INTEGRATING COURSE-LEVEL COMPETENCIES INTO A PROGRAM-WIDE LEARNING OUTCOMES FRAMEWORK: A REVIEW OF THE COMPETENCIES EXTRACTION AND DEFINITION PROCESS
This conference contribution will report on one of the cycles of an on-going, multi-cycle, multi-year effort to refine a program-level learning outcomes framework designed and implemented for the Bachelor of Science (Information Systems Management) degree program offered by the School of Information Systems (SIS) at Singapore Management University (SMU).
In the process of the reconceptualisation and complete redesign of one of the core courses of the program the author of the contribution recognized an urgent need for a “tool” which would enable an effective check for content inconsistencies and misalignments within a particular course as well as across all courses within a particular program. Moreover, it seemed that such a “tool” – could it be developed, introduced and applied across all courses of the program – would also prove to be an effective driver of the course curriculum design process.
While the Learning Outcomes Framework designed and implemented at the program level was a good starting point – enabling faculty members to reflect on program-level learning outcomes and align the course contents to higher level goals of the program – it proved to be less effective when tackling misalignment, inconsistency and content overlap-related problems at the level of individual courses. The learning outcomes defined within the framework (comprising eight 1st level learning outcomes and several 2nd level learning outcomes for each 1st level learning outcome) represented high level general statements rather than tangible competencies, skills or abilities which could be observed, measured and assessed within the frame of the program courses. Such high level general statements were, thus, hardly usable as effective help or effective drivers for course-level syllabus design.
To overcome these problems the author of the paper undertook an attempt to distil a set of competencies for every single course of the program and to integrate those competencies into a coherent framework. At the end of this process, this framework (termed Competencies Framework) systematically organised and displayed all core, advanced as well as prerequisite competencies of all core and elective courses of the program.
This contribution describes and analyses how the course-level competencies were distilled, formulated and refined and it highlights the difficulties and challenges encountered in this process. Although the best-practice approach reported in this contribution was carried out on Information Systems Management curriculum and courses, this paper will also highlight why it might be of a real interest to educators in many other disciplines.
Interestingly, at a later stage it became very clear that the newly derived course-level Competencies Framework represents a “natural extension” of the initial program-level Learning Outcomes Framework, and – although this contribution is not concerned with this subsequent Learning Outcomes Framework refinement cycle – it will briefly point out how both frameworks were integrated to form a coherent and cohesive “reference system” for all educators and instructors of the particular school. The paper also will also briefly report on a suite of web-based information systems and applications which was designed and implemented to enable effective management and publication of the developed Competencies Framework as well as to facilitate its later integration with the program-level Learning Outcomes Framework.