At Home on the (SharePoint) Cloud.

Last week I poached on accessibility’s turf; being now more brazen about such things, this week I want to talk technology, in particular, I want to talk about clouds. In the past, I wrote about safe clouds; today is about increasing efficiency on the cloud.

Administrative Master Syllabi (abbreviated AMS and also called Course Outlines of Record in some locales) are part of existing in the modern higher education ecosystem and pretty much duplicate like viruses.

My whinge is about the work flow process. The Texas Higher Education Coordinating Board (THECB) does not have digital, machine readable course descriptions or learning outcomes. So, a new AMS is usually triggered when a worthy soul at VC notices there’s been a change at THECB. This prompts a hunt for the old AMS word-file (remember, at present they’ve been archived into PDFs when ‘current’). Even if an old word file is found, there’s no assurance it is the correct layout – the Curriculum and Instruction Council (CIC) just updated the AMS template last month. There’s also no assurance the old word file matches the signed PDF – it’s possible only a draft was found.

Even once a good, new draft is assembled, it once went to the CIC chair for a pre-review; usually an edit or two were in order (peer review is a good thing despite its tendency towards inefficiency). Then, hardworking faculty compiled a penultimate draft, took it to CIC, and there’d probably be another change or two. With luck, the document would be voted ‘accepted pending revisions’ and one last round of edits could be made. At this point, even the new AMS word file existed in about five inboxes in three different stages of completeness.

Now conversion to PDF happens, and the PDF makes its way to five different inboxes before needing to go into a PDF archive form. With luck, the Catalogue and Banner would be updated, but that requires sending the PDF to two more inboxes.

What I want us to notice is that 6+ pages of documentation would go through a triple wash cycle to become a finalised AMS, with each level touching the document about three times.

I could never have been able to create such a document that keeps us accredited and on the right track. As your new CIC chair, I depend very much on the expert advice VC is so very lucky to have.  What I can offer is some expertise in data management and automation of such data on the cloud, which is why I want to sell you on SharePoint. We now have a new procedure for AMS approval. Firstly, there are no more PDFs. That is the past for living documents like these. Secondly, by using SharePoint, each level, from discipline expert to dean to vice president, will only need to touch the document one time.

I know that changing a process is tricky. In this case, the time savings are going to be substantial. Granted, as with any new software, there will be updates, hiccups, and some tribulation. All the same, this cloud has a silver lining where our AMS process can focus on the big conversations of moving the dial on student success, rather than on a hunt for digital documents. Past document versions will be easily found, safely archived right under the latest document. As an added bonus, our faculty, department chair, and dean approvals will be backed by the same security as our usual Victoria college username and passwords.

I promise to stand beside each of you every step of the way. To get everyone started, I have a link here to the new instruction list. I am also offering workshops on SharePoint in October.

May most your clouds be fluffy, and remember:  No matter how dark and stormy a cloud might look, the sun is usually just on the other side.

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professorwiley

Matt Wiley is a tenured, associate professor of mathematics with awards in both mathematics education and honour student engagement. He earned an assortment of degrees in computer science, business, and pure mathematics from the University of California and Texas A&M systems. He is the director of quality enhancement at Victoria College, assisting in the development and implementation of a comprehensive assessment program to enhance institutional performance outcomes. A programmer, a published author, a mathematician, and a transformational leader, Matt has always melded his passion for writing with his joy of logical problem solving and data science. From the boardroom to the classroom, he enjoys finding dynamic ways to partner with interdisciplinary and diverse teams to make complex ideas and projects understandable and solvable.

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