Utilizing Curriculum Mapping To Develop A Successful Customized Remote Learning Strategy

Utilizing Curriculum Mapping To Develop A Successful Customized Remote Learning Strategy
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Summary: The pandemic’s sudden shift to a remote workforce has thrown Learning and Development (L&D) programs into disarray. In this article, we'll examine how you can use curriculum mapping to your benefit when it comes to creating a customized learning strategy.

Mapping Out Just-In-Time Learning For The Suddenly Remote Workforce

L&D teams had robust plans for high-priority or high-visibility projects, but this abrupt change caused by the pandemic constrained those teams, across all industries, to reevaluate, reorganize, and reprioritize all programs, highlighting the importance of a solid program plan. Economic reality hangs over the heads of those teams who face the physical remote-learning reality, pressuring them to prove Return On Investment (ROI), or what we like to call Return On Learning (ROL). And while our collective challenge is novel, this evaluating, organizing, and prioritizing of programs, with a gaze fixed on ROL, is something we’ve been doing at Inno-Versity since long before any of us needed this new way of working. It’s something we call curriculum mapping (or, sometimes, program mapping).

eBook Release: How To Create Custom Remote Learning Experiences For Large Corporations
eBook Release
How To Create Custom Remote Learning Experiences For Large Corporations
Learn how to deliver quality training in the shifting sands among onsite, completely remote, and blended learning.

The focus of this eBook is rapid learning development in a remote world, and curriculum mapping is one of the most powerful tools we have that can help prioritize and create alignment during uncertain times. So, in this article, we’ll put some boundaries around curriculum mapping to define what it is and what it isn’t and unpack how to do it, because critical mapping is crucial for an organization that needs rapid content for a remote workforce.

Curriculum Mapping: Organization And Prioritization

When starting a project, L&D teams often begin with a pile of content of everything ever taught or trained in. But starting with content stalls a remote learning strategy before it ever gets off the ground. Curriculum mapping effectively organizes and prioritizes program goals, learning objectives, existing content, source materials, and potential assessment strategies. It produces a living, breathing document customized to the needs of a situation, which may take the form of a spreadsheet, a table, a chart, or even a mind map for brainstorming. The end result here isn’t prescribed deliverables but a focused organization of content topics and their objectives.

The Key Elements Of Curriculum Mapping

To be successful, every curriculum mapping session must be unique to the needs of the client and program, but even customized curriculum maps have shared elements that drive success.

Company Goals

What’s the point of investing in learning that lacks alignment with established priorities? It’s critical to ensure topics align with company goals and priorities for the year (or the quarter). Depending on the size and structure of the company, the L&D team may or may not have knowledge of these goals and priorities or the power to speak into them. But identifying them is key. Prioritization of learning topics within a program can’t happen without a good understanding of company goals and how this learning segment fits into the whole. This connection also helps the team defend a solid ROL to those outside the room.

Benchmarking—Content And Methods

While time pressures warn against pausing to benchmark, we’d advocate for doing so now more than ever. Do an environmental scan: see what competitors are doing, what topics and methodologies they’re using. Not only will you likely gather idea launchpads, but you’ll also identify gaps you didn’t know were there. Consider, too, what’s been tried already. Benchmarking doesn’t take up time you don’t have. It saves you from wasting the time you do have.

Program Or Project Objectives

What wins and impacts are you aiming for? Think of program objectives as a priorities leash on the rest of the process, ensuring that what’s developed is a direct extension of company goals. When designing program objectives—those for the entire program—make them as specific and measurable as possible. Writing specific objectives helps contain the scope of the program.

Topics Of Content

Talking topics is fun—this is almost always the most interesting part. Subject Matter Experts (SMEs) love getting to brainstorm what should be included. But as most of us know, this can quickly spin out of control. SMEs can be enthusiastic, often wanting to add all the content. Experienced L&D team members know the pain of trying to corral stakeholders. What’s typically the most lively time also brings the heavy lifting, requiring the Instructional Designer (ID) to intentionally direct discussion to gain stakeholder buy-in. But this is where those program objectives step up as the ID’s best friend, clarifying the priorities. Program objectives help narrow the scope and synchronize the content. And once you have topics identified, you need to sort them into categories.

