Posts Tagged ‘iPaMS’

Update + Save the date for our dissemination

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Hello all,

Although we have been a bit quiet on both the twitter and  blog front, we are still working hard behind the scenes. I thought I would do a quick update just to let you know how we’re currently getting on. Firstly, we are currently organising our dissemination event! We have it planned out for Monday 29th October. We will be releasing some more information about the content of the event very soon but for now please pop this in your diaries.

Furthermore, we are also working on writing the training strategy for the project. We have a lot of training in the pipeline and we need to organise how we’re going present this, whilst also planning for the upkeep of training after the project has finished. Once we have implemented the workflow into iPaMS there will need to be brand new training for the users so we are looking into this whilst we write the strategy. Currently all the users in iPaMS have had module training; this has included a range of documentation, video and training sessions to teach them how to add and edit modules in iPaMS. We are currently also working towards designing and producing programme training as users will soon be able to start entering programme data into iPaMS. This leads nicely into my next point.

As project support officers, Cat and myself  have started to enter some of the 12/13 programme data into iPaMS already and so far we have around 111 programmes in there. The majority of these programmes are from Humanities, however, we are also working on CLES programmes too. We have found this to be a little stressful at times, as the programme template in iPaMS is arranged differently to those on word documents that we have received. Therefore, it can sometimes take a while to find the right information to put into the correct field in iPaMS, but after entering a couple of programmes we got a good sense of where to find everything. Entering the data ourselves has helped us to think about the training we need to provide users when they come to enter this data.

Lastly, we have been focusing on the iPaMS web service. We have written up a functional specification and this has been distributed to the internal stakeholders. We are now currently waiting for this to be signed off and then we can crack on with setting this up.

We hope everyone’s projects are going well, please keep us up to date with any new blogs or twitter accounts regarding #coursedata projects. We love to know how you’re all doing.

Lauren (Project Support Officer)

XCRI-CAP Quick Update

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We recently had a meeting with our project team to discuss our progress with the XCRI-CAP mapping. It was important for us to finalise the fields that we will be feeding, enabling us to finish building our programme template in iPaMS. We found there were a few fields that didn’t quite map up between iPaMS and XCRI. An example of this was firstly the study mode field. In iPaMS we were holding a “modular” option whereas in XCRI there was an option titled “flexible”. We felt it was important to try and match up any of these inconsistencies to help make the feeding process as easy as possible. We have now changed our “modular” option to “flexible”.

Another field we discussed was the “assessment” field. Within iPaMS we hold a lot of data regarding assessment details, however, in this meeting we decided we would use our Marketing assessment field for the XCRI feed. This would be the same assessment information that would feed to our website, giving more concise information regarding the assessment. We also highlighted in this meeting that we needed to include not just the abbreviated version of the qualifications but also the full versions, such as Bachelor of Arts.

There were also a few fields we were unsure about, such as the “type” field held in XCRI. We weren’t sure exactly what information we could use for this field. The XCRI information explained that the “type” was for a grouping of similar courses in terms of target audience. We were therefore unsure whether to group them by discipline or by UG/PG. We contacted Alan Paull and he was very helpful in answering our questions. He explained that they have not published a classification or vocabulary for this element, except for CPD courses, so we could leave this element from our feed if we wanted. Alan also explained they were open to suggestions to how this might be handled. Has anyone else included this element in their feed, if so, let us know what information you are including.

After ironing out some of these issues we organised a meeting with the Marketing department for next week to go through our spreadsheet and talk further about XCRI. It is a very important aspect of this project and with the help from Marketing, it will allow us to market our programmes in the best way possible.

Once we have had our meeting with Marketing and finished updating our XCRI spreadsheet, we will pop it on the blog for you to all see. We look forward to finding out how everyone else has mapped their data so please send us links to your blogs.

Workflow Mapping

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Workflow mapping and finalising exactly how we plan for programmes to be approved and amended within iPaMS has been an ongoing task since the start of the project.  Over the past few months specific meetings have been held where we mapped out Business Approval and processes that currently occur in SITS.  However our focus has been on programmes and making sure that the programme template is fit for purpose.  Therefore any conversation about workflow has been connected to this.  For example the Graduate School of Education (GSE) run a number of ‘Continuing Education Short Courses’.  We met with GSE to discuss how these would fit into the programme template.  These non-credit bearing programmes are in fact approved in module templates, thus we looked into the approval workflow of these to ensure that it maps against other processes within the system avoiding us having to build a separate element of workflow for this handful of programmes.

Now that we have stopped looking at programmes we have finished mapping the workflow processes.  Squeezed onto a page of A3 our workflow diagram is complicated, to put it mildly.  Consultation with Marketing and Faculty has confirmed when individuals need to receive notifications about different stages within the process and to who will receive these.  Consultation with Admissions and the Library has allowed us to streamline parts of the Business Approval process so that each department’s involvement occurs at a slightly different stage, improving communication and efficiency throughout the development of programmes.

