Category Archives: Uncategorized

Presenting at ALT-C and Ongoing Developing of the Rough Guide

Sonia Hendy-Isaac (Senior Lecturer in Curriculum Design for Employer Engagement at BCU) from the project team presented at the ALT-C Conference on September 11th 2012. Following on from the previous blog post, below is some further commentary from Sonia on how the Rough Guide was received on its first public outing:

“The ALT-C conference was an interesting affair, and the challenge for myself and the other JISC funded projects (Ulster’s viewpoint cards and the OU’s OULDI frameworks) was engaging a room full of people who love technology; especially since all of our presentations focused on the humanisation of the curriculum design process and not necessarily the technology itself!

The Rough Guide had its first public outing and was well-received; there was significant interest in development of a WBL version of it. One of the key discussions in the mini break-out sessions focused on how to use the RG to improve institutional commitment to innovation in curriculum design through strong stakeholder engagement at inception, and the use of discussion to inform design and ways to evidence this. There was also much discussion about the size of the RG and the potential resistance to reading such a volume! I spent some discussing our approach to offer a two-page overview with the opportunity to delve beyond that and the use of the briefing days which introduce the RG within BCU. All in all, a fabulous event – wish I could have stayed longer to have continued the discussions and debates…still, there’s always next year!”


Development of the Rough Guide to Curriculum Design

Following on from the work completed by the sabatical members of staff (that worked alongside T-SPARC project staff) last summer, CELTs Sonia Hendy-Isaac (Senior Lecturer in Curriculum Design for Employer Engagement) has been adding to, and updating the resource recently. Working alongside Oliver, they have process mapped the new programme design and approval process from start to finish and looked at where support and guidance in the following areas could be offered:

  • Philosophy (why)
  • Process (what)
  • System (how)
  • Tools

Information on stakeholders are placed on blue post-its, tools in yellow.

Interestingly, we have realised recently that although the development of this resource has taken longer than originally expected, the project team are in a much more informed position now to talk about the ‘whats’ and ‘hows’ now that we have actually implemented the new processes and systems within the pilots. The rich feedback from pilot teams and personal experiences of using the live system has enabled us to give more informed guidance on how the system can be used most effectively.

The content about how the system should be used to augment the process will be integrated into the SharePoint workflows and interface, the information / guidance on the philosophies, process, and tools to support the progamme design and approval process will also be available at appropriate points and offered to user groups dependant on the role that they are assigned.

Sonia is now putting the ‘meat on the bones’ and an initial draft is due by the end of next month.


SharePoint 2010 – How to ‘drive’ user adoption

I came upon this post over the weekend and think it will be particularly interesting to SharePoint developers as a commentary on issues to consider whilst delivering systems to the end users. I found it particularly poignant with relation to where T-SPARC are currently with the roll-out and piloting of the new programme design and approval system. Hope you find it useful.

(Original post can be found here at

A secretary walks into a Giant Car showroom and demands ‘OK tell me how much it is… I’ll take it?’ This is without actually telling the bemused sales guy; what make she wants, the model, the colour, age, size of the engine, spec etc. She had failed to ask her boss all of these things (end user) who had instructed her to ‘go out and get a car’, as he she took his instructions literally.

The salesman rubs his hands together and she goes and blows £300k of her bosses’ hard earned money on the latest supercar. All he needed was a basic saloon car to get around town!

Ok this didn’t really happen but the exact same thing happens week in week out with Internal Communicators who use SharePoint as their Intranet and/or Content Management systems and never ask users what they need and would like to see.

Between IT and Internal Comms, they are the ones that often decide what the end users will need and want as they ‘know’ their audience and have done the requirements gathering. (Often a 1 hour meeting with them to tell them what they were going to do!)

The days of static content (pushed out by Internal Comms) are well and truly numbered. On an Intranet, users not only demand and expect content that is fresh and relevant to them personally but also applications that will make their lives easier. With SharePoint, you will be amazed how many applications can be built within days, without any custom coding and often life changers for the users. This will also drive user adoption and get people visiting the content you want them to more often. These can be anything as simple as a holiday request form, through to a Recruitment system.

