At NTU, we're always looking to innovatively develop our processes to improve the offer and experience of our students, and at the core of a student’s experience is the course they are studying.
The Course Lifecycle Project seeks to transform the way we plan, design and review courses at NTU, giving us the space and capability to create courses with innovative aspects, and to review our courses with key success factors in mind. This way, we can ensure all students can succeed, regardless of their background, when they study for an NTU degree.
The need for the Project has arisen due to several considerations.
We currently have limited oversight of the developing course portfolio, and therefore an inability to ensure that it is strategically sound.
- We have also seen that the development of new courses, and revision of existing courses, is under-resourced. Workload capacity issues limit our ability to innovate and design courses that will meet the needs of current and future students.
- While we have excellent data on which to base course design and review decisions, there are now too many review and reporting points during the year. This impacts on the ability of course teams to respond meaningfully.
By reviewing our course development processes from beginning to end, we can take a holistic view and make changes to the benefit of all stakeholders. When completed, the Project's outputs will include:
- clear oversight at senior University level of the emerging NTU course portfolio;
- course development employing well-supported design sprints to develop and design innovative curricula;
- a joined-up course review process that uses an agreed set of success factors supported by user-friendly data sets;
- a significant reduction in paper-based processes through the employment of the new course database.
The Project began with a series of workshops with stakeholders to shape the desired outputs of the Project. The 19/20 academic year is the 'design and build' phase where these outputs take on a more detailed definition and pilot with identified courses. Implementation of the portfolio planning and design sprint phase is expected in 2020/21.
On December 11th and January 8th, the Course Lifecycle Project tested its new Design Sprint process in sandpit events. Design Sprints embody the new vision for course design at NTU of a collaborative and supportive process, by having a course team and a range of stakeholders engage in condensed periods of course design via interactive activities. The course example used was a Degree Apprenticeship in Paramedic studies, and this was to give a situation of how the process could adapt to various types of course.
On the first day, the sandpit team agreed on the core principles and outcomes of their course as well as innovative methods of delivery and application of The Curriculum Framework. This ensured all the core components of NTU courses were integrated from the onset that the course that was truly innovative in its approach.
The second day centred more on stakeholder engagement in which the sandpit team presented their course, modules and outcomes to different stakeholders before receiving feedback Once the considerations were reviewed, the entire group gave the course an Agreement in Principle.
This Agreement in Principle is crucial and removes the need for the former Development Approval Groups (DAGs) that are currently used by NTU. This new process actively involves the course design team in the decision and focuses the process on the innovation and design of their course rather than significant amounts of documentation.
Following feedback from the Sandpit says, relative changes are being made to ensure a cohesive process before it moves onto Pilot phase. After these Pilots, the process will be fully implemented in September 2020.
The Portfolio Planning Process will be developed by the Strategic Planning and Change Department, with CADQ, as part of their more comprehensive work on the planning cycle.
The process will allow Schools to set out their academic plans in the context of the institution's strategy University, reimagined before being considered at University level and being given the commitment to be developed. Following this, course teams will begin the Design Sprint process to create their new courses as determined by the timeframes in the Schools' plans.
The process will accommodate opportunistic course development, such as Apprenticeships, which must respond rapidly to external stakeholder requirements.
One of the main aims of this Project is to reduce documentation and instead focus on the innovation and design that makes NTU courses great for students. A significant part of the upcoming changes will be the implementation of Design Sprints.
Design Sprints embody the new vision for course design at NTU of a collaborative and supportive process. Time is allocated to the design phase, and several individuals support that phase with their expertise, rather than providing separate advice and scrutiny.
Sprints include day-long events where courses are designed and approved collaboratively, with course teams firmly at the centre of all decision-making. Moving away from current Degree and Approval Groups (DAGs) will allow individuals to focus more on innovative design aspects and spend less time on documentation and forms.
Following a short preparatory period, the outline course structure will be completed during the first of two non-consecutive Sprint Days; this will be followed by a focused interim writing period when course teams' flesh out' the ideas and focus on module content. The second Sprint Day sees the course team present their completed Student Journey to a range of stakeholders including students, externals and employers with whom they collaborate to complete the course design.
A key benefit of the Design Sprint process is that the course team is supported by professional services to deliver on the range of criteria for NTU courses as set out in the Curriculum Refresh Framework, NSS and Success for All plan. Appropriate course features will be selected during the Design Sprint activities, meaning that designed courses will be fit-for-purpose by NTU standards.
Design Sprints will be implemented from September 2020.
New Course Review Supported by a Data Dashboard
The Course Lifecycle Project's proposals for a Data Dashboard and Review process aims to bring coherence to the current range of requests for course plans in relation to separate sets of data.
The vision is to provide a set of data on course success factors that coheres with the University's Size and Shape exercise and Access and Participation Plan.
Proposals, that will be considered by Academic Board later this year, include an annual exercise that looks at course health and requires plans on an exception basis. These are likely to be the courses prioritised for redevelopment in the School's academic plans.
The data will be easily accessible to all academics in a dashboard format, which will flag, depending on pre-agreed thresholds, if a course is either performing below, meeting or exceeding expectations.
As the emphasis of review is placed on exception reporting, rather than routine reporting, it is envisaged that course teams will have greater capacity for course enhancement, with more focus on innovation.