Curriculum Mapping Software - Getting the best out of your curriculum

Curriculum mapping, if done well, can be a powerful tool to enrich pedagogy, enhance collaboration and ensure the overall quality of your curriculum. Stakeholders of higher education programs are demanding more transparency and assurance of curriculum quality. Naturally, governments want to know funding is being spent well and accrediting agencies and industry want to know that graduates are coming out work-ready. And, of course, at the heart of it, teachers want to provide the best education and students want to receive the best education.

The benefits of curriculum mapping software

Curriculum mapping really needs to be more than a tick and flick exercise if you want to get the best out of it. This is especially true if you don’t want to risk academics feeling as if they are losing ownership over their curriculum. Great curriculum mapping software can provide benefits beyond ensuring compliance and oversight. So let’s take a look.   

Curriculum mapping software can help to:

  • Visualise relationships between curriculum elements (e.g. courses and learning outcomes) 
  • Highlight gaps and redundancies in curriculum
  • Streamline programs and align curriculum 
  • Enhance collaboration 
  • Enable whole-of-program visibility so that staff can see how the curriculum interconnects and engage with it more deeply 
  • Provide transparency and access to curriculum design 
  • Create efficiencies through reduced administrative cost and effort
  • Provide evidence of course/program assurance for internal and external accreditation
  • Improve decision making

In-house vs a tried and tested SaaS solution

In-house solution

Recognising the imperative to map curriculum, universities have long sought out solutions to make the task easy. An obvious and well explored question is whether to develop an inhouse solution or to use a SaaS provider. So let’s explore these options.

If you want to develop an inhouse software solution you will likely be solving from scratch. You will need to figure out how to integrate data, map, analyse, and capture curriculum elements and so forth. This is exactly what many universities have had to do in the past because previously there was no curriculum mapping software available that could do what they needed. Initially, the universities who embarked on this journey started out with a simplistic approach using an application such as excel. But this quickly became inadequate as the programs on offer and the institutions themselves became more and more complex. One of the key challenges they faced was how to keep their data current, otherwise they could end up with mapping that is static; whereas curriculum is always evolving and the map should be living with it. 

The in-house silo

For those who have managed to create web-enabled curriculum mapping software, which is a mammoth achievement, they would have come across other considerations. For example, system access and availability, security to name a few, and not to mention the time and cost. The cost for initial set up and development along with the ongoing drain on resources to maintain and update the system can easily begin to creep, and detract from the ultimate goal of perfecting curriculum design for student success; or worse, put the solution at risk of being discarded all together. Yet, there is another common challenge that needs to be overcome; the siloed approach.

We often find that the initiative to develop a curriculum mapping solution begins within a single school or department. We also find that once management sees the benefits, a decision is made to roll it out across the whole institution. This can be a challenge when a solution has been developed specifically to meet the needs of a particular school or department, leaving it difficult to adapt or scale up. There may even be tensions between departments as they each vie to get their needs met. So what about the SaaS option?

SaaS solution

Bringing on a SaaS provider with a tried and tested curriculum mapping solution can take out the bulk of the work. By taking on a SaaS solution you could benefit from:

  • Removed need to develop your own software
  • Reduced cost of development
  • Known and lower ongoing costs
  • Faster implementation at a reduced cost  
  • Greater functionality and UX

While the benefits are appealing, there are some things you might want to consider if you are looking to source your curriculum mapping software from a SaaS provider. First, if your institution is large and complex then you want to make sure that the vendor is an enterprise-grade SaaS provider. Their solution needs to be highly-secure, scalable, performant, reliable, multiuser and integrable. 

Once you know you can trust the vendor, you want to find out the extent of the solution they are offering and whether or not it meets your institution's needs. The easiest way to do this is by getting a demo. This way you will be able to get a feel for the functionality and UX, and see for yourself how they represent curriculum relationships. You will also be able to ask those niggly questions like does it have a way to identify gaps and can the data be extracted and used in another system, and does the vendor provide the mapping product themselves or have they integrated third-party software. Finally, you want to know if their design was informed by academics and curriculum experts. This will help you decide whether the solution will be fit-for-purpose.    

CourseLoop Curriculum Mapping software solution

CourseLoop is a true enterprise-grade SaaS provider with a sophisticated end-to-end curriculum management solution. Our modular approach means that clients can choose whether they need the full suite of curriculum management modules or just want to take advantage of the modules they need. 

CourseLoop’s Curriculum Mapper

Our Curriculum Mapper module is a powerful mapping tool that gives clients the ability to:

  • Map relationships between mappable items in the data model
  • Define the level of relationship e.g., course learning outcome or graduate attribute; and the level of attainment e.g., introduced or mastered
  • Create an Insights Heatmap with an overview of mapped relationships that highlights gaps in the program curriculum
  • Use ‘Perspectives’ to create a display of mapped relationships to support governance and see the impact of changes in proposed and approved versions of curriculum
  • Configure views to visualise whole-of-course relationships or drill down into the detail
  • Export mapping overview to evidence assurance of learning and support professional accreditation

CourseLoop mapping canvas showing mapped relationships

CourseLoop mapping canvas - showing mapped relationships

Curriculum Mapper can be implemented as an extension to the Curriculum Data Management module. But is most powerful when implemented in parallel with or immediately following our Curriculum Governance module. The design of Curriculum Mapper, like all of our products, was informed, tried and tested by academics and curriculum experts. 

Main image photo credit - Christina@wocintechchat.com from unspash.com

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