We are currently organising meetings with colleges so that those involved in the design and amendment of programmes and modules can comment on the proposed processes and we can make sure that iPaMS will work at this college level.  There have been a few discrepancies between colleges so far, but these are only minor- for example some colleges have a Learning and Teaching Committee, others have Programme Approval Committees, Educational Strategy Group Meetings serve a slightly different purpose in some colleges…  However none of these factors affect how the process works within iPaMS.  All feedback, so far, has been very positive and it looks everybody is looking forward to iPaMS being finished and seeking the benefits of an online workflow process.

Programme Developments

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Developments to the programme template have been ongoing over the past month.  As the TQA template has recently been changed it has taken until now for us to receive examples of how fields have been interpreted and the amount of information which has been entered into specific areas.  This has meant that we have had to do some ‘re-arrangement’ to the original template that we designed for iPaMS.  In light of these changes we have started to look at how our data will map against the XCRi-CAP feed.  While we do not plan to develop the actual feed until later in the project we identified only a few pieces of additional information required for XCRi and these have been simple to add into the programme template.  This means that hopefully there will be no changes needed to the template once we start adding more advanced functionality to the system.

Different versions of standard text have been defined for use in the TQA specification and our lead developer Helen has added functionality to the system relating these different text versions to descriptive fields such as the campus identifier.  This text can only be edited for the current academic year and will need to be ‘rolled forward’ for future years.  We have identified this as the most effective way to ensure that historic documents are archived effectively (with the correct version of standard text) and that consideration is given to factors such as developments on campus and any change of resources for each year.  Due to the nature of programme design it was difficult to define this text and the associated relationships.  For example there are a number of learning opportunities which are taught on different (or multiple) campuses and some which are validated by the University of Exeter, but are taught through collaborative provisions.  The need for flexibility in the template has made any standardisation difficult.

Beyond the progress that has been made within iPaMS itself there have also been some other developments in the project.  The faculty office has agreed to the simplified data format that will be used in the PDF output for the TQA specification.  This means that in the future it will be easier to change the information that is required for the TQA specification as using the current format would require specialised skills to edit the template due to the complexity of the code which would have been required to build this.

The web marketing team have started to look at how programme data will be displayed in different sections of the web service.  This was an important driver for the development of iPaMS, ensuring consistency in the way that data is displayed across all of the colleges.  Once this is complete we will be able to make any final assessments of the template before we start entering programme data from the colleges.

Building Effective Screencasts

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With our ever growing system and the need for Colleges to move quickly over to iPaMS we have found training material to be of high importance within this project. As mentioned in both previous posts and tweets, we have started work on training material to provide Colleges with direction when entering data into iPaMS. Currently we have both training documents and videos on how to enter and edit module data and we are also working on training material for programmes too. We have had great feedback regarding the training with the highest positive feedback being given for the videos. As our training videos were so highly watched by users, I therefore felt it would be good to brush up on my Screencasting techniques, so booked myself onto a training course.

The course was named “Building Effective Screencasts” and was held in Bristol by JISC Digital Media. Throughout the day I was taught a wide range of skills from microphone techniques to the use of Camtasia Studio. Although I have already been making videos in Camtasia, I still learnt many skills that I will use within my future videos. I would definitely recommend this course for anyone who wants an introduction to building Screencasts.

I am now currently working on a new series of training videos for programmes, whilst also updating the ones I have previously made.  My main priority is to improve the quality of both the video and voice-overs, using some of the skills I learnt from the training day. I am also working on designing a generic intro for all the training videos I make to give it a consistent approach.

If you have any questions about our training videos, please get in contact.

Lauren – Project Support Officer

Progress to Date – May 2012

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We have been working on the CRIATE project for five months now (not counting the work that started internally before the JISC funding) and we have achieved a lot: A full progress report is published on the Documentation tab above.

Our main achievements so far have been:

  • Module templates available for entering module data
  • College of Humanities’ (HUMS) 2012/13 module data entered and feeding to their intranet
  • College of Social Sciences and International Studies’ (SSIS) 2012/13 module data entered
  • College of Life and Environmental Sciences’ (CLES) 2011/12 and 2010/11 module data is nearly all entered
  • End users trained on iPaMS from HUMS, SSIS and CLES

The next month is going to be extremely busy for the project team. We are planning to:

  • Finalise and test the programme template for 2012/13 data
  • Start entering 2012/13 programme data for HUMS, SSIS and CLES
  • Migrate archive programme and module data from HUMS’s and SSIS’s old database
  • Finalise the design for a feed from iPaMS to our various institutional websites (for prospective and current students)
  • Continue designing the online workflow for programme and module approval

We are also planning for a pilot integration with SITS (later this summer). We are already able to display the module diet of a programme in iPaMS (sourced from SITS), but we also want to be able to push data into SITS from iPaMS. The pilot will most likely focus on module information, as this is relatively simple with little dependency on data from other sources. If it is successful, this will open the doors to more data flowing from iPaMS, which will help cut down on administrative tasks and the risk of mis-keying data.

Keep checking our blog, as we will update on each of the tasks above over the next few weeks.


