Posts Tagged ‘XCRI-CAP’

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.

JISC Coursedata-tech Day


Myself and Ben Norcombe attended the JISC #coursedata day in London on 20th June. It was an enjoyable and informative day, I always seem to go to London on the warmest day of the year, but thankfully the venue was conveniently located next to Paddington Station so no uncomfortable trips on the Underground at rush hour were necessary!

The day got underway with an overview of XCRI-CAP feed by Rob Engelbright. Having spent a bit of time looking in depth at this we were already familiar with the structure. I was also able to ask Rob about whether our yearly programme descriptor in iPaMS mapped fairly closely to the <presentation> element in XCRI-CAP, and he felt that it did, which is nice to know.

Next followed a demo of the validator by Craig Hawker, again it was something we were familiar with, and as validation tools go it is nice and user friendly, with helpful messages to let you know if something needs changing. We may well have to revisit some of the formats we have chosen for programme descriptor items and see if they match well with XCRI-CAP, and if not look at how we can improve this. Craig mentioned that correct ordering of XCRI-CAP was required by the validator, but is not actually part of the spec, so I don’t know whether that means it is important or not? Maybe a question for JISC…

We then looked at the Aggregator and other tools which will/could utilise XCRI-CAP. It was interesting to see the potential of these and I’m sure something we will be revisiting in the future. If someone writes something useful for Moodle that certainly may be of interest to the University.

There was plenty of time for chatting throughout the day and that was useful, especially to meet people who have some of the same IT systems as we do, such as SITS and T4, and hear about ways in which they were planning to utilise these. Loughborough have certainly done some very clever things with T4 and though I don’t think it would suit our particular project it was interesting to see the possibilities.

The day finished at a civilised hour and we were back on the train with some useful information and a bunch of new people to follow on Twitter, so all in all a productive day.

Helen Connole – CRIATE Lead Developer


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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.

Project Update

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Workflow with the Faculty Office

At the beginning of the week Cat, Sam and I met with Kate and Samantha from the faculty office. We were looking through stage 1 of the workflow which we had previously mapped out at the beginning of the year.  This meeting was very successful in working out what notifications faculty wanted and when they wanted them. It also helped to check the workflow was correct and what needed modifying. It was additionally decided that the faculty office would get their notifications within iPaMS rather than to a central faculty email. We currently still working on the workflow diagram and will be meeting with other departments to discuss their involvement in the workflow.

Lauren Welland (Project Support Officer)


We have started to look at how programmes will be stored within iPaMS and which pieces of information we will need to hold against each specific programme.  The functionality of iPaMS has been a major consideration here as information from the programme specification will be used as a marketing tool for prospective students and as an information source for current students, it will hold all of the information required to comply with TQA and QAA standards and be worded in a way that will easily link in with the XCRI- CAP data feed.  Information imputed as a part of the workflow process for approving new programmes will also be archived against each specific programme, as will any changes made to the programme and the date in which these take effect.  Currently we have identified over 100 data entry fields for each programme; once we have established the level of data exchange between SITS and iPaMS this number could increase further.

Cat Hine (Project Support Officer)

User Roles

This week I have been working on assigning roles to users. I have first been creating different roles and permissions within iPaMS. Using Zend navigation I can hide/show relevant links dependent on the permissions these roles have. Some examples of roles will be system administrator, Webservice role and developer. I am also working on restricting view of data by College, to do this we are currently assigning all modules to their College. At the moment every iPaMS user has access to all the data in iPaMS, once we start moving other Colleges into the system we don’t want them to have access to edit other College’s data.

Ben Norcombe (Developer)

Code Improvement

I am currently rewriting the iPaMS module controllers. This builds on the work we did for the previous release of iPaMS to improve the codebase. That work was mainly about reducing the amount of SQL queries per page/action, whereas this time it is about cutting down on code repetition, thus creating reusable functions. The benefits will be that the iPaMS code is easier to maintain as well as more scaleable, setting us up nicely for work to begin on Programmes

Helen Connole (Lead Developer)


This week I have been working on collecting the CLES data needed for archiving into iPaMS. With help from the College we have collected a vast amount of word/pfd documents for their modules ranging from the academic years 08/09- 11/12. On Wednesday Sam, Cat and I met up with Andy, the Taught Programme Support Manager for CLES and discussed iPaMS. It was a very successful meeting where we showed iPaMS in action and discussed the move of CLES data onto the system.  As CLES’ data is all on word/pdf, a move to the database should help them significantly with reporting information and having easier access to their data.

