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Setting standards for more effective courses information management

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The Business Case for XCRI-CAP

A brief business case

Policy makers

Build one authoritative source of courses information to be responsive to policy changes.

Why use XCRI?

It's the UK eProspectus standard.
Eliminate re-typing of course marketing information.


Generate XCRI-CAP catalogs by collecting data about courses and describing them in a single XML document.
Stop data duplication.


Increase the visibility of courses to learners, employers, course websites and other stakeholders.
Supply 20 or more course websites simultaneously.

XCRI is an open, community-driven initiative supported by the Joint Information Systems Committee of the UK Higher and Further Education funding councils. The XCRI initiative is focused on creating practical implementations that are used in real systems by institutions today, but which drive improvements and new opportunities for the future.

Learning providers create XCRI-CAP documents by collecting together information about their courses and offerings, and describing them in a single XML document, typically delivered by their organisation's website or content management system.  A single XCRI-CAP document or service can be used to supply course information to many course collecting organisations or systems.

The significant business advantages for a learning provider from implementing XCRI-CAP are summarised here.

  • Current methods for passing online prospectus information from learning providers to aggregator organisations, such as UCAS and the Skills Funding Agency, typically involve re-keying data alBusiness Case Summary thumbnailready used to populate institutions’ prospectus websites into bespoke web-based forms designed by the aggregators.  By offering a single XML-based catalogue, providers avoid the costs of manual re-keying of course advertising information.  This is an example of internal efficiency gains from business process improvements implemented to support the use of XCRI-CAP outputs.
  • Through a better understanding of the nature of its portfolio of courses when combined into a single XCRI-CAP catalogue, a learning provider gains opportunities for improved quality assurance, standardisation, and consolidation of duplicate offerings.
  • By making their offerings visible on the web in an easy-to-process, open fashion, providers open the door to new web-based services that help market their offerings or add value in other ways.
  • Exchanging information with other organisations using XCRI-CAP brings the potential for new business opportunities and revenue sharing partnerships.

Sector-wide benefits are anticipated from the “network effect” of prospectus providers and aggregating organisations using a common standard.  However, feedback suggests that early adopters have already gained immediate process improvement benefits even before an eco-system of XCRI-consuming aggregators is established.  Providers have reported how the clear target created by the XCRI CAP v1.1 specification has catalysed process improvement initiatives for the collection and maintenance of prospectus content.

Institutional drivers

Important institutional drivers have been identified through JISC-funded projects, as follows:

  • Prospective fee-paying students want to know more about the academic experience a course will provide and be able to compare this with other courses.
  • Better informed students are more likely to choose a course that they will complete and be more motivated to achieve better results.
  • Increased scrutiny by quality assurance agencies and the Government’s requirement for transparency of publicly funded bodies.
  • There is value to the institution and the sector in having a common data standard.
  • XCRI will allow its information to be reproduced for multiple/diverse audiences.
  • XCRI will help the institution to maximise its resources/efficiency.
  • Agility and responsive to new markets/change
  • To align proposals for validated programmes, WBL courses and accredited services offered by learning providers with core University course information.
  • Implementing XCRI provides a ‘change agent’ for better management of course information and consideration of new curriculum management processes.
  • To develop a ‘courses gold standard’ authoritative course information source
  • Auditing the quality of existing course information and where it ends up (particularly non-standard courses).
  • Consistency of college course information provided to external websites
  • Responding to new technologies and initiatives

Assessing the Business Case for Standards

The JISC briefing paper “Assessing the Business Case for Standards: An introduction for strategy planning and resourcing committees” defines seven key factors for information standards:
  • Reduction of re-keying: cost savings and quality improvement are possible when standards are used alongside good information management principles.
  • Reduced maintenance cost and disruption: ad-hoc system integration is more likely to require a rework when new software releases occur and risks disruption to business continuity in the event of loss of the software developers who were responsible.
  • Durability of data: data formatted to a widely supported standard will remain usable for longer and even less-widely supported open standards will be easier and cheaper to migrate.
  • Avoidance of supplier lock-in
  • Easier development paths: coupled with a strategic approach to technology change, incremental ICT service migration and development of new services is possible.
  • A platform for collaboration: standards are a neutral territory for multilateral business relationships, including institutional mergers. They can enable a more fluid set of relationships and reduce the risk of backing the wrong horse.
  • Whole system economies: shared services without standards are a nonsense.
Last Updated on Wednesday, 14 September 2011 11:26  


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