Interview with Scott Wilson, CETIS/OSSwatch, University of Bolton
What has been your role in the Course Data programme?
My original role in Course Data was in helping to develop the XCRI specification, so working with a consortium of institutions and other organisations in developing the standard and take that standard through the process of becoming now a British Standard and European Standard.
What do you feel has been the biggest benefit of running the programme for the sector?
I think the Course Data Programme has had a major impact on the way that institutions manage their course information. The programme has been a catalyst for change in curriculum development and management in institutions. The Programme has put a focus on the quality of information that institutions provide to learners and also the processes by which that information is collected and verified.
Do you feel that there are particular questions that you would like to see answered by the Programme in order to take things forward?
I think the programme to date has answered the question of whether this activity can be performed at all, whether institutions are ready. I think it’s answered certain questions around what are the issues institutions face around course management and data management around courses. I think the question that it hasn’t answered quite yet, which is really a maturity question, which is “once we’ve done this, then what?” So the question to be answered now is given the availability of better quality information about courses what difference will that make? Does it make a difference to learners, does it make a difference to collaboration? Does it make new partnerships possible across different areas and different sectors? So those are the questions I think we now need to answer.
In terms of where this is going in the future, you mentioned about seeking those benefits, are there any other things that you think will be needed next?
I think partly what would be good to look at now is the national context, so how does the availability of this course information fit into, for example, particular industries? So how you link up providers of education, with providers of employment for particular sectors, how do you link up skills? So that’s one area. To look at how at a national level it contributes to the overall picture for individual verticals. Another aspect that could be worth looking at in the future is how does this fit into the wider European picture. So, for example, the XCRI standards, based on a European Standard is also adopted in countries like Norway, France, Sweden, Italy, and the obvious question then is how do these link up? Can we use these to assist in areas like transfer and exchange of students for mobility. How can we make it work in terms of, for example, aligning industries around Europe. So I think once we’ve tackled the UK national questions for this then the next obvious arena is the international dimension.
Is there anything else you’d like to add about work that needs to be continued with Course Data in the HE sector?
I think the important thing now is not to let the momentum slow down. We’re at the stage now where there’s a sufficient mass of universities and colleges that have improved their processes and are generating data. However, it’s not quite enough to fully sustain an eco-system of organisations around that. So I think what’s important is not to let things just slide, assuming job done, mission accomplished and just walk away from this, I think that would be a mistake. I think that we’d lose the investment. I think that what happens now is we have to focus on – and now how do we use this, and what partnerships do we have to make in the sector and outside the sector to ensure that what’s been achieved is then taken up and go further with this.