2009 Campus Technology Innovators: Curriculum Design
- By Mary Grush, Matt Villano
THE DEVELOPMENT OF Mankato's Curriculum Design System was a collaborative process from
day one, involving team members from IT, Academic Affairs, and multiple other departments.
Innovator: Minnesota State University-Mankato
Mankato's new Curriculum Design System
allows faculty and administrators to access
and approve proposals via a web interface
that makes shared governance easy.
The yearly cycle of curriculum change is no longer buried in
arcane paper processes at Minnesota State University-
Mankato. In a collaboration between Academic Affairs and
Information Technology, Brenda Flannery, assistant VP of academic
affairs, and Brenda Hanel, lead web application director,
led the development of a Curriculum Design System (CDS) that
improves communication and transparency while tracking the
workflow of curriculum change.
It's not unusual for more than 600 curriculum proposals to be
processed each year at the Mankato campus. While some curriculum
changes are small, others may represent entirely new
programs. Yet back in 2006, Flannery, new to her job in Academic
Affairs, noticed that fewer than 4 percent of faculty fully
understood the institution's
curriculum development and
approval process. She also realized
that the cumbersome paperbased
approval process did not include any feedback loops or
carry forward critical information for the design, approval,
and reporting of curricular developments.
By Fall 2008, developers on campus turned what
was a complex and somewhat mysterious process into a
cohesive, straightforward, web-based application, based on
the Microsoft .NET platform. Faculty and staff now use the
secure CDS interface to enter all proposal information electronically.
The system guides users through the process, asking
them questions based on the information they input, and
pulls data from existing campus data sources to populate and
validate fields. The CDS application then routes the proposals
through a workflow involving at least six individuals or committees,
and incorporates electronic signatures, comments,
e-mail notifications, and RSS feeds as needed. The workflow
history is available to all qualified users, and the system integrates
with the university's student records database.
"We are so proud of what we created because it is a democratic,
user-driven innovation," Flannery comments. "Many
people sat around the table creating CDS: faculty, IT developers,
staff from the Office of the Registrar, deans, curriculum
committee chairpersons, people from Academic Affairs, and
even administrators from our state system office. This was a
collaborative process from day one."
Faculty and administrators now enjoy the ability to create,
review, track, access, and approve curricular proposals from
anywhere, and can look ahead at coming curricular changes.
And now that proposals no longer need to be photocopied,
the university estimates 128,000 sheets of paper, plus hours
of labor, will be saved this year. Flannery points out that students
and advisers also benefit from unified, standard course
layouts. She plans to leverage the work done on CDS as a
foundation for a relational database containing hundreds of
programs and thousands of courses. New applications,
including a data-driven, dynamic academic bulletin, a comprehensive
student advising tool, and others, will follow.
Mary Grush is Editor and Conference Program Director, Campus Technology.
Matt Villano is senior contributing editor of this publication.