You just need to ask them what their pain is!

8 Great Tips to get the most out of SharePoint

  1. Don’t let IT Run the project – SharePoint is a business facing application. Unless there is a fresh installation needed, try to keep the project run by someone in the business who understands the challenges in the business rather than of the technology.
  2. Requirements gathering – Ask end users what they want by actually asking the question ‘tell me about the challenges in your business’. Count the blank looks on people’s faces when you ask ‘tell me what you want SharePoint to do.
  3. Custom code – There is always a time and a place for this but avoid wherever you can. For every 5 days of development, the same can be achieved with configuration in 1.
  4. ‘Out of the box’ Features – Get to know all of the features that are in SharePoint. Knowing what the product can actually offer can avoid custom code!
  5. 3rd Party Products – SharePoint, like all systems, has its shortfalls, but there are thousands of products that can be bolted onto SharePoint to address these. These costs a fraction of the cost of developing from scratch and are supported also.
  6. Micro-Projects – Wherever possible, try to deliver SharePoint offering in small chunks. This will make SharePoint become viral and also make it easier to improve on each piece that you deliver. Hard to do with a ‘big bang’ approach.
  7. End User Training – Train Train Train – Allow a decent budget for training end users on how to actually use SharePoint. How will people use the tool if they don’t know how to?
  8. Support – Log a ticket approach doesn’t work with SharePoint. Try to identify the ‘power users’ that can be accessible to help the business users.


Welcome to the T-SPARC blog homepage!

I’m guessing that you’ve arrived here this week after taking part in the JISC Online Conference, ‘Innovating e-Learning 2011‘ and clicking one of the links to our project blog and website. (If not, please feel free to look around!)

First of all, welcome, and thank you for clicking one of the links to the site and showing an interest in our project. If you would like any further information or access to documentation you can either email me at or alternatively start or comment upon threads within our session workspace. The topic for the session is ‘Socio-technical ramifications of a new technology-supported approach to course design and approval’ and is being delivered by Paul Bartholomew (BCU) and Jim Everett (University of Strathclyde).

A brief guide to the T-SPARC project site:

Project blog (this page) –

Meet the team –

Project overview –

SharePoint development site –

Baseline review info –

Feedback from stakeholders –

Contact details –


SharePoint Development Update

Following a meeting yesterday with BCU’s Head of Project Management in Corporate ICT, several updates have been agreed that will move the system development process forward in the coming months whilst piloting the new workflows:

  • The project will have made available the services of our in-house SharePoint 2010 developer over the next couple of weeks to finish all minor tweaks and adjustments to ensure the beta version that is made available to the pilot programme teams is fit for purpose (design informed from initial piloting phase of SharePoint 2007).
  • Corporate ICT have agreed that in true ‘Agile’ fashion, our developer will work alongside me (Oliver) in the same physical space whilst I act in a ‘Business Analyst’ capacity. This will allow us to define and solve issues in real time and help to ensure that the developers time is spent 100% on the project during these development sessions.
  • Once the software is ready for the piloting phase to begin (we envisage this being in the next couple of weeks) we have agreed that there will be a number of development windows during the process. These will be set at approximately 6 week intervals so that new requirements can be defined (with input and feedback from pilot teams) and technical solutions prepared so that once a development window is reached, the developer will have a set of definitive business requirements to work from.
  • As a caveat to the above development window structure, we have also agreed that if an issue becomes obstructive or starts to impede the programme development process in any way (due to unforeseen circumstances or usability issues, for example) , we will have the resources made available immediately to develop emergency solutions.
  • The services of one of BCU’s Senior Project Managers for the Corporate ICT Project Office who has extensive knowledge and experience as a software tester has been made available to the project to assist with final testing and run-throughs of test scripts.
  • Corporate ICT have another project that is in progress at the moment, the DAM project, (the Digital Asset Management system) which will deliver a single, University-wide repository system for the Universities video, audio, document and image files. It was suggested that T-SPARC project members have successfully gained buy-in to the project from a wide range of stakeholders (both internally, and externally) and have valuable experiences to share that could assist with the effective implementation and embedding of other CICT projects within the institution in the future. Conversations around this topic will continue.

