Flexible Curriculum User’s Guide<>

Introduction

Why flexible curriculum?

In order to better address the needs of today’s students, many educational institutions are introducing courses which are not linked to the traditional educational calendar. This calendar, with its ‘academic year’ and its ‘terms’ and ‘semesters’, may not fit well with the needs of part-time or adult learners for whom the timing and duration of courses are key differentiators when choosing between institutions. These students must be able to fit learning needs alongside other life commitments as time and finances permit, so that an institution wishing to attract adult learners must be able to schedule courses in a flexible way.

In addition, course structures must be also become better suited to the needs of both students and sponsoring employers. Third-level education is increasingly a little-and-often career development process rather than an exclusive once-off experience. In these circumstances learning paths may change frequently in response to evolving life and career choices — and students will require courses that allow for this. The impetus is towards qualifications that are assembled from a palette of mix‑and‑match modules: qualifications are acquired when the student has sufficient credits; the student does not have to know where or when the journey will end in order to realise that it will be useful and rewarding.

Flexible curriculum summary

To help institutions meet these needs, CampusIT has introduced flexible curriculum to Quercus 8.

Flexible curriculum removes the dependency on the academic session, enabling students to commence study at any point during the year and to continue their studies at a pace that suits them. It provides a student-centric approach to the delivery of programmes — students may now start at any time, select any modules and pay for the amount of modules they are studying. The fees and the assessment process can be configured to support this new way of offering modules to students.

Flexible curriculum features

Quercus 8 supports the requirements described above by implementing a number of new features:

course or module start and end dates can be independent of academic session

modules may run several times during the lifespan of a course

These features are described below.

Course or module start and end dates can be independent of academic session

The dates when course or module instances start and end do not have to coincide with particular points in the ‘academic year’ — now they can run across sessions (cross-sessional courses) without having to be split.

In the example below, in the pre-Quercus 8 situation the courses for the second student intake would have to be split where they crossed the academic session boundary. In Quercus 8 this is no longer necessary if you use flexible curriculum.

» For more information see Designate a course as single-session or cross-sessional.

Modules may run several times during the lifespan of a course

Modules may run several times during the lifespan of a particular course — you can create multiple instances of the same course or the same module differing only in their start and end dates. This makes it much easier to create courses with ‘flexible’ schedules in which individual students who are part of the same intake on the same course operate at their own pace. In the example below the modules in the Archaeology Introduction course are re-run on a regular basis over a two-year period. This can be contrasted with the pre-Quercus 8 functionality in which a course instance could only contain a single instance of a specific module.

» For more information see Set up multiple instances of a module.

Do I have to use the flexible curriculum features?

You do not have to use the flexible curriculum features. If the SESSION_TYPE_ENABLED parameter is set to ‘N’ (it’s default value), Quercus will operate as it always has and you will not see the flexible curriculum features.

To see the flexible curriculum features described in this document the SESSION_TYPE_ENABLED parameter must be set to ‘Y’. This parameter is controlled by CampusIT: if you wish to make use of flexible curriculum functions please contact your CampusIT customer service representative.

Alternatively, if you decide to use the flexible curriculum features you can still set up ‘traditional’ courses which do not make use of the flexible curriculum features. You can switch between ‘traditional’ features and ‘flexible’ features in the various views.

» For more information see 1001-520To switch between different filtered views of courses.

Flexible curriculum and integration with statutory reporting applications

The flexible curriculum features have been implemented in a such a way so as ensure that Quercus 8 data remains compatible with data from existing implementations. This means that if you upgrade to the new platform without switching on the flexible curriculum features (see above), then reporting and integration will be unaffected by the change. Existing reports will continue to be produced as normal. Integration points with third-party applications will continue to function as before. This is because there are no changes to table and field names and other data structures that affect existing single-session courses.

If, however, you decide to implement flexible curriculum be aware that the new cross-sessional courses and modules will be invisible to existing reports and integration points. This is because these courses and modules extend the current data model in a way that existing extraction and integration routines will not be aware of.

For this reason you should only proceed with a live implementation of the flexible curriculum features after consultation with your CampusIT representative.