Are We There Yet? Making Curriculum Visible to Students

by Lisa Tee, Associate Professor (Curtin University)

Are we doing enough to increase visibility of graduate capabilities, program learning outcomes and curriculum intent to students? For many students, the successful completion of a unit/course equates to a tick in the checklist required to receive their degree. Upon reflecting on units the student may remember how agonising a particular unit was or how time consuming the written assignment was. I ask, does the student reflect upon the core learning outcomes and graduate attributes acquired through the completion of these units?  Does the student understand how their graduate attributes were built upon over the course of their degree? I argue the current methods to presenting curricula to students do not facilitate this reflection or understanding. There is a need to communicate coherence and make “visible” curricula to students to enhance first year transition, course retention and successful course completion. Whilst higher education institutions are continually developing and implementing the necessary graduate attributes and embedding employability into curriculum, in most instances the intent is not clear to students and in some cases to new staff members. Clearly defined graduate attributes and course learning outcomes are essential for producing graduates with the skills necessary to be proficient employees and contributors to society.

Why students are not provided the whole of curriculum details at the point of enrolment? Current students are able to access course information online, but the information frequently lacks relevant detail and is presented such that there is minimal student perception of relevance. Students rarely see a course-wide view of their studies, and yet their courses are developed with just such a holistic view.  My 2016 National Teaching Fellowship identifies the need to communicate transparent and “visible” curricula to students to enhance first year transition, retention and successful course completion. I aim to generate a national conversation around how to better communicate and engage students in their program of study through the implementation and support of MyCourseMap, a multi-dimensional interactive curriculum map using digital and touch technology that increases transparency and relevance of curricula for students.

In a single view MyCourseMap provides staff and students a visual picture of the horizontal and vertical integration across the curriculum, allows users to identify the desired graduate capabilities with links to the degree content, provides a tool which can also be used for curriculum review and renewal by embedding horizontal and vertical integration within a program of study and embeds peer, graduate and employer stories (through text, audio and video) to demonstrate the relevance of the course/program structure and content.  I believe the capabilities of MyCourseMap will facilitate students in their reflection and understanding of learning outcomes and graduate attributes, such that students no longer solely remember the requirements of a course.

To further generate a national conversation about the need to provide more student centred ways to present “visible” curricula I will be conducting workshops in Brisbane, Melbourne, Sydney, Adelaide and Perth this year. The workshops aim to stimulate discourse around student’s accessibility to entire curriculum and program learning outcomes and encourage academics to reflect on the way curricula are presented to students in their institution and on the ways to enhance first year transition and identity. The workshop also provides attendees an opportunity to pilot MyCourseMap with their course of study. Workshops in Brisbane will be held on 12 and 13 April at QUT and on 19 April at RMIT in Melbourne. For more details or if you like to attend please email me.