Thursday, 11 December 2008


The project partner presentation at Newcastle went really well and seemed very positive. They gave us some thoughts on where they would see the Enable project, plus seemed very open to the idea of using blogs and reflecting on the processes involved in curriculum design, and development. We managed to make a clear distinction between the Enable project and DIVAS during this meeting, as we are still planning on using the Validation Support Network to capture the reflective process. They have collected a number of awards that are in development at the college, and have one more interview before we get the templates back all completed. We will then need to think of a way of capturing when those developments change status - something to think about for the new year I feel. I have also contacted Shrewsbury to find out where they are with capturing award information, it looks like we might be waiting for the New Year before that information comes to us, but is on the list. I will be popping to see the Shrewsbury team just before Christmas to see if they are happy and also give them an overview of the project and what is happening. Once I have finished this blog its time to spend some time with the To Do list in Outlook so nothing gets over looked.

Linking together

Had an interesting conversation with Sam on Monday afternoon about how the spokes will all link together, and that we need to start thinking about the themes and who will fit in each one. We have started on a simple map of all the spoke names we have spoken to and put in initial lines on how they fit together. We have been pleased to note during some interviews projects have been talking together, but there are still some obvious gaps where the theme groups will work.
This morning I am off with Richard Benefer and Sue Lee to talk to the HE forum at Newcastle college about Enable, I have loads of handouts for them, including what we will expect from them for the funding and how they fit into the project as a whole. A lot is a duplicate of the meeting we had with the partners at the end of October. I will feed back on this meeting as I am hoping for some useful conversation to come out of it.

Monday, 8 December 2008

Perceptions of Student Recruitment Information

We had an interesting conversation this morning around how the University markets itself to different learners.

We found that the recruitment of learners can be something that is the responsibility of a number of different stakeholders in the institution which can cause confusion over the message going out to potential students.
  •  Faculty:  Award leader and or Link tutor (for partner colleges)
  • Services: Marketing team, student recruitment or AimHigher
Each stakeholder perceives themselves as the data owners, thus when changes occur to the content they can feel that they have lost control of that information, or that information has been misinterpreted.

Issues around student marketing/recruitment start right at the beginning of course development as one of the first templates require staff to estimate student numbers for the award. Without support from marketing and student recruitment these numbers can be difficult to collate. Not only that but all award documentation for course design is focused on either faculty/senior management viewing or for Quality Assurance.Therefore to to promote awards to potential students there needs to be a change in language which means a duplication of effort in creating more materials - saying the same thing slightly differently!
There is an initiative in the university that is looking at bringing the efforts of student recruitment and AimHigher together, however there are some interesting holes in the processes around recruitment and marketing within the university. Some work is occurring with the Student Experience around this issue being done by Paul Baron, who we spoke to last week.  He is supporting investigating how we manage the product portfolio, how new markets are identified and how communication is managed between the university and prospective learners.

Friday, 5 December 2008

Faculty and Process Spokes - Feedback

UPDATED 2012-06

We have had another busy week here, talking to members of faculties, those reviewing processes in the University, and taking part in Annual Award Reviews. It all feeds into what we would like from Curriculum Design and Development.

An issue highlighted from interviews recently was around using templates for faculties in course design. There are a number of different course design templates that need completing, and even when training is provided they can still be interpreted and completed in a number of different ways.

UPDATE: By creating FLAG we are hoping some of these issues will be taken out of the equation, although we are still waiting for feedback on this, and there are some rather big changes expected in the near future around forms faculties will need to complete, these will be reflected in FLAG.
There are also some new spoke initiatives, Document Management, that will support how information is collected within a workflow. XCRI-CAP which is looking at what information is stored, how it is stored and inputted into existing systems. XCRI-CAP will be looking at creating a single source of truth of course information and therefore will be looking at the quality of information collected. The Student Systems Project is also looking at course information, and is working in tandem with the XCRI-CAP project team.

