Curriculum Management vs. Curriculum Mis-Management


March 17, 2020




Let’s take a stroll down memory lane to a time not so long ago and remember a paper-based curricular review process. At least, I hope this is a distant memory for most. Fortunately, many forward-thinking institutions have invested, or are considering investment, in Curriculum Management software such as the platform offered by Coursedog.

Technically, routing college and university curriculum through a paper-based, curriculum committee-meeting process is “Curriculum Management.” I tend to think of it as something between “this is the way we’ve always done and we don’t know what else to do” and mis-management and, yet, it is how many institutions still process curricular changes today.

Does this scenario sound familiar?

Professor Swim-Swiftly was hired for her pedagogical expertise in Exercise Science. More specifically, she was hired for her expertise in Olympic Synchronized Swimming (OSS), a program many students have expressed an interest in. However, your institution does not yet have a B.A. Exercise Science – Concentration in OSS (major code: SWIM) and needs one for Fall 2019.  Better hurry, the deadline to file curricular changes for Fall is May 1.

What does your institution do first?

At many institutions, Professor Swim-Swiftly would visit the Provost’s website, download a Curriculum Proposal form and a New Course Proposal, complete the new Curriculum Proposal form for the new major, complete a New Course Proposal form for each one of the 20 new SWIM classes, sign the 21 forms, make copies, attended a School or College curriculum committee meeting, defend the program, have the forms signed by the School or College curriculum committee chairperson, make copies, route the forms to the General Education committee, have the forms signed by the General Education committee, make copies, route the forms to the University Senate, defend the new program and each of the 21 new courses, obtain the signature of the Senate Chairperson, make copies, route the forms to the Provost, who grants final approval and signs, and has someone, you guessed it, and make copies. (Holy run on sentence, Batman.)

The fully executed documents are then sent to the Registrar for entry into the Student Information System and for storage in 4-inch looseleaf notebooks or file cabinets.  

(For simplicity-sake, I have not acknowledged any deadlines, email exchanges, phone calls, hallway conversations or revisions made at any point in the process above.)

Is this workflow?

On paper (pun intended), this is considered workflow. (Any process that requires routing and signatures is workflow.) What this is not: efficient. What a paper-based workflow lacks in efficiency, it makes up for in photocopying, paper clipping and paper jams. (Or, heaven forbid, 21 lost forms). Most likely, if you’ve worked in higher education long enough, you’ve experienced a paper-based curricular process and missing intercampus envelopes.

How about we call a meeting?

Curricular meetings at both the University, College or School level are a necessary part of the discourse on college campuses. As a longtime, professional administrator, I understand the need for collegiality and important meetings. (We always have time for an important meeting.) What we do not have time is for 25 faculty and administrators convened in a conference room to watch Professor Swim-Swiftly search for the paperwork SWIM 4600 because it was errantly stapled to the paperwork for SWIM 4601. No one has time for that.

What should workflow look like?

Ideally, all of the steps that we outlined above (minus all the copy making) would take place in the same order electronically.

Faculty conceptualizes program and goes into curriculum management system to:

         >>build courses, titles, credit hours,

                 bibliography, requisites

                           >>build programs, requirements,

                                   electives, collaterals

The curriculum management system:

        >>routes new program through the committees

                >>committee members review

                         >>committee members reject or accept

And, as an added bonus:

              >>adds courses to SIS

                       >>adds programs to the SIS

Positive outcomes:

>>Students can be admitted to new program faster

           >>Class offerings can be built without

                         adding courses to inventory manually

                                  >>Move class offerings to registration quickly

                                               >>no need to build degree audits individually

Even more ideal: a customized process built to suit your institution’s needs, with deadline dates and approval workflows and a dashboard that gives you a quick glance into where the curriculum is in the process.

In the end, the classes and programs you build in a Curriculum Management system seamlessly integrate into your SIS’ course inventory and degree audits. In many cases, an integrated Curriculum Management and Catalog Management (like Coursedog) can also push these curricular and course changes into your online catalog.  Be a Superhero (like Batman) on campus, send the Bat Signal to your VP, let him/her know about Coursedog Curriculum Management and save your colleagues' time, as well as reams and reams of paper).

Saving the Earth one ream of paper at a time is heroic, too.

What You Will Learn