At the beginning of each academic year, programme leaders are faced with a disparate collection of admin requirements such as creating module plans, student timetables, registers etc. These are time consuming and frustrating exercises that can't be avoided and any shortcuts taken in their manufacture will only lead to issues during the academic semester. The fact that these items are generated once, maybe twice an academic year means that the process of creating them can feel a little like reinventing the wheel each time.
From my experience, the generation of these documents can take a day or two. If we assume that this is the same across all programmes, we can conclude that a lot of man hours are being spent essentially repeating the same tasks.
Due to the nature of these exercises, it is tempting to approach them as dry, functional documents and processes but in doing so we are missing opportunities for these to be of genuine use to all involved (teaching, admin and, most importantly, students). Could the investment of time in developing a system pay us back in the longterm?
At the beginning of the 21/22 academic year I attempted to address this issue and created a 'master document' that has, so far, been trialled by both illustration and the graphic design programmes. Upon the instigation of the LTSE I have now shared this with programme leaders from other IoA course in order to invite feedback.
This 'master document' attempts to address a series of common admin needs whilst also providing materials that are forward facing and that can be shared with students. Essentially, can we use one document to address multiple requirements?
The 'MD' has been created in Microsoft excel, with each component created on a separate sheet (accessed via colour coded tabs at the bottom of the document).
We can take full advantage of excel's benefits - for example, formative assessment grades can be entered and averages instantly generated - both in terms of a cohort and individuals. This can prove useful at summative assessment points, particularly if several components are to be taken into account (level 4 illustration, for example, can see a module contain between 4 and 10 components, all of which receive a formative assessment grade before summative assessment).
Once we had the MD we then needed it to be functional and accessible. In my on-going attempt to truly make Bb the digital home of the illustration course, I wanted to make the MD a central component of each module Bb page.
To achieve this the document is embedded in a 'tutor area' folder on each module. This page is not available to students.
Once embedded the MD has to be shared with all staff who will need access (otherwise they will not be able to see it, even if they have access to the Bb page in which it is embedded).
From here the excel document can't be amended (you can't, for example, add attendance via Bb) but with a single click the document will open, can be instantly amended and then closed. Those changes / additions will then show up on the MD.
Programme admin often require information with regard to grades or student attendance. For example, a foreign student requires a weekly attendance check which means a weekly email from admin to programme leader and back. A frustrating process for all involved. Instead, our admin has been given access to the MD and now simply checks the doc for any information they might require. No more weekly emails.
You can even limit individual access meaning that staff can amend the MD whilst admin can view only.
If we create all documents as potentially student facing then we will reduce the need to create secondary, student facing versions. Something that it appears we all find ourselves doing.
With that in mind, the timetables included in the MD are designed with absolute clarity in mind. All unneeded information has been removed. The design of each year groups timetable has been created to double as a module planner and sessions on time management use this exact document as their basis.
The timetables published on Bb are taken directly from the MD. Assessment calendars published on Bb are taken directly from MD.
1. Refine MD to reflect our experiences of using it for one semester. Invite feedback and suggestion from other course groups.
2. Generate MD template for distribution
3. Generate instruction on population and use of MD