Planning for Concourse Implementation

We are excited that you are ready to hit the ground running with Concourse! The following information will not only assist with your planning for each phase of the implementation, but should also serve to mitigate as much as possible the roadblock typically associated with new system implementation and deployment.  This article contains examples of helpful exercises the Syllabus Geeks have created to ensure a smooth execution of each step outlined below.

 

Determine the Primary Implementation Team

An important step in any new system introduction is to identify those individuals who will be responsible for carrying out specific aspects of the implementation and continued support. Responsibility, follow-through, and accountability are very important. Institutions are constantly asked to do more with less resources, and implementing Concourse will most likely not be immune. Proper planning and preparation will be key to getting Concourse up and running on your campus with minimal impact to your existing resources.

Your ideal primary team will involve only a few individuals who are available to meet regularly and collectively make decisions about the implementation. At most schools, this team is comprised of representatives from offices like Academic Affairs and Information Technology, and include no more than four of five individuals. They will, in many cases, manage the scope of the project and make decisions regarding all aspects of the implementation and deployment. It’s extremely important that individuals on this team have the authority to make decisions on aspects like deadlines, roles and responsibilities, and system architecture. They also may have access to necessary systems and data for migration, synchronization, and integration, as well as supervision of individuals who will ultimately carry out these tasks.

To get started with building your primary implementation team, consider the following:

  • Which office or department will “own” Concourse?
  • Who will be responsible for managing timelines, deadlines, and people involved with the implementation?
  • If your institution does not have an established syllabus template, who will design the template in Concourse?
  • Who will distribute administrative tasks/responsibilities?
  • Who will populate your syllabus data?  
  • Who will be responsible for configuring SIS and LMS integration?

The following chart illustrates an example of how this information may be captured and documented.  When planning for your Concourse implementation, think about the various individuals who may be assigned to your primary implementation team and ultimately accountable for the following responsibilities.  

 

Note:  The Syllabus Geeks have seen many institutions fall into the trap of assigning “everyone” to be part of the primary implementation team. Keep in mind that the function of the primary team is to identify the necessary tasks and personnel who will carry out the implementation tasks, and manage the project timeline. When your primary implementation team is too large or includes individuals who are generally not in a position to make decisions or manage individuals and timelines...this can be a serious setback to your Concourse implementation goals.  Break the cycle and follow the guidelines within this article to ensure this doesn’t happen to you!

 

Determine the Supporting Implementation Team

Those in supporting functions will be called upon as needed and suggestions taken under advisement. At most schools, this team is usually comprised of instructional designers, faculty representatives, directors. and chairs. These individuals will assist with carrying out the specific tasks necessary to implement and deploy Concourse on your campus. These tasks include things like documentation, training, and communication.

To get started with building your supporting implementation team, consider the following:

  • Who will perform the initial cleansing of course templates after data migration?
  • Who will create documentation regarding decisions made and system set-up?
  • Who will be responsible for reviewing syllabi to ensure compliance with your institution’s syllabus policies?
  • Who will be responsible for training Concourse users?
  • Who will be responsible for drafting and disseminating institution-wide communication regarding Concourse?
  • Who will maintain course templates?
  • Who will answer questions posed by Concourse users regarding technical and non-technical issues?

The following chart illustrates an example of how this information should be captured. You may not know at the time you create this chart who specifically will be appointed for each responsibility, but you should know which area they will come from.  Your primary implementation team should, however, be entirely identified and committed.

Without the proper planning, system implementations can absorb more time and resources than necessary. Don’t let that happen to you!  Once you have decided on your implementation teams, you can begin working on your implementation timeline and becoming acquainted with your Concourse sandbox and the Support Center.

 

Establish Your Concourse Implementation Timeline

The Syllabus Geeks have seen it happen too many times: An implementation team is formed, and works diligently for two or three weeks before fizzling out due to the demands of competing projects and lack of understanding regarding a reasonable timeline and level of effort and commitment for implementation and deployment.

One of the best ways to combat this is to create a timeline as part of your initial planning phase. While this timeline may be adjusted due to resource constraints or personnel issues, it should be adhered to as closely as possible to ensure that your institution can begin to enjoy the benefits of using Concourse in as little time as necessary.

The following is a comprehensive list of project tasks for we recommend for your consideration. Further the sequencing of these tasks may vary depending on your institution. Please note that this list is not meant to be an exhaustive list of tasks, and at the same time many may not be necessary for every implementation.

Planning - Determine who will be responsible for which elements of the implementation and the sequencing and timing of activities.

