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A Framework for Curriculum Management - The Use of Outcome-based Approach in Practice

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The need for guaranteed and high-quality education involving predefined curricula covering a corresponding scope of input knowledge and skills required in subsequent practice has been gaining momentum. Universities compile their curricula so as to ensure that they cover all steps essential for the students to obtain employment later on. In the paper a brand new and original curriculum harmonization approach within tertiary education is described by adopting an outcome-based approach and applying modern information and communication technologies. We propose a model for curriculum management and show how the model was implemented into practice in a particular field of study by using complex weboriented platform. Its primary objective is to make all efforts expended by users more efficient, as regards to the creation, editing and control mechanisms in the form of deep content inspection.
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A Framework for Curriculum Management:
The Use of Outcome-based Approach in Practice
Martin Komenda1,3, Daniel Schwarz1, Jiří Hřebíček1,2,3, Jiří Holčík1,2, Ladislav Dušek1,2
1Institute of Biostatistics and Analyses, Masaryk university, Kamenice 3, Brno, Czech Republic
2Research Centre for Toxic Compounds in the Environment, Masaryk university, Kamenice 5, Brno, Czech Republic
3Faculty of Informatics, Masaryk university, Botanická 68a, Brno, Czech Republic
{komenda, schwarz, hrebicek, holcik, dusek}@iba.muni.cz
Keywords: Curriculum planning, outcome-based approach, web-oriented platform, technology mashups
Abstract: The need for guaranteed and high-quality education involving predefined curricula covering a corresponding
scope of input knowledge and skills required in subsequent practice has been gaining momentum. Universities
compile their curricula so as to ensure that they cover all steps essential for the students to obtain employment
later on. In the paper a brand new and original curriculum harmonization approach within tertiary education
is described by adopting an outcome-based approach and applying modern information and communication
technologies. We propose a model for curriculum management and show how the model was implemented
into practice in a particular field of study by using complex web-oriented platform. Its primary objective is to
make all efforts expended by users more efficient, as regards to the creation, editing and control mechanisms
in the form of deep content inspection.
1 INTRODUCTION
The proliferation of web technologies, in conjunction
with the social demand for improved access to tertiary
education, have stimulated the rapid growth of e-
learning (Chiu and Wang, 2008). Individualised ease
of access to information resources and time flexibility
or independency are the major advantages impacting
the users. Today, modern information and
communication technologies (ICT) offer an
interesting opportunity to revolutionize the way
education is provided (Barnes and Friedman, 2003).
The list, annotations and curricula of compulsory
subjects, compulsory-optional courses and optional
seminars are available to students and teachers
typically in the local learning management systems.
However, the differing levels of detail and description
style lacking any kind of standardization or
parameterization hamper transparency and
comprehensibility, particularly when searching for
information on the entire course of studies. As
a result, it is very difficult to look at the whole field,
specialization or studies from a broader perspective
and to enjoy the possibility of searching easily across
the curriculum and finding one’s way through it to see
what is actually being taught and how.
For many years, academic staff (such as teachers
and guarantors) has been in close touch with
sophisticated online educational tools. Hundreds, if
not thousands, of web-based tools have been created
in the last few years, taking the technology as a tool
metaphor to a new level (Oliver, 2010). These
systems have facilitated institutional curriculum
planning activities related to the creation of well-
balanced education. For an instance, the CanMEDS
initiative of The Royal College of Physicians and
Surgeons of Canada has introduced the
implementation of a national, needs-based, outcome-
oriented, competency framework that sets out the
knowledge, skills and abilities for specialist
physicians in order to achieve better patient outcomes
(Frank and Danoff, 2007), (Frank and Bernard
Langer OC, 2003). In (Huang, 2001), the author
presented an integrated outcome assessment
application that was completed by a database
designed to accumulate learner performance outputs
and to store them as a prat of learner’s profile. Data
from the profiles can then serve as valuable inputs in
providing personalized and customized learning
content or to conduct an overall performance
evaluation. Y. Mong et al. (Mong et al., 2008) have
described the web-based application LOTS (Learning
Outcome Tracking System), which provides overall
management of the learning outcomes and access for
both the student and the teachers. In brief, LOTS
consists of six components, namely group, metric,
learning outcome, incident, correlation and analysis.