When asked for "blue sky" ideas we heard about:
  •  personalised prospectus and website.
UPDATE: With the new XCRI-CAP project being run by Sam Scott this 'blue sky' thought is becoming closer to being a reality. Importantly Sam is working closely with the Enable team to understand the impact of her work, alongside that of other initiatives within the institution. In particular Sam is working on using ArchiMate models to communicate how this can happen and what can cause issues.
  • experiences should be personal to those we are trying to engage
UPDATE: This fits with the new University Strategy and the Academic Plan, including focusing on graduate attributes. However at this time this hasn't been clarified completely, how are we going to do it? FLAG has been designed to ask the questions of course designers and gives some guidance on opportunities for personalisation of course delivery, however systems and information in the university still make this very difficult.
  • and that the addition of negotiated modules onto traditional awards as options would be useful.
UPDATE: Recent restructuring of awards may make it possible in the future. Although there has been no mention of this particular goal in university documents, it does fit with personalisation of award delivery and design.

I have yet to have time to blog about last weeks training and conference work, but I am hoping I will get some time free soon to do that! Next week we have more interviews and we will be presenting to our first college partner HE Forum.

Friday, 28 November 2008

Feedback, Planning and Meetings....

We have had some feedback about the logo, fortunately it is all positive and therefore we now officially have a logo! Thanks to Sam for his hard work on this and to Marketing for giving us a nice vector version of it.
We are still organising initial meetings for the different initiatives highlighted by the SMWG, as we are making initial contact there has been some issue with project staff understanding the purpose of Enable and their involvement. However this has been addressed with a simple email paragraph to explain what the project is and how they have been identified as a person of interest.
Mark has been talking to the MIAP (Managing Information Across Partners) project (external) around the unique learner number, and how it can be implemented as a pilot in Staffordshire University. This linked to the work I did at the CETIS conference around supporting flexible provision and around technology supporting WBL, and whether this project would be of use to the community (yes!). We also looked at how processes needed to change. We looked at the Validation process, which links nicely with the work being done in QIS and I will need to send my notes on this to Sue Lee, the project manager for DIVAS. The CETIS conference will be written up more on my own blog, along with my thoughts on the training I had yesterday with Sam around complex project management.

Friday, 21 November 2008


I promised to write a bit about the project interviews, at the start of the week we spoke to Beebe about work in marketing around collecting course information from faculties and then delivering that to both perspective learners and to existing learners, at the time they were investigating using Blackboard as a source, however since we meet she is now thinking about the problems around duplicating data silos and also about not linking new data to what already exists in the university. This linked to the fact that she had not been aware that courses could also be delivered at colleges, and in these cases they could use either Blackboard or their own VLE. We were also able to tell her about the repository work that is going on in the university that could be used to help her. She was able to tell us about another initiative she is working on, around the university intranet "MyPortal" and looking about providing learners with more personalised information. We have been invited to the next two meetings around these areas.
We also spoke to Mike from Faculty in Computing, Engineering and Technology (FCET), about his negotiated learning award. This was very interesting as this is a programme of awards from undergraduate to post graduate that has been designed with an employer. It has successfully gone through validation but due to managing resources within faculties there is limited resources available to run new awards at this time of the year, although the employer wanted to start delivery the day after validation.
Further converstations this week included one with another member of FCET, who was speaking about their internal investigation into looking at Distance Learning, marketing of awards, and internationalisation of delivery. He was experiences issues around trying to change staff attitudes to delivery and how we, as a university, deal with marketing courses in other countries. He did say that the faculty was very proud of its ability to support work based learning and work placements, and that they were interested in taking this further with their distance learning.

Thursday, 20 November 2008

Branding update

Well it seems we had not used the correct text for branding, plus Sam noticed that the button icon was a bit too close to the Gadget show button, so with a bit of modification, and input from marketing here is the slightly newer version....please use the same voting tool to say if you like it...or not!

Tuesday, 18 November 2008

Scoping and Branding

Well the great work of Sam has paid off and the decision has been made to go with this as our logo (although we are checking with Marketing to ensure there are no problems with using this from a corporate perspective). It is a simple on button using the Staffordshire University red in both the text and the button itself. Let us know if you like it!

