Using the QAA’s Flexible Curriculum Toolkit to enhance practice in flexible learning
Many thanks to Dr Peter Chatterton for contributing this useful outline of the QAA’s (Scotland) Flexible Curricula toolkit.
Summary This webpage describes the QAA’s (Scotland) Flexible Curricula toolkit and how it can be used by programme teams to critically reflect on changing drivers and needs for flexible curricula and for enhancing practice in flexible curriculum design. The toolkit was developed through a project involving Martha Caddell (Open University), Peter Chatterton (project consultant) and Heather Gibson (QAA Scotland) with Alan Masson from the University of Ulster as Critical Friend.
Purpose for using the toolkit The toolkit can be used by programme teams for a variety of purposes in relation to reflecting on the need for flexible provision and in enhancing practice and has been used in scenarios such as:
Creating/designing a new programme or modules.
Reviewing a programme or modules.
Planning for programme validation/revalidation.
Planning or reviewing a type of provision e.g. distance/open/blended/work-based learning, MOOCs, undergraduate or postgraduate provision.
It can also be used for other purposes such as:
Developing policies/plans relating to student experience and teaching, learning and assessment strategy.
Developing staff CPD programmes.
Reviewing and enhancing institutional professional support services to programme teams e.g. technology-enhanced learning, ICT, MIS, careers planning, employability.
Addressing recruitment/retention issues and/or complaints from students in relation to curriculum flexibility.
The toolkit resources The toolkit is based on the Viewpoints framework developed at the University of Ulster as part of a Jisc-funded curriculum design project. This framework was designed to support programme teams in reflecting on, discussing and planning effective curriculum designs based around four themes: (1) Assessment and Feedback; (2) Information Skills; (3) Learner Engagement and (4) Creativity in the Curriculum. Details of the project can be found on the Jisc Design Studio and the University of Ulster Viewpoints wiki. The Flexible Curriculum toolkit is based on this same framework and comprises the following resources:
A separate web-page for each “Drivers and Needs” Viewpoint card including links to further information, guidance and resources.
A separate web-page for each “Practice Point” Viewpoint card including links to further information, guidance, case studies, reports and other resources.
Using the Flexible Curriculum toolkit to enhance practice The toolkit handbook outlines a suggested methodology for using the toolkit resources – the principle elements of the methodology are two facilitated workshops:
Workshop 1:Reflecting on drivers and needs for flexible curricula
The aim of this workshop is to identify the key changing drivers and needs for flexible provision.
Workshop 2:Enhancing practice with flexible curricula
The aim of this workshop is to review current practices and identify enhancements to programme design that provide increased flexibility in line with the identified drivers and needs
It is suggested that workshop participants could include:
Module coordinators / leaders
Professional support staff
Teaching staff and their students
Subject librarians and information officers
Students’ Union groups/representatives
Experience of those who have used the toolkit suggests that it is very important to have a skilled facilitator to prepare participants for the workshops and to run them..
The methodology for using the toolkit is described in more detail in the following diagram:
Benefits of using the flexible curriculum toolkit There are a range of likely benefits from using the flexible curriculum toolkit:
The workshop helps programme teams to reflect on changing drivers and needs and design curricula to respond appropriately.
The workshop provides a simple approach for programme teams to consider a broad range of aspects to deliver flexible curricula including use of technology-enhanced learning.
The workshop supports collaborative decision-making and prioritising within a highly complex design process.
Outputs from the Viewpoints workshop can be used for evidence for validation/revalidation panels.
Value for programme teams
The workshop allows for creative discussion and sharing of ideas around programme design for flexible provision.
The process is built around reflection and effective team dialogue.
Programme teams can focus on shared priorities.
The process enhances effective teamwork and strengthens team building.
Value for students (the learner perspective)
The workshop and toolkit have a primary focus on learners, their needs and their experience from entry, transition, progression and exit.
The initial stage of reflecting on changing drivers and needs has a strong focus on identifying needs and circumstances of students throughout their learning journey.
Value for the institution
The Viewpoints approach can be incorporated into strategic policies and plans in relation to quality enhancement including enhancing the student experience and learning, teaching and assessment.
Institutional professional support services (eg technology-enhanced learning, IT, MIS, careers, employability) can use the toolkit to review and enhance support for programme teams.
Easy-to-use quality resources
The toolkit is built around sector good practice in designing and delivering flexible curricula and provides links to sector information, guidance, reports and case studies.
Resources are simple to use.
All resources are free, reusable and e-versions are provided to allow customisation to local needs and contexts.
Dr Peter Chatterton is a consultant and academic who works with a wide range of universities and educational agencies, supporting them in programmes of innovation, change and agile working for educational transformation. He also works with businesses, large and small, and helps develop university-employer partnerships with a particular focus on developing graduate employability skills, work-based learning, flexible learning and enhancing university collaboration with employers. He has helped set up the Change Agents’ Network to support students as innovation and change leaders in universities and industry and was a prime mover in setting up the Automotive College (an HE/FE/industry partnership) to support improvement programmes in the automotive supply chain. He has also been involved in “Changing the Learning Landscape”, a project to transform strategic approaches to technology across HE/FE and is a consultant to the QAA Scotland on their Enhancement Theme programme with a focus on supporting universities in designing and delivering flexible curricula.