Transferability and conclusion

The start of the model

UWE Bristol started working on the development of a University-wide workload model in 2008. This project led to the design of a spreadsheet to support the model, and to allocate staff resources to activities in "bundles" of teaching, research, management and other administration related activities. Although the spreadsheet served its purpose for a few years, it had its shortcomings.

System improvement

In 2012, a new project was initiated. The WLM-SAPI project (Workload Model System and Process Improvement) and the project team looked at designing a system which would be web-based, multi-user, user friendly and had some reporting capability.

This system was to be called WAMS (Workload Allocation Management Service). The Agile project management DSDM approach was used to develop the system, and users were heavily and regularly involved in the design. WAMS was launched in April 2013, and was made accessible to the UWE academic community in August 2013.

Innovation and Transformation Fund project

Whilst WAMS was being developed, UWE was approached by the Leadership Foundation to start a project in parallel. The project was funded by the Innovation and Transformation Fund. Its objectives were to disseminate information about the UWE academic workload model and WAMS, and to explore whether and how the model could be transferred to the HE sector in some form. The project also looked at making the system TRAC compliant using best practices from other HEIs already using workload model for TRAC submissions.

Webinars to support dissemination

The project team set out to transfer a lot of the knowledge that had been gained whilst developing the workload model for all faculties and departments. The actual physical transfer of WAMS to another HEI was not a "must" but a "nice to do". The team started with the dissemination of information and gauged the appetite of the sector for a workload model. Rapidly, it became clear via feedback from meetings, workshops and conferences that the desire for universities to have a workload model was increasing.

From the moment that the project team realised the high level of interest, webinars were organised with institutions wanting to be "early adopters" of the model and perhaps the system. These webinars gave in depth information about the formula upon which the model and system are based. They also released some information about the data model and infrastructure.

Importance of stakeholder involvement

However, the project team also realised that transferring the model and WAMS was not just about giving out the software code. What we had learned from our experience was that it is not only the system which is important, but the senior management's commitment, project management's expertise, the support of the faculty administration, the training of academic management, the communication and the presence of a governance group. If these elements are not in place, the system which ever one a university chooses will not be satisfactory. 

The transferability complexity

The transferability process is complex. The project team under the Leadership Foundation project was rightly cautious from that perspective. It became apparent that a physical transfer would be demanding on respective IT departments. Another factor for not jumping into a transfer was that UWE did not have the capacity to simultaneously transfer to multiple institutions and to support and maintain the system outside UWE in the long term.

The Bristol based software development company Simitive has developed, in partnership with a university-run project ‘Performance For All’ ( PFA ), a suite of performance management solutions. These solutions are being delivered to a number of Higher Education institutions.

UWE has now entered into an agreement with Simitive that will enable Simitive to develop, maintain and support a version of the UWE WAMS that will be available to the HEI sector. A small number of universities are working closely with Simitive as 'early adopters' and the work is being steered by an HE working group chaired by Professor Martin Boddy, PVC at UWE who led ITF project . It is anticipated that the Simitive version of the UWE model will be ready for implementation by September 2014.

If you wish to discuss this solution further, please contact Theo Mason at Simitive.

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