The generic electronic portfolio called ePortfolio
(Cotterill, 2004) has introduced an approach, which is
being used to support the evidencing of learning
outcomes and to facilitate personal development
planning. In modular courses, portfolios may provide
focus on programme-level as well as module-specific
learning outcomes. The whole process may help
students to become better at relating what they
learned to the requirements of teachers. S. Kabicher
et al. have presented a sophisticated approach, the use
of visual modelling within an interactive online
environment (ActiveCC Web) for a collaborative
design, the implementation and visualization of the
curriculum structure and the content (Kabicher and
Derntl, 2008), (Kabicher et al., 2009). One of the
options for describing the content related to the
curriculum is a special taxonomy. T. G. Willett et al.
have introduced TIME (Topics for Indexing Medical
Education), a hierarchical taxonomy of topics
relevant to medical education. The content and the
structure of the topics within TIME was developed in
consultation with medical educators and librarians at
several Canadian medical schools (Willett et al.,
2007). Existing solutions, that were published, are
focused on the curriculum only from a certain
perspective, offering the agenda together with
selected functionalities and making the efforts to
provide them to students and teachers of the
respective institution in a transparent format.
However, we have not yet seen a complex instrument
that would cover all elements associated with global
curriculum harmonization, including a detailed
parametric description down to the level of the
learning units, and one that would be linked to the
learning outcomes (Komenda et al., 2013).
2 OBJECTIVES
Many thoughtful attempts were made in order to
develop a curriculum mapping or model, which
should increase academic rigor, sharpen students’
critical thinking and analytical reasoning, and expose
them to a richer subject matter. Consequently, three
following main research strides emerged.
1) Instructional methods cover many innovative
methods in higher education: active learning,
experiential learning, inquiry-based learning,
discovery-based learning, problem-based learning,
project-based learning, collaborative and cooperative
learning, and understanding by design. 2) Evaluation
and assessment provide new methods developed to
promote Bloom’s higher-order thinking and other
competencies required in the employment market
such as self-assessments, students’ portfolio, open
book test, case studies analysis, group projects,
prototyping, and technology-based evaluation.
3) Curriculum coherence and integration focus on
reforms in the curriculum structure: the integration of
general education across the curriculum, the
integration of the disparate elements of students’
learning experiences, and shifting from curriculum
objectives to attaining competencies (Pasha and
Shaheen Pasha, 2012). With regard to the mentioned
areas, this paper introduces an innovative curriculum
planning model, which is based on the outcome-
oriented paradigm. This performance-based approach
at the cutting edge of the curriculum development
offers a powerful and an appealing way of
introducing effective reforms in education
management. Here, emphasis is on the product
what sort of graduates shall be produced rather than
on the educational process itself (Harden, 1999). Our
research is concentrated on the following topics.
To propose a curriculum planning model,
which would channel clear communication
between the involved stakeholders
(supervisors, guarantors, managers and
teachers).
To develop a robust web-oriented platform for
complex curriculum management, which
would provide a set of effective tools to be used
for creating, transparent browsing, and
reviewing the curriculum in a user-friendly
environment.
A pilot curriculum reform and harmonization
using the described approach has been already done
within the study discipline of Mathematical Biology,
which is part of the Experimental Biology curriculum
at the Faculty of Science of Masaryk University in
Brno, Czech Republic. The goal of this field of study
is to produce professionals in the domain of data
analytics in clinical, biological and environmental
research. It also enables to attract a new generation of
interdisciplinary experts, needed for processing and
analysing data from experiments as well as for
properly interpreting the obtained results, including
communication and collaboration with other experts
in the given fields.
