Thursday, 1 April 2010

Greenwich CAMEL meeting 24-25 March 2010

Greenwich played host to colleagues from our JISC CDD 'Cluster B' at the fourth CAMEL meeting on the 24 -25 March.

In two lines:

Strengths: Honesty, Candour, Supportiveness, Greenwich & views, Thames Clipper, Old Brewery, Trafalgar Tavern, Peter Findlay, M&S biscuits, visit from Harriet.

Limited Confidence: Wireless access, coffee, lunch, weather.

In more detail then......
We had a packed programme, however because our cluster has bonded so well as a group it felt right to wade in straight away. Short project updates from T-SPARC, PALET, CourseTools and PREDICT were followed by a longer “pants down” session dwelling on the challenges and issues faced by the UG-Flex project. Personally I found being able to offload in confidence incredibly cathartic so thank CAMELLERS (is that right?) for your input and feedback.

Amyas lead the next session that looked at the scope for developing a generic process template and I think we made a good start. It feels like a big ask to develop a template / model that can cope with the diversity of practice and processes across different institutions. This said, it makes total sense to share resources and knowledge so I remain hopeful and positive.

Evaluation is proving to be a tricky area for our cluster and the final session of day one didn’t disappoint! I found the most useful element of the discussion was the consensus view that it is ok that each project has and continues to develop an approach to evaluation that they find most useful / beneficial, rather than trying to restrict themselves to a particular line/direction.

Day two started with a session on dissemination activities, facilitated by Pam. We went a long way towards identifying the content of the cluster’s forthcoming paper at the SEDA conference in May. The discussion was also a timely opportunity to reflect on how our CAMEL works as a community of practice and why it works well.

For the final session we welcomed Peter Findlay, Assistant Director at QAA for HE who had been commissioned by JISC to speak informally to our cluster. Peter had been notified in advance that as a cluster we were particularly interested in his views on:
- the attitudes QAA audit teams might be expected to take towards re-modelled/new procedures and processes for programme approval & review;
- where he thought the "limits of acceptability" might be placed in relation to institutions reviewing mechanisms for approval and review;
- what QAA practices might look like in one, two, three, five years time, taking into account potential reviews likely to course specifications, institutional audits as well as the impact of Higher Ambitions framework?

It was an incredibly informative and affirming session. Peter explained the current QAA approach to audit in an accessible way. Given the sour taste left at Greenwich by last year’s QAA audit, I was encouraged to hear that QAA embraces innovation and I have also been pondering since on Peter’s comment that QAA audit is actually about peer review.

I got further insight into the tendency of institutions (noted in our CAMEL discussion) to react defensively to the QAA later that day during a subsequent session Peter conducted with some of my senior Greenwich colleagues. The atmosphere was rather more reserved and Peter’s comments on the QAA’s future direction and audit approaches were noted with a mixture of interest and wariness. (Ouch!)

All in all a useful and busy CAMEL! Roll on our visit to Birmingham.

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