Wednesday, 28 September 2011

New Course Product Design

As Enable moves towards its final phase we are making some great progress with the work we have been doing for the FLAG project and for supporting the work around developing unified course development theory!

We have created a number of ArchiMate business layer views from a model of CDD. This has been based on the baseline Sam did for the project, but as we knew the processes had changed since then thanks to the Quality Review work we also needed to read a lot of documentation and have discussions with stakeholders involved within faculties (Directors of Teaching and Learning, Tutors and administrative staff) and services (such as Quality and Partnerships).
ArchiMate Model of Stage 2 - Award Planning (high level)
During the stakeholder discussions with the views we noted a few interesting factors:
  • What is believed to happen by managers often isn't the case for those on the ground
  • Processes that are believed to be sequential are often running in tandem to ensure speed in development (can cause problems)
  • Responsibility of the process of new product development can sit with different individuals without any joining up.
Although the model and its views have been useful for my own purposes, and for discussions with stakeholders they were not quite at the right level to be used with the Pineapple software, which worked at a lower, business process/ work flow level. With the ArchiMate views  it was hard to create links between different stages and the support resources available to the University and highlighting the different preparation points within the processes. At this point it was clear a work flow was needed to pull out all the information from stakeholders around the advice and guidance needed to complete the course development processes.

The first attempt at creating a work-flow from idea to validation is shown below - all information in black is considered part of the core/ parent process, the text in red is information that sits within child processes (Completing documentation, Understanding Employer Engagement, Assessment etc). 

This helped clarify my thoughts before moving on to using Word as a standard tool to create the workflows, with the relevant advice attached to the different preparation points. At first each point in the core work-flow became a new stage in the process, however we soon changed that to match the stages from modelling.
  • Idea 
  • Initial Approval 
  • Award Approval Documentation 
  • Preparing for Validation 
  • Validation 
 An example work-flow at this point, including questions to ask at each preparation point:
Flow and Advice v1 for Stage 3 - Preparing for Validation

These models have since been distributed to the project team to help create the child processes, as they are more familiar with that area. This was one of the reasons I chose to use Word to create the flows, so that they could copy the standardisations easily. Even so it has required a short demo document so that the flow fits the set up of Pineapple, including a two page document where on one side was the actual flow in Pineapple using screen shots and on the other was the actual flow created. As I am very close to this work it has been invaluable to hand it over to the project team for review and also over to faculties already interviewed. It has also been vital that I keep impartial to the work so that I can view all aspects of the suggestions made. I also believe it has helped that I am not a process owner in creating these flows. It has been demonstrated by some of the work already gone on that process owners have a very narrow view of curriculum design and development!

These workflows have been designed to be printed out and used for each stakeholder discussion to ensure we captured each faculties nuances around course development before building the process into Pineapple.

Tuesday, 16 August 2011

Models to flows to Information, Advice and Guidance

As mentioned in 'Flying Forward' the Enable team, and others in the department, have been working on creating a ToolBox (known internally as the FLAG project) for supporting curriculum design and development for those roles involved in the process.The project team started with the original baseline models and then modified them based on the existing information available on the websites, once a 'trail' process was in place interviews took place with Teaching & Learning Directors, faculty quality staff, and the Director of Quality Improvement.

The first thing we learnt with using the model from the original baseline was that the 'viewpoints' hadn't been fully considered, and were therefore either too detailed or included too many different roles. Therefore the team went back and created models from the viewpoint of the person who had come up with the new course idea.
Example: Stripped down ArchiMate view used for discussions

This then raised a number of issues with complexity of the processes, and how the main process of 'Create a new Course' consisted of different, lower level processes, and what course initiators and designers needed to consider as opposed to a module designer. The main process was broken down to different processes, and as such different views:
  • Approving the idea in Faculty,
  • Approving the idea in the institution,
  • Developing the Idea,
  • Preparing for Validation
To keep it simple we needed the 'parent' process (Create a New Course) to go into Pineapple and become the backbone of FLAG (creating a work-flow that would be developed around the 4 sub processes above).  This backbone would then allow the stakeholder engaged in CDD to move to 'child' work-flows whenever needed (we would consider developing partners a child process of getting the idea approved in Faculty).