What will such an approach to curriculum
planning and harmonization bring for the student? It
will provide clear information about what knowledge
shall be acquired during the whole study period, what
topics will be in the schedule, what fields will be
covered repeatedly and how the subjects will be
interconnected with the learning units and the
learning outcomes. As for the teachers, the
description of the curriculum will mean an easy way
of clearly defining their lessons. In addition, they will
be able to browse the curriculum data from all
available courses according to the predefined search
parameters. And for the school managers, the
presented tools will provide a practical view on the
teaching. Further, it will also provide clear and
comprehensible data about who teaches what and in
what context, as well as information on the
deficiencies and overlaps in the curriculum. One of
the key benefits is a new kind of view on the
correlations between the theoretical and practical
parts of the study, which will help in deciding
whether the overall teaching pattern is correct or
some kind of restructuring is necessary.
3 METHODS
The current literature shows that the existing
curriculum models are unable to represent the needs
of the today’s dynamic & complex education. This is
due to the fact that the current society is more open,
diverse, multidimensional, fluid and more
problematical (Pasha and Shaheen Pasha, 2012). It is
one of the reasons why the issue of innovation has
been confronted in many fields as a mere tertiary field
by different academic institutions, as the analysis of
the current global situation indicates. However, today
a coherent solution that would cover user-friendly
tools for easy curriculum description is still missing.
Therefore, we have proposed a methodological
model, which is built on an outcome-based paradigm.
The Bergen ministerial conference of the Bologna
Process in May 2005 discussed reforms to degree
structures, credit transfer, quality assurance and
curricular development, which are transforming the
European Higher Education Area. Learning outcomes
are arguably best viewed as a fundamental building
block of the Bologna education reforms and bring
more transparency to higher education systems. They
have a reputation of being rather mundane and
prosaic tools, yet it is this basic underpinning function
that makes them so significant. It is important that
there should be no confusion about their role, nature
and significance, or the educational foundations of
the Bologna process will be undermined (Keeling,
2006). The use of the mentioned concept implies
a fundamental paradigm shift in curriculum design
for many European institutions offering higher
education (Adam, 2004).
We also present here an original instrument based
on approved pedagogical methodology with the
integration of ICT mashups into the curriculum
management process. This web-based tool called
Learning outcome browser, which is part of our
web/oriented platform, covers all elements pertaining
to global curriculum harmonization, including
detailed metadata specification down to the level of
learning units and interconnections to the learning
outcomes. It opens the possibility of reforming the
curriculum structure effectively, as all elements are
available in the form of parametric description. The
organization of the data and its linking are provided
in the curriculum model, which can be implemented
without any restrictions within any database
technology. Figure 1 shows a simplified entity
relation data model of the fundamental attributes in
the proposed solution.
Figure 1: Simplified data model of curriculum.
There are a number of technologies used during
the development process, rendering easy
implementation afterwards. The web-oriented
architecture runs on the most-used and widespread
web servers either an Apache server or a Microsoft
Internet Information Server (IIS). We use
Linux/Ubuntu and Windows Server operating
systems for well-proven performance. All the tools
were developed with the use of PHP (version 5.3.10),
XHTML, CSS 2, JavaScript, AJAX and MySQL
(version 5.5.32). We have also acquired the services
of third party frameworks, such as jQuery (JavaScript
library used for easier development of web-centric
technologies), CKEditor (WYSIWYG text and
HTML editor designed to simplify website content
creation) and DHTMLX components (JavaScript grid
control provides cutting-edge functionality, powerful
data binding, and fast performance with large data
sets).
4 RESULTS
We have proposed a model for curriculum
management and harmonization and showed how the
model was implemented into education in a particular
field of study by using our original web-oriented
platform. Its primary objective is to make all efforts
expended by users more efficient, as regards to the
creation, editing and control mechanisms in the form
of deep content inspection. The platform enables to
introduce reforms into the curriculum in several
phases. Thus, unintended consequences or
suboptimal solutions may be avoided.
The first phase sets up the structure of curriculum,
which is described in figure 2. The study field is split
into individual modules including details of the
responsible supervisors. Each module contains a set
of courses including its guarantors. The rules used for
learning outcome definition have been already
established according to the Bloom’s taxonomy
(Krathwohl, 2002).
Figure 2: Proposed curriculum structure.
