Accreditation and version control

In the first phase of our Online Programme Managment System project we are building web-based screens for our Corporate Information System (CIS) which will help with the management of data about professional accreditation of our programmes.  This was chosen as a starting point for this much larger system (all to be built in-house) because it is a relatively discrete piece of work; access to accurate data of this type is necessary for the KIS and the HEAR; and it was felt that it could have clear benefits for academic departments, Marketing and others.

At present, data about accreditated programmes is collected annually from academic departments on a spreadsheet managed by Learning and Teaching Services. Last year this was expanded to cover details required for the KIS and the HEAR, and this data was manually entered into the CIS.  In order to ensure that this data remains current, a better process is needed as soon as possible.  It was decided that departments would ideally manage the information themselves and be able to enter this directly into the system, saving on time and multiple requests for similar data from other sources, e.g. the prospectus team.

Through consulations with staff in academic departments we established early on that the documentation required to secure and renew accreditation with a professional body (PRSB) is complex and highly variable between PRSBs. Therefore, we are not aiming for the system to hold all of this information. However, departmental users felt that having a record of relevant milestones to remind them to take necessary actions (e.g. send proof of departmental improvements to PRSBs) would be useful.

Version control is a key issue for course data and especially for the implementation of the HEAR – it must be clear which accreditation applies to any given cohort of students if an arrangement is initiated, terminated (very rare) or there is a major change to the programme or the form of accreditation that a student can expect – in some cases different arrangements could apply to different cohorts of students currently enrolled. We are currently exploring how this will work. As this will apply to much of the larger dataset for the OPMS, getting this right for accreditation will support the expansion of the system and help us to demonstrate our vision to stakeholders.  The JISC Show & Tell event featured a useful discussion about this version control issue, and we’d also be keen to hear from any institutions who would like to discuss possible solutions and best practice.