Momentum for curriculum management is growing in UK Higher Ed. Here's why.

It was apt that Team CourseLoop recently found itself heading to a breezy and blustery Brighton for the Academic Registrars' Council's (ARC) Annual Conference and discussions about how registrars are navigating the tricky and choppy waters of curriculum management.

In this article, we reflect on the conference and present some of our learnings from what was a wonderful and thought-provoking event.

Universities know their curriculum must be engaging, supportive and impactful if they are to survive and thrive. Additionally, they know their processes and systems to support curriculum management must be robust and agile.

Therefore it can come as little surprise that there has been a seismic shift in the sector’s interest in curriculum management. Conference seats at curriculum management sessions have become some of the most in-demand – and our recent attendance at the ARC Conference was proof of this. 

This momentum reflects a growing need for Higher Ed institutions to respond to the curriculum-related challenges they face. Indeed, some of these challenges surfaced at the ARC Conference. 


Your top 3 curriculum management challenges 

Curriculum management plays a pivotal role in shaping the quality and effectiveness of the academic experience. However, this critical function is not without its challenges. 

We conversed with and learned from higher education registrars throughout the ARC conference. We heard about the various processes used to manage curriculum, strategic ambitions, and arguably, more importantly, the core challenges faced by the sector. Throughout all the conversations we’ve had, three key themes emerged. 

Manual curriculum management processes: A barrier to efficiency

Traditionally, curriculum management has been labour-intensive, requiring academics and administrators to navigate through mountains of paperwork and manually input data – often duplicating it – across various systems. And despite technology advancements, institutions are still reliant on these outdated methods of work or clunky technology systems that are well past their prime. 

We heard directly from registrars that they still use manual processes, like email and Sharepoint, to approve, govern and review curriculum information. This practice makes it difficult to maintain visibility over inflight proposals and reviews.

In fact, 26 out of 30 survey respondents at the ARC conference cannot track the exact progress of a curriculum item once in a workflow.

Not only does this introduce a considerable margin for error, but it results in registrars spending considerable time bogged down by administrative tasks, diverting their attention from what matters most – the students.


The consequences of double keying curriculum information

The process of double keying, wherein curriculum data is manually entered into multiple systems, still remains the norm for many institutions. This practice dramatically increases the likelihood of errors and opens the door to inconsistencies in data, consequently leading to inaccurate student records, flawed assessments, and a lower standard of learning quality.

Our breakout session with King's College London at the conference underscored the impact of this practice. 

During the session, a poll discovered that 95% of delegates were still keying curriculum information into multiple systems. Despite these institutions managing an incredible amount of curriculum data, they still manually input and duplicate data across their learning management system (LMS) or student information system (SIS). But these institutions are not alone. 

Prior to their procurement of CourseLoop, King’s also faced a similar predicament. Liv Roberts, Strategic Director of Education and Students, explained during the session that the university historically “maintained curriculum data manually across 18 different activities” but with CourseLoop, they will now have a “single, comprehensive, gold source of course information for all programmes.” 


Change as an opposition

Implementing a new curriculum management system necessitates change, and change management is a formidable opponent, especially in a sector where transformation is often slow.

Higher education institutions are complex ecosystems, with each stakeholder group holding its own set of expectations, concerns, and apprehensions when it comes to managing change internally.

Our considerable experience supporting curriculum management implementations has taught us that every institution has change management processes that are unique to the university, but we know that early engagement goes a long way to ensuring a smooth transition. For an implementation to be successful, it will require strategic planning, early buy-in, effective communication, and a commitment to providing the necessary support and training.


The emergence of curriculum management as a solution

As institutions grapple with these challenges, it’s no surprise that curriculum management is gaining momentum. Outdated curriculum management processes are hampering universities, and institutions are actively looking for ways to address challenges like data duplication, compliance and efficiency.

End-to-end curriculum management systems emerge as a solution to these core issues. A robust platform with a centralised source of truth can break down silos, improve collaboration, mitigate data risks, and provide a comprehensive and whole-of-programme view of the curriculum.

We heard from Liv Roberts, Strategic Director of Education and Students, and Nicola Wood, Head of Course Information, who led our breakout session at ARC about King’s ambitious strategic vision and how curriculum management technology can be a strategic enabler of change.

We were grateful but not surprised to see seats at Liv and Nicola's session sell out – it's clear that curriculum management has become a hot topic for higher education academics, administrators and technologists. Indeed, for us here at Team CourseLoop, end-to-end curriculum management is the golden thread connecting an institution's entire curriculum portfolio, underpinning the learner journey and bolstering staff and student success.

As institutions continue to embrace technology and new ways of working, the curriculum management trend is expected to stay. Curriculum management is not just a response to challenges, it is a proactive step towards creating a more dynamic, adaptive, and effective way for delivering curriculum.

If you missed Liv and Nicola at the ARC Conference, or would like to learn more, we’ve distilled our session with King’s into a paper. Download the paper to read about how King’s College London plans to overhaul its approach to curriculum management in support of its Student Success Transformation Programme.

Image shows a mockup of the King's College London Paper

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