Lauren Welland (Project Support Officer)

Module Templates

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One part of the project we are focusing on at the moment is to start archiving module data. To be able to do this we need all the descriptor templates that have been used over the previous years, to be created in iPaMS. With help from the faculty office we have located all seven of these descriptors. With agreement from the project board we will initially be working on archiving only data up to 08/09, however we have worked on adding older module descriptors in case we need to archive further back.

So far in iPaMS we have 3 module descriptors. First is the new 12/13 module descriptor which Humanities have been working on for their new module data. The second descriptor is known as the “DWAiPaMS” descriptor. As mentioned in the previous post “ Humanities Update” we moved 11/12 data from the 11/12 descriptor into iPaMS and put it into the 12/13 format to help Humanities work on their 12/13 data. The third descriptor we have is known as “Phase 1 descriptor”; this was used to import 10/11 data from the phase 1 project of iPaMS.

Module Template

We are now working on making a few more descriptors in iPaMS that will allow us to start archiving College data. The first descriptor we need is a “DWAI descriptor”. DWAI is the system used by both Humanities and SSIS (Social Science and International Studies). One problem with this system is the data does not follow the standard descriptor format made by faculty office that the other Colleges follow. In fact, DWAI holds only one template that has been used throughout the years, as far back as 03/04. This means we will need a whole template dedicated to DWAI which will allow all data to be imported onto this one template from both SSIS and Humanities.

We have also worked out we need three more templates to be held in iPaMS, one each for 06/07, the revised 06-08 and the 08-12. The changes between the templates are only slight, such as merging/ splitting of fields, but to be able to archive the data correctly these templates need to be made separate.

The next step, once all the templates are made in iPaMS, is to bring the archived data in from Humanities and SSIS and then start work on copying and pasting CLES’ (College of Life and Environmental Science) data in by hand, as their modules are all held on word/pdf. We will then look into importing data from the Business School and EMPS (Engineering, Mathematics and Physical Science) as they each have separate databases.

Humanities Update #2

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In previous posts we have talked about the dates that were set for Humanities.

• Basic functionality of iPaMS (view/edit/copy) revise 11/12 data into 12/13 data: 14th Feb
• Data for 12/13 then feed to their intranet pages: 1st March (For online module choice)

These target dates were all met and  this blog post will focus on our experience of Humanities moving from dwai to iPaMS.

Lauren Welland – Project Support Officer
“Initially the first week Humanities moved over to iPaMS, all was quiet, I didn’t hear from anyone for a few days. It wasn’t until a week later people started using iPaMS and this is where the questions came rolling in. The majority of the questions were about how to use iPaMS, I instructed users to firstly follow the training material, whilst also giving them help via the phone. It started to become obvious that people didn’t have time to read/watch the training material and felt it easier to ring up with their questions. After a few weeks of questions regarding how to use iPaMS, new emails and calls were now coming through regarding issues with their data. I began logging all the calls and emails I received into a spreadsheet. My job was to co-ordinate between the users and the developers, working on these issues to resolve them as quickly as possible. By investigating the issue log we were able to see specific issues were spread throughout a number of users, whereas some issues were specific to particular users. This allowed us to investigate why some of these problems were coming to light for some and not others. A few of the main issues which I would be contacted about daily were regarding the names of the convenors and problems with logging in. Since the last two upgrades we have had on iPaMS, the majority of the issues have all been sorted now. The only main problems we have left is convenors/lecturers’ titles not showing when feeding to the web but this is currently being worked on.”

Helen Connole – iPaMS Lead Developer
“On 1st March the Hums intranet switched over to using the iPaMS web service. There were a few teething troubles as the web service displayed items in the order and formatting of the module template which was used as the basis of the iPaMS template design. Humanities however wanted to customise this to look more like their current intranet, and with a bit of tweaking at the front end, such as not showing blank data fields, they were able to achieve the result they wanted. Ben is planning to produce some documentation around this so that web developers in the colleges can best utilise the web service for their needs.”

Ben Norcombe – iPaMS Developer

“Over the past few months I have been helping with switching Humanities intranet over to the iPaMS web service whilst also helping resolve users’ issues. One of the main issues we have had, that I have been working on, was users being logged off/ unable to log into iPaMS, using SSO. To solve this problem, last Wednesday we released the Zend_Auth OpenSSO adapter to iPaMS allowing the application to authenticate against the university’s installation of OpenSSO within the application. This decoupling from the university’s SSO gives us the flexibility to assign the user with a Zend_Auth identity and then utilse Zend Framework’s Acl authorisation classes while using the secure authentication methods available in OpenSSO. As the adapter was written with portability in mind we have made it available to our colleagues within the university and there could be an opportunity to contribute the code to the Zend Framework library code base.”

