Curriculum mapping is a process in which the faculty in a degree/minor/certificate program review the structure of the requirements for the program (including “cognate” courses, those that are required for the program but offered by other departments and programs, specific courses required by the major that also fulfill GEP requirements, and, for undergraduate majors, the ILCs) and the way in which these courses relate to the program learning goals and objectives, and to other program components.
The development of a curriculum map goes through several steps and we will be moving through these various steps throughout the ’14 – ’15 academic year with the goal of completing these maps in the fall of ’15. The steps in the process are:
  • An alignment analysis where the courses in the major/degree program are aligned with the program’s learning objectives
  • A detailed course learning objective analysis, where the degree to which each program objective is addressed is considered for each of the courses
  • A broader alignment analysis where courses from other departments and programs that are required within the major/degree program are considered within the context of the program learning goals and objectives.
  • The development of the “final” curriculum map, which also includes the mechanisms by which various objectives will be assessed, and the mechanisms by which programs will collaborate to assess cognate courses, ILCs, etc. (more on this will be posted in the near future)


The Alignment Analysis
All degree programs begin with the articulation of learning goals and objectives, the things that students will experience, the knowledge they will gain, the skills they will develop, etc., by completing the program.  The first step in the mapping exercise is to conduct an alignment or gap analysis.  This is where the courses in the degree program are considered in terms of the learning objectives for that program.  The alignment is conducted by creating a spreadsheet with the learning objectives along one side (the Y axis in this case) and the courses in the degree program along the other side (the X axis).  To begin, the faculty in the program should indicate which learning objective or objectives their courses address by putting an “X” in the relevant box. An example is shown below:
Objective 1 X X
Objective 2 X X X
Objective 3
Objective 4 X X X X
Objective 5 X X
ABC 100 ABC 101 ABC 200 ABC 300 ABC 400
 In the above example, course ABC 400 includes material, exercises, assignments, etc., that specifically relate the learning objectives 2, 4, and 5 for this degree program.  Most of the courses address objective 4 in some way, this is probably something fundamental or essential to the discipline. None of the courses address every objective and it would probably be rare for any one course to do so. For the first iteration of this process in ’14 – ’15, please restrict your analysis to the courses offered within your department or program, or, for interdisciplinary programs, the courses within the major/degree sequence.  Do not include other courses (ILCs, cognate courses that fulfill GEP requirements, etc).  That will be added to this process in the 2015 calendar year assessment activities.
The alignment analysis shows two issues that need to be considered in this degree program.  First, none of the courses address objective 3.  It may be that some courses that addressed this objective in the past have been modified and now none of them do so any longer. This is something that should be discussed among all of the faculty in the program (including, where ever possible, adjunct and visiting instructors so that they also understand the degree program’s structure and the purposes of the various components) and a decision needs to be reached. Perhaps the objective is no longer relevant to the program and that is why the courses have been changed. If so, the articulated learning goals and objectives for the program need to be updated and revised. Alternatively, the objective may still be relevant and important. In that case, one or more of the courses in the degree program need to be modified so as to appropriately treat the material, knowledge, skills, etc., that relate to students’ attainment of that learning objective.
The other issue that this analysis reveals is that course ABC 300 does not seem to relate to any of the program learning objectives.  Since the objectives describe what graduates of the program should “be, know and do” upon completion of the program, having a course or courses that do not relate to any of the program objectives is a concern.  This should again engender a conversation among all of the program faculty (not just those who teach that particular course) about the course and its role in the degree program. As above, a decision needs to be reached and either the course needs to be modified to address one or more of the learning objectives or the course should be dropped from the degree program sequence.
Once the alignment analysis has been completed, and any gaps have been addressed, the chart will serve as the basis for identifying the course or courses in which specific learning objective assessments (LOAs) will be conducted each year. For example, if learning objective 4 is being assessed, then assessments should be conducted in courses ABC 100, ABC 101, ABC 200 and ABC 400 in that assessment cycle, since all of those courses address that objective. Of course, the level of student performance, depth of understanding of concepts, etc., will need to be appropriately gauged in each course given the sequence of the degree program.  Further, some courses may use very different pedagogical approaches to address that objective.  As such, the specific types of direct measures used may vary from course to course in the assessment process (see the Learning Objective Assessment page for more information about that).
Course Learning Objective Analysis
After the alignment analysis is complete, it is important to consider the depth to which each course addresses the particular program-level learning objectives.  For simplicity (if we can actually say this is simple :^)), we will use three levels:  “B” (basic level, introduction of the concept, initial development of the skill), “I” (intermediate, the course builds upon the prior learning and development by the student in the previous courses and goes into greater depth, increased development of the skill, etc) and “A” (advanced, students are expected to demonstrate the highest level of understanding, ability to apply their knowledge, greatest level of skill, etc). An example, using the same chart from the alignment analysis above, is shown below:


Objective 1 B I A
Objective 2 B I A
Objective 3 B
Objective 4 B B I A
Objective 5 B I A
ABC 100 ABC 101 ABC 200 ABC 300 ABC 400
Note how the faculty in the program modified the courses to ensure that all objectives are addressed in one or more courses and that now ABC 300 addressed two of the program learning objectives.
The purpose of this more in-depth analysis is to drive consideration of the structure of the degree program from the perspective of the courses.  Do the courses in the program support the full attainment of all of the program’s learning objectives?  Are there pathways through the degree program where students might choose courses that result in them not reaching the desired level of mastery/understanding/skill in that area? In the above example, only course ABC 101 addresses learning objective 3 of the program, and it does so only at an “introductory” level.  Is this sufficient to meet the expectations of the faculty in terms of student development and learning (the answer could certainly be yes, but it is important to ask the question.) If not, perhaps there needs to be further conversation among the program’s faculty about the courses in the program.  Alternatively, it could be that this objective is addressed further in one of the various “cognate” courses required by the major but offered in a different area (more on that below). The faculty need to discuss the findings of this analysis and determine what, if any, modifications are needed.
The “Broader” Alignment Analysis

Most undergraduate programs (both in the day and in CPLS) require students to take specific courses outside of those offered by the department or program, as part of the major/minor/certificate sequence. In some cases these are GEP courses where the program specifies a specific course or set of courses within the broader GEP requirements for that area (i.e. some degree programs require that students take ECN 101 or 102 to fulfill the Social Science GE requirement, some programs require a calculus course for the Mathematics GE requirement, etc.). In other cases, courses offered by other departments or programs are required as part of the program sequence but do not fulfill GE requirements (i.e. the major in IHS requires that students take courses in Biology, Chemistry and other areas, beyond the GEP requirements). In addition, all undergraduate major programs have ILCs (Integrative Learning Courses), where three courses are required by the major, but outside of the home department/program.

In the process of developing the requirements for the major/minor/certificate, the faculty identified these courses in other areas as necessary components to the overall learning goals and objectives for the program.  These courses provide students with skills, knowledge and experiences that form part of the key components of the program and thus need to be considered within the context of the overall learning goals and objectives for the program. Also, where a program has specified courses for the ILC component, those courses will also need to be considered in this process.

As a first step in conducting this broader alignment analysis, the faculty in the program should begin with the initial alignment analysis that was already conducted and add these courses to that list (please note that the program faculty will also need to complete the analysis of “their” courses in terms of identifying the way in which each course relates to the specific learning objectives at the beginning, intermediate or advanced level, as described in the section above, if that has not already been done). I have done this in the table below using the same alignment analysis as before.


Objective 1 B I A   B
Objective 2 B I A B
Objective 3 B I
Objective 4 B B I A
Objective 5 B I A
ABC 100 ABC 101 ABC 200 ABC 300 ABC 400 DEF 101 GHI 120 JKL 200

In performing this analysis, it would be valuable to obtain the syllabi for these courses from the respective departments/programs (your relevant associate dean can assist with this) as course syllabi are required to include the course-level learning goals and objectives.  It may be that these syllabi will provide sufficient information about the course for the faculty in the program to make a decision about which learning objective(s) it relates to.  Alternatively, a conversation with the faculty offering the course may be required to obtain more information (again, your relevant associate dean can assist in setting these up as needed).  In some cases these courses will be found to relate to existing learning objectives for the program (that is the case for the courses DEF 101 and GHI 120 in the made up example above). That will be noted on the “Broader Alignment Analysis” document in the same fashion as on the original, namely indicating the level at which the course address the objective (B, I or A). Again, it may require conversations with the faculty offering these courses to really discern the level at which these objectives are being addressed. Hopefully this will serve as a good opportunity for the faculty to discuss the rationale for including these courses within the program sequence and to determine if the courses are still appropriate and necessary, or if changes should be considered.

The next step is the same gap analysis as was conducted with the initial alignment analysis. Are there any courses that do not map to one or more stated learning objectives?  Are there any learning objectives that do not map to these courses (that may be appropriate or it may be something that needs to be addressed)? In the above example, learning objectives 4 and 5 do not map to any of the three courses required from other programs or departments.  It may be that these objectives specifically relate to material within the discipline or to skills or abilities that are unique to that area. In such cases there is no problem as this is not a real “gap”.

In the above example, none of the existing learning objectives map to the course JKL 200.  When such a situation is encountered, the question becomes “is this course still relevant to the program?”  In most cases the answer will probably be “yes”, which means the LGO statement for the program will need to be broadened a bit to include a learning objective (possibly even a new learning goal) that encompasses this course or courses.  Such revisions to LGO statements will follow the same process as described in the learning goals and objectives section of this site (feedback from the relevant associate dean and PAC with revision, as needed, by the program faculty before inclusion in the course catalog). In the probably rare case where the answer is “no” the faculty may wish to revise the course requirements for the program in light of these findings.  Such revisions to existing programs do NOT require governance review, but the relevant associate dean and the dean should be informed of the proposed changes. These changes will also then need to be reflected in the course catalog and the Degree Works course information for the program will need to be updated as well (your relevant associate dean will assist with all of this).   If a different course or courses will be put into the program, discussion with the department or program offering the course to make sure adding this to your program is feasible.

Most importantly, the LOAs that are conducted in these “other” courses will need to be shared with the programs that make use of these courses.  We will need to develop a mechanism to facilitate the discussions around these activities, their planning and the sharing of the data.  I expect we will have some guidance in place before fall of ’15 for how this will be facilitated.