Posts Tagged ‘programme’

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.

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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