Building a vision

The Building a Vision section is the first entry point in this Online Course Map Guide. Start here if this is the first time offering your course or if you need to start from the beginning with a curriculum analysis. If you already have your learning outcomes and an established curriculum goal, skip to Mapping Your Course.

Building a vision for your course establishes the purpose and the goals in context of the academic program and field of study. Vision-building creates direction for course development and ensures a clear roadmap for learner-centered course delivery.


curriculum analysis

Creating a vision for your course begins with curriculum analysis, in which you evaluate how your course aligns with the curriculum of a program or a sequence of courses. In curriculum development, courses are typically organized around a common set of outcomes that make up a program of study. Analyze the program in which this course is included. Even if your program does not have formal program learning outcomes, the program chair or faculty leadership often has a vision and understanding of all the overall goals of the curriculum. To determine the purpose of your course within the context of the curriculum or the program, consider the following questions:

Professional goals

What professions and roles does the program of study prepare learners for?

How do those goals relate to learners’ fields of practice and future professions?

What kinds of experiences outside of the classroom might support the professional goals of this course?

Program outcomes

What are the overall goals and outcomes for the program of study your course is a part of?

What external standards, if any, do the program outcomes align with?

When do learners take your course in the program sequence?

Course Learning oUTCOMes

What skills, knowledge, and attitudes does this course equip students with?

​What are the prerequisites for this course?

Are there any core proficiency skills or competencies that are addressed in the course?

It is important to consider these questions and to take notes as you evaluate the goals and vision for your course. Utilize these notes when determining the competencies, course learning outcomes, and module learning outcomes in the next few steps.


For the purposes of this course map guide, read the definition of terminologies used in this course map guide. You will notice that competencies, course outcomes, and module outcomes all address the educational targets for the learner; however, pay attention to the scope, time to achievement, and the purpose for each. At the competency level, the scope is much broader and may take more time to accomplish, while outcomes are more narrow and should be attainable by the end of the course or the end of the module.

Program Goal

Broad, long-term objectives that identify what students should learn, understand, or accomplish as a result of their studies in a specific academic program. Program Goals set the higher-level educational and professional outlook for students in the program and are typically fixed at the onset for program planning.

Program Learning Outcome

Statements that describe the measurable skills and competencies that students will achieve and be able to demonstrate upon successfully completing a set of courses. Program learning outcomes describe in concrete terms what program goals mean. They identify what students will be able to demonstrate, produce, or represent as a result of what and how they have learned in a program. Unlike Program Goals, Program Learning Outcomes are not fixed and adhere to a specific assessment cycle. Assessment results are then used to make required changes in the curriculum, pedagogies, faculty professional development, student support, or resource allocation. This can often mean revisions to Program Learning Outcomes for a subsequent assessment cycle etc. Program Goals and Outcomes are typically set at the department level.


Competencies reflect program goals and/or program outcomes. Competencies commonly define the applied skills and knowledge that enable learners to successfully perform in professional, educational, and other life contexts. A general, broad statement of long-range outcome that describe the desired knowledge, skills, behaviors, and abilities of a student completing a course.
Example: Ability to apply the scientific method to execute systematic approaches to problem solving, including problem definition, constraints, solution strategies, and result comparisons.

Course Learning Outcome

Course Learning Outcomes are measurable statements that define the specific knowlege, skills, and attitudes that learners are intended to demonstrate by the end of a course. Course Learning Outcomes reflect and align to broader program goals, program outcomes, and/or course competencies. Example: By the end of this course, students will be able to apply learning algorithms to classify the damage to a structure.

Module Learning Outcome

A very specific statement that describes exactly what a student will be able to do in some measurable way by the end of a module that reflects a broader course learning objective. Example: By the end of this module, students will be able to calculate damage-sensitive features based on waveform comparison.