Stakeholders happy with the high level process of CDD could then directly move to specific child process they could be struggling with (How do I set up an international partner? What can I do differently around assessment? etc).
This was great in theory,  however it was noted that there was no clear way to link process within Pineapple. Thankfully the Plymouth team were contacted before we started this project and have been very supportive in developing Pineapple to support processes beyond the original intention of APEL. After putting together a specification document for this change they are now working on making this possible.

2012/07 It is now possible to create parent, child and grandparent relationships between processes within Pineapple. 
Enable had already noted that the course development process was under review, and that faculties have their different ways of doing their side of the development process. The creation of the 'trail' process within Pineapple has helped us identify a baseline for faculties and the Quality Improvement Service to discuss and view issues/ holes already highlighted. It helped those engaged in the process see how the tool would be used, identify differences in their processes & best practice, and inform us of any useful information/advice/ guidance (IAG) that they provide to members of staff for the different steps.

2012/07 The review of course development processes is almost complete, and discussions with business owners means that FLAG will soon be handed over to our Quality team. The new process is already partly in FLAG and once approved the Quality team will make it live to users.  

Friday, 27 May 2011

Survey - Funding and Innovation

Link to Survey - Perceptions of Funding, Governance and Innovation

We are hoping that staff at different institutions will help the Enable project in the search to understand how perception of institutional funding and governance can influence innovation in higher (and further) education. It only takes a few minutes and will be completely anonymous (unless you want to know more about the results or survey).

This survey has come from our thoughts and experiences from interviews with staff and discussions at different events over the last 2 and a half years. Now that we are all in a state of transition there is a hope with evidence from this survey that we can start addressing perceptions about institutional governance and how we look at innovation.

Thursday, 12 May 2011

Seeing change with fresh eyes

Yesterdays JISC programme meeting on Transformational Change & Demonstrating Impact was incredibly useful (See the Twitter Story for other peoples viewpoints)- first for the informal conversations that occurred during the sessions, and second for helping us as a project recognise what we have been able to achieve over the past 2 years. This is an important step for us as often it is easy to get stuck on what we haven't achieved rather than what we have. This made me feel very positive - we are indeed seeing a change in culture and attitudes in the university, if not changing behaviour, we are ensuring activity within the university is focused and driven by issues now and not solutions, and stakeholder engagement has certainly increased for new initiatives.

Part of the work was done before the meeting, where we were asked to think about six activities we had done as part of the project, and six outcomes we felt had been achieved. We came up with:
  1. modelling of processes to communicate need for change
  2. creation of validation documentation with built in guidelines for TSL and general support
  3. developing an internal Flexible Learning Toolbox to support the development of new awards using workflow, probably drawing on Pineapple software and including linking roles, competencies to the e-learning models
  4. Creating a pilot for Enterprise Architecture and supporting centralised
  5. Guiding work in spoke development for example TransAPEL and investigating streamlining validation
  6. developing a "change heap" to allow staff to input & search initiatives within the university.


  1. Understanding the requirement for programme management (Programme, Portfolio, Project)
  2. Embedding Enterprise Architecture into new innovations
  3. Stronger governance for innovation that is not restrictive
  4. Stronger relationships between college partners and faculties; Consistent message about partnerships
  5. Reducing course development from +18 months to under a year
  6. Understanding by executive / senior management for a holistic approach to managing change

At the time of completing this task we hadn’t really put much thought into how the two linked, which was an important part of the second session of the day – how were they linked, and what was the evidence? We were told to put a story together of the points above, and during the session (thanks to us trying to fit the same story example) we ended up in a bit of a mess, with a diagram with the need for supportive notes!

So today I tried the exercise again without thinking about the example or the distractions that were inherent in the session. This gave us a much more understandable diagram - which has helped in our understanding of where the project started, the outcomes that have been supported through the work of Enable, and the impact they have had on activities within Enable. I'm now wondering the value of us documenting activities, outcomes and evidence based on themes from Enable but I think that should be kept for the Cluster to create - and perhaps write more on. I'm going to think about sessions 3 & 4 (focusing on Transformation) and consider whether evidence needs to be added to this diagram? I will blog those thoughts, plus what was discussed on the day a bit later (otherwise would have a massive blog here!).

Friday, 6 May 2011

Flying forward

As part of the interviews with course designers undertaken by the Enable team, and with feedback down from executive, it has been noted that course development and design could be more efficient by bringing together all the relevant documentation, guidance and advice into one 'ToolBox'.