  • Select project start date
  • Select implementation teams
  • Draft an implementation timeline
  • Utilize your Concourse sandbox
  • Discover valuable resources in the Concourse Support Center

Templates - Determine the overall architecture for data organization, source, flow, and access.

  • Determine syllabus data source, commonality, and level
  • Evaluate template structure
  • Cleanse any migrated syllabus data
  • Finalize and validate templates

Administration - Determine how high-level roles and responsibilities will be distributed throughout the system.

  • Determine domain organization
  • Determine system and domain permissions
  • Determine audit workflow

Integration - Determine which ways the system will be accessed and how it will consume and produce data to and from other systems.

  • Determine access points for students, staff, faculty, and public (LMS, Portal, website, etc.)
  • Feed construction and processing
  • Data migration

Deployment - Determine what remaining elements are needed for go-live and brings together decisions made in previous phases.

  • Training for auditors, instructors, template managers
  • Determine how communication will be handled regarding the use of Concourse
  • Open system for administrators, instructors, students, public
  • Determine effective start date and semester

Maintenance - Determine the ongoing activities post initial deployment.

  • Determine how syllabi will be managed each term
  • Plan for training of and changes to personnel
  • Consider how upgrades to other systems will affect Concourse
  • Work with IT help desk to ensure student and faculty issues are handled appropriately
  • Plan for expansion

The following chart is an example of a proposed timeline for Concourse implementation. The timeline assumes the use of templates and data migration.  “Weeks to Deployment” represents the desired number of weeks prior to deploying Concourse that the task should be completed.  “Date” represents the actual date of completion.

 

Get to Know the Concourse Support Center

The Syllabus Geeks are extremely proud of the fact that most client questions can be answered immediately by reviewing the Concourse Support Center! Examples of frequently asked questions that are answered in the Support Center include:

In order to help you become acquainted with our Support Center, the Syllabus Geeks recommend exploring answers to some of the following. Utilize the search function in the Support Center to locate answers to:

  1. How can you access the Concourse Support Center from within your Concourse site?
  2. What are item level permissions?
  3. What is the difference between an item report and an audit report?
  4. What is the difference between Concourse and Concourse Lite?
  5. List some of the ways the Syllabus Geeks recommend encouraging faculty to adopt Concourse.
  6. What is the name of the standard used to allow institutions to integrate Concourse with their LMS?
  7. List the various categories of feeds that users can process in their Concourse system.
  8. Can users copy and paste information from a MS Word document into their Concourse syllabus?
  9. Why do the Syllabus Geeks discourage users from printing a Concourse syllabus?
  10. Can you update permissions to templates and syllabi once they’ve been created and edited within Concourse?

 

Utilize Your Sandbox

Once you’ve become familiar with the Concourse Support Center, a key part of your planning should include how your institution plans to use your Concourse sandbox. It is standard practice to utilize the sandbox for the following tasks, prior to using your production system:

  • Create and demonstrate your course template samples
  • Set and review group permissions
  • Set up your domain listing and assign administrative permissions
  • Process and validate feeds
  • Test feed automation
  • Configure and validate LMS integration
  • Train system administrators, template managers, auditors, and instructors

The Syllabus Geeks have assisted many institutions through simple and complex implementations, and the Concourse sandbox has been an extremely beneficial tool. Since the sandbox is not tied to your production system, nothing you do in the sandbox will affect any information or configurations you may have in production. A little time spent playing in your sandbox could mean saving hours of fixing costly mistakes in your production system! Do not underestimate the power of the Concourse sandbox!

In order to become best acquainted with your Concourse sandbox the following is a list of suggested tasks to learn about the functionality available in your Concourse system:

  • Create a new structured course (using the “Other” campus and departments).
  • Clone a course.
  • Edit a syllabus. Include information for at least five items.
  • Create a new upload-only course.
  • Submit your syllabus for review via the Audit function on the syllabus page. Make sure to write a short explanation in the Message area.  
  • Run an audit report and download the results.
  • Run an item report and download the results.
  • Create and run sample feed files for courses, sections, users, and registrations.
  • Make changes to permissions en masse.
  • Conduct an advanced search using the course code.

Concourse users who utilize their sandbox have a superior understanding of how their system works, and can better assist others with questions and concerns.  Concourse clients who have taken the time to understand the capabilities of the system by working within their sandboxes have reported shorter and smoother implementations and shorter decision-making turnaround times.  Become a Concourse expert for your institution by working within your sandbox system as soon as possible!

Congratulations on completing the first phase of your Concourse implementation...we knew you could do it!  From here, you’ll move on to learn how to design course templates within your Concourse system.  

Do you have a smart tip or lesson learned regarding planning for Concourse implementation? Please share with us in our Community Forum!

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