In this article, Associate Professor Taryn Jones, interim Pro Vice-Chancellor (Programs & Pathways) provides us with details about what an Annual Health Check involves, why this is so important and how these checks are being implemented.

Last year we introduced you all to the new MQ Curriculum Lifecycle Framework that outlines our approach to Quality Assurance, Enhancement, and Improvement (QAE&I) for all our coursework items across six key stages of the curriculum lifecycle.  

Stage 4 of the Curriculum Lifecyle is Monitoring. This stage reflects the processes by which we monitor the performance of our academic items. For units, we undertake monitoring at the end of each offering in line with the Unit of Study Monitoring and Grade Ratification Policy, as well as the Unit of Study Periodic Review Policy. Unit monitoring processes were rolled across the institution in late 2021, commencing in Term 5/Session 2 2021. Unit periodic review processes will be implemented later in 2022.

For our courses, we have a Course of Study Annual Monitoring and Review Policy which outlines our approach to monitoring at a course level. Regular monitoring of our courses is important to ensure that courses remain fit for purpose and continue to meet all internal and external requirements and standards. To do this we have a two-tiered approach to monitoring:

1. Annual Health Checks on Courses

This is an annual review of courses which is informed by key data metrics. This provides staff with the opportunity to reflect on the course and its delivery whilst also building a meaningful dataset across multiple years which can be used to inform course reaccreditation processes. It will also allow for any issues to be identified early and addressed quickly.

2. In-Cycle Reviews

Where there is an issue identified or a need to investigate or amend a course for a particular reason, a targeted review of a course can be undertaken around specific terms of reference. This process has commenced in some courses but will be discussed in more depth in a later article.

Let us explore the Annual Health Check process in more depth…

Checking a course’s vital signs

Just like a visit to a GP for a check-up that may involve checking key metrics, such as your blood pressure, cholesterol levels and iron levels, so too is a course’s annual health check driven by data. All Course Authorities should now have access to the Course Review Dashboard on Power BI (you can put in a OneHelp request if you have any issues). This dashboard contains all the key metrics that are needed to perform an annual health check, such as enrolments, success rates, retention, and completions. It also reflects trends across years, allowing you to see whether these metrics are going up, down or staying fairly stable. With the Annual Health Check template in the MQCMS, Course Authorities provide a brief commentary on these metrics, flagging any areas where there may be a concern and highlighting any positive numbers or changes. This commentary is important as it provides interpretation of the metrics within the context of a course, allowing for expert analysis from those who know the course well.

For course authorities wanting support in how to use the dashboard there are knowledge articles within the MQ Wiki that include definitions for each of the metrics and information about how these are calculated.  

Not everything that counts can be counted

The Annual Health Check is designed to be a light touch review that is predominantly data driven and risk based. Of course, we recognise that metrics only tell part of a course’s story and that there are many aspects to a course that cannot be captured by numbers. For this reason, the Annual Health Check template in MQCMS does include fields where you can outline your priorities for the course for the coming year and describe any planned tasks. These priorities and tasks may be driven by the analysis of metrics on the dashboards, or they may be driven by other factors. For example, there may be a desire to focus on enhancing the first year experience within a course through more structured orientation activities, or on more thoroughly embedding the Indigenous Connected Curriculum Framework across the course. So, whilst the focus may be on metrics, there is important space for course authorities to interpret metrics within the context of their course and to bring other important issues or factors into the Annual Health Check as relevant.

The right action at the right time

Once completing all required checks on a course, a Course Authority chooses one of three possible recommendations:

  1. Endorse the course until the next Annual Health Check; or
  2. Enact an In-Cycle Review; or
  3. Enact a Course Reaccreditation Review.

In most instances courses are likely to move through the Annual Health Check with an endorsement to continue until next year for further monitoring. In some instances, there may be an issue flagged, but that there is no cause for action at this time. For example, international student numbers may be low, but that there is a good reason for this due to external factors, and that monitoring these numbers across the coming year may be the best course of action.

For some courses, there may be a specific aspect of the course that needs attention, and an In-Cycle Review may be recommended in order to address this issue. It may be that there is not a clear reason for the issue that is being noted and that an In-Cycle Review is required to fully investigate this issue in order to properly inform any required action.

Where there are more substantial concerns about a Course, there may be a need to trigger a full Course Reaccreditation Review. The Course Reaccreditation Schedule outlines when every course is due for reaccreditation. This schedule is reviewed annually, with changes made as required to ensure courses needing to undergo a full review earlier can be scheduled appropriately.

Who does what, when?

April has been dedicated as Annual Health Check month and all courses are required to undergo an Annual Health Check. April has been chosen as it falls after the main Session 1 census date, but before the site visits for courses undergoing full reaccreditation commence – these take place from May to September.

  • Course Authorities are responsible for completing the Annual Health Check template within the MQCMS.
  • Faculty Authorities will then review all course Annual Health Checks and either support or amend the recommendation made by the Course Authority before submitting to the Executive Dean.
  • A Faculty Annual Course Monitoring Report will summarise the outcomes and recommendations of the Annual Health Checks and this will be submitted to the Faculty Board and ASQC for approval.

Any course that is undergoing full reaccreditation is exempt from needing an Annual Health Check in that same year, as well as in the following year. This allows for time to implement any changes or recommendations resulting from the reaccreditation process before reviewing the course again. So, for courses undergoing reaccreditation in 2022, the first time an Annual Health Check will be needed is 2024.

Where can I learn more?

In the video below, Associate Professor Taryn Jones, interim Pro Vice-Chancellor (Programs & Pathways) runs through the Annual (course) Health Check: why we do them and what’s involved.

Video – 11 minutes

There are some great resources to help Course Authorities complete their Annual Health Check:

Knowledge Articles in MQ Curriculum Manual Wiki:

Course Review Dashboard resources:

There will also be Drop-in sessions during the month of April to answer questions you may have regarding the Course Review Dashboard or completion of MQCMS Annual Health Check Template.

  • Tuesdays – 5, 12, 26 April, 11.00am to 12.00pm
  • Thursdays – 7, 14, 28 April 11.00am to 12.00pm

Join the sessions here: https://macquarie.zoom.us/j/82210699245?from=addon

Further questions

Staff who have any further questions regarding the Annual Health Check process can contact maria.kettle@mq.edu.au

Image Credit: Maria D’Addiego-Kettle

Posted by Taryn Jones

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