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Monday, September 26, 2011

Curriculum Management in Higher Education

Earlier this year, Tracy posted a blog discussing research about curriculum mapping for higher education and some reasons why schools (especially programs with defined standards and competencies that the curriculum should meet) don’t already have curriculum mapping.

Since then, AllofE implemented eCurriculum HE for five different programs at Bridgeport University. Soon, Bridgeport’s Dental Hygienist, Naturopathic, Chiropractic, Nutrition, and Physician’s Assistant programs will all be using this curriculum mapping system.

And let me tell you: the administrators there are pumped. They are excited about the how easy it will be for them to manage, share and track their curriculum.

There is a real need in Higher Education for a curriculum mapping tool.

Recently a few of us here at AllofE have started a research project around current practices related to curriculum tracking and mapping within similar Higher Ed institutions.

The answers have a familiar tone to them yet I never fail to be surprised by the archaic methods used in most cases. Some schools are using spreadsheets. Some are still putting pencil to paper.

Let’s look back at those reasons Tracy listed that Higher Ed was doing without curriculum mapping:

  • They think their needs are more complex than the K-12 districts that have been using curriculum mapping successfully for years (and, if they are being honest, are maybe reluctant to follow the lead of K-12 schools)

Yeah, their needs are complicated. The Chiropractic program has over 250 competencies, as well as learning measures to track. The Physician’s Assistant program? More than 470 topics to track, as well as more than 50 ARC standards and countless labs and experiences every student needs.

Tracking their ability to hit these competencies, standards and labs—this is all part of the accreditation. They need these for their school to stay a school.

Yes, these could be tracked by hand. But tracking them by hand involves hours of work—work that most schools probably put in at the last second, with the accreditation date quickly approaching. At this point, they’ve either taught the skills or not. They may have taught the same competency several times, then run out of time to teach another vital skill.

And they wouldn’t know until it was too late.

eCurriculum is built to avoid these errors. It lets you plan your semester week by week, simply checking a box to include a competency in an instruction module. It also provides reports that let you know what you’re overteaching and what you’ve forgotten about. It helps you ensure everything is covered when it should be.

  • Schools have intense and exact customization needs — they can’t take a cookie-cutter solution, and the customization must be quick and cost-effective

eCurriculum is no cookie-cutter solution. While it comes preloaded with the standards needed for accreditation in each field (ARC Standards and NCCPA Competencies for the Physician’s Assistant programs, for example), the customization is anything but limited. Individual programs can insert their own curriculum needs—labs that are specific to their school, for example. Professors’ and student names are added, as well as class names.

eCurriculum also automatically generates a comprehensive curriculum web site from the entered curriculum information—a web site that matches the University’s overall branding and web site standards so that it provides a seamless experience for university web site visitors.

  • Finally, they think they are saving by doing it themselves.

As Tracy said, “Without going into all the details here, this often ends up not quite achieving the results intended. Rather than saving money, it ends up being ten times more expensive, takes forever to develop and creates something less robust than a high-end customizable product.”

I mentioned earlier that eCurriculum generates a web page showing all the curriculum information. This automatically generated web page shows students what they will be learning, and may bring more interest to your school. (I know when I applied for graduate programs, if I couldn’t navigate the web site, I didn’t apply.) It shows potential students and parents what they’re spending their money on.

Most importantly, with one easily shared link, the accreditation board has all the information they need. The presentation does not need to take hours, or be changed every year. eCurriculum will update the web page as changes are made, cutting hours from the accreditation process each year, let alone the time it takes to create the system in the first place.

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