Category Archives: Stakeholders

‘Rough Guide to Curriculum Design’ Undergoing Internal & External Peer-Review

Following on from previous posts relating to the development of the Birmingham City University (BCU) ‘Rough Guide to Curriculum Design’, we’ve now shared a first draft of the document both internally for review by  local experts/stakeholders, and externally for review by colleagues at other institutions.

Sonia Hendy-Isaac (Senior Lecturer at BCU in Curriculum Design for Employer Engagement) from the project team presented at the ALT-C Conference on September 11th 2012, and showcased the draft document with the JISC and colleagues from other projects to the wider sector for the first time.

After the session, Sonia commented:

“There was some really good interest – it was well received by the group”.

Professor Paul Bartholomew (T-SPARC Project Manager) spoke about the emergence of the Rough Guide:

“It has been designed in response to curriculum design support needs that have emerged as a consequence of the pilots undertaken during the T-SPARC project at Birmingham City University.

Once the final content has been established the guide will be offered to staff in both a document and  multimedia format (with supplementary video elements) and embedded directly into the new SharePoint based Design and Approval of Programmes System (DAPS).”

It is envisaged that after the second phase of pilots using the technology supported processes for programme design and approval are completed by summer 2013, the Rough Guide will form an integral part of the new process and systems.

For more information, or to download a review copy of the Rough Guide, please contact


T-SPARC Technology Usage & Uptake

We’ve been piloting the use of various technologies for several months now, such as the Flip cameras, Voxur units and MP3 voice recorders in many projects here at Birmingham City University. These have mainly been curriculum design based projects but we have had interest from a number of diverse areas from within the institution and always keen not to miss an opportunity we have also been collaborating with these slightly off scope projects.

Collectively, these projects are helping us to establish usage patterns, usage and user preferences (voice Vs video), how projects influence course structure, how students experience feedback, the delivery of course / placement outcomes, how students with disabilities perceive their induction programmes and first year at university and a range of other interesting any worthwhile projects.

To give you an idea of uptake, we purchased 70 Flip cameras, 60 of which are currently being used by 13 unique projects. 2 of our 3 Voxur units are currently being used with the 3rd being used for 8 weeks from mid-March by our Library & Learning Resources Team. In the past 6 months the 3 Voxur units have been used to collect data for 11 different projects and have generated around 90 hours of footage collectively.

Interestingly, we purchased 30 MP3 voice recorders which we thought would be useful to certain projects where participants were uncomfortable with being videoed. However we have only loaned out 12 of these at the moment, and despite some reports of initial reticence from individuals to being videoed, it seems that many project organisers are still keen to push this means of data collection.

We’ve had a lot of interest in using the technologies from participants of our Student Academic Partners Scheme which is generating an increasing amount of feedback data (both written and video) that we are beginning to collate for the purpose of sharing with future users in the form of a ‘how to guide’.

If you’d like more information on these projects please post in the comments section below, alternatively you can visit our Student Academic Partners Scheme website and blog here.


Is Meaningful Engagement Without Risk?

Readers of this blog will be aware that we have been ardent advocates for meaningful stakeholder engagement in curriculum design. As we have progressed through the project we have become aware that although the benefits far outweigh the risk, it does exist.

If course designers do a really good job of getting stakeholders involved, it is very likely that those stakeholders will actually come to care about that in which they are investing their time. It is therefore very important that we carefully manage the expectations of those stakeholders we engage.

This is well illustrated through the reflections offered below from one of our pilot partners, Kate Chadwick:

A downside to using Survey Monkey/VOXUR?
One phenomenon I have experienced in the use of survey monkey and VOXUR in order to gain information from potential students for our proposed MSc Radiotherapy is that it has created a good deal of interest in the programme.  This would have been extremely useful if we hadn’t hit a stumbling block in the approval process and been forced to alter the proposed structure of the course.  Those potential students who expressed interest initially after the survey monkey/VOXUR use were eager to find out more information, yet we were unable to say at that point even which topic areas would be included in the final structure of the MSc programme or when it might actually be running.  This has led to some potential students becoming disheartened and frustrated and we may end up losing these students to our competitor institutions.  Fortunately, so far, these potential students have been placated through close and frequent communication but it has been a difficult situation to manage and one which, had we anticipated it, we might have been able to take steps to avoid when conducting our information gathering stage.

