Skip to main content

Enhancing Student Support: Personal Tutors

Our new system for Personal Tutors system launched last week, as part of the University's Enhancing Student Support initiative. From now on, each student will have a Personal Tutor who will help them get the best from their courses, become more confident learners and meet the challenges and opportunities of University life.

Applications Division have implemented a simple IT system to support scheduled and ad-hoc meetings between undergraduate Students and their Personal Tutor or Student Support Team.  Both tutors and students can record notes of their meetings, which will then be available to those parties to view.

From our perspective, this project was made challenging by the tight timescales and ongoing discussions about the requirements.  The Personal Tutors system will affect staff and students throughout the university and was initiated late in the academic year, which left us little time to find out how people wanted it to work.  Different people had different ideas about what the system should do, some of which were very ambitious.  So the team had to focus minds on what could realistically be achieved by the start of term, with the emphasis on providing a system that did a few things well, rather than one that attempted to do lots of things and did most of them badly.

It is early days but so far the system seems to be working well.  The project team will gather feedback about what people like or dislike about the system and use this to plan future developments.  The long-term goal is to provide considerably more functionality, to be guided by actual experience.

Comments

Popular posts from this blog

Presentation: Putting IT all together

This is a presentation I gave to an audience of University staff: 

In this seminar, I invite you to consider what the University’s online services would be like, if we worked together to design them from the perspective of the student or member of staff who will use them, instead of designing them around the organisational units that provide them. I’ll start with how the services might appear to that student or member of staff, then work back from there to show what this implies for how we work, how we manage our data, and how we integrate our IT systems. It might even lead to changes in our organisational structure.

Our online services make a vital and valued contribution to the work of our students and staff. I argue that with better integration, more consistent user interfaces, and shared data, this contribution could be significantly enhanced.

This practice is called “Enterprise Architecture”. I’ll describe how it consults multiple organisational units and defines a framework …

Not so simple...

A common approach to explaining the benefits of Enterprise Architecture is to draw two diagrams: one that shows a complicated mess of interconnections, and one that shows a nicely layered set of blocks. Something like this one, which came from some consultants:


I've never felt entirely happy with this approach.  Yes, we do want to remove as much of the needless complexity and ad-hoc design that litters the existing architecture.  Yes, we do want to simplify the architecture and make it more consistent and intelligible.  But the simplicity of the block diagram shown here is unobtainable in the vast majority of real enterprises.  We have a mixture of in-house development and different third-party systems, some hosted in-house, some on cloud infrastructure and some accessed as software-as-a-service.  For all the talk of standards, vendors use different authentication systems, different integration systems, and different user interfaces.

So the simple block diagram is, basically, a l…

2016 has been a good year

So much has happened over the last year with our Enterprise Architecture practice that it's hard to write a succinct summary.  For my day-to-day experience as enterprise architect, the biggest change is that I now have a team to work with.  This time last year, I was in the middle of a 12-month secondment to create the EA practice, working mainly on my own.  Now my post has been made permanent and I have recruited two members of staff to help meet the University's architectural needs.

I have spent a lot of the year meeting people, listening to their concerns and explaining how architecture can help them.  This communication remains vital, the absolute core of what we do and we will continue to meet people in this way.  We also talk to people in other Universities in order to learn from what they are doing and to share our own experience back.  A highlight in this regard was my trip to the USA last January.

Our biggest deliverable for the past year was the design of the data wa…