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Data Futures Alpha progress report: July 2021

In this edition

User interface (UI) sessions

We hosted user interface workshops for the Alpha participants. Each workshop took around two hours and was led by a UI expert from Jisc and moderated by three HESA colleagues. We presented 18 screens from the HESA Data Platform on PowerPoint slides. Each slide contained the existing design and the proposed new design, and we encouraged attendees to express their opinions verbally or by typing their comments into the Teams chat.

UI covers the visual information around a specific interface

A key point to remember is that UI is not user experience (UX). User experience covers the whole experience a user has with a product, including their journey through the system, whereas UI covers the visual information around a specific interface, in this case the HESA Data Platform.

We discussed updates and participant feedback is shown in quotes:

  • All colour choices have been tested for accessibility and have passed relevant standards.
  • Standardised hyperlinks and buttons:
    • “I also like ‘confirm’ being before ‘cancel’ because I'm the kind of person who would always click ‘cancel’ by accident thinking it said ‘yes’”.  
  • Progress diagram at the top of pages with standardised icons and buttons to indicate position in the workflow.

"Clearer than before"

The new interface examples included screenshots of the following processes:

  • Processing a submission:
    • “…if it is [a hyperlink], then that's clearer than before when I didn't realise I could click on it”.
  • Quality assurance report
  • Quality report comparison:
    • “I like to check through and see if there are others to check. It’s a useful feature.”
  • File approval process:
    • I feel that the text is fine because you get the icons…I'm not worried by the text, the tick is a nice, 'it's done!'”
  • Drag and drop function to upload files.

There was a lot of visual and procedural information to take in during these sessions, and overall feedback was positive. Some feedback and queries will be taken forward as actions, and others will be considered as part of training and guidance for the new system interface.

Quality assurance deep dive sessions

The data quality assurance deep dive was hosted by HESA’s Data Quality Product Owners and Data Quality Analysts and covered our planned approach to quality assurance with the Student – Data Futures collection. This included some key points on how quality assurance will be different in Data Futures:

  • Automated as far as possible to ensure rapid feedback to providers and statutory customers. ​
  • Will not have the same Warning and Error categories: will use tolerances instead. ​
  • Tolerance approvals managed in Issue Management System. A tolerance can be applied for the current collection and into future collections on a per provider basis. ​
  • Will happen within the context of a collection, comparing the incoming data with data sent in previous collections to ensure consistency.​
  • ‘Continuity’ checks will monitor changes between collections. Changes will be monitored through ‘updateability periods’. Changes outside of the expected ‘updateability period’ for an item will be raised as part of the quality assurance process. ​
  • As part of the move to in-year collection, information might be required within eight weeks following the engagement start date, e.g. Entry Qual. This means providers have a sufficient time to capture data for all students, irrespective of whether they commence at the beginning or end of the Reference Period. ​

"helpful insight and discussion"

  • There will be an online validation kit.​

Below is some participant feedback in the Teams chat following the session:

"...really helpful to see the comparisons between the current system and the new system."

"...helpful insight and discussion"

"A really useful and interesting session - thank you!"

Data migration

The data migration session was hosted by HESA’s Head of Data Management and Head of Solution Development and covered:

  • Data migration timeline
    • 2020/21 data migration specification available ahead of Beta phase for participants to use as part of testing.
    • Data migration specification end of 2021 onwards for all providers.
  • Details of the migration specification:
    • Not all items can be mapped due to changes to coding frames and structure and new field entries.
    • Not all items are a straight match.
    • Insufficient detail collected in legacy to map completely in some areas, e.g. disability.

Not all items can be mapped due to changes to coding frames and structure and new field entries

We shared the 11 data migration operational documents (including documentation on Student, Engagement and Student course session) with Alpha participants for group review and comments.

We have now transferred encrypted files to Alpha participants to download and extract. This has required a lot of management from both sides to ensure we align with best practice in information security and key information on the activity. We asked participants to make sure the migrated data looks representative of their provider. Below are some of the suggestions on how to do this:

  • Use the migrated data to pivot the information and look at summary extracts. e.g. number of students by sex, level of study, subject. Compare with summary figures provided during the submission process.
  • Look at the mappings provided in the specification documents and compare with what is provided in the migrated data. e.g. level of study mapping, are the codes you would expect being returned in the migrated data?

More information, including the principles of the Alpha data migration is now available in our Alpha area

Coming up in August’s Alpha progress report

  • We have hosted sessions with Alpha participants reviewing the Data Futures section of the HESA website. We will report back on the sessions, including the results of the top tasks survey we circulated to Alpha participants and their colleagues.
  • We will provide a further update on data migration, as we refine the specification and work through feedback.