The next stage for Humanities, which we will blog about soon, is to move both their programme data and archived data over to iPaMS. We are currently working on making the old module descriptor templates in iPaMS ready to import the data over from dwai. We are also working on the new 12/13 programme descriptor, investigating how we can link modules to the programmes and best use the data that will be held in iPaMS. Keep an eye out on the twitter page @JISC_CRIATE for more regular updates on these tasks.

Kate Hellman – Faculty Officer

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I work in the Faculty Office and have responsibility for policy and procedures for approval of new programmes and modules as well as amendments to current modules and programmes. The Faculty Office works as a team to support the Dean of Faculty of Taught Programmes and the Dean of Faculty of Graduate Research and the Colleges with the development of new programmes and to ensure that University Programme Approval procedures are followed. The Faculty Office is also responsible for maintaining records and archives of programme approvals and programme amendments. These are reported to Faculty Boards and are also published in the Calendar. The Faculty Office works closely with other offices such as the planning, marketing, admissions and registry offices at both the Business Approval stage as well as the final academic approval stage of the programme approval process.

Currently much of the work of the office is carried out manually and includes a paper archive as well as an electronic database of programme development and approval. CRIATE project will support the programme approval and amendment procedures by securing a single central database of all current and archive programmes, the approval process and any subsequent amendments. This will improve communication surrounding the processes as well as providing a visible reliable record of the procedures themselves. We look forward to completion of the CRIATE project which will provide an efficient and effective electronic format for both programme approval procedures and archive.

Project Support Officer

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As the new GBP Project Support Officer working on the CRIATE project I have had a lot of information to get my head around as I try and get up to speed on what has happened in both phase 1 and 2 of the project.  The team currently seem to be progressing at a rate of knots; we are now adding new module information from the College of Social Sciences and International Studies into iPaMS, Lauren`s training materials have been an invaluable resource in providing step-by-step instructions to help me with this.  I am also working on the `access rights` for individuals within iPaMS, hopefully getting started on this now will make life easier both for users and the project team as more information and functions are added to the database.

The entire team have been fantastic in helping me to find my feet and I look forward to seeing the project develop over the next year…there is still an awful lot of work to do.


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As part of our JISC funding we will be providing an XCRI-CAP feed from iPaMS. If you’re not up to date on what XCRI-CAP is then here is a video giving a quick overview of how the feed will work.

This feed will allow us to share our data with external users and services. Sounds great, but I want you to think about the implications…

What does XCRI-CAP mean to us?

The clear benefits will be automated links with UCAS, HEFCE, etc that will drastically cut down on our manual processes.

What is less clear is that market that will spring up to consume institutions’ XCRI-CAP feeds. Imagine a ‘’ or ‘Which University’ where every part of the course data is analysed and compared.

  • Would this be advantageous for us?
  • Are we confident that our portfolio would compare well?
  • Would some universities opt-out of providing this data?
  • Would some universities feel they can charge to provide it?
  • Would some comparison sites be seen as more ‘elite’?
  • Would some specialise on certain subjects?

These comparison sites would want to be perceived as drawing accurate conclusions (i.e. conforming to the common university rankings), but there could be some anomalies where courses at Exeter don’t compare well with other ‘comparable’ institutions. What would we do about that? Of course, all the other universities would be doing the same, so it could end up being a bit of an ‘arms race’ to improve ratings.

Please feel free to add your comments below this post!

Training Material

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Due to the continual development of iPaMS, we felt training sessions with the iPaMS users would become outdated rather quickly. It was therefore decided that documentation and videos would be the best type of training material as these would be easier to update whilst iPaMS developed. I first began with creating a word document that would enable users to learn how to

• Browse modules and search for specific modules
• Copy forward modules from a previous year to the new academic year
• Add new modules to iPaMS
• Edit and enter data into iPaMS

With limited functionality in iPaMS the document wasn’t too long and consisted of print screens and written instructions. It was also decided that a set of training videos would be made to coincide with the training document; these videos were made using Camtasia Studio. Using Camtasia allowed me to record a step by step guide, with narration, to further instruct people how to use iPaMS. I thoroughly recommend Camtasia Studio, it was easy to use and contained good editing functions.

For the time being, users are only able work with modules but as iPaMS develops functionality it will move to programmes too. Once Humanities have had the chance to work through the training material I will be sending out a questionnaire asking for their feedback on the document and videos. This will help to improve the future training material.

Here is a quick overview of iPaMS so far

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