Kirstie Coolin: The University of Nottingham

Interview with Kirstie Coolin, The University of Nottingham

Heading up a small department CIEPD.  Role in Course Data programme – twofold – involved in the course data programme support Nottingham team.  My own institution and myself have both been involved in XCRI-CAP for about five years so we’ve got a lot of experience in implementing it.  The problems that people have, the benefits, all that kind of thing.  We also have our own course data project at the University at Nottingham which I have some involvement in as well. 

What do you feel has been the biggest benefit of running the programme, either for your organisation or for the sector as a whole?

I think the biggest benefit as a sector has been to get everyone thinking about their own information and data, particularly with the challenges at the moment with the Key Information Set and the HEAR.  The changes in the sector round student fees and student information, I think it’s a real chance for the sector to move forward and have a set change in this respect and realise that they do have to compete on a global scale with their courses. 

In terms of your institution have you got any plans for continuing work in this area?

There’s a programme of changes at the University of Nottingham in terms of looking at the student lifecycle.  There’s been a project going on for a few months to look at the high level processes around that.  This curriculum management and course data does dovetail with that quite nicely and as far as I know there is interest in that in terms of the work and the investigations that have gone on for Nottingham.

In relation to that are there any particular questions that you would like to answer in order to inform those future plans?

I think the main question everybody’s asking is when are UCAS going to take course data feeds.  It seems to me and to a lot of people working in the programme that standardising your course information is a real no-brainer in terms of better data management, better information, more efficient, more effective… UCAS can surely help the sector to realise that and also to help themselves in terms of giving students more up to date and current information from their institutions. 

As a whole, what do you think is the importance of the programme for the sector?

I think the importance for the whole sector, as I mentioned before, is the real chance to have a change in the quality of information and to compete but for individual institutions in fact the benefits often look quite small scale but have quite a large impact so for example there’s a lot of silo working.  Lots of departments use course information and course data, they don’t necessarily know who uses it, they don’t know each other, they haven’t worked together before, and just one simple fact of being able to get those people in a room working and talking together is a real benefit to an institution. 

Where do you see things going in the future?

I see things moving into semantic technologies.  As we have increased capacity for cloud computing and increased processing and big data analytics I see semantic intelligence I think semantic data searching – it’s going to become more and more prevalent. HE’s probably a little bit behind in this respects, it’s already going on in other areas, I’ll say Amazon because that’s quite a good example that people can relate to but it goes further than Amazon because Amazon use their own data.  We’re talking about data that’s distributed, that’s available around the world.  I’m currently doing bits of work to semantically link things like job profiles, labour market information, course data, GPS location and all sorts of stuff to and from careers and guidance which I hope I can get some buy-in into. 

Is there anything else you’d like to add about work that needs to be continued with course data in the sector?

I think that what a lot of the projects have realised is that it is a massive job so there will be work to do afterwards, it won’t stop for a lot of them.  I think where there’s commitment from the institution’s management to continue then that will carry on, I think that what needs to be carried on is looking at course data as a whole and what actually and what it can be associated with and how it can be used more widely.  I do think there’s scope maybe for Jisc in particular to work with the aggregators and the vendors, and other bodies a bit more.