Gain Rigor in Your Curriculum With Visual Instructional Design
By Kristin Powers
November 30, 2021
Add rigor to your instructional design

Why Visual Communication Matters

We trust our eyes. We use vision as a primary sense to bring order to the world. Our eyes tell us distance through light and shadow. We learn faces when people are up close. We also learn by watching and mimicking. It makes sense for us to have such a close attachment to visual images. Visual images are one form of visual communication. Visual communication is the fastest form of communication. Our brains can process images in 13 milliseconds. 1

Coursetune opens a window

Marketers know that ads with pictures are more likely to get attention. Images can evoke feeling and make an impact. As educators, we know students are more engaged by photos and videos. We intuitively know that pictures tell stories and help convince people more than just words, facts, and numbers do. And yet, how many curriculum committee meetings have you been through that were just talking, spreadsheets, and documents? 

We love how Dr. Andrew P. Feldstein, Assistant Provost for Teaching Innovation and Learning Technologies, Fort Hays State University, put it, “One of the things that Coursetune does is it opens a window that wasn’t open before. You get to see things that you didn’t get to see at lots of different levels, and you can see them much quicker than you ever would have been able to before.” 

Can clarity in course design create excitement?

Coursetune is a curricular design software for K-12, higher education, and professional development. Coursetune’s unique patented dynamic visual modeling can bring a new level of clarity and rigor to your curriculum meeting. 

Each course is like a record with two design layers. One side is the delivery design layer (weeks, modules, chapters) and the other is for designing the course goals (competencies, core objectives). Learning objectives orbit the course and get organized in each layer. From learning objectives, activities and assessments are added.

By thinking deeply about the alignment of course elements, how assessments connect to the learning objectives, and the variety of assessments Coursetune natively pushes for a rigorous standard of teaching and learning. We believe rigor and engagement can go hand in hand. 

Coursetune answers the What, When, Why, and How of Learning

By making the curriculum design a dynamic visual model that nudges towards a balanced, engaging course design, we’ve seen educators, subject matter experts, and designers more excited to develop and align their courses. 

the Coursetune interface

In a recent interview, Michele Pistone, a law professor at Villanova University, described her excitement, “Coursetune provided the framework that I needed. I don’t think I would have accomplished what I did had I not been introduced to this product because it

liberated me from a mindset and a way of thinking about education. It helped me to visualize how you can design a course. I mean, it was life-changing.”

How can a picture change your next curriculum meeting? 

Coursetune can change the conversation and support better collaboration. It makes what faculty are teaching and when and they’re teaching it a visual experience. This visualization brings agreement to the official curriculum and the enacted curriculum2

Change requires agreement, focus, and dedication. You’ll also need collaboration to get buy-in and sustain people’s engagement in a new initiative. To address this need, you’ll want a powerful tool that leverages people’s motivation. Coursetune can be that resource for showing what precise alignment looks like. It will give instructors a visualization of how instructional design can work for them. Ultimately, Coursetune will inspire creativity.

Coursetune has enabled us to share a common vision

Doug Owens, Associate Professor of Music at University of Tennesee Martin, shared, “One thing I’m seeing that exploring Coursetune has done for our faculty is that it’s enabled us to share a common vision of what we’re doing. Not only that but, it’s also allowed us to keep on the pulse of what our degrees truly mean.” 

That collective vision or shared goal could be a university initiative for diversity, equity, and inclusion. It could also be a K-12 goal for vertical and horizontal mapping. No matter the size of the initiative, it can be tracked and mapped in Coursetune for transformative collaboration across your organization. 

Research suggests that mapping can help faculty build trust and increase the shared understanding of the connections across their respective courses.3  According to research on the effects of curriculum mapping, “faculty members wanted to use the curriculum mapping process to foster a reflective learning community and initiate a dialogue between faculty of different courses, and faculty with a research vs. teaching focus.”4

Imagine how easy it will be to see missing activities and quickly point to the gap in the course. Or to pull up a screen capture to show progress in mapping to outcomes. 

Visual communication is great for celebration as well as for improvement! For example, nursing programs have a tremendous amount of mapping they need for compliance and accreditation. When a program has been mapped, the team should celebrate the work while gazing at the beautiful images of their fine mapping. Debora M. Dole, Ph.D., CNM, FACNM, Associate Professor and, the nursing department’s Vice-Chair at Georgetown University, told us, “The team was engaged in the building process in a way that I hadn’t seen before. I honestly feel like it was because they were so involved with Coursetune.”

