In 2010, the government announced that universities in England would be permitted to charge tuition fees of up to £9,000 per year. The implementation of this ruling in 2012 sparked a period of broad commercialisation that has challenged the way universities operate. No longer can they perceive themselves to be solely public bodies; instead, they must adopt a business mindset as a service provider with students as their customers.
As the higher education sector began to grow into a commercialised field, the government introduced the Teaching Excellence Framework (TEF) in 2017, following a recommendation from the Competition & Markets Authority. A key aim of the TEF is to act as a resource for students to judge the teaching quality of the universities they are interested in applying for. The TEF therefore requires universities to actively demonstrate the quality of their teaching, learning environment, and student outcomes in order to attain a ‘gold’ rating.
This has left universities in desperate need of a system that shows assessors they deliver a comprehensive curriculum that provides students with the breadth and depth of knowledge they need to succeed in their chosen feed. They need traceability, proveability, and evidence of well-thought-out curricula.
They need a purpose-built solution.
Demonstrating Comprehensive Curricula
Over the course of multiple years, universities must deliver diverse, all-encompassing curricula that give students the depth of knowledge they need to succeed in their future careers. And now, to reach the ‘gold’ TEF rating, they also need to prove it.
People outside the education sphere may not understand what truly goes into establishing each university programme of study. Here’s a list of some of the things they have to consider:
- Is everything students need to know covered?
- How do we adjust the curriculum for each year group?
- How do we make changes to refine the curriculum in future?
- Can students understand how different facets of their learning link together?
- Does the curriculum allow for students to study and build their knowledge in their own time?
- Can we demonstrate to external bodies that the curriculum is all-encompassing?
These are just some of the questions that universities must get to grips with when designing, constructing, and offering a programme of study. They pose a challenge faced by universities for many years; one that results in senior leaders investing a wealth of time, effort, and resources. With the additional pressure of demonstrating that the curriculum represents an excellent learning experience for students in order to impress TEF assessors, the task has become even more difficult.
Rather than adapting old processes, or addressing each requirement separately, establishing a bespoke solution that satisfies both challenges would be invaluable for universities.
That’s where Isotoma stepped in.
Sofia: A Modern Solution to a Challenging Problem
Working with Imperial College London’s School of Medicine, Isotoma embarked on an ambitious project that would change the education of aspiring doctors at one of the UK’s most reputable universities.
The Imperial College School of Medicine medical degree, like any delivered in the UK, is regulated by the General Medical Council (GMC). They require medical schools to demonstrate that their graduates are fit to practise. To do this, Imperial College has to prove every aspect of their curriculum is taught in line with the national medical curriculum. You can imagine the difficulty of showcasing that proof using an endless series of files and paper documents.
The solution Isotoma delivered was an interactive curriculum mapping tool that spanned the length and breadth of Imperial College’s medical curriculum. It provides staff, students, and the GMC with a clear, comprehensive visualisation of the curriculum. Sofia demonstrates how lectures, practicals, tutorials, and homework link together, how each skill learned relates to another, and how studying the entire curriculum makes students fit to practise.
Following the success of Sofia’s application to Imperial College School of Medicine’s requirements, a number of other universities have decided that Sofia is right for them. In fact, we’re already in the process of rolling Sofia out to the medical schools of Swansea University and University of East Anglia, and to the veterinary school of University College Dublin.
Find Out How Sofia Can Work for You
Although the first version of Sofia was designed for a medical curriculum, it has been comprehensively updated so that it can be tailored to accommodate any curriculum — no matter how simple or complex.
So, whether you are faced with regular inspection from an external body, or you want to achieve the ‘gold’ TEF rating, Sofia provides the platform you need to demonstrate the quality and diversity of your curriculum.
If you’d like to find out how a bespoke curriculum mapping tool can make your life easier, visit the Sofia website now.
Building Education Solutions
At Isotoma, we were delighted to take on this challenge and expand upon our extensive experience and expertise in the education sector.
Through our previous work, we have seen first-hand the benefits tailored solutions such as Sofia provide to people and organisations in the world of education, and we are passionate about continuing to design and build them.
Since this blog was written in January 2020 we’ve successfully rolled out Sofia at Swansea University Medical School, University of East Anglia Norwich Medical School, and University College Dublin School of Veterinary Medicine. But the impact of COVID-19 has demonstrated the importance of effective digital solutions to educational organisations across the board. This has led to conversations with organisations in both the UK and Australia focusing on primary and secondary education, as well as other areas of higher education with complex curriculum mapping needs such as dentistry.
If you’re in the education sector and think a bespoke solution would resolve your biggest problems, we’d love to help, so get in touch with the Isotoma team today.