Academic Model Project (2017-2018)

What is the Academic Model Project?

Portico is the curriculum data interface which drives all aspects of the student lifecycle, from application to graduation. The purpose of the Academic Model Project is to rebuild the Academic Model to allow Portico and the processes it supports to run as efficiently as possible for all staff and student users.

Over the past ten years student numbers have doubled from approximately 20,000 to 40,000. In this time there have also been changes in Competition and Markets Authority (CMA) requirements, and changes to UCL’s regulations and procedures as well.

The Academic Model defines how data is structured and linked in Portico. With all of the changes that have taken place at UCL, rebuilding the Academic Model will ensure that Portico has the best framework for the volume of data it needs to manage, to deliver the best user experience possible. 

What kind of improvements can students expect?

Of the 7,700 students that took part in the 2017 New to UCL survey, only 73% agreed that module selection was straightforward.

Roughly 8,000 of all undergraduate and postgraduate UCL students are presented with 5,000 or more modules from which to select their electives. This makes it difficult to understand what modules you should select.  In many cases, the current system allows you to select modules you are not eligible for, or the wrong version of a module for your assessment or attendance pattern.

The new module structure will enable the majority of you to select your electives from a list that only contains modules that are suitable for your programme of study. If you decide you want to study a module outside of the recommended list, there will still be processes in place to support your choices.

There will only be one version of a module listed too – when you select it, it will automatically be the right assessment and attendance pattern for you. 

What kind of improvements can staff expect?

The current Academic Model often requires staff to perform work-arounds for even basic tasks. For example, the number of students registered on a module is a key piece of information for many planning and teaching tasks, but is not always straightforward to obtain.

Portico allows you to check the number of students registered on a module code fairly easily. However, multiple codes exist for a single module because they currently contain attributes like level, mark scheme, assessment pattern, and period of delivery. You have to query attendance numbers for each module code separately and add them together.

With the new module structure there will be a single code for each module. Levels, mark scheme, assessment pattern, and period of delivery will not be indicated as part of the module code, they will be held in appropriate fields in Portico. You will only need to query the attendance number once. No functionality will be lost either – for example, you will still be able to confirm how many students registered to the module are on a particular mark scheme or assessment pattern.

What is the Academic Model Project working on?

Phase 1 of the Project was completed in 2017, with activities focused on scoping and analysis of the issues with the existing academic model. This laid the groundwork for Phase 2 and 3, identifying priorities for the Project and informing proposals for work.

We are currently in Phase 2 of the Project, which is focused on module and assessment data. During this Phase, we are implementing a new module structure and coding convention, as well as working on changes to simplify the calculation of fees. These new implementations and data collections will enable improvements in key areas such as module registration, assessment results, progression and award.

Phase 2 includes three data collections for Module Data, Programme Summaries, and Teaching and Assessment Data. This will ensure that the data held in Portico is accurate and up to date. During completion of the Module Data collection, 28% of the 15,000 modules on Portico were identified as being discontinued. By taking these modules out of use, Portico will run more efficiently, and the effort required to maintain this module data is greatly reduced.

The presentation below (approx. 25 minutes) is an initial briefing on these collections by Derfel Owen, our Director of Academic Services.

Planning for Phase 3 of the Project has already begun. Activities will focus on programme-level data, which has the biggest impact on systems which use data from Portico. Our goal for this phase will be to deliver further process improvements to key areas including module registration, progression and award.

How can I get involved?

We are always looking for opportunities to engage with both students and staff. Workshops will be held throughout the duration of the Project, which we will be advertising through emails, UCL newsletters, and on this website. If you would like to play a role in shaping the goals and objectives of this Project, you will be very welcome to attend, and we look forward to hearing your opinions.

Where can I find more detailed information about the Academic Model Project?

The Academic Model Project wiki contains detailed information about all AMP activities.

I have a question, how can I get in contact with you?

If you are a UCL student or staff member and have a question not answered here or in our wiki, please feel free to email us