Topic Objectives

If done well, topic objectives will make a straight line back to the company goals, passing through topics of content and learning program objectives. Once you’ve co-created the topics of content, writing objectives for those topics further hones the scope of what’s to be included in the program. The main goal here is to thoroughly scope the content and, at the same time, ensure the proper levels of knowledge, skills, and attitudes are measurable and attained. Similar to topics of content, landing on topic objectives takes strong facilitation by the ID to synthesize what stakeholders want in the content with what those same stakeholders have established as what they ultimately want from the learning.

Existing Content

Though existing content isn’t the spark to strategically shape your curriculum map, you do want to identify it throughout the mapping process, noting all existing content for each topic.

This includes things like existing eLearning courses, slide decks, facilitator guides, job aids, and SME expertise. And while you’re streamlining curriculum mapping by doing this as you go, streamline development, too, by noting not just what the content is but also where to find it. Future you will be grateful for this headache prevention.

The High Value Of Curriculum Mapping

The most pressed of projects face the temptation of skipping curriculum mapping to plunge into development for the sake of the timeline. But curriculum mapping boasts too many benefits to cave to such temptation.

Gaining Alignment

We see this all the time; what we’d anticipated being a simple curriculum-mapping session takes a crucial detour, briefing stakeholders who hadn’t been previously looped in or even accounted for. Consider the risks of discovering new stakeholders when the project is halfway down the road or having to regroup with stakeholders who hadn’t been appropriately briefed early enough, and you can see how valuable curriculum mapping is for gaining alignment.

Establishing A Baseline For Measuring ROI/ROL

It’s impossible to measure without a baseline, and it’s impossible to get a baseline when the project has long since left the base. Taking the time to curriculum map affords the program the measures it needs for success. By determining the critical objectives for the program and then for each topic, the team is better able to measure the ROL. Too often, these measures get overlooked, and once it’s too late, there’s no way to recover them.

Redundancies And Gaps

Existing programs usually contain redundancies that were never caught, due to programs developed in a vacuum. Existing programs just as often skip over important topics. Curriculum mapping provides a step backward to see the bigger picture. Only then do we expose those redundancies and gaps. Only then can we eliminate overlap and build content bridges for missing topics or topics that don’t otherwise connect.


Let’s not forget the most important benefit of all: curriculum mapping puts learning priorities in place. By mapping out the entire remote learning program, you can determine the priorities and source of development. Some content can be purchased off-the-shelf because it’s generic enough or there’s a desire for it to be expert-taught. Other content requires custom development because of its uniqueness to the company. Mapping helps determine what the options are and where to invest for the most impact, revisiting a strong ROL.

Driving Remote Teams Forward With Just-In-Time Learning

Curriculum mapping is critical for any remote learning strategy, but right now, it’s more crucial than ever for determining learning priorities. While people in crisis times want to just jump in and get it done, companies need to be able to measure if it is worth it. Curriculum mapping also keeps company culture alive while people are working remotely. And curriculum mapping helps drive the success of a company, even during uncertain financial times, bolstering L&D teams to provide Just-In-Time learning that keeps people working, even and especially from a distance.

If you're wondering how to deliver quality training in the shifting sands among onsite, completely remote and blended learning, download the eBook How To Create Custom Remote Learning Experiences For Large Corporations and find out all you need to know! Also, join the webinar Why Curriculum Mapping Is The Cornerstone Of Custom Remote Learning Success, and discover more about the subject.

eBook Release: MindSpring
MindSpring is an award-winning agency focused on delivering engaging and transformative digital content. We create digital experiences using exceptional creativity, the best of learning science, and innovative technology. (Previously Inno-Versity)