In a new series of articles, PVC (Program and Pathways) Sean Brawley provides an overview on the current program of renewal of our course and unit quality assurance processes. This important work is now being finalised through the MQ Operating Plan 2020-2024 and will impact on colleagues across our suite of courses and units. 

In Part 1 of this series I introduced you to the new MQ Curriculum Lifecycle Framework and information on the sector and institutional context. This Framework has been informed by our new approach to Quality Assurance, Enhancement and Improvement (QAE&I). At this time colleagues from across the campus are actively engaged in finalising a body of work that will deliver this new system. The current focus is on the processes that will realise our responsibilities and ambitions in this space.

Our efforts are currently concentrated on finalising three major bodies of work. These are:

  1. The policies and procedures that inform our new approach.
  2. The data and processes which support our new system.
  3. The business and staffing requirements for the successful implementation of our new approach.

The building of our Quality System has been a long time in the planning and is the result of a great deal of research and investigation into how to create a best-practice Quality System for MQ.

Building the MQCMS. The core of our Quality System. 20 August 2018

Research, research, and more research

The work on designing a new Quality System for our coursework suite began in 2018 as the new Curriculum Architecture Principles were being finalised. It was very clear that as we replaced our existing coursework suite from 2020 our existing approach to review and quality assurance was no longer fit for purpose. With the very act of transforming our existing coursework suite holding many of the actions and processes we would traditionally associate with course review, Academic Senate resolved to suspend our existing process as we finalise the new approach and approved our transformed coursework suite. Of course, our external accreditation obligations continued.  

Our approach to designing a new Quality System was not dissimilar to that which we had used in the transformation of our curriculum. We first engaged with the international scholarly and operational literature on QAE&I in Higher Education to ensure we had the most up-to-date insights available. The fluidity of international developments in this space were striking and were led mostly by developments in the United Kingdom and the European Education Area which had first launched the so-called “Bologna Process” for university reform after its formation in 2010.

We then conducted an environmental scan of the Australian sector to identify and understand current best-practice. This included a desk-audit as well as site visits to a number of Australian universities noted for their innovation in this space. In undertaking this work our touchstone has always been to ask ourselves and our colleagues how we can further enhance what is current best practice. Looming large in this work was our alignment with the Higher Education Standards Framework (a new iteration of which became active on 1 July 2021).

Building the framework

Initial policy work setting out a new overarching institutional approach for quality commenced in 2019 and is soon to be finalised with the release of our Quality Assurance Framework Policy.  Below this framework will sit the policies and procedures that speak specifically to a range of areas and activities across the institution, including our coursework suite.

Mapping workflows and approval points. Working Group, February 2021

As previously noted, the detailed work on the policy suite for the accreditation, monitoring and re-accreditation of our coursework suite was suspended in early 2020 as we turned our efforts to the COVID-19 emergency. Earlier this year we re-commenced this work as part of a workstream of Program Board 2 of the operating plan.

We took a reverse engineering approach to the finalisation of our policies and procedures as they apply to the Curriculum Lifecycle. A small working party focussed its attention in the first instance on mapping out the workflow and approval points that need to be completed at the various stages of the Curriculum Lifecycle. These eight workflows were then further refined by the Workstream (chaired by ASQC Chair Taryn Jones and including Academic Senate Chair Jackie Phillips) before they were shown to the Executive Group.

With Executive Group’s support, we then took the workflows to three stakeholder groups for further refinement. These groups were:

  1. Faculty leadership teams
  2. Faculty Board, FSQC and ASQC members, and
  3. Course Coordinators.

In all about 250 colleagues from across the University engaged with this process and provided their thoughts.

Associate Professor, Taryn Jones, Chair of ASQC presenting to key stakeholders

Alongside this work, Workstream 3 of Program Board 2 (chaired by Nicole Brigg and Lee-Ann Norris) finalised work around the new Ideation phase of the Curriculum Lifecycle and the required processes and policy. Unlike the other policy work that will be approved by Senate, this work, with its focus on the business case for new courses, will be approved by the Executive Group.

Having mapped the workflows, we moved to finalise the policies and procedures. 

The current policies and procedures moving through this process are:

  • Educational Product Development Policy
  • Course Accreditation Policy
  • Course Monitoring Policy
  • Unit Monitoring and Grade Ratification Policy
  • Course Revision Policy
  • Unit Periodic Review Policy
  • Course Reaccreditation Policy
  • Course Discontinuation Policy

It is our expectation that all policies will be finalised by 31 August 2021.

Adding the metrics — why BRAG?

You can have data without information, but you cannot have information without data

Daniel Keys Moran

Realising our data vision commenced in 2019 where effort was focussed on our data needs for the operation of a new Quality System. A series of institutional workshops with stakeholders identified our data needs and explored how we could display this data in meaningful and user-friendly ways (i.e. dashboards) that would aid our assurance needs. This work continues as our first tranche of 18 data points is being finalised by Business Intelligence and Reporting (BIR) and work on a second tranche of 18 data points continues.

Working out data requirements. Institutional workshops. August 2019

Making meaning of the data is an essential step in our assurance process. We looked to the traditional traffic light or “RAG” (Red/Amber/Green) system as an efficient means through which risks could be quickly identified. We also felt it important that our data could also be used to highlight, recognise and share best practice. We have enhanced the basic traffic light system with a Blue code which identifies excellence and delivers us a “BRAG” system.

Alongside our BRAG results we will deploy Flags. The Flag system is used to identify trends. It is important to not only see what colour an indicator may be, but whether it is trending up or down. An indicator may for example still be in a Green BRAG but if the trend data over time is showing a decline there may be an issue to be addressed. Similarly, an indicator may be in orange, but due to work being undertaken a trend back towards green might be noted.

Implementing the vision

The final body of work we are currently completing is building out how the Quality System is operationalized. The focus of this work is on the business functions that are required to support the system. Executive Group will be the final approver for this work.

In Part 3 in this series I’ll talk more about the roadmap for implementation and provide further context on some of the policies.

For further information, please contact Maria D’Addiego-Kettle,

Posted by Sean Brawley

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