Modelling course data schedules and deadlines

How do you model what your course data is used for and when, if there are multiple, over-lapping deadlines over the course of several years just for one cohort of students?

This is the challenge we faced when collecting this information to inform the design of a new system to hold programme data centrally.


During stage 1, programme approvals and the programme- and unit-level information created at this stage were identified as key areas for improvement.  Programme approval and review processes currently rely on the transfer of Word documents between academic departments and professional services, leaving information that could be usefully shared with prospective students trapped in an internal paper-based system.

JISC funding is also helping us to co-ordinate a collection of related course data projects, for example the KIS and the HEAR, which require information that is not consistently collected in a re-usable, electronic format.

The spirals

A group was set up to examine the potential for changing the relevant systems and processes.  We realised that while significant change was possible and desirable, we did not have the luxury of a ‘blank canvas’.   There are external key dates to work around, for example UCAS deadlines, and changes to internal deadlines should be co-ordinated to ensure that there are no unexpected knock-on effects.

During stage 1 I mapped key processes (e.g. reviews of module content, and the prospectus) using MS Visio.  However, these various linear maps did not clearly show the order in which course information must be gathered to recruit, admit and progress a particular cohort of students.

A participant in our meetings suggested that the process could be represented as concentric circles, and I worked with this idea to create a series of course data ‘spirals’, which referenced the experiences of different categories of students (UG full-time; UG part-time; PGT and so on) in terms of the deadlines by which course information is needed to move the process forward.  An example of my model, for UG FT students, is displayed below.

Schedule of UG course data events

Schedule of UG course data events

2 thoughts on “Modelling course data schedules and deadlines

  1. Jon Brown


    Was really interested in what you have done here, prompted by your presentation at SROC. Can you confirm what software you used to create the Spirals? – was it Visio? – Did you use any particular add in to achieve the effect.

    many thanks


  2. isabelv Post author

    Hi Jon

    Actually, it was just Word! I used the drawing tools, creating a canvas and then using curves to draw the spiral lines & adjust the points until it looked the way I wanted it to. Before that I’d tried various other things, including finding a user-designed spiral add-on for Visio but I found that it wasn’t as easy to manipulate as I’d hoped.

    Glad you found something useful in our SROC session. Were you thinking of creating your own spiral-type diagrams for anything particular? I’d be really interested to hear what others are doing in the same area so please keep in touch if you’d like.


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