Kate Chadwick
Joint Postgraduate Lead for Radiotherapy

As can be seen, the radiotherapy team had done enough to involve people to such an extent that they created a situation in which potential students felt they had a vested interest in the developing course. This is an excellent indicator of effective engagement; but there is certainly food for thought here in relation to our need to manage expectations of stakeholders and to alert them to the potential for positive and less positive progress in relation to course design.


VOXUR, Uni of Greenwich, T-SPARC Pilots and an example VOXUR clip from one of our pilot teams!

voxurApologies that this post is a little delayed!

In early December I had a trip down to meet the UG-Flex project team and colleagues at the University of Greenwich to give them a tech-demo with one of T-SPARCs VOXUR units. UG-Flex wanted to showcase the equipment to a group of colleagues to generate interest in the use of video based technologies such as the VOXURs that T-SPARC are advocating the use of during stakeholder engagement activities in the course design and approval process at BCU. UG-Flex borrowed the unit for several weeks over the Christmas period, hopefully long enough for it to have made an impact on potential users and highlighted the benefits to them that are achievable through the effective use of this type of technology.

A link to the Greenwich blog can be found here.

To give you an example of the types of rich response you can expect to gather from this type of stakeholder engagement activity, I’ve hyper-linked (bottom of page) to a video edit produced in collaboration with our pilot course team, the Psychology Graduate Diploma that is being developed here at BCU.

During this particular exercise, 20 students responded to a series of 15 questions (on curriculum design related issues) on the VOXUR units over a 5 day period when it was convenient for them to take 15 minutes or so out of their day. The results speak for themselves and will be an invaluable source of data to the course team whilst they progress through the course design process. Although these responses may not be surprising in their content, the ease of capture is hard to replicate and the transparent authenticity of student opinion is represented in a way that is difficult to achieve by other means such as a questionnaires. The videos will be shared back to the students at some point in the near future (using view profiles on our e-portfolio Mahara) to show them how their input was used in the shaping of the new course. This will demonstrate to students what it means to have their voices represented authentically.

In this example video edit, students were asked for their opinions on:

‘How can assessment feedback mechanisms be improved on your programme?’

Click here for a link to the .wmv file

Click here for a link to the .mp4 file

All comments welcomed.


Stakeholder Engagement Update – Students

The past few weeks have seen some increased activity using the VOXUR video units, and some initial planning for the deployment of two batches of Flip cameras into two separate student populations. The aim of these activities is to capture student expectations and experiences of university life, and identify areas where we can influence the design of curricula to better suit the needs of the students. This preliminary work is looking into the induction processes here at Birmingham City University, but it is envisaged that this work will go on to inform further investigative projects into ongoing student experience.

The project has been bolstered by a successful (internal) application to run the project as a Student Academic Partners (SAP) scheme. We were lucky enough to be able to identify two media students before the start of the new academic year with expertise in video editing techniques to take up the rolls of the SAPs. They have been an integral part in the development of the methodology for capturing the video data and will continue to collaborate with other university staff through the collation, analysis and evaluation of the data collected. This work is also in keeping with the principles outlined in our stakeholder engagement model, giving students a powerful voice, allowing them to work alongside members of staff undertaking curriculum design activities.

Details of the activity:


  • Several groups of students are being approached to use the VOXUR units to offer narrative accounts relating to induction and transition:
    • Faculty of Health
    • BIAD (Birmingham Institute of Art and Design)
    • TEE (Technology, Engineering and the Environment)
    • Students with disabilities
    • International students
    • Student parents
    • Mature students
  • Students are asked a series of generic questions on student induction (co-written and presented by one of the SAPs), followed by more specific questions to be asked relating to faculty/support services specific areas of interest.

Flip cameras

  • Being deployed to a group of five international Students – we will identify five students at the start of each intake to take part in the study:
    • July/ August
    • September
    • November/December
    • January/February
  • Being deployed to a group of between five and ten students with registered disabilities
    • This will be an ongoing study with the students for approximately ten months

Early Feedback from VOXUR Units

After conducting a ‘pilot day’ within the Faculty of Health (with around twenty five respondents engaging with the VOXUR questionnaire), we have now identified a number of factors that we are considering and deciding how best to address them when redeploying the VOXURs.