Yesterday Mark, Sam and I met with two of the initiatives involved in Enable, the Course Information/ Intranet Project lead and the lead for the Negotiated Award in FCET. The notes from these meetings are on another computer so will be looking at posting about them later in the week. Today I had my weekly meeting with Mark where we discussed the project scope and the criteria needed to identify the position of initiatives within Enable. This included looking at 4 types of projects

  1. Transformative,
  2. Improving,
  3. Facilitating and
  4. Supporting.

Those that fitted into 1 & 2 are either spokes or exemplars, those in 3 could be spokes, or not, depending on their nature, and those around supporting curriculum design and development were deemed to be out of scope. We also discussed further the outputs based on work done at the JISC meeting. This is so a leaflet can be put together for project dissemination and includes:


  • Curriculum design development process which is coherent, responsive, customer focused, joined up etc
  • Technologies in place to facilitate/ support in a flexible and responsive way
  • Appropriate level of control and minimum bureaucracy, in terms of change process want a managed approach to change initiatives.


  • Process holes
  • Process improvement opportunities
  • Lack of data
  • Process & system connectivity issues

As a result of these we should spawn new spokes, which help formulate the GOALS.

This work was discussed during our meeting with Cathy Gilbert who, from previous roles, has experience in programme management and has been very helpful in the area of supporting documents for this project.

Friday, 14 November 2008

Scoping and Dissemination

This week our project meeting was on Monday, which linked to the Strategic Team Meeting we had at the end of last week. The core project team has now all registered at the JISC CircleSpace site and we have also published our project overview document on the site. This used the information from the JISC template, but the layout was changed to make it easier to read. This got a positive response from the team members that have seen it.
The project partners have now been sent the minutes from the last meeting, after being approved by Richard Benefer. I have also written the first draft of the consortium agreement which is with Mark and Richard for approval before going out to the partners. We have still yet to see two of the partner colleges, but on a positive side we are going to our first on site visit next week at Newcastle College.
After problems with branding Mark and I have written a short brief to go to the Marketing team along with some sketches of thoughts from within the team, these were harder to do than expected but hopefully Marketing will come through for us.
We also need to think more about dissemination, I spoke to the Enterprise and Commercial Development team who were not aware of the Enable bid. so we now have a meeting organised next week to see if they know of any other initiatives in the university that could be useful to the Enable project. We have also discussed the use of a centralised calendar to promote work being done by the project, so I need to consider what type of calendar to use, should it be embedded in this blog? In the Forum? Who would be the intended audience for this?
So what next?...well Mark will be putting together a draft scoping document and put together a short leaflet for senior management. Sam is planning to continue investigation of technologies, and processes within the University. I will be attending meetings with the Spokes with Sam and Mark, along with looking at examples of agile programme management.

Friday, 7 November 2008

Understanding Validation from the SURF Office perspective

We had an interesting meeting with Richard, from the SURF office on Tuesday afternoon. This was the first of our in depth interviews with spokes, which took a good hour and a half and could have gone on much longer. We have decided to continue the meeting at the end of January. At this, initial, meeting we spoke about how a particular college is going through award development with an employer. We spoke about some of the issues around validation, such as why isn't anyone from a second SURF college involved in the university side of the validation panel? How are external panels picked? How is content for the award quality controlled and shared with other colleges running award? So some interesting things have been raised and I am sure even more will be raised at the next meeting.

Tuesday, 4 November 2008

Whats new pussy cat?

Which will teach me to listen to the radio whilst writing this blog!

This last week I have posted onto the forum the:
  • Roles of the core project team
  • Roles of SMWG.

I am waiting for confirmation on the role of the partners before that too can go up and the Structure can then also be published with links to each of the project roles. We have also had a good response from the project spokes, and most of the overviews have now been published on the forum. We have started to make a number of appointments with the spoke Project Managers, and have the first one this afternoon - Project Partners.

I will be busy this week with a number of small tasks including starting to draft the consortium agreement for the project partners and creating a scoping document for agreement at the next SMWG meeting. Mark will be trying to organise a meeting with IS with regards to Identity Management and also with Cathy Gilbert to discuss Programme Management as she has previous experience on managing programmes.

Mark and I have agreed that the best way to handle dissemination to the SMWG is a weekly update email that will include links to the blog and the forum and give bullet point updates on the progress of the project, then they can read more here (or in the forum) if they want.