Issues it will address:
  • Difficulty in finding the right advice on course design at the right point
  • Knowing which source of information would be the best/ most up to date
  • Identification of champions to support stakeholders engaged in course design
  • Reduction in faculties having to produce own advice and guidance
  • Takes burden off staff to hold expert knowledge in the whole process
The tool will be designed to align information, advice and guidance to the workflow and decision processes surrounding flexible course delivery and design. It will bring together work done in faculties, services, by our e-Learning Models project, and work by the LDI on bringing together course design roles and competencies. Initially we envisioned this to be a 'quick and dirty' tool based on hyperlinking in documents, however we soon saw this would not be the best solution (and as mentioned in previous posts) quick wins are often not the best solutions, and often make more quick loses. We are now hoping to use software created by the University of Plymouth and the core Pineapple software.

However as the process of course design/development is already perceived as being very arduous we need to ensure we don't add to it with an extra level of complexity. This is in some way addressed by the fact that we aren't embedding this as the one and only way of doing course design, it will simply be available for those who want/need it. It should be viewed as a support tool and by engaging stakeholders throughout the process we will (hopefully) avoid this issue.

Having seen, through Enable, projects that start without clear issues to resolve, in isolation, with inadequate stakeholder engagement and without clear goals and success factors we have taken a leaf out of our own book and started with a project plan. We have used a JISC project plan template (with some adaptations for accounting for the internal nature of the project). This plan will be used to why we started the project, what we hope to achieve, how we are evaluating it and the time-scales to achieve a pilot state. We even (possibly) have an acronym 'FLAG' (Flexible Learning Advice and Guidance) subject to agreement with the rest of the team. This can lead to project slogans like "Flying the FLAG for Course Design", well we all have to get our smiles somewhere!

A project plan on its own can't, however, be considered the best method of communication across the university. Across the university projects are often accused of communication failure. As a result of this we have already informed our SMWG about the work, asking for initial feedback (which was positive once it was recognised that no one would be forced to go through the process if they felt confident enough with flexible delivery/ design course development) and the project plans first stage is discussions with relevant stakeholders. We also have another spin off from Enable that will help with communication, this is something known internally as the 'Change Heap' and I'm planning another blog on this tool soon.

Wednesday, 20 April 2011

Guidance on Validation Documents

I'm based in the Learning Development and Innovation team at the University and have been working with the Enable team since the start of 2009. My focus within the team has been on being able to integrate my previous project work (on creating Best Practice Models for e-learning) with PHOEBE. As part of this work I've been developing some new versions of our validation documents that incorporate guidance and advice for those completing them. Here I have reflected on my experiences to date, with the hope that it will help others considering how to start on the process.

Starting Point
Some time ago I explored PHOEBE (developed by the Technology-Assisted Lifelong Learning unit TALL at Oxford University) and thought that it was an excellent tool to assist teachers when planning and designing learning that included technology. I explored the possibility of using this tool to integrate with my work on Best Practice Models for e-Learning and worked with the team at TALL to edit the template as well as the guidance notes. I demonstrated it to a group of staff in 2008 and they were very impressed with the way that PHOEBE supported the design and planning process with links and resources embedded into a planning template. However, they commented that ideally the tool would be linked into our own course information and processes to improve ease of use. As part of this it was expected that PHOEBE would be an integral part of the Enable work in helping to guide and create validation documents. Although the PHOEBE team had hoped to be able to develop a version of the tool to integrate into an institution's systems, this was not possible in the time of the project. In addition, after consultation with colleagues from the Enable team it was felt that the tool needed to be fully integrated into our systems and should not be developed as a stand-alone tool. The Enable team suggested that any tool used to support the creation of validation documents would need to be interoperable, with content created in the tool being accessible from other tools etc. We initially envisioned being able to create our own tool that would enable this to happen, however the main show stopper at the start of the project was the lack of document management within the institution, this was picked up as an issue for other innovations within the university and since the start of this work the university has started a Document Management Project Group. In the meantime it was felt a proof of concept would be useful, so I worked on developing some new versions of our validation documents that incorporate guidance and advice for those completing them.

Creating the Proof of Concept
The screen-shot above (from PHOEBE) shows the design template to the right with a series of headings and boxes to type the content of the learning design. The headings are clickable links that display help files to the left of the screen. As the basic principle of having guidance at the point of need was seen as an opportunity to aid validation development I then developed a very simple version by adding a 'guidance column' to our existing validation documents in Word and including a range of suggestions and links.

