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Service modularity abstract modular education


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Service modularity abstract modular education

  1. 1. Modular Education: an examination of Operations Management teaching in the UK Des Doran Brunel UniversityAbstract for Service Modularity Conference, Helsinki School of Economics, 20-21st January 2011This paper explores the application of modular practices and principles within aneducational context. In particular the paper explores the provision of OperationsManagement modules delivered at Universities located in the United Kingdom and assessesthe degree to which such modules demonstrate the characteristics of modularityestablished within the manufacturing sector in terms of modular architecture, interfacecapabilities and modular design protocol.Whilst there is an abundance of literature examining the development and application ofmodular principles and practices within a manufacturing context there is little evidence ofsuch application with the education sector where modularity and modular instruction hasbeen developing for over thirty years (Goldschmid & Goldschmid, 1973).The expansion of modular education at both undergraduate and postgraduate levels hasgained impetus in the European Union (EU) as a result of the Bologna process which hassought to bring uniformity to education provided within EU member countries in order toaccommodate ease of movement and transfer module credits from and betweeninstitutions. Furthermore, Universities within the UK have used the modular approach todesign modular degree programmes and to standardise the way in which modules aredesigned, assessed and delivered.Research relating to Operations Management teaching (OM) within Europe has tended tofocus upon aligning OM teaching to the needs of industry (Hill, 1986, 1987; Nicholson,1997), teaching Operations Management on Executive programmes (Goffin, 1998), the roleof simulations and technology (Smith, 1989; Richardson, 2000; van der Zee & Slomp, 2009),POM teaching in Europe (Machuca & Luque, 2003), the importance of supply chainmanagement (2000) and the growing importance of service industries in OM teaching(Armistead et al, 1986; Johnston, 1999). In terms of syllabus content, Voss (1984) and Hill(1987) identified manufacturing policy, measurement of performance, international OM,the application and use of technology, stock control, quality management, quantitativeapproaches and service operations management were regarded as key topic areas in theearly eighties and manifest in both teaching and research activities. Clearly, much of thiscontent is still relevant in today’s operations environment and is likely to influence syllabuscontent and delivery.Email questionnaires were distributed to all Universities in the United Kingdom deliveringOperations Management modules on undergraduate or postgraduate degree programmes.The findings indicate that the delivery of Operations Management modules demonstrates adegree of uniformity aligned to the level of educational instruction and furthermore that
  2. 2. such modules exhibit modular characteristics in terms of learning outcomes, credit values,topics studies, assessment strategies and indicative reading.63 surveys were completed and returned during the period July to September 2010. Of thistotal, 19 per cent of respondents taught OM at undergraduate level only and 30 per centtaught at postgraduate level only; the remaining 51 per cent of respondents indicated thatthey taught on both undergraduate and postgraduate OM modules. To avoid questionnairecomplexity, respondents were asked to complete the questionnaire by referring toundergraduate or postgraduate only. 42 per cent of respondents chose to address thedelivery of undergraduate modules and the remaining 58 per cent of respondents elected tofocus on the delivery of OM on postgraduate modules delivered on MBA and MScprogrammes.The findings indicate that close to 90% of respondents were involved in the design ofmodules and that they had changed key elements of the module. The most popular changesto modules included changes to module content (84%), assessment diet (71%), indicativereading (68%), learning outcomes (46%) and module aims (41%). Such changes werestimulated primarily by a need to reflect changes occurring in the field of OperationsManagement (76%) and feedback from students (61%). The median value for credit valueassociated with the module was 15 credits (43%) whilst the median value for the number ofmodule aims was between 1 and 3 (57%). The number of learning outcomes associated withthe module was generally between 4 and 5 (59%). In terms of module content there wassome degree of alignment between postgraduate and undergraduate programmes (Table I)although there were a number of deviations (Fig I)
  3. 3. Table I – Module content Content area Postgraduate Undergraduate All Ranking (All) The role of Operations 97% (1) 88% (3) 93% 1 Management Operations Strategy 91% (3) 84% (5) 88% 3 Process design 81% (6) 96% (1) 88% 3 Job design and work 47% (9) 56% (8) 51% 7 organisation Capacity management 88% (4) 80% (6) 84% 4 and control Inventory 84% (5) 68% (7) 77% 5 management Lean operations and 94 % (2) 92% (2) 93% 1 JIT Supply Chain 94 % (2) 88% (4) 91% 2 Management Project planning and 53% (8) 48% (9) 51% 7 management Business process 60 % (7) 84% (5) 70% 6 improvement techniques and tools Global Operations 44% (10) 24% (10) 35% 8 ManagementRanking of content areas shown in parentheses
  4. 4. Figure I – Use of Content areas