4 Questions to Analyze Curriculum Relevance

In an enterprise, there are often established curricula or parts of curricula that relate to the roles you support. And, rather than create new, the mantra of a curriculum manager should be to reuse where possible. So where does that leave the content that exists?

It leaves it in need of analysis!

So here are some questions you can ask when you analyze existing curricula for role relevance. Instructional soundness is another criterion that will be covered in a separate post.

Note: This post includes assumptions that you can influence the curriculum, or in other words, suggest edits to the course owner. If you are analyzing a curriculum that is purchased, this may not be an option.

1. Is the course/curriculum relevant to the role?i-think-this-might-be-photoshopped-shark-t-rex-uzi-300x273_fotor

Role relevance should be the first criterion you use to analyze an existing curriculum or course for the curriculum.

How to Answer: Compare the role’s job description, success profile, and/or competencies against the curriculum’s learning objectives. Then, determine whether to keep, remove, or recommend revisons for the course/curriculum.

If the course or the curriculum does not fit the role you are evaluating, that’s an easy nix.

2. Is it aligned with the org’s mission, vision, and goals for the role?


Your mileage may vary with this one. I have seen more organizations without a clear mission, vision, and goals specific to the learning organization, than with them.

How to Answer:

  • If the mission, vision, and goals exist, compare the curriculum’s learning objectives and KPI goals, if available, to these.
  • If they don’t exist, you may have to make a best guess as to the goal for the role – and that usually has to do with revenue impact on the business. Everything either costs money, saves money, or makes money, so how does this course/curriculum support the role to do that?

If it doesn’t save money or make money for the role, then either remove the course/curriculum, or recommend edits for the course/curriculum to fit into the mission, vision, and goals.

3. Does the curriculum fit with the number of hours the role is expected to consume?


How to Answer:

  • If the role’s expected course hours are defined, compare the number of hours for the course/curriculum against the yearly maximum. Usually the challenge is to reduce the seat hours, and if so, you can recommend an abridged version of the course that includes the relevant learning objectives.
  • If expected course hours are not defined in your organization, Bersin’s 2015  research on how learners learn indicates that most learners get about an hour a week of personal development. And most of them spend it on 5-minute videos. How does that two-week instructor led training stack up against that?

Tips:  This is where revisions to the modality might be helpful. If you have a popular course that is two weeks long, currently requires face to face facilitation, and could easily be transferred to microlearning, then do it. If not, consider a blended approach to shorten the seat time.

Some topics, such as soft skills, really do benefit from face-to-face facilitation. In that case, if travel is the sticking point, consider virtual facilitation. At the very least, virtual facilitation includes more learners who may be unable to travel for various reasons, such as budget, international travel, or medical restriction.

4. How does the course/curriculum fit into the role’s expertise levels?


Most roles have an arc of expertise, from new-to-role, to mid-level, to expert. This is where your learning architecture comes in.

How to Answer: If you do not have a formal learning architecture (build one!), you can take a list of the learning objectives to your role’s subject matter experts and top performers, and ask for their opinion. When would they need to learn the objectives? Is there any point in the role’s career where those objectives become “too easy”? How might those objectives change with expertise?

Using your subject matter experts’ answers, you can then recommend good revisions to the course, or divisions of the course to accord with the experience levels for the role.

Concluding thoughts

When you evaluate curricula, always keep in mind both the goals of the business (to make money) and the learner’s needs (to be successful in their role). Where the two intersect, you have your ideal curriculum. Often the learner’s needs and gaps are affecting the business’ Key Performance Indicators (KPIs), and you can use your analysis to determine which of those needs and gaps can quickly resolve business pains.

What are your thoughts? Would you add a question? Would you evaluate any of these differently?



I am a curriculum manager at SuccessFactors, an SAP company, during my day job (views I express are not necessarily those of my company). At night I am a mother, wife, crafter, artist, philosopher. As my dad taught me, a job worth doing is worth doing right, so in all of these things, I constantly work toward a better outcome.

Posted in Business Impact, Curriculum Development, Curriculum Management, Instructional Design, Learning Strategy

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