Hello. My name is Mark Stubbs and I am Professor and Head of Learning and Research Technologies at Manchester Metropolitan University. I am here to provide a ten minute summary of our JISC-funded curriculum transformation project, know as SRC.In 2008, MMU won funding for a four year project to Support Responsive Curricula. In this brief presentation I will explain how our ideas about curriculum transformation took on a life of their own and coalesced with an institutional imperative to Enhance the Quality of Assessment for Learning, known as EQAL, and we exceeded all our aims for sustainable, university-wide impact. As Rick Moranis might say: Honey, we blew up the project!
In 2009 we conducted an audit of our course approval processes, which revealed robust quality assurance and approval protocols that were applied rigorously. However, these were heavily dependent on paper and tended to be the preserve of a group of ‘experts’ who interpreted and navigated the complexity on behalf of others. Competences had not been a design criterion for the process, although many course teams were keen to formalise their thinking on the development of graduate and employability outcomes.Challenges for responsive provision were identified in aligning time cycles for course approval and system set up and a general aversion to risk-taking. Enablers were identified as streamlining document workflows, shifting the balance from up-front approval of designs to more on-going evaluation of delivery, and making more of established links with employers and professional bodies.
SRC benefited from having four areas willing to pilot responsive curriculum design and delivery: law, financial services, physiotherapy and creative digital.Each area adopted a model for planning interventions that linked employers, course teams and students. Course teams considered how their provision mapped against competences that would enhance employability. They developed ways to signpost development opportunities to students who were encouraged to showcase their talents to potential employers. Law adjusted some of their timetable to encourage students to attend local employer events. Financial Services aligned their syllabus and assessment to secure exemptions from Professional Body examinations. Physiotherapy created a sophisticated scaffolding for professional skills development using PebblePad e-Portfolio software.Creative Digital tutors organised highly successful ProDevDays in which employers, students and staff met informally to discuss the local job market and run ‘pimp my CV’ clinics.
MMU senior staff attended SRC benchmarking workshops and heard course tutors describe how their efforts to be more responsive were thwarted by cumbersome systems and a pervasive aversion to risk-taking. SRC really benefited from having the Deputy Vice Chancellor for the Student Experience as its Executive Sponsor and a Steering Group of key senior managers which included the Head of Quality, the Head of Administrative Systems, the Head of Learning and Teaching, the Director of IT, Library and Learning Technologies, the Director of Student Services, the Pro-Vice-Chancellor for Curriculum Innovation and the Pro-Vice-Chancellor for Employability. Our DVC had been impressed by progress shown in the four areas but asked the group why the university’s ambition had to be limited to transforming just the four pilots. Surely, with major investment in new buildings and a real need to improve MMU’s NSS position, we needed to think bigger?
In 2010, the DVC asked the Registrar, Pro-Vice-Chancellor for Curriculum Innovation and the Director of IT, Library and Learning Technologies to form a Programme Board to coordinate the efforts of senior staff to make a step-change improvement in the student experience.The Head of Quality, the Director of Student Services, the Head of Administrative Systems and the Head of Learning Technologies were invited to work with the EQAL Board and the university’s Business Improvement Team to formulate plans for four interlinked project strands:a new curriculum frameworknew administrative processes and systems; new quality assurance procedures; and a new virtual learning environment.The Board set the challenging target of September 2011 for going live with an entirely new undergraduate first year supported by personalised timetabling and an integrated, personal learning environment. That meant securing approval from Academic Board for a new curriculum framework, devising a mechanism for capturing the best part of a thousand module specifications, approving those designs and using the data on them to set up the student records system, timetable and VLE.It might have looked like Mission Impossible, but I am delighted (and mightily relieved) to report that over 860 new modules were approved and an entirely new first year went live in Moodle on the date the Board had intended.
Academic Board approved an increase in module size from 20 to 30 credits, which prompted this refresh of the undergraduate curriculum. Limits on the number of learning outcomes and the number of summative assessments were also approved and an electronic web form was designed for entering module specifications. This form was designed to capture the bare minimum of data, but to do so in a way that added value and facilitated re-use. Logic behind the form warned if learning outcomes had been not assessed, and encouraged assessments to be tagged with graduate and sustainability outcomes students were likely to develop.Not all were happy with the level of standardisation and transparency in curriculum design, but the EQAL Board emphasised that the approach was essential for a step-change improvement in student experience.
The Learning Technologies Strand with EQAL had a simple target of complementing learning materials with personalised and seamless access to administrative information developed elsewhere within the programme – no pressure! Faculty-based E-Learning Support Officers were appointed to give tutors the confidence and competence to use Moodle to support their teaching. A service-oriented architecture was designed to enhance Moodle with relevant information drawn from key university systems. The evolution of this mega-mashup approach is described at length in our JISC-funded Distributed VLE project, known as W2C. However, it relies on two key things:Consistent identifiers for users and curriculum; andWeb-services.The mega-mashup enables a student logging in to Moodle to see their email, timetable, course and modules and to check for each module the announcements, reading list, assessment deadlines, extensions and past examination papers. Oh and it had to work first time for 37,000. Did I mention the bit about “no pressure”?