The second phase covers the definition of the
learning outcomes (requirements on the graduate
from the selected field) based on a predefined
structure in an online environment including formal
and semantic verification. Outcomes typically consist
of a noun or noun phrase (the subject matter content)
and a verb or verb phrase (the cognitive processes).
Consider, for example, the following objective: The
student shall be able to remember the law of supply
and demand in economics. "The student shall be able
to" (or "The learner will," or another similar phrase)
is common to all objectives since an objective defines
what students are expected to learn. Statements of
objectives often omit "The student shall be able to"
phrase, specifying just the unique part (e.g.
"Remember the economics law of supply and
demand."). In this form it is clear that the noun phrase
is "law of supply and demand" and the verb is
"remember" (Krathwohl, 2002). In our case each
learning outcome is represented by the so-called data
sentence, which is composed of a constant noun
prefix, Bloom’s taxonomy action verb and sentence
(e.g. student shall be able to describe the principle of
linear regression).
The third phase provides vertical harmonization,
which consists of verification and further discussion
within the individual module under supervision of the
responsible guarantor. The fourth phase brings the
process of horizontal harmonization, which consists
of follow-up discussions across all modules under the
management of supervisors. The fifth phase entails
the creation of educational content according to the
defined learning outcomes.
The authoring team, consisting of guarantors and
teachers of Mathematical Biology study field,
proposed a set of fundamental knowledge and skills
known as GMER (Global Minimum Essential
Requirements). This type of outcomes defines what
students are expected to know, understand and/or be
able to demonstrate at the end of a period of learning,
typically as a graduate. This concept has been already
used by a number of academic institutions, especially
in medical education (Schwarz and Wojtczak, 2002),
(Zhang et al., 2002). The idea of learning outcomes
helps determine what teachers are supposed to teach,
what students are expected to learn and what
knowledge all alumni must have. It provides
a correctly compiled and balanced curriculum across
selected study fields. The management of
Mathematical Biology is currently delegated to
21 teachers who interact with the study
harmonization and streamlining process in different
roles and provide feedback to the developers of the
ICT mashups from which the web-oriented platform
is composed.
Table 1: Summary of Mathematical Biology study field.
Total number of modules
5
Total number of courses
26
Total number of learning units
261
Total number of learning outcomes
1281
Total number of teachers and guarantors
21
One part of the platform, which was developed and
tested, is called Learning outcome browser and it is
based on the data grid component (see Figure 3). It
allows the users to access the data in a well-arranged
form and offers the possibility of applying advanced
search and filtering based on selected search
parameters. Thus, it provides an easy, clear and user-
friendly way of managing the curriculum, including
evidencing all executed operations such as creating,
editing and deleting learning outcomes and units. The
browser, which enables various views on the
curriculum for both teachers and guarantors, is
available online after the login process at
http://opti.matematickabiologie.cz/.
Figure 4: A learning outcome in detail.
5 CONCLUSIONS
In this paper a brand new approach to curriculum
planning and management within tertiary education
was described. It adopted an outcome-based approach
and involved modern ICT technologies in mashups
that composed an original web-oriented platform to
implement the presented model approach into
education. The presented methodology and the
platform will help academics in their curriculum
reengineering efforts, as it provides a transparent
overview of the curriculum structure. Our approach
as well as the platform was adopted in practice by
senior teachers and professional guarantors within the
content inspection of Mathematical Biology field of
study. We believe that our model approach is robust
enough to be applied with a small set of minor
adjustments to any field of study. Further, we also
showed how the entire harmonization process is
phased to allow avoiding any suboptimal solutions.
Unlike the developed web-oriented platform, the
implementation of our model approach is fully
independent in the particular ICT as well as on the
particular field of study to be harmonized.
6 ACKNOWLEDGEMENTS
The authors were supported from the grant project
Interdisciplinary development of the study
Mathematical Biology reg. no:
CZ.1.07/2.2.00/28.0043, which is funded by the
European Social Fund and the state budget of the
Czech Republic.
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The book reviews state of the art in the field of medical education and especially in its technology-enhanced part. It reveals the impact of e-learning intervention on medical education and shows various approaches to simulation-based medical teaching and learning. Further, the book introduces MEdical Education NETwork (MEFANET) in the Czech Republic and Slovakia and tells a story about how MEFANET has moved e-learning in medical education in these two countries.
