Customer Story: Curriculum Mapping that Improves Student Outcomes
By Kristin Powers
November 16, 2020
Curriculum Mapping that Improves Student Outcomes

The University of Tennessee Martin deployed CourseTune in 2018. Patty Flowers, Assessment Coordinator, and Sr. Research Associate at UT Martin, sought to use CourseTune to help build an assessment program based on student outcomes. She initially worked with the Nursing department and then expanded to the Music department.

The University of Tennessee at Martin Customer Story

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CourseTune’s thoughtfully designed blueprints and rich visuals replaced manual tools those departments were using. CourseTune inspired conversations around student assessment, curriculum structure, and curriculum overlaps, all while cultivating a culture of focusing on student outcomes within these departments. CourseTune’s unique architectural design has helped create curriculum mapping evangelists who enthusiastically discuss the powerful change CourseTune has brought to their programs.

The Challenge

In 2015 UT Martin was put on probation by the Southern Association of Colleges and Schools Commission on Colleges (SACSCOC), citing a lack of an assessment framework. For the most part, UTM’s Nursing program had assessed student achievement in final capstone tests. It was too late to “fix” any student outcomes that the student missed earlier at the end of the program.

Meanwhile, UT Martin’s Music Programs required too many credit hours to complete a degree. Department heads were putting pressure on department faculty to make changes to the number of credits required. Department faculty had expressed a noticeable downturn in student health, coupled with a spike in student stress levels.

CourseTune software helped UTM see Student Outcomes differently.

When UTM built their curriculum in CourseTune, they were able to see all their learning outcomes, and more importantly, when and how they mapped to their standards. They were able to detect and correct overlaps and gaps in their curriculum structure. Finally, they were able to view key concepts and click on those concepts to see all the courses, units, and lessons for that concept. 

Here’s the best part: CourseTune took the manual work out of UTM’s hands. CourseTune took their data – in any format they had – and loaded it into CourseTune. 

In the end, the University of Tennessee at Martin had a comprehensive architectural structure that helped them articulate the “whys” of what they were teaching. CourseTune’s thoughtfully designed blueprints provided rich visuals that engaged faculty, students, and leadership in the Nursing and Music departments and university-wide.

Going Beyond the Software — Building a Student Outcome Culture

It Started With Student Outcome-Based Conversations

While CourseTune’s stunning curriculum map provided UTM with an excellent visual tool, its real power goes beyond the software. Having a clear curriculum map gave UTM a tool to facilitate conversations with faculty and department heads. These conversations encouraged faculty to reflect on what they needed to teach. 

As Peggy Davis, Professor of Nursing at UTM, puts it, clear student outcomes showed faculty, “This is what needs to be taught no matter what kind of book you are using. No matter who wrote it. These are the essential things that should be taught.”

Adopting CourseTune meant getting to discussions where faculty were looking across the entire curriculum. They could get past the “tunnel-vision” of focusing on only their courses. As a result, teams took their curriculum apart and put it back together in new ways that reinforced meeting student outcomes. 

Creating a culture centered on student outcomes helped the university realize that, as UTM’s Assessment Coordinator and Sr. Research Associate, Patty Flowers stated, “Great programs bring students to campus.”

A Hidden Benefit — Improved Student Health

When the University of Tennessee at Martin focused their programs on learning outcomes—when students, faculty, and staff understood learning expectations and cleared excess material from the curriculum—there was an ancillary benefit to student health. After UTM’s music department began concentrating on student outcomes, they realized redundancies in their curriculum. In fact, per UTM Professor of Music Doug Owens, the department was able to strike an entire course from an already demanding 138 credit-hour program. Although it was a single course, the department saw a decrease in stress levels among their students. 

Eating the Elephant Bite by Bite

Changing to a Student Outcomes-based curriculum can seem like a daunting task when every instructor and department has their ways of mapping their curriculum—if they have any methodology. Somebody once asked Bishop Desmond Tutu about his approach to creating change. He said, “How does one go about eating an elephant? You eat it one bite at a time.” The same approach was valid here. 

For The University of Tennessee at Martin, The key was to start small. Patty Flowers found a department that needed and was ready for change. She turned them into champions. As mentioned above, CourseTune took the manual work away, loading their syllabi directly into the system. Once they had a single, beautiful view of the curriculum, staff could get over the hurdle and got on the same page more quickly. Having a consistent visual curriculum map helped UTM faculty dive into discussions and encouraged collaboration. Further, breaking the curriculum down bit by bit helped assure faculty focused on the right learning outcomes to guide students toward success in their program. They soon found they had created student outcome evangelists ready to spread the word to other departments. 

Once these folks could express the power of a student-outcomes-based curriculum, enthusiasm grew, and word spread from the Nursing department to the Music Department. Further adoption across UTM is currently underway, department by department. Ultimately, they expect to arrive at a university-wide appreciation of curriculum mapping that improves student outcomes. 

Curriculum Mapping Doesn’t Have to be Painful

Imagine a world where you can look across your entire curriculum and see all of your learning objectives. Picture being able to reap the reward of curriculum mapping’s hard work and view how all of your courses connect. Envision a university community where students and leadership understand your curriculum and see what students will learn in your classes. 

Good News! CourseTune can help you make that world a reality!

Curriculum mapping doesn’t have to be an overwhelming task filled with disjointed spreadsheets and disparate syllabi that don’t point to student outcomes. CourseTune provides a tool that helps you arrive at thoughtfully-designed blueprints that offer a clear cross-curriculum view.  

You’ll see where courses overlap, connect, and ultimately show what students will learn. What’s more, CourseTune will load your data for you—taking the burden away from staff so you can get to essential conversations sooner. 

It’s more than just a tool, however. CourseTune’s storage, design, organization, analytics, and reports of your curriculum structure will help guide faculty and staff toward a learning outcomes-based culture. A culture where students, faculty, and staff can ensure that students learn what they need for success. And there may even be a student health benefit as well!  

Moving department by department and creating student outcome evangelists, you’ll ultimately arrive at university-wide adoption of a curriculum that focuses on the learner. 

Learn more about CourseTune for teams and enterprise.

Learn more about CoursePlan for individuals.

The University of Tennessee at Martin Customer Story

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Find Out More About One University’s Journey

We’ve looked at some of the benefits University of Tennessee Martin realized through using CourseTune. You can watch this video from CourseTune Camp 2020 to learn more about their CourseTune adventure and where they are going next. 

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