Following conversations with representatives of a number of projects over the months since the Course Data programme began it has become increasingly apparent that there was a recognised need for some additional support and information around change management.
Change is at the core of so much project work and if it is not managed appropriately it can have major implications for the success or otherwise of a project.
We held a workshop for Course Data and other projects on Managing Change this week led by John Burke, a Senior Adviser at JISC infoNet.
A number of Course Data colleagues (some of whom also have Transformation project roles) participated in the workshop which took the form of a mix of theory and interactive elements. The main interactive element was a computer simulation depicting the realities in implementing change in the education environment.
One of the first activities we took part in involved identifying, from our own experiences, both positive and negative approaches and outcomes of change and change management. There were dozens of post-its filled in and stuck to the H forms on the wall with smiley faces to represent happy/good experiences and sad faces for the unhappier/bad experiences. Broadly the responses could be summarised as follows:
Bad change management as experienced by the workshop participants were the result of poor communication and consultation; changes happening too fast; increased pressure and workload experienced by those affected; lack of training to support the change; use of jargon which can confuse and alienate and ultimately lead to feelings of disempowerment; change for its own sake – lack of strategic vision and anything impacting negatively on staff morale.
And the good…. a clear vision – so that even if you disagree with it you understand why it’s happening; good communication – someone happy to answer questions; structured change; obvious improvements made- bottlenecks removed, more appropriate and efficient systems resulting from the change; creative approaches used; fresh challenges and new opportunities resulting from the change and time for reflection available during the process.
John gave us an overview of Change theories – included drivers and strategies for change and he outlined some tools and approaches that could be used to help manage change successfully. Much of the content of the workshop relates to the Change Management infoKit which provides further details on the theories and tools that have been tried and tested within the sector.
The impact of change cannot be underestimated, John spoke about parallels between emotions of bereavement and emotions involved in change for some people.
The second half of the workshop was largely based around a computer simulation activity. The participants worked in pairs on a scenario which, whilst factual, had elements that were not too far away from the reality of managing change within a real educational environment, including having to be delivered within a certain timeframe.
This element of the workshop helped participants to consider the challenges involved in how stakeholders within an organisation can react to change, to consider cultural aspects of work environments, nurturing relationships, and to think about routes into influencing change. As the introduction to the exercise explained ‘changing the way people think and behave in organisations is not a simple task and often requires a combination of different tactics to be used at the right time with the right people’. Furthermore in this exercise, as in real-life, it is important to consider the context in which you are working; review and understand the different initiatives available; develop a strategy to guide you through the project – eg be it top-down or bottom-up; be resilient, things won’t always happen as quickly as you’d like and often not as planned; stay focused on the goal and review and evaluate progress at regular intervals.
The simulation offers the user the chance to use ‘interventions’ in order to influence the progress of the project – it is important to nurture an understanding of the individual people that are involved in the project in order to get the best possible outcomes. Working on the simulation in pairs offered delegates the chance to talk through potential implications and consequences of making certain decisions.
On a side note I talked to John about the reason behind using pairs to work on the simulation and he explained that his experience has shown that when people have worked on the simulation by themselves they have been more likely to treat it as more of a game – they’ve taken it less seriously; and when he has tried the exercise in groups of three it is often the case that one team member feels that their voice is not being heard in the decision-making process.
We used an instant feedback approach (which would be followed by a more formal post-event feedback survey) at the end of the session to find out what delegates thought about the day and the types of approaches that had been introduced. Using pictures and post-its can be a very valuable way of getting an instant idea of what has been useful to the participant, what they really like, could use now, could use later and what isn’t relevant to them.
Feedback on the exercise, and indeed the workshop, has so far been very good, and participants have already suggested ways in which some of the tools and techniques can be used within project activities.
A collection of Change Management related resources (including links to some of the tools and techniques used and the Change Management infoKit) was compiled that may prove useful to anyone dealing with change within projects and organisations more generally.
Staffordshire University is participating in the course data programme and, like many of the projects in the programme, is finding that implementation of the KIS and other resource demands (in this case the procurement of a new student records system) present additional challenges for the project team. The University has however been aware of the potential benefits of XCRI-CAP for some time so is in no doubt that the initiative is worth pursuing.
Staffordshire undertook an early review of the XCRI-CAP Self-Assessment Framework (SAF) in order to provide feedback to JISC (a blog by Fleur Corfield records these experiences). Fleur reports that approaching the exercise as a review of the framework rather than an ‘audit’ of the University’s own practice helped ensure that the conversations, undertaken with a range of senior managers, were relaxed and open. Some managers felt the SAF might be better undertaken as a group activity whilst others preferred the ‘interview’ format but all of them felt that the conversation itself was as important as the actual outcomes. Although this early activity wasn’t presented as a formal evaluation of readiness, it highlighted to senior managers the fact that there were a number of issues around the University’s management of course information that would need to be addressed in order to meet future needs.
