10 Curriculum Mapping Case Study

In the following case study, program leader, Eric, is creating a new online program by taking an existing in-person Germanic Studies program and transitioning it to a revised and reimagined online program. In this case, Eric and his team are working with pre-existing courses and course content that could inform their mapping.

This case was inspired by a paper by Metzler et al. (2017).

Case Study III: Progression of Learning in Germanic Studies courses

To revitalize a Germanic Studies program and attract a new demographic of students, Program Leader Eric began working with a small team of faculty colleagues and educational developers to take the existing program structure and reimagine it for a New Program Proposal as a revitalized, made-for-online Germanic Studies program. The team had lots to draw from as they set out with their planning – they reviewed the existing program outcomes and decided the online program would uphold the same intentions.

Regardless of modality (in-person or online) the goals and intended outcomes of the program would remain the same. For example, the program goal of Cultural Understanding and Awareness aligned with three program learning outcomes:

  1. Describe the values of one’s own culture
  2. Articulate the cultural perspectives of others
  3. Evaluate the values of another’s culture

The team knew the revised curriculum would involve four core courses, similar to the in-person version. Eric sat down with the faculty instructors who had previously taught the in-person courses. “I think we can all agree, these outcomes have been taught in various ways through the courses you’ve each taught.” He said. “However, the new online program is a chance to take a closer look at the curriculum, take a collaborative approach, and consider new approaches – especially to teaching and assessments that could strengthen our values of engaged and active online learning.”

Through conversation, instructors discussed how they had been teaching elements of the goal: Cultural Understanding and Awareness, and where they could address gaps and redundancies in redesigning for online.

They agreed that Course W introduced novice students to articulating the cultural perspectives of others, while Course X assumed that introduction and focused more on the intermediate and advanced elements of that skill. They also agreed that Course Z was a great place for students to demonstrate advanced performance of Outcomes 1 and 2, but that the program had been missing an opportunity for advanced performance of Outcome 3. They noted the online program was an opportunity to address this curricular gap.

Mapping Courses in Germanic Studies

Eric and his faculty colleagues discussed how courses across the program related to their various program learning outcomes, identifying where learning was introduced, reinforced or culminated in advanced performance. They had also identified opportunities to address gaps they had noted of their in-person program.

The group captured their conversation in the form of a curriculum map that plotted the overall goal and the three related outcomes to the four core courses they were working with. In this curriculum map, they used the following three levels of learning:

  • N = Novice. “The course introduces students to important concepts and disciplinary thinking. The level is intended for students who have no previous experience with the material.”
  • I = Intermediate. “The course is pitched to students who have taken at least one previous course in the discipline. It is for neither novices nor advanced learners.”
  • A = Advanced. “The course is designed for students who have taken several courses in the discipline and are well familiar with the basic concepts, theories, and terminology of the discipline.” Metzler et al. (2017)
Program Goals Program Student Learning Outcomes Course W Course X Course Y Course Z
Cultural Understanding and Awareness Describe the values of one’s own culture N, I, A A
Articulate the cultural perspectives of others. N I, A A
Analyze the values of another’s culture. N, I N, I, A

Table 3: A NIA (Novice, Intermediate, Advanced) Curriculum Map for Germanic Studies, as adapted from Metzler et al. (2017). This map shows four core courses of the program (Course W – Z) and whether each course addresses novice (N), Intermediate (I), or Advanced (A) levels of learning.

Applying This Approach

Eric and his group used language that felt comfortable to them (NIA). However, common alternatives to this language include:


  • I = Introduce. The course introduces students to knowledge, skills, or values related to the performance of the learning outcome
  • R = Reinforce. The course builds upon knowledge, skills, or values already introduced to students. It’s assumed that students have some prior knowledge that is then reinforced.
  • P = Proficient. The course supports students to demonstrate proficiency in the learning outcome.

or, IDA:

  • I = Introduce
  • D = Developing
  • A = Advanced

or IDC:

  • I = Introduce
  • D = Developing
  • C = Culminating/Capstone

While the language communicates essentially the same meaning, different groups will find some words resonate over others. If you’re attracted to this approach of curriculum mapping, seek to clarify with colleagues what language you will use as a team and clarify understandings before beginning the mapping process.

This map remains focused on broad rather than granular details about the courses. What Eric’s team was able to map was that Course W, for example, will introduce students to the knowledge, skills, values, and attitudes needed for articulating the cultural perspectives of others. Course X will expand on this learning and support students in advancing their abilities. Course Z will serve as a capstone for the program where the learning will be practiced at an advanced level. Later in the design process, these broad details of each course could further guide course design planning, such as how future instructors of Courses W, X, and Z will plan for teaching and learning activities that enable the targeted level of learning and how students will be assessed.


This chapter was adapted from Module 2: Course Design & Implementation, Curriculum Mapping by Lauren Anstey, of Creating and Implementing High-Quality, Sustainable Online Programs by Western University is licensed under a Ontario Commons License.

Metzler, E., Rehrey, G., Kurz, L., & Middendorf, J. (2017). The Aspirational Curriculum Map: A Diagnostic Model for Action-Oriented Program Review. To Improve the Academy, 36(2), 156–167. https://doi.org/10.1002/tia2.20062 


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