Digitizing curriculum management with CourseLoop – UCLA’s journey

Maturing from using homegrown and manual curriculum management tools to purposefully-designed, robust systems – how can other universities replicate UCLA’s success? 

Our recent webinar, titled ‘Digitizing curriculum management with CourseLoop – UCLA’s journey’, explored the university’s transition from homegrown processes to a more modern curriculum management system.

Held in collaboration with UCISA, the webinar featured Claire McCluskey, Deputy Registrar & Director of Curriculum & Scheduling at UCLA, and Brian Clark, CEO of CourseLoop.

This blog unpacks the key themes from the webinar, including questions posed around the challenges of implementing a curriculum management solution and the integration opportunities with other critical university systems.


Enabling digital transformation in curriculum management 

The COVID pandemic highlighted key challenges faced by today’s universities – drops in domestic and international enrolments, volatility in student sentiment and the changing nature of the learning environment. 

The education sector is moving faster than ever – a natural consequence of the pandemic and rapid changes in technology and corresponding skill demands. Universities now must innovate and bring new value to market much more quickly than they have in the past. 

Unfortunately, most institutions’ curriculum management processes are not set up to support this. To meet the rate of change the industry is currently demanding, universities need to reconsider curriculum development, approval processes and publishing whilst also improving integrity and governance. 

What is the key to this? Establishing efficient workflows, rich functionality and a strategic curriculum management system of record via a comprehensive curriculum management platform.


Key themes from the webinar – integration, administration and data management

  • Integration with other technologies is the greatest curriculum management challenge – 29% of webinar attendees ranked this as their top obstacle to overcome.
  • Webinar attendees also raised curriculum management administration as a key challenge (23%). Generally speaking, this includes the administration or management of approvals (workflows) and the overall governance process. 
  • 23% of webinar attendees noted that data capture and management was also a key challenge and 40% said that it is one of their highest priorities for improvement.

Integration with other critical university systems – how is it done? 

Integrating data between multiple systems is one of the greatest technological challenges facing modern organizations. Comprehensive curriculum data integration with downstream systems such as the Student Information System (SIS), Learning Management System (LMS) – or Virtual Learning Environments (VLE) – removes the need for manual data entry or other time-consuming data transfer and management processes.

The CourseLoop Platform has been designed, from the ground up, to operate as an integral part of the University technology ecosystem – with integration capability at its core. Using CourseLoop’s REST API it can integrate with various systems, for example:

  • Student Record Systems, including Tribal SITS, Ellucian Banner, PeopleSoft Campus Solutions and others.
  • Learning Management Systems (or Virtual Learning Environments), including Canvas, Blackboard and others.
  • Timetabling Solutions, including Syllabus+ and others.
  • Plus, in-house built departmental systems.

Integrating data between systems is multi-faceted and nuanced. The CourseLoop approach to integration is to be completely open and expose all objects in our robust data model through JSON payloads via REST APIs. 

Additionally, the CourseLoop Platform provides a configurable Event API to enable trigger events such as approval or archival of an Academic Item (Program, Major, Course, etc). This enables institutions to keep all their downstream systems current with the latest versions of curriculum management objects.

While JSON, REST and general technical connectivity is essential, data mapping between systems is where the magic happens. We know that most – if not all – institutions have extended, at best, and completely customized, at worst, their Student System data model. 

So, while the idea of a magical ‘out of the box’ integration adaptor sounds amazing, working with an institution to map the CourseLoop Curriculum data objects to the corresponding data elements in their SMS or LMS is a necessary process. 


Solution implementation – timelines, buy-in and managing change

Implementation is the process of activating our solution rather than the capability of our Platform. It involves anything from: 

  • Engaging project teams,
  • Establishing needs and timelines – which CourseLoop Modules we implement and when,
  • Data migration,
  • Configuration and testing,
  • Solution go-live,
  • And maintenance. 

The webinar received various questions around how project managers can get buy-in from academic colleagues, how they manage change and how best to communicate the needs and benefits to academics. 

CourseLoop recognizes that academic buy-in can be challenging, and is one of the reasons why we have worked closely with academics to design our Platform’s features and flows. The CourseLoop implementation team can help by providing regular showcase presentations of your implementation as it progresses through your configuration.

When it comes to managing organizational change and communicating the benefits of more modern curriculum management software, we recommend early academic engagement, regular showcases and even labs where staff can get hands-on, early in the process. 

Implementing a responsive curriculum management system for UCLA – a case study 

UCLA is one of the world’s most iconic universities and one of the largest in California, US. Before CourseLoop, UCLA managed its complex curriculum, catalog and student information via manually-intensive, and unsustainable, processes. 

Why UCLA chose CourseLoop:

  • Alignment between problem and solution. CourseLoop is purpose-built for universities experiencing curriculum management  challenges.
  • Strength of technical capability. Our dynamic approach to curriculum management enables universities to immediately benefit from our modules as soon as they’re implemented. Our clients can then build further capabilities to establish truly robust, end-to-end management capability.

To date, CourseLoop has delivered the Curriculum Data Management and Curriculum Publisher Modules, and we are presently implementing the Curriculum Governance Module. 

The Curriculum Data Management Module provides the robust curriculum management data model that acts as a definitive source of truth for all of UCLA’s curriculum information, while the Curriculum Publisher delivers a modern, user-centric student catalog. 


Solving administration inefficiencies

Curriculum management is often a slow, repetitive task for academics – and typically involves manual processes, editing versions of the same document and duplicating information across various systems. Without the right tools in place, it is arguably one of the most difficult processes to undertake at a university. 

Good curriculum management uses a structured approach to curriculum data and governance, which relieves administrative burdens by:

  • Reducing manual overhead by automating frequently-executed tasks.
  • Reducing the cost of compliance with academic policy and quality standards. 
  • Decreasing the time required to bring new curriculum offerings to market by increasing the workflow and approval processes. 
  • Decreasing burden on academic staff by establishing streamlined governance processes.

Ultimately, curriculum data management and governance systems enable more collaboration and faster approvals – improving operational efficiency and resourcing. 


Improving data capture and management 

Accurate and reliable curriculum information (or data) is required in every part of the curriculum management process, from design through to approval and publishing. 

One of the biggest challenges for many institutions stem from not having a definitive source of truth for all curriculum information. 

It’s common for institutions to have the same data stored across multiple systems, with no cross-system tracking and integration. When data is updated, users have to manually re-enter the same data across multiple locations. Not only does this add significant administrative responsibilities, it also increases the risk of inaccuracies – impacting data integrity and quality. 

Homegrown and manually-intensive curriculum management systems often lack the ability and flexibility to add, update and maintain information whilst retaining its integrity. At a more granular level, functional challenges such as completing tasks manually, barriers to collaboration and rigid workflows, can often be a source of frustration and eventually lead to prolonged workflows and/or maintenance avoidance. 

The CourseLoop Platform utilizes a robust and flexible data model where institutions are given more control over their complex curriculum data and agility in how they use it. 

An extensive, structured and granular data model enables critical curriculum management functionality – reducing time spent on automated tasks and enabling you to better use data to optimize the design of programs. This includes building constructive alignment, creating degree maps, visualizing your curriculum to gain valuable insights for continuous improvement, reusing existing courses in structure and program completion rules, and integrating with downstream systems.


Want more insights? Watch the full webinar. 

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