What does rigor look like? 

Academic rigor is not just what is taught, but how it’s taught and how it’s assessed: all the data that live in Coursetune.5 Rigor is not a synonym for “harder” or more content. These ideas are challenging to capture in a spreadsheet. To create curriculum clarity and alignment, you’ll need a visual tool that displays curriculuar elements in an intuitive human-centric way. How do you know what’s in your curriculum if you can’t see it?

An animated view of mapped outcomes

Dr. Mel Williams, Director of Institutional Effectiveness, Colorado Technical University, explained how they approached these questions, “In our program review, we take the courses relatively for granted. 

We just assume that they’re a part of the program, and they’re meant to be there, and they’re there with purpose, and everything’s good. The value that we had from working in Coursetune is we could see where specific courses weren’t necessarily as required as we thought they were.” She continued, “We were able to see where there was saturation of outcomes and alignment for coursework. We were barely hanging on by a thread with their value-add to the program in other courses. And so, it’s those kinds of perspectives that this modeling through Coursetune, we’re able to see it so much clearer. Having this visually gives us so many instant cues to where we can better spend our time looking.” 

That clarity can transform how courses are viewed from something static to something dynamic. The dynamic modeling view can show gaps and opportunities across the course graph where missing elements aren’t linked. Mike Hower, Lt Col, USAF (Ret.), Strategic Advisor at Air University/ASU Partnership, gave his advice in his Coursetune Camp 2021 presentation. “I’ll tell you, once you get started with activities, and you properly train the faculty to use them,” Mike shares,  “You certainly won’t want to go back. The data and the visualizations are incredible. We’re starting to look at our courses in a completely different way. I started to see holes and requirements and engagement and time of requirements that we’ve never been able to see before.”

When you pull up Coursetune in your next curriculum meeting and start switching between the alternative data views, you may see your fellow team members perk up. During Fort Hays State University nursing program accreditation review, “Andrew (Assistant Provost) was able to go through this with the accreditors by just clicking through an iPad. They were completely blown away. It was extremely cool,” Jenny Manry, Chair of Nursing, shared.

Let the visuals do the talking. Start the transformation conversation at your next meeting and bring rigor into focus with software that makes instructional design visible. 

Ready to see a new perspective of your curriculum? 

Coursetune provides one place to design, manage, and plan your curriculum. Our unique, patented, visual curriculum maps equip you with a common platform. One that helps faculty, staff, and leadership focus on the big picture while revealing how learning objectives, competencies, and standards impact student outcomes. Coursetune supplies you with the communication and workflow tools that promote collaboration and unlock innovation across your institution.

Set up some time for a demo or discussion. Or click the help button on the lower-left, and chat with us.

Works cited:

1Tafton, Anne. “In the blink of an eye: MIT neuroscientists find the brain can identify images seen for as little as 13 milliseconds.” MIT News Office. Publication Date: January 16, 2014. https://news.mit.edu/2014/in-the-blink-of-an-eye-0116.

2Choppin, Jeffrey, Amy Roth McDuffie, Corey Drake & Jon Davis. ”The role of instructional materials in the relationship between the official curriculum and the enacted curriculum”, (2020) Mathematical Thinking and Learning, pg 3, DOI:10.1080/10986065.2020.1855376.

3Lam, Bick-Har; Tsui, Kwok-Tung. “Examining the Alignment of Subject Learning Outcomes and Course Curricula through Curriculum Mapping,” Australian Journal of Teacher Education, v38 n12 Article 6 (Dec 2013),  P101.

4Rawle, F., Bowen, T., Murck, B., & Hong, R. “Curriculum Mapping Across the Disciplines: Differences, Approaches, and Strategies,” Collected Essays on Learning and Teaching, (2017),  P80.

5“Understanding and Reporting on Academic Rigor: A Hechinger Institute Primer for Journalists.” The Hechinger Institute on Education and the Media at Teachers College, Columbia University (2008),  Pg3  http://hechinger.tc.columbia.edu/primers/Hechinger_Institute_Rigor_Primer.pdf.

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