Developing an engaging curriculum is a skill that requires practice, and it isn’t limited to traditional teaching positions. With the rise of paid online courses, the pool of individuals in need of curriculum development guidance has grown considerably.
Whether you are an experienced college professor or a first-time instructor, chances are you can identify some areas in your own curriculum development process that need improvement. In this guide, we’ll answer your questions about curriculum development, including:
- What are the typical curriculum development steps?
- Settle on concrete goals.
- Learn about your audience.
- Make sure information is up-to-date.
- Prioritize using new technology.
- Tailor curriculum to meet virtual or in-person needs.
- Be deliberate with your time.
- Leave room for changes.
By improving your curriculum development process, not only will you become a more efficient planner and teacher, but your students will get more out of courses designed with them in mind. Let’s get started with an overview of the steps in the curriculum development process.
What are the typical curriculum development steps?
While there is no one-size-fits-all approach to curriculum development, following a structured procedure can help when it comes to staying organized. Skyepack’s Agile Instructional Design process is a great example of how these cyclical development processes help create comprehensive, effective courses. Generally, the steps are variations of the following actions and allow for variation based on your unique needs:
- Analysis: Start by exploring both your needs as the instructor and your prospective learners’ needs. Tackling this first ensures your curriculum will be tailored to your specific learners, while also playing to your strengths as a teacher.
- Design: Plan how you will set up the course. At this stage, you should map out key topics, activities, and assignments you want the course to cover.
- Selecting: Research and choose the sources you will reference in your curriculum. Evaluate open education resources, recent studies, and other credible sources relevant to your field. These resources serve as the foundation for the material you will teach, so choose ones that are updated and accurate.
- Formation: Begin creating concrete lesson plans, assignments, and other course materials within your curriculum. This step is a culmination of all of your other efforts.
- Review: Unfortunately, your work rarely ends at the formation step. There are usually aspects of your curriculum that need tweaking, removing, or replacing once you—or your students—dive into it.
These large, overarching categories should function as “buckets” for smaller, more detailed processes to fall into. These steps help keep you on track by directing your efforts and focus toward one goal at a time rather than the dozens you may have for your curriculum.
Settle on concrete goals.
Before you get started outlining specific lessons or even choosing topics you want to highlight in your curriculum, set specific goals you want the curriculum to accomplish.
These goals will serve as a statement of intent for you to refer back to as you advance in the curriculum development process. It’s good to refer back to your original goals if you feel yourself getting stuck, bogged down in tiny details, or straying away from your starting point.
Settling on goals can be challenging, and there’s no one-size-fits-all set of objectives for curriculum development. Each industry, as well as its many sub-industries and niches, has its own unique indicators of success. However, there are some questions you can ask yourself to get the ball rolling, such as:
- What do you want students to get out of the curriculum?
- What are the specific skills you want to teach or develop further?
- What do professionals in your field need in their toolkit to succeed?
- How can you improve past curricula?
- What are your top priorities for the curriculum in terms of student outcomes?
Of course, your goals will not be set in stone. Additional research could shape what you want your curriculum to accomplish. While you should try your best to stick to your initial curriculum goals, sometimes learning new things in your analysis can warrant a second pass at them.
Learn about your audience.
Defining goals and understanding your audience tend to be intertwined. As you develop your goals and desired outcomes for the curriculum, think critically about who you are making it for. It may be helpful to create a persona of your average student, noting their key demographics, learning goals, and learning styles.
For example, if your curriculum is for Gen Z professionals, they would probably prefer learning through personalized and interactive, digital materials rather than assigned textbook readings. Adapting how you convey information to your students’ needs can lead to improved course performance and retention rates.
Make sure information is up-to-date.
Pay attention to trends, updates, and major developments in your field. You’ll want to structure your curriculum around the most cutting-edge sources of information so that what you’re teaching prepares students for your industry’s current landscape. Teaching outdated information or leaving out key developments could put your students at a disadvantage—for example, teaching outdated coding methods in a programming course.
Including only the most recent information and considering all recent developments can entice potential students to learn from you and even be used in your marketing strategy. While promoting your course, highlight your up-to-date, industry-relevant knowledge as an offering to boost registration.
Prioritize using new technology.
Technology is rapidly developing in all industries. As course technology continues to evolve, watch for improvements that make your life as an instructor easier.
Classic course software like learning management systems and registration platforms take many of the tedious tasks associated with curriculum development and course management off your plate. MemberClicks highlights the benefits of a powerful learning management system such as organizing content, hosting assessments and assignment drop boxes, and monetizing your course. Course registration platforms and payment systems automate these processes so you can focus on creating courses.
Other course technologies make the curriculum more engaging for learners. For example, using interactive elements like polls and knowledge checks tests learners’ comprehensive and breaks up lecture-style portions of the course. Employing these course engagement strategies makes the content in your course more exciting and digestible.
Tailor curriculum to meet virtual or in-person needs.
Although COVID-19 restrictions are loosening, the pandemic left a significant impact on every industry and field, including education.
One positive outcome of the pandemic’s lockdown measures is the increase in accessible online learning opportunities. While many educational institutions struggled with the initial jump to online learning, the increased need for virtual classroom resources was answered with hundreds of high-quality course materials hosted entirely online.
Logistics and strategies for virtual and hybrid learning models should shape how you structure your curriculum. If you decide to host a hybrid course with in-person and hybrid learning elements, choose which content and activities you want to host in person. Build the curriculum and course schedule around important in-person activities like assessments or software training.
Creating a curriculum for an asynchronous course can be especially challenging. Keep in mind that these courses must keep students engaged even though they might be learning remotely with little consequence for lapsing attention. Designing critical thinking exercises, asking for creative solutions to problems, and including multimedia and interactive elements keep your students keyed into the content.
Be deliberate with your time.
If you are in the process of developing a course, you might be dealing with problems like finding class registration software or searching for affordable course materials. If you add this on top of your busy schedule, developing your curriculum can get overwhelming.
Finding time to develop your curriculum is hard, but purposefully schedule when you will work on it to stay on track. Setting aside large blocks of time ensures you can make significant progress in one sitting and gives you space to think deeply about the material. Avoid working in small chunks of time when your focus is likely to be more scattered.
Scheduling curriculum work can also help you complete the curriculum on time. Whether you have a hard external deadline or you set them for yourself, managing your time can help you reach that goal.
Leave room for changes.
Chances are, your curriculum won’t be perfect the first time around.
While this is totally normal, make sure you plan for feedback and the time it will take to implement any changes. For example, you may need to create surveys to gauge how well students are doing and collect any comments or concerns they have about the curriculum. Once you receive comments and constructive criticism, don’t be afraid to adjust the curriculum—a good curriculum should adapt to changing industries and feedback from students.
Bettering your curriculum development process requires lots of hard work and trial and error. This process can be a stressful one, especially if you are busy managing your schedule as a college professor or searching for the best registration management software for your online course. With these tips, you can build a curriculum that meets your students’ learning needs and prepares them for their industry.
Guest Post from Brady Kalb, CEO of Skyepack
Brady is a “reformed engineer turned entrepreneur”. After engineering gigs at two Fortune 100 companies, Brady left the corporate world to pursue a business degree and seek out new challenges. Brady’s passion for education stems from his desire to “always be learning” and find innovative solutions to difficult problems. Brady enjoys family outings to the park, explaining the answers of “Life, the Universe, and Everything” to his daughters, and reading just about anything (favorites are classics, popular fiction, and biographies).