How relieving curriculum management burden unlocks strategic opportunities
A university’s curriculum is at the heart of everything it is, and does. Academic and administrative staff all strive to review, refine and hone the curriculum to meet the demands of students, industry and governing bodies.
But curriculum extends well past course offerings and encompasses research, design, regulatory compliance, student recruitment, marketing and publishing to the catalog. This means there is a huge amount of data that needs to be accurately captured, managed and integrated with downstream systems.
A Curriculum Management System (CMS) helps educational institutions to capture, structure, integrate, manage and analyse their various datasets. But many universities still rely on legacy curriculum management solutions, which may not have evolved to meet their current needs.
Homegrown or legacy curriculum management processes can be highly inefficient and inconsistent, with weaknesses in communication lines and significant administrative overheads. These outdated systems are almost certainly far more time-wasting and uneconomic than they should be.
So, what benefits can a comprehensive curriculum management system have on university outcomes across the board? And how can universities choose the right tool to improve their administrative processes, governance, quality assurance, student engagement and retention?
Using CMS to address common curriculum shortcomings
At the everyday level, trying to manage the curriculum using paper-based manual systems or non-purpose designed systems will generate considerable frustrations for university administrators and staff.
Identified shortcomings are likely to include:
- Differing methods of collating and distributing information across departments.
- Data inaccuracies that affect decision making and carry risks for staff and students.
- Data insecurities that can harm regulatory compliance and reputation.
- Lack of integration between curriculum structure, governance and management workflows.
- Siloed working leading to lack of departmental collaboration, multiple time-wasting information requests, and inconsistent standards.
- Inaccurate catalog content and poor user experience, making it hard for students to plan their studies.
- Slowed release of new or updated curriculum due to manually-driven publication processes, plus, additional pressure on staff to execute on tighter timelines.
- Inability to leverage a high quality curriculum into business opportunities due to the lack of evidence-based insights and insufficient lead time to execute.
Implementing a robust curriculum management system that establishes clear ways of working across all departments can address all these issues and more, to eliminate inconsistencies by allowing true data integration and visibility, thus improving efficiencies along the whole value chain.
The strategic significance of curriculum management
In addition to administration efficiency gains, a focus on curriculum management can unlock long-term strategic advantage.
The most tangible benefits include:
- Student recruitment: Students choose what they want to study before they consider where. For this reason, the university’s curriculum needs to be designed, packaged and communicated as thoughtfully as any consumer product. This requires effective curriculum management and publishing to a modern, user-friendly catalog.
- Satisfaction: In the digital age, student satisfaction will be driven by ease of obtaining detailed information, flexibility and choice, along with their ability to self-serve with course information, enrolment processes and systems as intuitive to use as any smartphone app. However, institutions cannot provide this experience without having data that is flexible and easily leveraged across multiple systems and applications.
- Innovation: Universities are places of continuous innovation. But their ability to innovate relies heavily on how quickly they can bring new offerings to market. While traditional macro-courses have longer development, governance and approval processes, micro-credentials can be taken-to-market much more quickly. With a purpose-built system that supports speed-to-market without compromising quality, micro-credentials present a significant opportunity for universities to demonstrate their competitiveness and innovation, as well as meet student demand.
- Mapping: Whole-of-program curriculum mapping enables institutions to visualize relationships between curriculum elements, highlight gaps in the current curriculum, and support accreditation – ultimately, ensuring the overall quality of the curriculum.
- Oversight: Regular reviews are an essential part of the curriculum feedback cycle. However, the undertaking of manual quality compliance activities – the maintenance of review schedules, compilation of evidence, documentation of processes and recordings of outcomes – is an overwhelming task. Institutions need a CMS that supports efficient and easy curriculum review where senior staff can exercise strategic oversight and control, and make evidence-based curriculum improvements.
Defining the qualities of an effective CMS
A modern curriculum management system allows institutions to reap immediate workflow benefits from reduced administrative time and effort, and greater automation of routine tasks that also decrease risk of input errors.
A end-to-end solution goes beyond this to enable more strategic decision-making. Rich platform functionality provides staff with the ability and time to surface actionable insights to support the development of robust, cohesive and quality curriculum.
There are several curriculum management systems in the market today but not all are created equal.
An effective CMS incorporates at least five ‘must have’ features:
- A definitive data repository: A fully-integrated data source that acts as a ‘definitive source of truth’ across the whole system, eliminating overlaps, redundancy and duplications.
- Seamless downstream integration: Curriculum data needs to feed into various institutional systems, raising challenges for software integration and data export formats. An effective CMS must provide easy downstream integration to standardise and unify curriculum data.
- Robust and flexible data model: A CMS should have the ability to hold highly-structured data, rules, and relationships in a way that is truly robust. Its mechanisms assure and validate incoming and outgoing data. At the same time, it also needs to be highly-structured to handle complex rules and relationships to provide the flexibility needed to apply the data across multiple university information systems and processes.
- Highly configurable: Flexibility also requires a configurable system that can adapt to different terminology and processes to allow the institution to retain its distinctiveness and retain a future-proof upgrade and migration path.
- Advanced version control: Data integrity, effective collaboration and easy system management also require that every change is tracked with a complete audit history. Users can then keep track of who has the latest version (along with what changes were made, by whom and when).
Curriculum management is a strategic enabler that, with the right system, can underpin a step-change in efficient academic operations and enable universities to compete at the highest level.
By placing the curriculum at the forefront, institutions can optimize their core business and open the door to more than just productivity gains. They benefit from richer engagement and collegiality between staff, access to critical curriculum insights that enable staff to improve its design and quality, and create more meaningful impact to the student experience.