The guidance and links were summarized from the Best Practice Models work and also included some general advice and links to other sources of information about course planning and design, mostly to existing resources on our website. The QIS team were happy with my suggestions and provided a few additional links that were relevant. Originally, I had envisaged having two versions of the documentation - one for courses that included some element of e-learning/TSL and a different form for those without. However, QIS thought the forms so useful that they asked me to incorporate the additional general links and guidance so that the forms could be used by all courses and remove the need for two different sets.

This process of gathering existing guidance about planning and designing learning highlighted for me the wide range of resources available that are difficult to find. Some were not available online and I had to make them available, and many were sourced from different places on our website. Since then, a new web-page on Teaching and Learning at Staffordshire University has been planned that will collate a number of these resources together and will improve access.

The screen-shot below gives a flavour of the new documentation. QIS have approved the documents developed for both undergraduate and postgraduate programme specifications and have invited staff to pilot the documents to gather feedback for evaluation. I hope to use this feedback to check the usefulness of the links and guidance and to update and modify it as appropriate. The use of a document management system will simplify this process, as it is likely that the guidance and links will need regularly checking and updating.

Where Next?
Since the start of the work in creating guidelines within the validation documents a number of developments within Enable have moved forward:
  • The university has started investigating an institutional document management system
  • The Enable team are trialling a workflow / document management system with transferable skills for External Examiners that could be applied to this work
  • Discussions have started around creating a Flexible Learning Toolbox which these documents will become part of
Once we have the feedback from the pilot for this and the work from the External Examiners we will be able to look at a roadmap for moving this work further.

Monday, 18 April 2011

Mob rules

Something that has been simmering in the background for Enable for a while has been the subject of governance and managing innovation. This is a main aspect of TOGAF and something that the Enable team wrote a number of internal documents about for the then Pro Vice Chancellor, in particular within the recommendations for setting up a Change Management (AKA Programme Management) office. Since these documents and the change in senior management things have become a little quiet, but recently the whole "Governance" thing has come back to the fore. This has been for a number of reasons.
  • Two of the project team attended the JISC EAPG which had a day focused on Governance giving the project team a couple of thoughts to follow up including:
    • Although seen as Governance exists or doesn't there is a third state - exists but is worked around
    • How is it managed/ reviewed?
    • does governance ensure quality control/ stakeholder engagement?

  • The project manager and director are writing a short survey based on internal interviews (that they hope the community will help participate in once complete - keep an eye on #jiscenable on Twitter) on perceptions of governance and finance models in Higher Education

  • The project manager is writing a number of pages for the Design Circle with the help of the rest of the project team, and one of the subjects is Governance.
Obviously Governance is an important part of any institution but it has been noted that institutions have a number of issues with it. We are hoping over the next few months to unpick a number of the issues highlighted above, to try and understand what is happening, how it is happening and what we can do to change cultural behaviours & perceptions. This has only been seen as possible thanks to the re-engagement of senior management, and the fact that the messages we have been saying are starting to filter through and be repeated back to us. Without this change in behaviour and understanding I believe that attempting to address the above would be too difficult an issue for the Enable team.

Monday, 4 April 2011

Dripping Tap

Over the last two years(!) we have been constantly sending out messages at all levels of the university, regarding managing:
  • our projects using a Change Management Office Approach (i.e. P3M3)
  • our information
Methods we have used included:
  • One to one meetings- with a focus on faculty/service needs
    • with senior staff
    • with project managers
  • raised at committee meetings
    • informally with a focus on issues raised in committees
    • presentations raising issues that have been raised during one to one meetings and how they link to points above
  • Summary documents and articles
After hitting a number of issues with getting these messages across including:
  • Loss of executive staff
  • Loss of engagement when making presentations
    • Using wrong language
    • Not using relevant examples
    • no real examples of what success looks like
  • Starting new initiatives without full stakeholder engagement
  • Limited communication by projects outside of committees
We have now found that the message has sunk in at all levels, so would like to say to all our colleagues trying this to hang in there! We now get to hear the same message being said back to us during committees, and have got the new senior executive sponsor fully engaged with the project. After a few false starts initiatives are starting to be run with stakeholder engagement, communication across the university is growing (including the development of an online change service - more on that later). We are starting to look at projects from a central perspective and understanding that changes to one area of business impacts can impact other areas. So it's all good here at Enable.

Monday, 31 January 2011

We make it so hard

Thank you Mark for the welcome back!

