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Data Futures: Alpha participant feedback

As part of the Alpha phase of the Data Futures programme, we have been working with stakeholders in 14 organisations to review and collect feedback through development and as we progress to implementation and transition. The Alpha stakeholder group has been invaluable during the development of the system and their participation and feedback have been vital to inform evolving processes as we move towards the Beta phase.

Matthew Lane, Leading Analyst/Developer (Strategy & Information Office, Returns Team) at the Open University, has provided his viewpoint on the journey so far as an Alpha participant.


How has being an Alpha participant helped you to prepare for Data Futures?

Being an Alpha participant has significantly raised the profile of HESA Data Futures within the Open University and funding has been made available for extra resource to redevelop HESA submission systems

On the technical front, the University has an in-house student record system and will be re-developing an in-house system to generate the HESA student return. Being able to engage with the data model at an early stage has allowed us to spread the development work over a longer period.

What prompted you to join?

The Open University’s (OU) open, flexible distance learning model, along with the requirement to follow the rules of each of the four UK nation funding bodies for the students in those nations has long been a challenge for ourselves, HESA and the statutory customers. Having the opportunity to shape the Data Futures data model was an opportunity too good to miss!

The highest level of data quality at source becomes a major priority

How do you disseminate learnings or information to your team?

An important workstream within the OU Data Futures project is responsible for ensuring all stakeholders, both internal and external, are kept informed of the project’s progress and any expected impacts.

On a less formal level, we rotate the staff who attend the HESA workshops to encourage engagement and knowledge transfer within the team responsible for making statutory returns.

How has working with the other Alpha participants benefitted you?

Like us, our colleagues at Loughborough will be developing an in-house submission system. We plan to work with Loughborough during the development phase, sharing ideas and information.

What do you see as the most important element for your preparation for the transition year?

The Data Futures model surfaces the institution’s data at a much earlier stage and higher granularity than with the current annual return model. Consequently, having the highest level of data quality at source becomes a major priority.

Supplying regular updates rather than a single annual return will require a robust system for managing the data transactions between the institution and HESA to ensure the data remain consistent.

What advice would you give to other providers?

Develop and test your own scenarios to ensure your institution’s course delivery models are fully supported by the Data Futures model. Being part of the Beta phase will allow you to work with other similar institutions and software suppliers to ensure the smoothest transition.


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