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The Importance of Course Mapping

As I work on online courses, I find myself working with SMEs and asking about their main goals of the course. What should their students learn by the end? What are the main takeaways? If students were to learn and remember one thing from the course - what would that one thing be?

While it is important for courses to have learning outcomes to inform the students of what they will know by the end of the class, I find myself stressing on the importance of steps and activities that are being used to teach the students these competencies. In conversations with the the SME - sometimes the connections between the learning objectives, readings, activities and assignments is not always clear. Course mapping is a way to build a bridge over this communication break and make comprehensible connections between all course elements.

Taking notes while working on a computer

What is Course Mapping?

Course mapping is a method to align instruction with the desired outcomes/learning outcomes for a course. Mapping allows to find gaps in the curriculum, determine the best methods for assessment, define areas that may be over saturated, or even ensure the ordering of the learning objectives is correct with the overall goal of the course. Course mapping provides a document that allows for clear communication between the SME and instructional designer (or other faculty who may teach the course), creates an opportunity for personal reflective practice, and can ensure the course outcomes are tangible. While there is no 'set' method for mapping a course there are some strong samples out there to use.

Course Mapping Matrix

A mapping matrix uses a table that breaks down each module, learning objectives, assignments and assessments. It is important to make sure each objective is aligned with an assignment or assessment. If a course element is not aligned - does it need to be? Is it a busy item for the students? If there is no clear connection - either make it connected or think about the course as a whole and whether this piece is truly needed for meaningful student learning. Below are some samples of course matrices:

Course Mapping Design Templates

In some situations, a mapping matrix may not be the best fit - especially if designing a brand new course. For brand new courses, I suggest using course design templates to help map out your course. These templates help brainstorm your course before mapping it out in a matrix or schedule format. These templates can also be used when looking at revamping your course to ensure it is updated. Below are a few course design templates:

Course Designing with Mind Maps

I personally am a visual learner - therefore, I am drawn to using mind maps as a way to visualize the connections between learning objectives, assignments, discussions, readings, etc. Cathy Moore had introduced me to action mapping and that is when I kind of feel in love with the concept of using mind maps to create courses as well as ensure all course elements align well. Below are a few examples of using mind maps for course mapping:

Best Practices with Course Mapping

Regardless of what method you select - find a style that works best for you. I've blogged about course goal mapping before but I truly feel every aspect of instructional design is an iterative process - course mapping included. Since my original posting, I've come to practice and use course mapping a lot more and become more familiar with what works for me and my own ID work. Some best practices I've come to know and use are as follows:

  • Communicate - Use your course mapping tool as means to communicate your course plans with others. Make your map so another person could use your plan and know exactly how the class should look and feel.

  • Don't Work Against It - If the course map is telling you a learning objective is not working in your course - don't fight it. Use this opportunity to really think about your course goals and if it is a necessary element for your course - add in pieces to make it work. If it is not - remove this learning objective. Set priorities for your course and all of the activities within it.

  • Find a Software - Find a software that works for you. For me, it is Google Drawings. Other softwares include: iMindMap, VUE, Prezi, Inspiration, Mindmeister, and others that I have yet to come across.

Do you use course mapping in your development? Which method do you use? I've love to hear more about what is out there in terms or resources, tools, and best practices. Please share your ideas below!

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