uncertainty can be a creative time;• Change is about culture;• Large scale change defies logical rules;• Understand others’ priorities;• Listen more talk less.