Before we get into the discussion of enterprise need for the curriculum manager role, perhaps a little context is in order. I have been a curriculum manager at HP, and now at SAP, for just over two years now. This is a growth role for me, where I am stretching my capabilities again after a long time just relying on capabilities gained in my 20+ years as a senior instructional designer for several Fortune 500 companies. Please note the following description reflects my experiences as a corporate curriculum manager, not one for universities or schools.
The other helpful piece of information you need before we discuss the enterprise need for curriculum managers is a description of Curriculum Manager as I use it here. In my particular role, I have to find and learn about the learning assets my company has, and learn about the roles I support. Then I talk to stakeholders to find out what my audience’s learning needs currently are. Based on these three things, I can then draft or revise a role-based learning plan that takes into account the learning assets we have, and plans the learning assets we need. This has occurred in January, as part of our yearly planning cycle. The rest of the year, I help my teams build the new assets, and keep my finger on the pulse of what’s being built in the organization. Throughout the year, but mostly at the end of the year, we start tracking metrics/results on the programs we have rolled out, and compare the success of our learners to those in the same role who have not taken our learning path. These business metrics are used when presenting the ROI of our line of business (Training), which is often a cost center, and it’s an enormous help in budget discussions and in filing for learning & performance awards. This is what I mean by Curriculum Manager in the corporate enterprise context.
One last note. In the American corporate enterprise, our profession is somewhat new, to my knowledge – I have seen few postings specifying a curriculum manager by this title, and fewer still who aren’t simply retitled Learning Managers who lead an e-learning production department. This is a great role, for sure, but not the same as mine. So my other two colleagues and I spend much time FFIOing our role (F’ing figuring it out) – sometimes we research what’s out there for a particular task we are trying to achieve, or we just make it up as we go. We have found ONE book specifically about our profession: The Curriculum Manager’s Handbook (affiliate link), which has been useful for sure. We have points in there that we reference and points that don’t apply to our role, and perhaps I’ll write more about that if you are interested.
So why is a curriculum manager important to an enterprise? When you have a large company with a mature and productive training department, and a learning management system, you will begin to accumulate a backlog of learning assets, some forgotten and some used more than others. Depending on the instructional awareness of the leadership of that training department, some of those assets may be instructionally sound, and some of them may even be aligned to the role competencies crucial for learners to perform. But without a strategic alignment of those assets that accounts for business direction plus learner needs, ROI is often a shot in the dark, and typically not measured in business-relevant terms.
Over the years I have developed the theory that the main purpose of enterprise learning is to care-take and grow the intellectual capital of its people. Though it’s stunning how underfunded the typical learning department can be given its de facto purpose, it’s often our fault for not measuring the ROI then communicating it to stakeholders using the right language. With the curriculum manager role linking learning strategy to competencies and then to financial performance, the money is practically sitting on the table. All we have to do is point it out.
Does your organization need a curriculum manager? Why or why not?