At this year’s IWMW (Institutional Web Management Workshop) I attended a workshop session on xcri-cap facilitated by Rob Englebright, from JISC and Claire Gibbons, Web and Marketing Manager at the University of Bradford.
A few attendees at the workshop came from one of the 63 institutions involved in the JISC course data programme (the xcri-cap project). Others were not involved but keen to find out how xcri-cap might benefit their institutions.
It was really interesting to hear Claire Gibbons talk about how Bradford are using the project to refine their course information handling processes, with the full backing of senior management. Having worked on Kent’s corporate website for five years, I saw many parallels between their experiences and ours at Kent.
Like Kent, updates to Bradford’s online prospectuses have historically been driven by the annual publication of print prospectuses, with the prospectus text then being cut and pasted online. Of course, this is not ideal because it doesn’t make the most of the online medium.
Print prospectuses tend to group programmes of study into broader subject areas – there just isn’t space to give a detailed description of each and every course.
Online there is the potential to produce course catalogues containing detailed information about each programme. At Kent, our course catalogues contain programme pages but many of them would benefit from more detailed, programme-specific content.
Producing an effective online course catalogue is a chief goal of our work on the xcri-cap project. For us, the steps to achieving this are:
- Developing a CMS with workflow – to store, manage and output course data online
- Collating the necessary information about each programme, and
- Establishing a suitable process for keeping online course information up-to-date throughout the year
These are undoubtedly steps worth taking when you consider that an aim of the xcri-cap project is to allow prospective students to compare courses from a range of institutions. More pressingly, from September 2012 all universities will be required to carry a KIS ‘widget’ (a sidebar) on each of their undergraduate programme web pages.
The widget will display course-specific data aimed at helping students to decide whether the course is right for them and will represent value for money. Producing more bespoke programme pages will help us contextualise the KIS data and help inform the decision-making of prospective students. The better suited a student is to a course, the more likely they are to graduate with a well-earned degree.
So there’s everything to gain from providing accurate and bespoke course information online. The question for is: how do we best achieve this? As readers of this blog will know, we are already developing a new course content management system. However, as many of us at the workshop agreed, it’s important to keep sight of understanding, developing and refining the people-based processes which must lie at the heart of an efficient course information management system.