Again, positive momentum in the right direction and further evidence of the deep institutional buy-in that the project continues to develop as we transition into the piloting phase.


Continued Support for T-SPARC Pilots

We have recently identified a pilot course team from BCU School of Property, Construction and Planning that will be reworking six inter-related FT and PT degree courses, with various professional body affiliations, in the course of the current year using T-SPARC systems, tech and methods. We we’re pleased to learn today that additional Programme Directors from BIAD (Birmingham Institute of Art and Design) had put themselves forward as pilot programmes following a demonstration of techniques and systems yesterday. From a total of around 8 programmes that were represented at the review meeting for courses going through review and approval, we think that 6 have put themselves forward!

Additionally, we already know that other pilots have been firmed up in the Faculty of Health and Birmingham City Business School.


Student Handbook / Course Guide Update

I have been working on changes to the student handbook now for several months. During this time I have researched into what students are currently given on arrival to the University, how that compares with other Universities and how we can make things better at Birmingham City University.

From staff and student focus groups, it was reported that the current Student Handbook was bulky, inaccessible and unappealing. To combat this, some faculties and schools had created a bridged versions of the handbook called ‘Survival Guides’ but these were not formally approved and would have to complement the handbook with a risk or reiteration.

Therefore it was decided that there should be two levels to the information that students receive. This would be University level, the generic information that all students need to know and then the Course level information which would also include Faculty or School level information.  It was agreed that it would be appropriate to house the University level information on the University website and students would be issued with a ‘Course Guide’ during induction which would have all the information that students need to know about their course, with links to where more information could be found.

The Course Guide was created and has been piloted on 6 courses across 2 faculties. Feedback so far has been positive from staff and students, although staff were keen that the guide must remain concise and student focused, it was felt that it should not be made verbose and cumbersome by items needed for approval which students could be directed to elsewhere. Students have described the guide as being much more visually appealing and easy to use.

The Course Guide will go to Senate on 11th May 2011 with a view to it being approved to be rolled out University wide for the 2011/2012 intake.


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.


Flip Camera Project is Showcased in BCU Student Services Newsletter!

The Flip camera diary project focusing on students with disabilities experiences (of issues such as curriculum design) has received internal recognition in the Birmingham City University Student Services spring newsletter. The article at the top of the newsletter informs staff and students of the interesting and worthwhile work we are undertaking in collaboration with our 2 Student Academic Partners. This is a great showcase that we are hoping will generate more internal interest in the project .

We also feel that these type of projects are a great way to engage with a range of staff and students to encourage the use of video equipment to capture stakeholder opinion and get them used to recording and being recorded.

An excerpt from the newsletter can be found below:

The Student Experience: Life as a disabled student

Building on the successful use of Flip video cameras for students to give their feedback on our first ever Welcome Day, the Disability Support Team is working with disabled students and CELT on a Student Academic Partners Scheme project. From induction to the end of their first year, disabled students are using Flip cameras to record their thoughts about life as a student, including any social or academic challenges they meet. The information gathered will enable the Disability Support Team to produce a film for applicants and new students. We also hope to learn more about the challenges of the first year, and thus develop new ways to support disabled students.


An Award for the Student Academic Partners Project

Student Academic Partners is a scheme which employs students to work in partnership with staff on learning and teaching development projects across the University. T-SPARC team members have been heavily involved in the development of the scheme and we are encouraging T-SPARC pilot projects to engage students through the scheme. Initial projects have engaged student academic partners in curriculum design as researchers working with staff to collect and collate student views and to trial particular technologies and we hope to employ further students to engage with other course design teams at the University.

Given the success of the project internally we were delighted to receive external recognition in the form of a Times Higher Education (THE) Award at the recent 2010 awards ceremony. The scheme was given the award for ‘Outstanding Support for Students’ category. In their summary, the impressed judging panel said the scheme was a “truly outstanding example to others across the sector”.

SAP photo1