Curriculum data management: Do more than control your data, leverage it
Anyone who has spent time in the curriculum management space will know that there is an intimidating amount of curriculum-specific information (or data) to deal with. From credit points and subject titles to information about offerings – curriculum data underpins significant value for the institution, so getting it right is critical.
Establishing a system for dedicated curriculum data management that is capable of supporting other academic operations is the foundational step.
Multiple stakeholders are involved in the usage of curriculum data, each of whom require slightly different information. The risk here is pushing the boundaries of what is actually curriculum information and where it should be housed.
In this blog we explore some of the benefits that a dedicated system of record brings to curriculum data management, as well as considerations when it comes to the information it should actually manage and how it’s organized.
The value of good curriculum data management
From a top down perspective, good curriculum data management supports strategic objectives like digital transformation, resource efficiency, innovation and student success. But it’s from the bottom up perspective where the true value begins to crystalize.
- Data control and integrity: A definitive source of truth for all your curriculum information puts data control in your hands and ensures data integrity, eliminating data inaccuracies and risks. Using structured data, selecting the required data attributes, and data validation allows you to control what goes in and the way it goes in as well as creating business rules that control who is able to access it or make changes.
- Version control and automation: Only with a definitive source can you set up complex rules and relationships that enable automatic change tracking and version control. Further, having a definitive source within an end-to-end curriculum management system means you can capture process efficiency gains through dynamic workflows and automating tasks, notifications, audits, and reports; you can also eliminate inaccuracies due to human error, giving you confidence in the information you publish or integrate into other systems.
- Integration: A highly structured definitive source enables easy, seamless integration. By controlling what goes in the system and how, you can ensure that what comes out is uniform, accurate, and orderly, making it easy to find and extract exactly what you need. Whether you want to conduct a full audit history for reporting, integrate with downstream systems, or make data-driven decisions, integration is the binding architecture to your ecosystem of technology, so getting it right is essential.
Where to start with curriculum data management
What curriculum data you capture and how you organise it are two factors which decisively affect your curriculum data management success. Due consideration must be given to both.
Capturing the data
Deciding what data needs to be captured is a task that is easier said than done.
Drawing the line between what is and what isn’t curriculum data requires critical discernment on the business specialist’s part. The line can blur because multiple business areas may use the same data for their own purposes.
There are some instances in which curriculum data has genuine use in multiple systems – the curriculum management system, as well as the student information system (SIS), admissions system, student finance system, timetabling system, learning management system, assessment system, and business intelligence system. An example that comes to mind is a Course’s code and title.
There are also instances where, for example, information is not curriculum-specific but is in some way associated with it. This can make it tempting to use the curriculum management system as a catch all but institutions should refrain from doing so. Examples of this include operational information which is linked to the curriculum but is a requirement of another process, such as student planning or admissions data. A good rule of thumb is to ask whether the curriculum item itself would need to be updated in order for the data to be changed. If the answer is no, it suggests that further questions need to be asked about the most appropriate home for the information.
Inappropriate data capture can impact program logic, be costly to work around, and constrain the system in an unwanted way. However, well-defined data capture provides uniformity and supports changes brought about by innovation.
To achieve good data capture, each curriculum management business activity must be broken down into its component pieces to identify individual data items. Each data item must then be assessed for its appropriateness for inclusion in the overall system of record. This is a multi-stakeholder task. Not only should curriculum subject matter experts from different areas and levels within your own team be engaged, but consultation with the vendor’s product team is essential because they can alert you to any potential challenges or advantages to be gained by including specific data items.
Organizing the data
The second piece of the puzzle is how to organize the curriculum data to represent the business it serves.
Data should be organized in such a way that it reflects and supports the business activities for which it has been created to support. The organization process for this involves structuring your data and creating rules that affect your data items and/or their attributes.
The data is structured when it has been broken down into its most basic components and then grouped logically with relationships that describe how each group, the data items contained and their attributes relate to one another. This highly structured data (in a definitive source) eliminates redundancies and derivable data, reveals hidden data, as well as creates the order needed to build efficient, repeatable processes.
Rules that reflect your business requirements are also set up. Business rules (e.g. making fields mandatory or setting formatting conventions) control the input of data, creating the uniformity needed to ensure your data’s quality at the outset.
Together the structuring of data and business rules enable advanced functionality to support your academic activities like automation, version control, and integration.
While the way data is organized can make the system flexible, it can also set strategic constraints. Too flexible and the system becomes cumbersome. Too constrained and it is hard to change and is rigid in its support of business processes. Striking the right balance results in a robust, trustworthy system that reflects your business and enables long-term innovation.
Harnessing the value of your curriculum data with CourseLoop
CourseLoop’s data model provides the scaffolding for you to capture, use and leverage your curriculum data. Our years of experience and partnerships with higher education experts has resulted in a mature data model that supports all your end-to-end curriculum management needs.
With CourseLoop, your complex curriculum data — such as completion rules, assessments, accreditation requirements, and more — is decomposed into its component elements, and then structured within a definitive source. This allows you to get the most out of your data — enabling you to manage, integrate and leverage data you can trust.