The challenges and ambitions facing the post-Covid Academy require more than innovative delivery options for teaching and learning, analysing government and institutional responses to the pandemic have made it clear that programme specification, organisation and quality assurance mechanisms also need reformulating to ensure that delivery is sustainable and to ensure consistent high quality student experiences and delivery of contracted learning despite chaotic and unpredictable external circumstances. The paper suggests a novel object-orientated design approach to specifying the features of higher education programmes. Object Orientated Design is an approach developed originally in Architecture and widely adopted in software engineering where systems designers moved from a procedural approach and adopted a view of a complex computational system as being composed of a number of self-contained software objects, each of which had a specific area of responsibility. The key benefits of this approach were economy, quality, flexibility and resilience; precisely the qualities that are looked for in a future-proof curriculum design. A key principle of such an object orientated design method is the separation of implementation from the higher-level system design; as long as the implementation of a specific component (a module/unit) meets the specifications, the programme as a whole will run as intended, meeting quality thresholds and producing planned outputs. Recent government policy announcements and universities’ emergency responses to the pandemic suggest that the paradigm-shift identified is already underway in UK higher education. It is clear that having programme designs that mean organisation and quality assurance frameworks are only able to react to crises by emergency action is a weakness and that one of the long-term effects of the recent past needs to be a change in our pedagogical design methodology.
Ian Willcock is a digital artist, researcher and lecturer in Interactive Media and Live Performance. His musical, multimedia and digital-performance pieces have been presented internationally and he has received many prizes and scholarships. Several of his pieces are published and his work is available on commercial recordings. He has collaborated on a number of large-scale digital performance and mixed-media installation projects and in 2012 completed his doctorate in Multimedia and Live Performance at De Montfort University. His research interests include immersive experience design, contemporary creative digital practice and media production methodologies. Ian Willcock is Head of the Screen Group and also leads the taught postgraduate provision in the School of Creative Arts at the University of Hertfordshire.