Is program mapping becoming a priority for online university programs?

In 2017, a startup called Coursetune began selling software tailored to a very specific niche: the design of study programs. The growth and evolution of this business speaks volumes about the growth of online programs in higher education.

The biggest change for Coursetune came last week when Academic Partnerships, a company that helps colleges set up online degree programs, acquired the degree program design company. (The price of the sale has not been disclosed.) Academic Partnerships has announced its intention to eventually offer Coursetune software as a free feature to its customers, but Coursetune will also continue to operate as a separate unit and no significant changes is not planned at the moment. customers.

There have been other hubs for Coursetune along the way, says CEO and co-founder Maria Andersen, who previously worked as an adjunct professor, director of learning design at Western Governors University, and an edtech consultant. .

When she started the business, she says the goal was to help faculty ‘tweak’ their lessons to ensure students learned the key points, which could be used to document the quality of the lessons. for accreditation. “We called it Coursetune because we wanted to focus on continuous improvement – that is, fine-tuning the program as it is used and developed,” says Andersen.

But it was not the characteristic that most excited college instructors and administrators. Instead, clients were interested in the tool’s ability to help “map” the curriculum to document the skills and goals taught in each course of a program leading to a university degree or higher. Coursetune has therefore invested more energy in the program mapping functions over time.

This aspect is of interest to academic partnerships as well, says Amanda Smith, the company’s director of academic services, because such mapping can also help ensure that the program teaches the skills needed for the jobs. “Our mission is to expand access to affordable, out-of-the-box programs,” she says. Coursetune, she adds, “helps teachers demonstrate that they are teaching what they set out to teach. And it helps the students to see: “What is in it for me?” “

Some teachers, especially in liberal arts classes, have objected to the wider trend of emphasizing detailed learning objectives that Coursetune emphasizes, fearing that this will make the classes too prescriptive. .

But as more colleges introduce online degree programs, many are working harder to convince students that classes will lead to marketable skills.

Coursetune has around 50 clients, most in higher education, but some in K-12 and “a few corporate clients,” says Andersen. It has around 26 employees, all of whom work remotely.

Some of the learning management systems that colleges are already using have features that help faculty articulate course goals to administrators and students. But Andersen says no competitor has focused on curriculum mapping so closely. “It’s not something that sells a school on an LMS, and therefore it’s not a major driver of the business,” she says.


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