Managing curriculum and catalog production on campus is deadline-driven and labor intensive for many participants, whether you’re involved in producing the course catalog or participate in curriculum review processes—or both. How can curriculum and catalog management software speed curriculum approval and review processes and ease catalog updates?
Colleen O’Brien, Project Manager for SmartCatalog by Watermark, works daily with institutions implementing curriculum and catalog management software. She recently spoke with me about common challenges on campus, and how a software solution can help.
Q. What challenges do campuses face in producing academic catalogs?
A. Most campuses that aren’t using a catalog management solution maintain their catalog and other academic content like handbooks in word processing or desktop publishing documents. When a department chair or dean emails changes that need to be applied to the catalog, updating the documents is a manual process. Someone, usually in the registrar’s office, has to go into the source document and type in the changes.
This becomes especially challenging as the deadline for changes to the catalog approaches. Enforcing the deadline often involves sending multiple emails, or knocking on doors to get things submitted on time. And since many contributors wait until the last minute to submit changes, the person or people in the registrar’s office responsible for the catalog works long hours at the last minute to meet the final production deadline.
Q. How does a curriculum and catalog management solution change that?
A. Curriculum and catalog management software provides a systemized way to keep content up to date. Workflows in the system prompt contributors for changes to ensure deadlines are met. And submitted changes can be directly imported into the catalog, eliminating manual updates. The software streamlines the process for everyone, especially those directly responsible for catalog production.
Q. What happens when there are changes to curriculum at an institution?
A. Curriculum processes typically work the same way—institutions are using word processing documents or paper forms to submit curriculum changes, emailing them back and forth or passing them from desk to desk throughout the approval process.
But curriculum changes involve a larger group of participants, including faculty, department chairs, deans, relevant committees, and eventually even marketing and IT, so it’s even more time consuming. That’s aggravated by the fact that forms aren’t always filled out correctly, which can cause additional delays as corrections make the rounds. That’s especially important at institutions where there are set deadlines around curriculum proposal submissions and approvals.
Q. How would a curriculum and catalog management solution address curriculum-approval challenges?
A. A curriculum and catalog management solution eases curriculum approvals with digital workflows and process tracking. In the best solutions, curriculum review workflows are customized to your institution’s processes. Email alerts to participants advance curriculum approvals and ensure that you complete the process on time. In addition, web-based forms with drop-down menus, required fields and other tools prevent forms that aren’t correctly completed from being submitted. The most robust solutions will also allow you to push curriculum changes directly into the catalog so there are no manual tasks involved.
Q. What about producing a print catalog?
A. Curriculum and catalog management solutions all help institutions create a digital catalog. But the best solutions make it easy to produce a print version as well, which is important since accreditors require them. When evaluating solutions, look for one that can easily export your entire catalog into a fully formatted word processing and/or desktop publishing document.
Q. What’s the biggest benefit of having a single system for curriculum and catalog management?
A. The information in your catalog is the foundation or database that supports a curriculum solution, so it’s important to have them in one place. With catalog and curriculum in one system, you have a turnkey solution, so updates are seamless. What that means from a practical level is that people like department chairs and deans who participate in curriculum change processes can be notified, review changes, and approve them all in one place. And people in the registrar’s office have one system where they can track and record all curriculum changes and archive approvals.
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