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I’m Samantha Briggs, the new Programme Approval Officer in Academic Policy and Standards. I’m working closely with the iPaMS/CRIATE team at the moment, helping them to understand how our programme approval and amendment processes work, so these can be incorporated into the database.

I’m looking forward to being able to see the stage-by-stage development of new programmes though iPaMS/CRIATE, so I can work more closely with Colleges in making the University of Exeter’s programme and module documentation world-class, and to help our College staff tackle barriers in advance of submitting their paperwork for Stage 3 approval by the Dean of Taught Faculty.

Marketing Update

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The Marketing Team on the project team have been looking at how we are going to use the information stored in the iPaMs database, and making it fit for purpose.  The Marketing Team need to be able to confirm information at the earliest stages of development of a programme as we’re communicating with prospective students well in advance of programme start dates. We’re predominantly concerned with web pages for prospective students, but College Web Marketing Officers who are part of our wider team, will potentially be required to amend information published to current students: it’s the visibility of the website which often prompts the required change.

Key developments we are currently undertaking include:

  • Working on the Programme template, keeping in mind what we want to use the information for.  For example, we have suggested that we want a separate Marketing field to list the discipline area the programme falls into.  We discussed pulling the field from SITS, but it was decided that this doesn’t necessarily map onto our discipline/subject list, therefore is one is not fit for our purposes.  We are also keen to have a separate programme description field which we can amend to ensure the information follows our University style guidelines, and is suitable for a prospective student, as well as other audiences who may be seeking information on our website.
  • Amending and creating module descriptions which will be able to publish directly to the website.  In the 9k fee environment, it will be increasingly important for prospective students to know the details of what they will be studying.  Although we provide information at the moment, the iPaMs database will allow us to provide consistent information in a consistent format which can be easily understood by prospective students.  The amends can range from ensuring we are following the University-set style guidelines, to writing a new module description where none exists.  Currently the spreadsheet of modules has 903 modules from the College of Humanities and the College of Social Science and International Studies which have been added to iPaMs, but this is constantly growing as more modules are added by the team, and the colleges.


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The consultation period for the programme template is, at long last, complete.  The web developers can now start coding the fields that data will be entered into.  It has been a long and drawn out process ensuring that all future iPaMS users will be able to store all of the necessary information they require against each programme.

Trying to reduce the amount of duplicated information related to programmes has taken up a great deal of time within the consultation period.  In some instances, such as with the programme description, one narrative is required to provide information for the TQA specification, the prospective students and current students sections of the web service and within the undergraduate prospectus.  Traditionally text would feed from separate places to each individual source; iPaMS, as the definitive source of programme information will now hold all text relating to the description of the programme in two fields, this will not only help keep all of the information for each output current but will improve efficiencies in terms of less repetition.

A number of fields required within the TQA Specification will be automatically populated from information collected within other fields.  This again reduces the amount of duplicated information held against each programme and will improve efficiencies within the programme creation process.  Standardised text and links will also be created at college level so that these do not have to be replicated by different departments, the population of these will be determined on the responses given in other fields.

User access to programme fields has also been established.  This will mean that departments will be able to update any changes to programme information that is related to them; most of these changes will automatically feed to the web service and there will be no delay in waiting for this information to be edited in T4.

There are still a number of different areas relating to programmes which have not been defined, such as how they will be linked and whether some fields will push into/ pull from SITS; however now we have defined the fields which are required it will be easier to make a decision on these areas of functionality.

Linking Programmes

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Whilst recently investigating programmes we have come across some previous templates holding multiple programme data, such as those that have the same programme content but give you the choice of receiving a BA or a BSc. Similarly we have also found 3 year programmes that allow the choice of an extra year for MSc to be held on the same template. Furthermore, programmes that enable an optional year abroad/placement have also been held on the same programme and instead should be held separately. The main focus of us separating these templates is due to the intricate workflow that is being developed and the fact that each programme needs to be approved separately.

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Currently, as we have mentioned, many of these similar programmes have been held on the same template. Since Colleges will now have to split these programmes up we have been working on how to make the transfer of data between programmes easier. One simple idea is to have a “duplicate” button. This would either copy all the data across or specific chosen fields, from one programme template to another; the user would then delete/change any of the data to fit with the new programme. These are the simple ideas for programme linking but the downside of this approach is if the similar programmes needed editing, each programme would have to be edited individually.

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The more complex process is following a parent-child idea. This allows one programme to be a “parent programme” allowing you to copy its data across to another programme. This is similar to the duplicate idea, however, when data is edited in the parent programme, the data would also change in the child programmes automatically. We have discussed, regarding the parent-child process, if any data was edited within the linked programmes that notifications would arise. These notifications would let the user know that this programme is linked to others. Further discussion to how the notifications would work and what they would display will be considered in more detail if this process was chosen.

We have been in discussions with everyone from the project team about these ideas and we are still working on what process would be best. The initial duplicate button is quick to develop and easy to use, however, it would expect users if editing, to edit all programmes individually. In comparison, the parent-child would be more complex to develop but would allow easy editing functions for users throughout all linked programmes.

Please comment and let us know what you think. What are you doing with your institution?

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