  • We asked our SAPs  to approach students and explain what the project is about in an effort to put respondents at ease and encourage them to take part.
  • Location
    • Students appeared to be more at ease responding to questions when they were approached and were able to respond in a bustling social environment such as the Students Union. They seemed less at ease responding in a quiet, empty room.
    • They seemed to be less averse to being approached in this environment compared to an empty corridor.
    • However, although the respondents seemed more amenable to Voxur in a social atmosphere such as the Students Union, they did prefer to answer the questions with a degree of privacy, separated from their peers. To accommodate for this we erected some large notice boards in a U configuration in the SU to allow them this privacy. As the event became busier, we began to have issues with higher levels of background noise, and we discovered whilst playing back some of the videos during the morning that the background noise was becoming increasingly distracting and was beginning to drown out the voice of the respondent. We feel that engaging with students in a comfortable environment, on their terms is vital, and for this reason we are now looking into the purchase of an inflatable interview pod to help reduce these background noise levels whilst maintaining a presence in a social space.

All of these issues will be followed-up on and reported back initially via this blog.

Finally, do you have any experience of using inflatable interview pods or any similar alternatives? If so, let us know your thoughts and your experiences of using them. Did you find the noise reducing properties adequate? Were there any other issues you came across whilst using them?

Any feedback would be much appreciated


Updating Our Stakeholder Engagement Model

Some people may be aware that as part of the T-SPARC project we have adapted a model of stakeholder engagement to support the development of our work in this area. We’ve been having another look at the model this week and tweaking it a little bit so it seemed a good time for a blog post.

Through some previous work at the University we came across a model for learner engagement by FutureLab, an organisation which works with the schools sector in the UK. I’d found the model really useful in my work on student engagement in HE and we felt that it could be adapted to inform the way we engaged stakeholders within the context of the T-SPARC project.

Our model ranges from ‘notify’ in which stakeholders may encounter some publicity around a project, to ‘empower’ in which stakeholders set agendas for change. The model can be used to consider the most appropriate strategy for engaging stakeholders in a particular context. Where possible we’ve aimed to locate engagement at the right hand side of the table as this offers long term project sustainability.

Since the development of the model we’ve found that we consistently use the model to benchmark our activity. We’ve used the model in a number of ways so far within the project:

  • To shape our philosophy for involving staff and students at the University in the development of the project design and its priorities
  • As a resource to encourage staff to think about their engagement with students and employers in the development of programmes
  • To consider our approach to the use of technology with stakeholders. The model has helped us to consider the level of involvement required at a particular level. Through Twitter and the blog we are able to keep in touch with those stakeholders at the ‘inform’ level. Whereas through the Student Academic Partners scheme students will be employed to use Flip Cameras, Voxur units and other technology to develop curriculum in collaboration with staff.

I’m really interested to hear about ways that others are engaging stakeholders so please feel free to leave comments.


Co-Authoring of Blogs with Pilot Course Teams

We recently discussed the idea of publishing a monthly e-bulletin to notify pilot course teams on progress and project updates. After giving it some consideration, we realised that the e-bulletin would probably contain similar, if not identical information to that which is published on the blog. We then had a eureka moment and thought, why not co-author the blog with relevant stakeholder that wish to collaborate (instead of notify) with us through regular blog contributions? This approach would be more closely related to our philosophy on stakeholder engagement (a copy of the table can be found here) and would allow stakeholders to collaborate in an open forum, as a partners of the the project.

The first stakeholders that came to mind were the course teams that are piloting the T-SPARC approval methods and technologies. As the MSc Radiotherapy team have been very enthusiastic to engage with all aspects of the project, I approached the Joint PG Lead for Radiotherapy, Kate Chadwick, who was keen to work with us and contribute towards the T-SPARC blog. After a brief conversation, Kate agreed that this collaborative work would be something she would be keen to engage with and offered to author a blog post on her experiences so far (which will follow this post).

This innovative approach will add a new dimension to the T-SPARC blog and will hopefully give blog readers, as well as the project team, a better insight into the workings of the project and updates on progress from independent stakeholders perspectives. Other pilot course teams will also be approached in the coming weeks and given the same opportunities to collaborate with the project team on the blog.

Comments welcomed.