As Mark said in the last Enable Blog, the Enable methodologies are being successfully embedded into relevant plans and strategies, and more importantly the message that we need to think about our information as a whole and separate to our systems is becoming widely accepted within the university and we are hearing it repeated at different committees, and was widely accepted at our SMWG meeting.

The SWMG meeting on Friday, left us feeling very positive about what we have already done and the way we can move forward. We spoke about the recognised opportunities that adopting Enterprise Architecture & Programme Management would give the university, and that the lead for this needed to come from Executive. More importantly Executive recognised the need for them to be able to lead it and have gone away with a number of papers, with actions, to consider. We look forward to what takes place over the next few months.

Rather interesting it was clear that discussions around how the university needs to have a corporate view of university systems/ information/ processes, and how we manage them had taken place in other meeting where it had been deemed "to hard", and that it was easier to focus on changing small issues without recognising the projects longer term impact. We discussed that we make things hard for ourselves - by repeating the same mistakes the job becomes harder. We need to understand is using EA / TOGAF too hard? Or is it simply a matter of understanding that it's a job that needs doing, requires time and (the right) staff to enable it to happen (with the right governance)? Once this understanding has taken place and actions taken surely it is simply a matter of time and effort rather than any sort of brain surgery/rocket science? We shall see!

Another useful message we managed to communicate during the SMWG meeting was that stakeholder engagement was vital to successful engagement in managing change and the curriculum development - and this doesn't simply mean engaging in committees. It means talking to people and, importantly listening with out judging/ justifying.

Lastly we were able to successfully demonstrate the two mini projects External Examiners and TransAPEL - but we were very clear that Enable used these two mini projects as proof of concept and was not something the Enable team should be doing day to day. We need to focus on the wider aspects of Curriculum Design and Development, and help the university make good choices in the future about project work and developing its business processes etc. We need to be able to advise the Executive but not be those who implement it. It will be interesting to see how our developments are (if successfully piloted) will be embedded into the university processes. Watch here over the next few months as both systems enter a piloting phase.

Edit (07/02/2011)
Our Presentation (with sound) to the SMWG

Friday, 21 January 2011


Firstly, let me say how good it is to have Fleur back in action!

Since my last blog entry a number of things worth commenting on have happened:

Firstly our Technology Supported Learning Strategic Plan 2010-2014 has been approved by committee and is now in place. The work and goals of ENABLE are embedded in this and this will allow these to be sustained beyond the end of the funded period of ENABLE. The TSL Plan has informed the University's Teaching Learning and Assessment Strategy (nearing publication) and will also guide current work on the emerging Information Strategy.

Work on our external examiner mini-project, the TransAPEL project and the "Change Heap" are all progressing well, and the first two will demonstrated to the ENABLE Senior Management Working Group next week. Neil Witt visited us in November to progress the Pineapple benefits realisation work that links to TransAPEL and had a series of good meetings with staff engaged in our current APEL processes. Ultimately, the work on APEL will link to the University's CRM initiative as well.

Michael Gunn, our new VC, is now in place, and I have meeting with him in early February which I am looking forward to.

I had a useful meeting with our Partnerships Team in November and went through the feed back from the ENABLE partner colleges with them. The team has reorganised and each partner college now has their own designated Partnership Manager. This will go a long way towards addressing some of the concerns expressed by college partners earlier in ENABLE's work.

Sam's work on Enterprise Architecture has resulted in him being engaged to provide consultancy to the Bracken project in Wales (led by Professor Tony Toole, ENABLE's Critical Friend).

Helen Walmsley is working with our Quality Team to embed her work on eLearning Models in the curriculum development/validation process. We plan to link this to Ben Scoble's work on Role/Competence based approaches to staff development to enable courses to identify their requirements in delivering chosen approaches and aid capacity planning.

Our interim report to JISC has been well received and looks like it will result in a range of valuable dissemination opportunities and further engagement with other projects.

As I noted in previous blogs, I have been chairing a group looking at the need for document management in the University (an issue ENABLE picked up on early in our EA work). The position paper produced by the group was accepted by our Information Strategy Group and our Information Services are now charged with carrying out a full feasibility study and producing a business case for consideration by Business Development Group.

Lastly, it is becoming increasingly clear that the ENABLE message that we need to take an organisational view of our information and move towards ensuring that information can be used and shared flexibly and easily has not fallen on deaf ears and senior colleagues have begun to express similar views in committees...