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The current literature shows the existing curriculum models are unable to meet the needs of the today’s dynamic & complex education as the society is more open, diverse, multidimensional, fluid and more problematical. A generic curriculum model is proposed for all types of computer degree programs. The proposed model defines five meta-processes, a flexible structure for hidden and formal curriculum, and innovative ideas for branding and capstone project. Taking a futuristic approach and keeping an eye on the emerging needs of today’s knowledge driven society, the proposed model aims to transform students into valuable plug-n-play knowledge workers equipped with up-to-date knowledge, marketable skills, valuable competencies, unique expertise, globally compatible dispositions and culturally and professionally acceptable values. Through introducing competencies, expertise and dispositions among threshold standards we have given a new starting point for curriculum experts to extend the virtual boundaries of teaching-learning environment from classrooms to work-place environments. The proposed model not only meets the existing needs of the core computing disciplines but also accommodate the implications of newly emerging disciplines. Its flexible structure allows both institutions and faculty to decorate it according to their requirements.
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A customisable 'generic' electronic portfolio (ePortfolio) has been developed at the University of Newcastle Upon Tyne (U.K) as part of a collaborative project (http://www.ePortfolios.ac.uk). This paper describes the design of the ePortfolio and its application in a range of contexts where it is being used to support the evidencing of learning outcomes and to facilitate personal development planning. The flexibility of the ePortfolio architecture is appraised and preliminary findings from evaluation studies are summarised. Integration with virtual learning environments is also discussed.
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European curricula are currently being reorganized to fulfill requirements and recommendations set forth by the Bologna Process. Design, development and rollout of new curricula constitute significant change processes and need cooperation and coordination. This paper describes the use of visual modeling within an interactive online environment (ActiveCC Web) to share knowledge and support coordination among teaching staff during the implementation of a new curriculum. Graph based visualization is used to support the illustration of the curriculum structure and course pedagogies and offers intuitive navigation through the curriculum.
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An educational technology framework is developed to provide an overview of educational technology applications, functions, and stakeholders. The framework organizes educational technology into five categories, including needs assessment; content creation and encoding; transmission and storage; decoding and learning; and learning outcome assessment. A review of current practices and available applications is provided, revealing numerous gaps in the current educational technology infrastructure. Opportunities for future development in education technology are discussed.
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Outcome-based education, a performance-based approach at the cutting edge of curriculum development, offers a powerful and appealing way of reforming and managing medical education.The emphasis is on the product-what sort of doctor will be produced-rather than on the educational process. In outcome-based education the educational outcomes are clearly and unambiguously specified. These determine the curriculum content and its organisation, the teaching methods and strategies, the courses offered, the assessment process, the educational environment and the curriculum timetable.They also provide a framework for curriculum evaluation. A doctor is a unique combination of different kinds of abilities. A three-circle model can be used to present the learning outcomes in medical education, with the tasks to be performed by the doctor in the inner core, the approaches to the performance of the tasks in the middle area, and the growth of the individual and his or her role in the practice of medicine in the outer area. Medical schools need to prepare young doctors to practise in an increasingly complex healthcare scene with changing patient and public expectations, and increasing demands from employing authorities. Outcome-based education offers many advantages as a way of achieving this. It emphasises relevance in the curriculum and accountability, and can provide a clear and unambiguous framework for curriculum planning which has an intuitive appeal. It encourages the teacher and the student to share responsibility for learning and it can guide student assessment and course evaluation. What sort of outcomes should be covered in a curriculum, how should they be assessed and how should outcome-based education be implemented are issues that need to be addressed.
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For many years, educators have touted the benefits of learning with educational tools such as spreadsheets and databases that allow students to actively process and manipulate information (Jonassen, 1995). Hundreds if not thousands of Web 2.0 tools have been created in the last few years, taking the "technology as tool" metaphor to a new level. In this article, selected Web 2.0 tools are aligned with major content areas to illustrate by example the wide reach of Web 2.0 across the curriculum.