Global corporate learning is improving but it is not yet meeting the needs of learners around the world. A description of the current state of global learning and some of its causes can be found in the first article here. This article is part of a series meant to equip the learning leaders of global organizations on the best practices for creating engaging and impactful learning experiences for every team member, no matter the region or culture. CLICK HERE to see a list of the topics covered in this series and access the articles.
The Foundation of Curriculum Mapping
Curriculum mapping has its origins in the world of education, at both the K-12 and university levels. Faculty members at the University of Calgary produced an insightful research paper on its use in education in 2019. The authors defined curriculum mapping as “the process of associating course outcomes with program-level learning outcomes (PLOs) and aligning elements of courses with a program, to ensure that it is structured in a strategic, thoughtful way that enhances student learning.” (https://taylorinstitute.ucalgary.ca/sites/default/files/Curriculum/Curriculum%20Mapping%20UPDATED%202019.pdf)
There are other definitions, mostly in the same vein. The purpose of curriculum mapping is to identify the essential skills to be taught and the content needed to train those skills. It includes what is taking place in the learning experience and how those experiences are to be evaluated. It brings order and prioritization to learning goals. It seeks out gaps and redundancies in the current content.
Navigating Stakeholder Dynamics in Corporate L&D
All of these activities take place in the context of multiple stakeholders, people who have an interest in how these questions are answered.
Corporate L&D is not done in isolation. The bigger the corporation, the more stakeholders there will be. In a global company, learning leaders might not even be aware of all the stakeholders involved in learning. Even among known stakeholders, there will be a variety of opinions on essential skills, priorities, activities, modalities, outcomes, and assessments. Some will see gaps and redundancies while others will see only a seamless flow of learning.
Who is right? How do learning leaders make sure all stakeholders are known to everyone involved in building learning? And how is alignment achieved when there are so many possible outcomes and opinions? Even more complex, how does this work when stakeholders might be in dozens of different locations and cultures?
The Critical Role of Stakeholders in Curriculum Mapping
Those who have led learning teams know all too well how one high-level stakeholder can come in near the end of the project and upset everything that has been done to date. I can think of several instances where analysis, design, and development were thoroughly considered. Alpha, beta, and gold review cycles were completed. Everyone was onboard and excited about the release of the learning experience. Just as that was about to happen, a high-level stakeholder swooped in and decided this was not what they had in mind. So, back to the drawing board. Hundreds of hours of well-intentioned work was lost because a secret stakeholder was not kept in the loop and so was not aligned with the direction of the project.
The Foundation of Curriculum Mapping in Learning
The first step in curriculum mapping is to create a list of all stakeholders. The second is to decide how and where you will get them involved in the development process. A wise third step is building a plan for how you are going to communicate with them as the project proceeds. Some will not show much interest at the beginning. Others will want to be more involved. But all should be up to speed on the direction, objectives, and outcomes you seek. In a global company, there should almost always be strong international, multicultural representation.
Prioritizing Objectives: A Key to Successful Alignment
Once there is a solid sense that a stakeholder plan is in place, it is time to move on to the alignment portion of curriculum mapping.
A great place to begin is by asking, “how will we know when we’ve been successful?” This question should hold a primary spot in the process. It helps clarify the objectives you seek to achieve and it helps determine what metrics will be considered to determine whether or not you have reached those objectives.
Visibility and Team Alignment: Avoiding Assumptions
I can think of many instances where a small group of people from the same company decided to create learning for a specific topic and everyone in the room assumed their objectives for the learning experience matched those of everyone else. When the objectives were made visible, the people in the room looked at each other in bewilderment wondering, “how could you think that was what we are trying to achieve with this?”
This is where the “mapping” portion of the exercise becomes incredibly valuable. Once all the possible objectives are on a whiteboard, ask the stakeholders in the room to prioritize them. In some instances, the exercise will be over in seconds because the team is well aligned. In most, a variety of opinions will bubble up. This is the goal. Now an open and honest discussion can be had with the goal of team alignment.
Inclusive Objectives: Avoiding Learner Frustration
Imagine if you did not make the objectives, and how they are prioritized, visible and everyone left the room with their own assumptions. It would not be surprising to find that the project quickly devolved into chaos.
Further, imagine that you lead a large team of people who will be the learners for what is about to be created. Except you are not in the room. You have not been asked about your priorities for this learning experience or even if it is needed at all. Perhaps you have other priorities but your location is far from headquarters where such decisions are made. When you receive notification that a new learning experience is available, you discover that it is not the most pressing need for your location and your learners are frustrated because they are not getting the training they want or need. The point is to include many voices when discussing objectives and prioritization.
Choices in Delivery and Modalities: A Global Perspective
With the stakeholders known and the objectives aligned, it is time to move on to a series of choices. Delivery methods, modalities, tools and feedback systems are next on the docket. As with alignment, the voices chosen to be part of the discussion will be paramount in global organizations.
Finding the Right Balance in Stakeholder Involvement
One last consideration. Too few stakeholders and voices in the curriculum mapping process will likely lead to learning experiences that do not meet their objectives because the process did not include enough diverse opinions and perspectives. At the other end of the spectrum, it is possible to include too many people with the inevitable gridlock that comes from a multitude of opinions but no real direction.
The Goldilocks zone, not too hot and not too cold, is when the right people have input in the right stage of the process. It is not an overstatement to say that a few too many is better than a little too few. Of course, the more visible and mission critical the learning project, the larger the group should be. But even for smaller, less visible projects, inclusion of voices from other cultures and regions of the world will only lead to better learning experiences for everyone in your organization.
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