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.