Course Data Project


Why Drupal?

21 March, 2012 by Project Team

We looked at a number of options for a website CMS before eventually deciding on Drupal. Our main criteria for selection were:

  • Ease of use. Registry staff need to be able to add raw course data with little to no technical ability.
  • Automatic XCRI-CAP feed creation. The XCRI-CAP feed must be generated automatically from raw course data
  • Style. A system that can replicate the current style and design of our website so that it doesn’t look any different from sections that will not be run by the CMS
  • A competitive development community. As there are no in-house web developers, we need to be assured that a community of freelance experts can always be found when additional work is required
  • Open Source to avoid software fees and to allow our module development to be shared with the sector

Many other projects taking part in this JISC programme are using Tribal SITS to create their XCRI-CAP feed. At the moment that system is just not an option for us. We use a basic SITS package as a Student Record System, but at the moment don’t use it to collect course data. The additional plugins that the University would have to purchase wouldn’t be cost effective in the long run, so we decided to try and find an alternative.

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Introduction to XCRI-CAP

5 March, 2012 by Project Team

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Why XCRI?

5 February, 2012 by Project Team

The Courtauld Institute of Art made an application to participate in the JISC Course Data Project in order to better understand its own course offerings as well as those offered by others within the education sector. The Courtuld is a small and specialist institution teaching History of Art at various degree levels. The university is currently in the fortunate position of being considerably over-subscribed, but with increased demands upon the education sector we  anticipate the need to offer a service in line with our competitors if we are to maintain a strong and motivated student body.

Stage 1 of the JISC Course Data project provided the opportunity to appraise the most efficient and effective marketing tools that could provide the best value for money. Currently the principal means by which course data is distributed is through a printed prospectus at significant cost to the university and with limited and untraceable impact. However, this research also suggested that we could do a great deal more to reach out to potential applicants online. The average monthly unique users to whole website for past 12 months (true as of 20/11/2011) was 52,703, with 7,974 of these users visiting the ‘degree programmes’ section. As its degree programmes are the Institute’s principal offering and form one of the site’s major sections we can conclude from these figures that the website as it stands is underperforming.

A key strategic objective of The Courtauld Institute is to increase the number, diversity and quality of applicants to its postgraduate degree programmes which are considered ‘hard to find’ as they are not centrally aggregated by a scheme such as UCAS. The Courtauld is committed to widening access and participation and will be launching a Summer University programme in 2012 in addition to its now well established Summer and Easter School short courses.

Publishing The Courtauld’s Course Data in line with the XCRI-CAP framework will mean that the course information can harvested by course aggregators, increasing the university’s prominence and accessibility online.

Research undertaken by The Courtauld as part of Stage 1 of the JISC Course Data project has indicated that the majority of applicants to its 2011/12 postgraduate courses have come to know of the university by word of mouth or personal recommendation rather than through online research. This suggests that the ‘degree programmes’ section of The Courtauld Institute website (http://www.courtauld.ac.uk/degreeprogrammes/index.shtml ) is not currently being captured by online search engines and course aggregators. Indeed, the prospectus search engine Course Detective returns no results relating to The Courtauld with a search for ‘History of Art’.

It also seems that the UCAS undergraduate application website is manually populated (we simply email them course information), meaning that data quickly becomes out of date. Implementing XCRI-CAP will remove the need to manually update these course aggregators. It will also increase the university’s online presence, meaning that our prospectus will reach a broader spectrum of potential applicants.

More on how we will implement the project in the next post!

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