Communicating Quality – Part 8

With the launch of the Educational Quality Framework (EQF) and associated policies and procedures, we have been highlighting an aspect of the EQF in more detail. This month we look at curriculum changes and why timing is important.

So, you want to make changes to a course? Perhaps it’s to meet professional accreditation requirements, or to fix some problematic structural issues. Or maybe it’s just because the old course has become outdated and needs to be refreshed. Perhaps you want to implement a new course specialisation to reflect a valuable discipline sequence of study or establish an entirely new course from scratch. You may be coordinating a topic that needs an update to the class contact or tuition pattern, or maybe you want to change its availability. Whatever the motivation, curriculum changes are often complex tasks that impact on and intersect with a number of different functions across the University. Taking a moment to think about the timing of any proposed change is vital to ensure that the implementation is smooth and aligned to relevant events, and changes can be up and running with minimal risk to students.

As discussed in Communication Quality Part 3, the interconnectivity of topics and courses warrants close attention. This is especially so when changes are being proposed, as curriculum changes tend to have a ripple effect. The point here is that changes to topics and courses do not happen in isolation. When considered in the tightly scheduled and crowded context of a university calendar, it is not hard to appreciate the myriad of events across the year that require consideration. Paramount amongst them is student enrolments. Imagine you are a student in mid-November, keen to have your study timetable locked in for the following year. With a well-planned timetable you will be able to advise work shift availability, book childcare places, provide information to study sponsors, register with Centrelink, share with friends and family your study plans, confirm travel arrangements, and so on. Your commitments for the year ahead will be better managed with an organised and reliable study plan. Resting on all of this is the accurate and timely availability of information, and this work happens much earlier in the pipeline.

Curriculum development, including changes to topics and courses, needs to happen in a timely fashion because it informs other critical functions that impact students, both current and prospective. For promotion to international students, for instance, courses need to be CRICOS registered and ideally included in the International Student Guide. For this to occur, the latest date for changes to be approved falls several months before the International Student Guide deadline. Similarly, for inclusion in the all-important SATAC Guide, latest dates for approval fall in April which is months ahead of SATAC deadlines. The SATAC applicant portal opens in early August. There are obvious difficulties associated with making changes to courses offered through SATAC once there are applicants in the pool. Additionally, there is no effective way to bring to the attention of applicants any new courses that appear on the SATAC portal after it has opened. For course rules and topics to be published on the University website and critical timetabling information made available to students, the end of August is an important time to keep in mind as beyond this time any changes can impact study pathways, student choice and, vitally, the accuracy of our published information. This puts the University at both regulatory and reputational risk, and ongoing changes to or delays in the availability of accurate information is simply unfair to our current and prospective students. Here the buck really stops, because our obligations under the Higher Education Standards Framework (Threshold Standards) 2015 require us to ensure that the information we provide for students is ‘accurate, relevant and timely’.

Late changes, poorly planned proposals and last-minute decisions can all impact on the information we provide to students and undermine our commitment to quality. Being alert to latest dates and mindful of the time it can take for things to be approved helps to keep the cogs turning smoothly and make the student experience a positive one.

For more information regarding curriculum changes, including course and topic approvals and latest dates for action, visit the course and topic approval website or contact the Educational Quality Team.

Anna Smith
Project Officer, Learning and Teaching – CILT

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