K.I.S. and tell

Distant view of Canterbury Cathedral on bright but misty day

Morning mist over Kent campus

We have added an item to the work packages for Kent’s XCRI-CAP project – namely configuration and implementation of the KIS widget. Key Information Sets are comparable sets of standardised information about undergraduate courses. In an increasingly competitive market, and in an online world where customers are used to being able to make comparisons, HEIs need to make relevant information easily accessible to prospective students. People browsing the prospectus want to know about the experience of previous students and what their prospects might be after graduation  as well as details of the courses on offer. The information provided by KIS differs from the XCRI-CAP feeds in that it includes data from, amongst other sources,  the annual student survey. Crucially it is also  presented in context on the same page as the course information

Final details of the appearance and contents of the widget are not released until the end of this month (March 2012) but the widget will include data such as:

  • Student satisfaction
  • Percentage of graduates of the course in work after six months
  • Average salary of graduates of the course

The data will be aggregated in part from national data sets, such as the National Student Survey (NSS) and the Higher Education Statistics Agency (HESA) and the Destination of Leavers from Higher Education (DLHE) survey. But data on learning and teaching, assessment methods, accommodation etc will need to be submitted by HEIs initially to HEFCE. In the future HESA will collect this data.

The KIS widget which will be embedded on each page of the online prospectus – much like one might embed a YouTube video – and will display data pulled direct from the aggregating HEFCE website which will be launched in the autumn of 2012.

Much of the data displayed in the KIS widget is currently available from the Unistats website but the widget will display the data with the programme to which it refers. The user will also be able to click through to the Unistats website (or more accurately its replacement) to see further information on the course, the institution and information about the local facilities, rental prices and etc

(Further information on KIS from HEFCE).


Beginning at the beginning

Pile of Kent ProspectusesHaving talked with the project’s stakeholders we decided that our investigation of the circuituous journey of a new programme or module towards its inclusion in a printed or on-line prospectus should begin at the beginning. This may seem obvious but perhaps not when you consider that the project scope does not include the delivery of a system to streamline, automate and disseminate the creation of programmes and modules. There is no doubt there is a need to improve current methods of working but we do not have sufficient resources within the XCRI project to achieve this. The processes we are looking at in this project begin after a new programme or module has been entered (currently manually) onto the Student Data System.

However in order to ‘future proof’ our developments as far as possible we need to understand the whole process  – so this is where we have started. David Sweet & Leo Lyons spent time talking to Ann Tull in the Faculty Office and as a result David, the Information Services Systems Architecture Analyst has produced a first draft of a schematic illustrating the programme/module creation process. After comments and clarification from Ann we should have the first visualisation of at least the begining of the course data journey.

As well as starting to appreciate just how convoluted and complex the processes can be one can’t help but be impressed by the knowledge and dedication of the individuals involved – transporting the germ of an idea through to its appearance on-line or in print. I thank them for their patience in explaining to me what is second nature to them!



Using stories to see the big picture

Frozen water and felled trees on the Univeristy campus

Frozen water and felled trees on the Univeristy campus

Most of the administrative stuff is in place now -Implementation Group meeting regularly, stakeholders identified and on-board and project manager appointed (me!). David Sweet, our Systems Archtiecture Analyst has begun the process of mapping out current processess and workflows. The Project Team has spent time creating the ‘epic’ user stories, giving them values and acceptance criteria and getting all that into Sharepoint. The Agile approach means that we create user stories, written originally on postcards, with wording in this format:

As a (role), I would like (desire/goal),So that (benefit)

We then prioritise these user stories and begin to break them down into tasks. Members of the project team can view the users stories and their rankings on the Project Sharepoint site.

This phase is unsurprisingly one which features many, many questions for the team but we are now starting to see a way forward and have planned our first sprint for the end of the month. This is when the developers will evaluate current systems and look at the alternatives available so we can settle on a platform. To outside observers it may seem that not much is happening but that is not the case. Once we have a clear path and identified which tasks are to be tackled first the actual developemnt work of the project can begin.

As always with the early phases of projects we are struggling with potential scope creep but determined to keep a lid on it. It being better to have realistic goals and to deliver quality solutions than to take on too much and be mediocre.