Implementing and embedding Curriculum Management in universities
Paul Hederman | Director of Sales and Marketing, Akari Software
Curriculum is the lifeblood of all higher education institutions and touches all aspects of university administration. Properly managed, the curriculum determines the effectiveness of a university’s offering, from design and development of programmes through to their validation, delivery, resource allocation and, importantly, publication. Curriculum Management (CM) aids the effectiveness and efficiency with which a university delivers a valued experience to its students and stakeholders in what is now a very competitive educational landscape. In essence, holding your curriculum data centrally is one advantage, using your curriculum data is another strength, entirely and critical to the modern mission of universities.
So, what do we mean by Curriculum Management?
Curriculum can be defined in many ways but generally it relates to:
• What is important for students to learn
• The set of experiences students should have
• The set of courses or programmes offered to students
• The set of courses or programmes students select from available options
• The content of a specific discipline
• The time and credit framework in which a university provides the education
Put another way, the curriculum is a combination of relationships ranging from educational objectives, learning outcomes, course or module materials, content, assessment types, learning styles, graduate capabilities and the learning environment. There may be more elements to be included to the list, but this is enough to be getting on with, and more than enough to make the management of curricula a complicated process. Software solutions are one way of simplifying and managing this complex process.
Curriculum mapping is one of the ways to make the management of curricula more tractable. Mapping helps to identify where graduate capabilities are actively taught and assessed in a module or unit of study. By incorporating learning outcomes and the different assessment types involved, greater clarity is given to the curriculum structure. Systematically laying out both indicative content, learning outcomes and assessment, and displaying this information in a coherent way clarifies the learning journey for students. In turn, they become more aware of the learning requirements involved, ensuring the consistency and predictability which are seen as critical to their learning.
Curriculum Management aids the effectiveness and efficiency with which a university delivers a valued experience to its students and stakeholders in what is now a very competitive educational landscape.
Systematically capturing and displaying the curriculum elements also helps academic staff get a clearer overview of their role by helping them focus on any gaps that might exist in terms of module or programme alignment and their teaching process and strategy, while also helping to identify the strengths of their planned or taught curriculum.
Institutional imperatives for introducing a Curriculum Management system
The curriculum touches every aspect of university administration, and by successfully capturing all the elements it can determine the efficiency and effectiveness of programme design and
development, programme validation, delivery and assessment. More importantly, it allows accurate and up to date programme information to be published on the Web and ensures quality
management information for the administration.
The most common reasons for implementing CM systems is the need to deliver better management processes for the more efficient and effective management of course development and review. When ‘efficiency and effectiveness’ is examined more closely, it is important that:
What is becoming increasingly clear is that existing bespoke systems are usually no longer fit for purpose, are too resource heavy in terms of maintenance and support, and that little or no new added functionality is being developed.
• Programme and module data is captured once and used often, thereby reducing duplication
• How this information is made public through a university’s website is carefully considered, ensuring it is the only approved version of the curriculum, the elusive source of truth
• Great emphasis is placed on the workflows around curriculum design and development
• The core ‘efficiency’ argument around curriculum integrity and data integration with other university systems (such as student management or virtual learning environments) is never absent from the discussion
• Programme information is archived and held for specified periods and curriculum data reporting uses a format that makes best sense for the institution
• Curriculum software needs to ensure that inter departmental programme development can be accomplished in a fully collaborative manner
What is becoming increasingly clear is that existing bespoke systems are usually no longer fit for purpose, are too resource heavy in terms of maintenance and support and that little or no new added functionality is being developed. Furthermore, bespoke systems are not future proofed to accommodate curriculum enhancement, delivery management and increased external reporting requirements.
Implementing new Curriculum Management systems
There are, of course, challenges to implementing a CM system. First and foremost it is important to recognise that implementing such a system is about change management, so good communication is critical for all stakeholders, to help identify the need for change and the benefits accruing from a new way of doing things; or ‘socialising’ new software within the institution if you like. Concerns from staff relate to increased workloads or the necessary time to learn how to work with the new system. Such concerns can be managed by showing the usefulness of the product set through ‘show and tells’, training seminars, and production of user guides. Discussions around impact on academic freedom require an institutional response if the objective is to develop unified programme and module templates etc. Intellectual property concerns can also emerge as a challenge, and again require both an institutional response and a software response, such as using password protection at log in and limiting publication to what a school or faculty determines is best practice.
Curriculum Management is still a relatively new domain within the various existing management functions of a university. However, it is increasingly seen as the key driver from which all else evolves, and as such requires careful thought and management and is at the centre of university management thinking. The importance of the centrality of the curriculum is now well understood, and managing this critical resource is crucial.
Akari Software has been to the forefront of web-based curriculum management software development for the past ten years. Over that time and with design input from a wide variety of international universities Akari Software is designed and built to provide working software from the get go. It is designed to be configured so universities can quickly move to implementation and roll out once procurement is out of the way.