What are the big issues associated with managing curriculum information? Jim Everett from the PiP team at the University of Strathclyde and Simon Cross from the Open University Learning Design Initiative (OULDI) Project used case studies to stimulate discussion around this topic at the JISC Curriculum Design Programme meeting in Birmingham on the 12th of May 2010.
Some issues emerging from the discussion:
- Calculating "costs" of courses is a complex procedure and differs substantially across different institutions. For example, at the the OU, calculating estate costs would be very different from universities which teach face-to-face. There are also complexities associated with the cost/benefit relationship and the need to re-visit business cases on a cycle as new considerations apply.
- There is a very big risk that you can approve a module or programme from a business case perspective without considering the pedagogy and the learning as experienced by students.
- Even when pedagogy is considered as part of the approval process there is a recognition that teaching methdologies and the planned student experience might vary considerably in delivery.
- Expectations from academics about the student workload associated with modules is often divergent from the real experience students have.
- For most universities, business case development doesn't happen in a discrete package before the more general design of curricula - although there is evidence that universities are increasingly considering issues like market intelligence before a course is developed more fully.
- Students and staff members both tend to have a poor level of information about how all the elements of a course work together.
- Standardisation of data and version control during the approval process is a familar problem across institutions.
Some stakeholder perspectives on the documentation of modules or programmes:
- I don't need that information (so why do we collect it?)
- I can't see the point of that information (so why do I need to write it on the form?)
- I need this information but there is no where to put it (so I'll put it somewhere else)
- I don't have that information yet (so I'll leave it blank)
These issues seemed very familiar to colleagues from a number of institutions. For some institutions, this represents an uncomfortable set of truths about the reality of academic approaches to what is seen as an essentially administrative and bureaucratic burden.
A key question identified by one participant: Wll improved documentation result in better curricula as delivered by teachers and experienced by learners? We hope so!