Tuesday, 28 October 2008

Structures and Roles

Over the last week the project has been pulling together information around the project team, formalising roles and the structure of the project. This should make it clear to the project team how we all fit together. These documents are going to go into our respository and given out to the Senior Management group using the forums.

Mark has also found a number of Change Management documents that I will be reading in the near future, along with my new book on Agile project management. As the project has been identified as more of a programme than a project both Sam and myself are looking to go to the JISC Infonet training event in Nottingham on Programme Managment.

At the moment we can't create our consortium agreement until we meet with the missing project partners, which hopefully will be in the next few weeks as we want to be up front about what is expected. In the meantime we will be trying to meet with the different project spokes and with other interested teams in the University.

Monday, 27 October 2008

Partners Join in

We had a partner meeting on Friday morning which enabled us to speak for the first time with the partners about their involvement in the project. They seemed very positive about how this would help them engage with the university more and hopefully impact on the processes developed at the university. Unfortunately Ashton and Burton were unable to attend so we will have to run a meeting at those colleges, ensuring that we get the same backing from them. We have agreed a draft schedule of work in their absence and also discussed the expectations for the project,including the signing of a consortium agreement.

We are really ready to get going on seeing partners and discussing their baseline experiences with them, and have already got one date down to see the HE team at Newcastle college. Richard has agreed to manage the Focus Groups as Partner Liaison, and Sue did a great job of promoting the Validation Support Network to the senior managers, and will be doing the same at the partner colleges, as long as she is free. The partners did raise some issues about how we clearly mark work done on the validation support network as Enable, rather than staff simply participating in DIVAS, and I am planning a meeting with Sue to bash this one out this week.

Thursday, 16 October 2008

Diff'rent Strokes!

The Progamme meeting in Oxford was at the start of this week and went really well. We have now all been asigned to different cluster groups based on project similarities. We worked together for the two days in discussing what we hoped to achieve and although we had different projects we were all very interested in what the other projects where trying to achieve.

To work out which group we belonged in we had to do a short TV show pitch to the group on the project. Here is what was prepared for the day, although we could not use it on the day.

While we put the our pitches to each other we relaxed in large bean bags rather than using the normal chair setup!

During the session "Tomorrows World" we put together a list of successes for 2012 that I thought would be worth recording here.
  • Coherent and flexible product portfolio which is sufficiently small to be effective
  • Better student experience
  • Regional and national employers engaged with the university which is known to be responsive in nature
  • Business processes around curriculum design are sufficient and operate coherently across partners
  • Above processes will be transparent to all involved
  • Use of technology to support and enhance is both diverse and connected
  • Policies exercise minimal level of control while sustaining innovation.
    We also have a programme level community site that I need to take a look at.

Thursday, 9 October 2008

First Senior Management Working Group meeting

All went well at the SMWG meeting on Tuesday, we almost had a full complement of senior managers and everyone had something to contribute to the meeting. After introductions Mark went through a presentation covering the context of the project (this is quite long so may take some time to load):

Mark also introduced the first of the Issues that the project is hoping to raise awareness off (and hopefully find a solution to). Sam (the Technical Manager for the project) did a great job with a presentation on Identity Management which was found to be a barrier in a number of recent projects including SUNIWE and SURF WBL-Way:

This got the SMWG talking about how they should raise awareness of this problem and how it should be addressed. There was consensus around the table that this was a big issue for the University and was something that needed to be addressed.

A lot of questions were around the project documentation and governance and as the project moves forward a number of these documents will be released. We will be using our local repository, HIVE to store project and spoke documents, and they can be accessed by the project via the closed forum created in phpBBServer.

Thursday, 2 October 2008

Project Partners

I had my first meeting with Richard yesterday, to talk about how to bring the project partner colleges on board and what we expect of them. We are organising a meeting to introduce the partners to the ideas behind Enable and also to talk about what will be expected of them, both in the short term and over the period of the project. This is scheduled to occur at the end of October. In the meantime I will be introducing the Enable project to the SURF Curriculum Mananagment Board later on this morning.

Monday, 29 September 2008

Welcome to the Enable Blog

This is where the main project team will blog about their experiences. However Enable is a project that involves pulling together a number of initiatives together and therefore each initiative will have its own blog. These blogs will be listed here.