Update on T-SPARCs VOXUR Unit Data Protection Act Statement

Data Protection Act 1998

The Project Team sought guidance from the Information Manager and his Deputy on writing a customised Data Protection Policy for use with the recently purchased VOXUR Units. After a discussion last week, the Information team have authored a bespoke policy that the team are extremely happy with. It captures the essence of what the project is trying to achieve through its stakeholder engagement activities, in a concise and comprehensible statement. After some discussion, we decided that a fairly generic approach to the statement would be beneficial, allowing us to re-purpose the statement for additional use with the Flip video cameras:

I, the user and stakeholder consent to my video contribution being used for the purpose of developing educational provision at Birmingham City University, subject to the statement below:

The University appreciates the input of respondents as stakeholders, who will thereby have enhanced opportunities for influencing the development of educational provision; video footage will be treated as the stakeholder’s personal data as defined in the Data Protection Act 1998. The Act demands that such personal data will be held securely, solely for the purpose described above, and disposed of in a timely fashion (the University does, however, reserve the right to re-visit this data over a reasonably lengthy period as part of the exercise). The University may also share your video data with various other educational institutions (e.g. universities, Further Education institutions and JISC (the Joint Information Systems Committee) so as to maximise the effect of your valued input.

The T-SPARC Project continues to become increasingly stakeholder focussed and we feel that the new Data Protection Policy emphasises this recurrent theme of the project.

One of the areas in which we wanted to emphasise clarity in was the ability to re-visit data in the future, ensuring we (the University) have the option to re analyse / evaluate video data collected during these exercises at a later date if deemed appropriate. This objective was satisfied as the statement gives the institution consent to re-visit the video data over a reasonably lengthy period of time, and the option to share video data with various other educational institutions (e.g. universities, Further Education institutions and JISC (the Joint Information Systems Committee).

We have been assured the Information Team that this data protection statement falls well within the defined boundaries of the Data Protection Act 1998.

So… Next step………………………… Lets get recording!


Student Services, Accessibility and VOXUR units

The project team had a meeting with Student Services this afternoon to discuss criteria for usage of the VOXUR units. It was suggested that researching student induction processes (and induction as an ongoing process) has some close synergies with curriculum design – an area that the team will be keen to persue in the future. After a demonstration of the VOXUR units, Student Services are entheusiastic about engaging with the project team and could see some massive advantages and uses for the VOXUR units that we had not fully envisaged.

  • Students with hearing difficulties – the use of sign language on VOXURs
  • Students with dyslexia
  • Students with visual impairments

After discussing the usages of VOXURs, Student Services offered us some useful pointers on accessibility and how they can input into projects such as T-SPARC. Some of the main points listed below:

  • Include a ‘resource pack’ on disability and module / course design in T-SPARCs One-Stop-Shop that is in the process of being designed.
  • Could we use ‘German Film’ to produce some tactile work-flow diagrams for use by visually impaired stakeholders?
  • General advice on accessibility and the DDA (Disability Discrimination Act)

All in all, a very interesting afternoon that has raised some serious points, and generated some interesting solutions that we will certainly be using, and discussing in more detail in the future.


VOXUR units and the Data Protection Act

This morning, the Project Team headed off for a meeting with the Information Manager and his Deputy to discuss the Data Protection Act (1998), and how we might interpret it whilst writing a bespoke Data Protection Policy for use with the recently purchased VOXUR units. The meeting highlighted some very interesting points, and also pitfalls.

  • Will a ‘one size fits all’ approach be appropriate, or will different groups of stakeholders require different policies?
  • How long will we be storing the video footage for?
  • What purposes may it be useful to use the data for in the future?
  • How will footage be moderated, and by whom?
  • Will staff moderate their own footage, and who would (if anyone) moderate this?
  • Will users (who set the questions and analyse the data) have to sign any documentation to inform them that they cannot edit the footage?

The more we discussed it, the more questions it seemed to raise, and the more solutions we had to generate. The Information Manager is now in the process of authoring a bespoke Data Protection Policy especially for the T-SPARC team to use in conjunction with the VOXUR units.

We are also hoping to re purpose the material that they produce for use with the Flip video cameras and SONY audio recorders. This will most likely take the form of a consent form / disclaimer.

Please leave comments / advice below if you’ve had any experience of writing Data Protection Policies for use with video recording equipment. Did you overlook anything in the early stages of development that you could warn us about?