At that point the University did not feel ready to progress with the implementation of XCRI-CAP as an enterprise-wide initiative as it was clear that a considerable amount of work would be required to align and cleanse data held in a number of separate systems. However, an opportunity soon arose to benefit from the use of XCRI-CAP in a stand-alone way.
The University had undertaken a review of its quality processes and identified areas where it could reduce duplication and streamline effort. The review was facilitated by process mapping using the Archi modelling tool (a free tool developed by JISC CETIS) and Sam Rowley has produced an excellent slideshow that demonstrates, to a non-technical audience, the benefits of using such an approach. In order to deliver improvements within a tight timescale it was decided to focus on eliminating the duplication of effort that was occurring in the External Examiners’ process. This led to the development of a new application to provide a single source of information.
Developing the new external examiners system involved thinking about the problem and coming up with a model for how the process/system should work. Almost 50% of the information required to support the process was course-related information. The project team were keen not to reinvent the wheel so they adopted the existing XCRI-CAP course data model. Having applied the model they saw further benefits when QAA requirements changed and they found that XCRI-CAP is sufficiently flexible to make adapting to the new requirements relatively painless.
‘Basing the domain model on the XCRI CAP 1.1 information model was a wise choice. Although it was a more complex model than we might have created from scratch, we have reaped the benefit of that choice many times. Most recently, a QAA review has requested a change to the level of award detail stored with examiner records. Because of the flexibility of the XCRI-based domain model to represent most course structures, required changes to the domain model have been minimal.’ (Sam Rowley)
Like many universities Staffordshire holds course related information in a number of separate systems but there is now a lot of ‘cross pollination’ going on across the University. Once the benefits of XCRI-CAP were clear the model was applied to the University’s planning and validation database and it is currently being instrumental in supporting discussions around the choice of a new student record system and the possible development of an institution wide course database as a result of its Course Data project. The Staffordshire approach shows that it is possible to reap benefits from implementing standards in an incremental way rather than having to opt for a ‘big-bang’ approach.
As well as reaping the benefits of applying open standards the University is also seeing value in being part of an open source community: ‘Much benefit is to be gained by participating fully in open source communities. We have blogged about our experiences, have answered questions in community forums and have asked our own questions. In each case, responses have given us a better understanding of the technologies we have used. Don’t be afraid to ask questions or blog your experiences. Even if you get some information wrong, community members will correct you and improve your understanding further. The feedback is valuable.’ (Sam Rowley)
The External Examiners system was delivered as one of the outputs of the ENABLE project funded under the JISC Institutional Approaches to Curriculum Design programme. Find out more about ENABLE and related projects via the Design Studio.
JISC: Sharing effective practice in lifelong learning, e-portfolios, innovation in FE, digital literacies and learning environments
The JISC e-Learning Programme team is pleased to announce the release of five new publications on the themes of lifelong learning, e-portfolio implementation, innovation in further education, digital literacies, and extending the learning environment. These publications will be of interest to managers and practitioners in further and higher education and work based learning. Three of these publications are supported by additional online resources including videos, podcasts and full length case studies.
Effective Learning in a Digital Age is an effective practice guide that explores ways in which institutions can respond flexibly to the needs of a broader range of learners and meet the opportunities and challenges presented by lifelong learning.
Crossing the Threshold: Moving e-portfolios into the mainstream is a short guide which summarises the key messages from two recent online resources, the e-Portfolio Implementation Toolkit, developed for JISC by the University of Nottingham, and five institutional video case studies. This guide and accompanying resources explore the processes, issues and benefits involved in implementing e-portfolios at scale.
Enhancing practice: Exploring innovation with technology in further education is a short guide that explores how ten colleges in Scotland, Wales, Northern Ireland (SWaNI) and England are using technology to continue to deliver high-quality learning and achieve efficiency gains despite increasing pressure and reduced budgets.
Developing Digital Literacies is a briefing paper that provides a snapshot of early outcomes the JISC Developing Digital Literacies Programme and explores a range of emergent themes including graduate employability, and the engagement of students in strategies for developing digital literacies.
Extending the learning environment is a briefing paper that looks at how institutions can review and develop their existing virtual learning environments. It offers case study examples and explores how systems might be better used to support teaching and learning, improve administrative integration or manage tools, apps and widgets.
All guides are available in PDF, ePub, MOBI and text-only Word formats. Briefing papers are available in PDF.
There are a limited number of printed copies of each guide for colleges and universities to order online.