Category Archives: The University of Sheffield

Poster for JISC ‘Show and Tell’ event

On 29th January, JISC are hosting a ‘Show and Tell’ event in Birmingham for projects on the Course Data programme and interested parties, including UCAS, HESA, HEFCE, UCISA, Graduate Prospects and many others.  We were asked to create a poster which depicted our progress in one of four key areas (themes).  We chose theme 2, which is all to do with getting institutions ready for better data integration and implementing cross-institutional change.

Our poster is available to view in JISCInfonet’s online collection here, along with those from other participating institutions.  Our thanks go to the University’s Print & Design unit who helped us with the design!

The project manager and I will be attending the Show & Tell event.  We’re looking forward to seeing everyone else’s posters, and will be pleased to answer questions about ours. We’re also hoping to gather some ideas about what others in the sector see as the key achievements of the programme as a whole, which could well be useful in guiding our recommendations in the final report.

Hope to see you there!

OPMS is underway!

Our Online Programme Management System project is now officially underway, since the first meeting of the Project Board last week.  Although a lot of background work has been completed before this point, including mapping the ‘as-is’ state and beginning to collect user requirements, this formal initiation hands responsibility for strategic guidance to key stakeholders from a wide range of academic departments and professional services.

The ‘vision’ is beginning to look quite ambitious: for a newly-designed system and related processes which will manage “all programme-level information”, and link seamlessly to systems which hold module data and regulations while providing a single intuitive interface for users to manage their own course data.  The system is expected to cover the entire programme lifecycle: from an initial idea through development and approval stages, supporting the effective management of changes and updates to information while the programme is running, and handling discontinuations.  The system will provide a single, definitive source of programme information for internal and external purposes, including the HEAR, KIS, XCRI-CAP, the prospectus, PBS, ATAS and others.

We hope to learn from the experiences of others who have taken similar routes now or in the past – if this is your institution we’d be very grateful to hear from you how you went about it, what worked and what you might do differently!

Enterprise Architecture modelling bash

Just a notice that we are holding an Enterprise Architecture ‘modelling bash’ here at Sheffield on 3rd September 2012 (one of a pair, the other to be held at UC Falmouth on 30th-31st August).  A registration form is below. We hope that this will be a great opportunity for those who have been working with the Archi tool to work on their models with support, share their output and discuss how they might use them in their institutions – the day will be centred around hands-on modelling experiences.  There will also be a chance to hear a couple of short presentations from institutions who have used EA, and to ask questions. Wilbert Kraan, who was involved in the creation and development of the Archi tool, will be joining us too.

Registration link for participants

Representing all interests in a large project

It has long been a goal at the University of Sheffield to create some form of Online Programme Management System, to transform the paper-based programme approvals and specifications processes and to hold programme information in an easily accessible and re-useable format.  Thanks in large part to the JISC course data funding, this is on the way to becoming a reality.

One of the most challenging issues we’re facing at this early project-defining stage is to decide which departments must be involved in the project, and crucially which individuals should participate in decision-making as part of the Project Board or working groups. This is complicated by the following factors:

  • The project has a relatively broad scope, and it will affect many central professional services and all of our academic Faculties and departments
  • It has two closely linked dimensions – business process change and development of an IT solution
  • It is also part of a complex web of dependencies which encompasses other course data projects, for example the project to bring programme regulations online – the process and technical outcomes of these two projects must fit together
  • The time of many key people is already being taken up with work on the many other course data projects – this is acting as a constraint on our project even while it is helping us to promote awareness of the issues with course data management

We were considering holding a Lean event, but given the staff time constraint mentioned above, this is unlikely to be possible.  As the project assistant I have been consulting with staff across professional services in order to map their business processes, and this work is being used to identify stakeholders.  We also have a fortnightly programme data ‘catch-up’ meeting which includes some operational staff.

I was wondering how any similar projects have gone about identifying stakeholders and ensuring that no key interests go unrepresented, without allowing the Project Board and similar groups to grow too large (as nearly everyone uses course data in some way!)?  If you have multiple course data projects, are you involving the same operational representatives in each?


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


Welcome to SCRIBE!  This blog was set up to share the University of Sheffield’s experiences of participating in the JISC course data project.  We hope to be able to discuss our progress, gain feedback, and connect with staff at other institutions who are interested in course data processes, whether or not they are part of the JISC programme.