With so much change behind us, this edition of Communicating Quality looks with a hopeful lens to the future of educational quality management at Flinders.
A new year brings with it opportunity, challenge and time for bedding down business as usual practices. The Educational Quality Framework (EQF) was introduced in 2019, giving form to University policies, procedures and resources that support the core elements of Educational Quality at Flinders. Practices were introduced in 2019 that changed the landscape of how educational quality is assured. Proposals to create, change, or remove topics and courses are now managed differently. Approvals are delegated elsewhere. Course reviews are no longer conducted by visiting panels but held in-house with an emphasis on improvement. Work has begun on a new Curriculum Management System that will herald for the first time accurate and consistent upkeep of thousands of pieces of curriculum data.
The Associate Director of Educational Quality, Lorraine Karunaratne, shares her thoughts on the challenges, successes, strengths and weaknesses facing the Educational Quality Team, and what she hopes for the year ahead and beyond.
When you took on the role of Associate Director, Educational Quality in 2018, what did you foresee were the biggest challenges facing the University in terms of its educational quality management?
Starting at Flinders after the restructure, I foresaw two interrelated challenges impacting on how Flinders manages educational quality:
- Finding firm ground in a change environment. Typically, when starting a new role I like to get a good understanding of the “as-is” process flows and status quo with a view to building on these and improving them. Coming to Flinders post restructure, it was difficult to establish what the “as-is” processes were. It quickly became apparent that prior to the restructure there had been multiple ways of doing things with little or no consensus.
- Lack of consistent curriculum management system. It was evident that having complex paper-based systems and multiple sources of truth would be a vital challenge to overcome if we were to have consistent, reliable and functional data.
Have there been any surprises?
Post-change and fragmentation, I have been pleasantly surprised by people’s eagerness to move forward and be part of the solution. This is evident in both the Educational Quality Team as well as more broadly. People are asking “What should we do?” and “What does it look like?” and there is a clear desire to forge unity and consistency.
What have been the biggest successes so far?
Much has been achieved in a short time, but I would count the biggest successes as the significant work on the EQF enabling a stronger policy foundation on which to build other improvements, and the approval of and moving forward on the Curriculum Management System.
What are some of the University’s strengths that can be drawn on for effective educational quality management?
It might sound cliché, but really our people are our biggest strength. Our leaders in Academic Governance have strong backgrounds and knowledge of educational quality and are able to provide real and authentic leadership. Similarly, the key senior roles such as the Deans (Education) are a strong and collaborative group who are supportive of the EQF. The excellent and dedicated staff in the Educational Quality Team are forging collegial and effective processes, and many other staff across the University who I haven’t mentioned all contribute to making Flinders people the backbone of the organisation.
Are there any weaknesses that could be worked on?
I’d like to see greater fostering of awareness of the important role of academic governance committees in the support of educational quality across the University. These committees play a vital role in supporting the EQF, promoting educational quality and fostering a quality culture and mindset across the University.
We also need to work on developing and maintaining consistent data principles and overcoming the legacy of historical data inconsistency. We need sound, reliable and consistent data in order to manage, report, and underpin good business decisions.
Looking forward, what are your hopes for educational quality at Flinders in 2020 and beyond?
I am excited for what the future holds. The EQF has created a strong policy foundation upon which we can build meaningful improvement. Having a source of truth system and applying consistent data principles will allow for curriculum to be managed well, including when agility is required. This will support staff in devoting more time to curriculum structure, teaching and learning pedagogy, student experience improvements and genuine innovation and less time to complex and inconsistent administration.