In my last post I gave an overview of the APMS project so far, and how the work with Worktribe is going. This time I thought I would talk a bit more about some of the information that will be coming out of the system.
One of the driving factors behind the project is diploma supplements. In order to be able to automatically produce diploma supplements with meaningful information about the programme of study, rather than just a very basic outline, the system needs to store those details about the programme and combine it with student details to produce the document.
Since APMS will be the main source of programme information and approval processes, the programme information needed for diploma supplements will naturally be stored in it. Details about students and their results are stored in Agresso Students, so the technical gurus at Worktribe are working on routines to bring that data in to APMS and produce the diploma supplements in it. The full details of exactly how all of this will work in practice are still being ironed out, but ultimately we will be able to produce diploma supplements en masse, and possibly give them to graduates at the same time as their certificates.
Key Information Set
The Key Information Set (KIS) is certainly causing a fair degree of consternation in the sector at the moment. Despite HEFCE’s and HESA’s assertions that organisations should already know all of the information that the KIS summarises, and indeed some of it is already reported and those sources will be used for its production, the reality is that the information is not necessarily held in a way that means it can be returned electronically. In fact, some of the technical detail about how the extra data will be returned have only just been released by HESA. An article published by Guardian Professional talks about some of the issues facing institutions.
As you probably already know, a significant part of the KIS data set relates specifically to programmes (courses in KIS terminology). Institutions must submit this data set to HESA in a defined XML format. Since at Lincoln we will be collating programme information in the new system, and much of it until now has not been recorded in a way that lends itself easily to producing the submissions as required, it made sense from the outset to include recording the necessary information and outputting in an appropriate manner part of the system requirements.
Like Diploma Supplements, the full details of exactly how it will work have yet to be discussed in their full detail, but I will give updates as we go through the project. Technical information about the KIS, for those interested, can be found here.
The Higher Education Achievement Report (HEAR) is intended to be a method of reporting and making available information about student achievements during their time at the institution. JISC’s description is that it is “intended to provide a single comprehensive record of a learner’s achievement at a higher education institution. It will be an electronic document, which will adhere to a common structure and be verified by the academic registrar or equivalent officer. Institutions may also choose to issue a paper document.”
From my perspective, the HEAR will take what is currently in Diploma Supplements and take it further in the following ways:
- It will be an electronic ‘document’
- It will provide more details about types and weightings of assessments
- It will also includes information on activities carried out by the student which do not carry credit towards their award, but which can be verified by the institution.
A HEAR document will be submitted by institutions for each student in XML format (specification version 1.0c is the current version at the time of writing).
The technical details of the HEAR, and exactly how it will be submitted and delivered, are still being developed at the moment; as a result we are understandably not actively working on this yet. However, with the Academic Programme Management System becoming source of our Diploma Supplements, and the HEAR being the next extension of those, it obviously makes sense for APMS to also deliver HEAR documents. HEAR production was therefore included in the specification and will be delivered in due course.
XCRI-CAP production is, of course, a vital piece of the JISC Course Data Stage 2 programme. As part of APMS, Worktribe will produce an XCRI-CAP feed from the system. It’s likely that we will cache this somewhere on our main University website rather than have to arrange for public http access to APMS, and of course the public facing website is designed to handle loads that APMS is not.
Worktribe is working on producing this feed which will replace the existing mechanism we have for producing our current XCRI-CAP feed provided at http://www.lincoln.ac.uk/xcri.
Programme and Module Specifications
At certain points we need to be able to produce programme and module specifications in document format, for example Word (.doc) or PDF (.pdf) files. Occasions when these might be needed include:
- During validation panel meetings
- For auditors to review
- To include on the website with programme marketing information
In time we may be able to persuade people to view the information in APMS rather than in a document, and there might be some potential for including the full programme specification as another web page rather than as document downloadable from the marketing information page for a programme on our website. In the meantime, however, Worktribe’s system give us the ability to produce these documents as needed.
Data for ON Course
In addition to the XCRI-CAP feed and KIS information, the ON Course project at Lincoln will make use of Wortribe’s APIs to extract programme and module information from APMS and do interesting things with it! The APMS project is focussed on improvements to course data flows within the institution; ON Course seeks to find innovative ways of exposing that data publicly and, combined with other existing sources of open data, provide examples of how it can be used.
At the moment we’re accumulating test data, designing APIs and experimenting with tools and ideas. We are still undecided about whether we will focus on an outward facing application for prospective students or develop an application that has greater benefits for curriculum design and business intelligence, but recent conversations and experiments have us leaning towards the latter.
The documentation about these APIs will be made available at http://data.lincoln.ac.uk.