Monthly Archives: March 2010

Building a process model that works

I had a really positive meeting with the Head of CICT Project Management yesterday here at Birmingham City University. I wanted to ensure that the work we’re currently conducting in the area of process mapping is going to be in a form that will easily (!) translate into a transferable workflow that can be mapped onto MS SharePoint.

The first series of documentation we’re producing are fairly detailed flowchart diagrams, detailing the processes involved, and the way they interact with each other. However this information alone will not be enough to enable CICT to be able to map the new SharePoint site with the workflows we’ll be looking to implement.

In order for CICT to be able to complete the SharePoint site they will also need to know (amongst other things) what documentation will be involved at every point in the process, and exactly who will be involved at each stage in the process.

This in itself is not a particularly arduous task, we have looked at a number of different modelling languages, and after speaking with CICT believe we now have a hybrid (using aspects of UML) that will detail exactly what we need to convey to the SharePoint programmers. We are looking at creating some test diagrams in the coming weeks that CICT will pass on to the programmers who will eventually be working on the T-SPARC SharePoint project. The feedback they supply will enable us to tweak any issues they may have in translating the workflows into a workable SharePoint site before the main stakeholder engagement sessions begin, defining the way the new workflows will be deployed.

One issue we have thought of is that the more complex the diagrams become, the less accessible they become to a general audience (other stakeholders). The last thing we want to do is to alienate any groups involved in the process, and the mapping will inevitably become an intrinsic part of documenting and streamlining the approval and re-approval processes. For this reason there is a possibility that we may look at producing two separate sets of documentation, one very detailed set for CICT, and a more generic set that will be easier to interpret and pass on to other stakeholders.

This process seems to be quite organic at the moment in the way that information on processes is gradually coming to light, things are definitely moving in the right direction.


Feedback from University of Greenwich CAMEL meeting, including session with QAA.

University of Greenwich Naval College on the banks of the Thames
University of Greenwich Naval College on the banks of the Thames

Three members of the T-SPARC team embarked on a two day trip to the University of Greenwich CAMEL meeting on Wed morning (24th March). This was the fourth meeting held by Cluster B, members from all 5 clusters attended, and the meeting was facilitated by Professor Stephen Brown.

Day 1 consisted of:

• Project Updates
• “Calzón quitao” (pants down) session from University of Greenwich
• Discussion on ‘Options for developing a generic customisable process template as a cluster output’
• Evaluation update and report back session

Day 2 consisted of:

• Dissemination Activities, inc planning the content of Design Cluster B’s session at the SEDA Conference, May 2010
• Quality Assurance /Quality Enhancement Workshop with Peter Findlay, Assistant Director of QAA for HE

The sessions spread over the two days were extremely informative and helped me personally to put the T-SPARC project into a broader context within Design Cluster B.

One particularly interesting point that was made during day one was that when looking into the approval/reapproval processes, institutions agreed that the introduction of the chair to the course team at a very early stage in the process would be beneficial to both parties. This would encourage a relationship to develop early on in the process that may support early identification and resolution of certain issues, and reduce the chance of problems occurring at later stages in the process. If this is something that our stakeholders raise as a suggestion at a later date, we may well look at implementing this change into the current processes in the future.

The Quality Assurance /Quality Enhancement Workshop on day two with Peter Findlay, Assistant Director of QAA for HE was another personal highlight of the event. Peter suggested that the QAA are very supportive to the JISC initiative as a whole. He emphasised that he was not speaking formally on behalf of the QAA but in his capacity as a JISC consultant to the Programme. The following points were made during the session:

• The QAA ‘ Do not want to stifle innovation’.
• ‘Experimentation is encouraged’.
• Institutions are free to develop new procedures/processes, it is unlikely the QAA will be critical of progressive ideas.
• The QAA are open to persuasion on innovation.
• ‘Limits of acceptability’ are impossible to quantify, experimentation is acceptable.
• The QAA are open minded and liberal, committed to the quality of student learning.
• The projects in our design cluster should be applauded and admired for their innovative approaches.
• If the reasoning behind any decision is for ‘the good of the students’, it will always be seriously considered by the QAA.
• Be confident that some risks will be approved. Generally they are seen as innovative approaches. The opposing argument is that if you don’t take these risks you may not be seen as being progressive enough.

It seemed that members from all 5 institutions were pleasantly surprised by the progressive approach Peter informed us the QAA currently operate with, and welcomed his recommendations and advice.

A link to the Institutional audit guide on the QAA website can be found here, paragraphs 48 – 52 on enhancement are particularly interesting and were singled out by Peter Findlay as being particularly relevant to our projects.


Programme Design and Approval Workflows

The the past week I’ve started working on Programme Design and Approval Workflows, mapping the approval/re-approval processes here at Birmingham City University. One post that I have found particularly interesting so far was posted recently by Claire Eustance, manager of the UG-Flex project at the University of Greenwich. It details several examples of project outputs that may be considered ‘project assets’. One I found particularly relevant to our current phase of work is detailed below.

Members of CIRCLE, go to Claire Eustances post from 15/03/2010 titled: UG-Flex Project Assets January 2010, and select – ‘Validation & Review Process Review Summary’ from the menu on the right hand side of the page.


New Addition to the Project Team

Hello to all T-SPARC blog readers, a quick introduction from myself:

My name is Oliver Jenkins and I’ve recently commenced work as the Project Support Officer on the T-SPARC project at Birmingham City University whilst Hannah is on secondment to another department.

I graduated from University College Birmingham with a BA (Hons) in Business Enterprise around 18 months ago, and have worked for Birmingham City University in the Faculty of Health as a Course Administrator until my move last week. I have a personal interest in IT and social networking/media which I hope will add another dimension to the work already carried out on the project up until now. My secondment with CELT lasts for 12 months in which time I hope to gain and develop many new and existing skills.

Part of my remit is to monitor and document the projects progress on an ongoing basis so I’ll be making regular interesting updates to the blog in the coming months, keep it bookmarked and keep paying us regular visits!

As the first point of contact for all stakeholder groups (including project contributors), I would encourage you to contact me if you have any information, links or contributions that you think may be useful and/or relevant to the T-SPARC project. Please get in touch and share them with us, your input is greatly appreciated!