In many ways, EQAL has challenged pre-conceptions of what’s possible in a large institution: 868 modules have been entered, approved, set up, timetabled and populated in a new VLE in 12 months! SRC had always hoped for institutional change, but the pace and scale of EQAL is unprecedented. The first and most important lesson to share is that it’s possible! It’s all too easy to see the embedded and interconnected nature of university systems, processes and culture as a reason to put university-wide transformation in the “too hard” box. However, EQAL has demonstrated that if the dominant view is that you can’t change anything because you’d have to change everything, then that’s exactly what you have to do: refresh the curriculum, the admin systems and processes, learning and quality processes simultaneously. It isn’t easy, and it was a huge ask of MMU staff and communication could have been better but EQAL met its September 2011 target. In doing so, it demonstrated that web-services can bring personalised access for 37,000 and highlighted how joined-up systems require accurate data.
We really hope others can draw lessons from the case study that SRC has made it possible to document. Ros Smith has interviewed key stakeholders across the institution and done a great of assembling the different perspectives into a report that is easy to digest. Given the fractured timelines and cross-cutting views, I had considered Pulp Fiction for this slide but the typography of Interview with the Vampire fitted the “Stake”-holder angle rather better!You’ll see that EQAL didn’t win every heart and mind, but as colleagues see the downstream benefits in Moodle, there is growing realisation that being specific about assessment and delivery has benefits.With such a massive organisational change, one would normally expect a dip in customer experience, and we may yet see this in the 2012 NSS, but 10,716 students kindly left 58,000 comments in a pre-Christmas online survey and there are encouraging signs that intended EQAL benefits are beginning to show through.
The good news is that our voyage continues. All Level 5 units have now been entered, approved and set up in our systems and will shortly appear in Moodle ready to be populated for September. The pace doesn’t let up for academic colleagues as Level 6 units will then need to be designed and entered before Christmas.The initial benchmarking workshops for SRC identified the need to re-balance quality assurance to provide a stronger continual monitoring and improvement focus. A new university-wide infrastructure went live this year that delivers personalised surveys to students and presents the appropriate anonymised ratings and comments to module and programme leaders. Plans are being drawn up for dashboards that combine satisfaction with success and engagement data, but this kind of system and process change is much easier than the cultural and behavioural change required to make the curriculum genuinely responsive.So our mission continues and SRC and EQAL have enabled us to go forward wiser and more boldly than before!Thank you very much for listening.
SRC Talks 20120522 Birmingham
HONEY, WE BLEW UP THE PROJECTMMU Staff, MMU Students, JISC
S T M E S C D M R D M L T D S E S C R D M S T M DT A I Q C O E A E E A E A E T Q C O E E A T A I EU L C U I U A R A A R C L A U U I U A A R U L C AD I R E E R D K D D K T I D D E E R D D K D I R DE S O L N S L S I L S U S L E L N S I L S E S O LN S L T E I N I R I N L T E N I N S IT A O A I W N G N E A N T A I W G N T A O N S F A O E E S E A O E S F ER P T R R S L S N P S R R R L S R P T SE I E T K I O I E E T K I E IC R L P I S T R C P I S C R LO E I O M S T E E O O M S T O E IR V S E U S R S E U R VD E I T B D I T B D E @ T A M T A M @S E O B I S O B I S EY D R L S Y R L S Y DS U Y E S S Y E S S UT I T I TE O E O EM N M N M THE MEGA-MASHUP
INSTITUTIONAL COMMUNICATION CHANGE IS & PLANNING ARE POSSIBLE ESSENTIAL WEB-SERVICES JOINED-UPCAN BRING MASS SYSTEMS NEEDPERSONALISATION ACCURATE DATA LESSONS THE SMALLEST SEED OF AN IDEA CAN GROW
INTERVIEWS WITH THE STAKEHOLDERS“we needed a greater degree of standardisation and consistency about theway the curriculum was assessed” DVC Student Experience “I don’t like the 30-credit unit size … it reduces student choice & requires lumping things together which don’t naturally fit” Faculty EQAL Lead“[student experience] will be dragged down if the basics aren’t in place,like knowing where you are supposed to be… and when the submissiondates are. I think that understanding of this is beginning to grow acrossthe institution now” Head of Learning & Research Technologies “I appreciate why MMU has done EQAL – for a more positive student experience. These things just take time, it’s such a big university. On the whole the university does listen to the student voice” VP Student Union