This is the second blogpost which summarises some of the key findings from chapters in the book Supporting Course and Programme Leaders in Higher Education: Practical Wisdom for Leaders, Educational Developers and Programme Leaders, (SEDA, Routledge) (2022) edited by Jenny Lawrence, Susan Moron-Garcia and Rowena Senior.
It reflects on what we can learn from Case study 10, in Part 3 on “Facilitating educational leadership; building and sharing an understanding amongst the programme team” by Eva Malone and Stephen Yorkstone.
Juggling frantically, trying to keep all balls in the air
Eva Malone is programme leader for a range of undergraduate programmes accredited by the Royal Society of Biology at Edinburgh Napier University. Collectively these programmes comprise 37 modules and have approximately 500 students enrolled at any one time.
In this case study she outlines how after feeling quite overwhelmed by dealing with the minutiae of programme management and trying to keep multiple balls up in the air, she enlisted support for the staff of their Business Improvement Unit to help with the task.
Steve Yorkstone assisted Eva in applying a ‘lean management’ approach first to the arduous process of allocating markers on a complex research project module. She later enlisted his help in applying the RACI model to the programme leader role and responsibilities not just for her but of the wider programme team.
They, with the programme administrator, quickly brainstormed the tasks and roles or teams involved in delivering their suite of programmes. Having input from the administrator was invaluable since it both brought in a distinct perspective but have insight into the interactions with professional services teams.
The output was an Excel Workbook (their ‘Programme RoadMap’) to which they applied the RACI (Responsible, Accountable, Consulted and Informed) matrix (Project Management Institute 2013) but also added in ‘Uninvolved’ and ‘Participating’ categories to enable responsibility to be allocated to individuals, but for the contributions of the wider team members to be acknowledged (or otherwise!).
Alongside the tasks, deadlines for completion were allocated and this enables the review and management of activities according to peaks and troughs and consider re-scheduling. All members of the team have access to the Excel Workbook and using simply sort and filter functions, enables individuals to isolate their own and/or related tasks.
The impact on Eva as Programme Leader?
There were enormous practical and personal benefits of the RoadMap for Eva. Some of these are outlined below:
- Acted as an Aide Memoire
- Feel Less Overwhelmed
- Informs Meeting agendas
- Reinforces Value of the team
- Helps succession planning
- Frees up her ‘memory’ to be more creative and instigate educational leadership
This Case Study was discussed further at the OAECD seminar series on 29th November 2022 and Steve generously shared the Excel Workbook for others to adapt (with a request for attribution and feedback on the usefulness of the tool).
Both he and Eva stress that the Roadmap needs to be customised and shouldn’t be seen as a blueprint for adoption by programme teams without further consideration. As a ‘spreadsheet’ it may strike fear into many unfamiliar with the features of Excel, and so adoption and implementation needs to be supported and endorsed for all to benefit from it.
I have a copy of the Excel Workbook should anyone wish to brainstorm their own activities, amend it and consider whether this tool may help them feeling overwhelmed by the volume of tasks.
Why is this relevant to us in Swansea University?
A Programme Directors Working Group was established in February 2022 to scope how to better support those who fulfil this vital role within Swansea University. The Group reported its findings about appropriate induction and ongoing CPD for Programme Directors at the PD Community Forum on December 7th 2022 and will be reviewing feedback to this in early 2023.
One of the outcomes and recommendations of the PD Working Group was to refine Swansea’s role descriptor and to enhance the existing ‘timeline’ to be an interactive resource (with links to the relevant policies, procedures) and also to develop a version for programmes not with a September start date.
Eva notes that even though she has a role descriptor and checklist, she still needed “clarity around the tasks that were to be completed and focus on what was required and when” and the Roadmap (Excel Workbook) enables her to achieve that need.
This Excel Workbook ‘template’ could be a very useful supplement to our existing resources and I’d encourage anyone who wants to consider adapting it for their own circumstances, to get in touch!
Recordings of the webinars are expected to be available from their website:
Talking Teaching across the Globe – Oxford Brookes University
Senior Academic Developer (HEA), SALT
Project Management Institute (2013) A guide to the Project Management Body of Knowledge (PMBOK Guide) Project Management Institute.
See RACI Matrix | Understanding Responsibility Assignment Matrix (project-management.com) for a quick explanation of RACI