CBE Redesign with the End in Mind: Course Maps, Accordions, and Connections

Concurrent Session 5
Streamed Session

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Session Materials

Brief Abstract

Leveraging a competency-based education (CBE) approach that matches course outcomes directly with industry standards to assure the validity of a degree program, NC State is redesigning courses in the Masters of Training & Development program. The CBE approach resulted in more effective teaching practices as well as competency alignment across courses. 

Sponsored By


Dr. Donna Petherbridge is Associate Vice Provost for Academic Technology Innovation in Distance Education and Learning Technology Applications (DELTA) at North Carolina State University, where she leads a team of training, instructional design, media production, applications support and applications development specialists in researching, applying, and supporting innovative instructional technologies in both customized and enterprise environments. She is actively involved with NC State's IT Strategic Planning endeavors and works closely with IT leaders across campus, where she facilitates technology planning and governance efforts. She is a member of EDUCAUSE, recently serving as a conference planning committee member and program proposal reviewer. Donna is also a Teaching Assistant Professor in the Leadership, Policy & Adult and Higher Education department in the College of Education at NC State University, where she teaches online courses, mentors graduate students, and serves on dissertation committees. She has been a member of the graduate faculty since 2008. Donna has more than 20 years of experience in supporting higher educational faculty members in leveraging technology to support their instructional goals, and prior to that, experience teaching in middle and high school. She has co-authored/authored a number of teaching with technology related articles and regularly gives presentations on using emerging technologies and building communities in online courses. Donna was awarded the NC State University 2012 Workforce & Human Resource Education Alumni Award for Outstanding Professional Service and has been recognized as a recent NC State Pride of the Wolfpack winner. She is also regularly recognized as on outstanding instructor via the NC State University Thank a Teacher program. Donna holds a B.A. in English (Elon University), a Master's degree in Information Science (North Carolina Central University), and an Ed.D. in Adult & Community College Education (North Carolina State University).
Jessica is a Lead Instructional Designer working with Distance Education and Learning Technology Applications (DELTA) and the Department of Food, Bioprocessing, and Nutrition Sciences (FBNS). She provides instructional design and project management knowledge in order to provide solutions to instructional challenges. She works with faculty members and the new media team at DELTA to design, develop and evaluate innovative online and face-to-face courses. Before joining DELTA, Jessica taught at a private college for several years before working for a non-profit organization and as a government contractor. In her prior roles, she developed a multitude of courses, taught adults in a variety of business-related topics such as professional development and designed training programs. Jessica holds an Ed.S. in Instructional Design and Technology and a Ph.D. in Educational Leadership.

Extended Abstract

Competency-based education (CBE) has several interpretations, including as a way for student advancement at their own pace as they work through competencies and also as an approach that matches course competencies and outcomes directly with industry standards, assuring the quality and validity of a degree program.  This session will discuss the redesign of a course within the context of a competency-based curriculum redesign from the perspective of aligning course competencies with industry expectations.

Jessica White is an instructional designer who has been tasked to work with the Masters of Training and Development program director and program faculty to crosswalk all of the Training and Development courses.  This crosswalk provides assurance for both students and employers that when students complete the program, they have been exposed to and via successful completion of coursework, have met all of the training and development professional competencies defined by the Association for Talent Development for the training and development profession.  Donna Petherbridge has been the primary instructor for EAC 580: Instructional Systems Design, a graduate course in the College of Education at NC State University since 2008.   

The goal at the beginning of the initial project (2017-2018) was to create a course that allowed the students in the program to meet a project management competency.  After the redesign of an existing course to focus on project management, the program director desired to align the remaining program courses with a national organization’s competency model.  The goal was to ensure all program courses met the respective categories within the ATD Competency Model. At the beginning of the second project year (2018-2019), Jessica and Michelle Bartlett (Training & Development program coordinator and faculty member) worked to map each course to its corresponding ATD Competency.  Mapping each course to its related competency required the revision and addition of course activities in each course, but by completing these revisions, each course is more closely aligned to industry standards and needs. Students completing the newly revised course will be better prepared for careers in the training and development sector.  

Moving from the big picture of looking at courses across the program to Donna’s course, EAC 580, it was time to redesign this course in the context of the following challenges:  (1) a need to align the course carefully with the Association of Talent Development national competencies as part of a competency based redesign of all the courses within the Training and Development Program; (2) the need to ensure the course was flexible enough to be taught by more than one instructor; (3) the desire to have the course easily convert from a 15 week regular semester to a summer session of 5 weeks with minimal changes; and (4) the desire to build in course connections with students that were synchronous as well as asynchronous. 


In approaching the initial redesign, the instructional designer (Jessica) first reviewed Donna’s course and crosswalked the current course goals and activities to the ATD competencies.  We then met to discuss activities that should stay the same, or be changed, or dropped all together. Jessica also made a number of suggestions about how to group the existing materials within five topical areas that would allow for the flexibility in design that we were looking for, so that the course could easily crosswalk from a semester to a summer course, with a 5 topics x 3 week regular semester model that, like an accordion, could contract or expand depending on the semester type. A master copy of the course was made in a project space and the advantage of making all of these adjustments in a project space is that now, this course can be copied for other instructors as needed.  

Following Jessica’s suggestions, Donna began thinking about the content and moving and regrouping material around, after creating a course map that guided everything.   Designing with the end in mind, the course map guided the course design with clarity and purpose, ensuring that learning objectives were carefully considered and that each activity was measurable and meaningful.  Designing with a course map ensures that an instructor clarifies learning outcomes, measurements of those outcomes, and carefully plans the learning experiences for the class while curating relevant materials. In this process, some activities were dropped or changed, and a few of the online group activities amped up the instructor involvement (especially during the summer session when there is more of a time pressure).   The end result was a redesigned course that maps with the national competencies, is clear and easy for students to follow, and has several engaging activities where students feel very connected to the course. While course evaluations for this course have always been good, the student evaluations for the redesigned summer sessions were even better than prior semesters. 

Presentation Outline


  1. Introduction (1 min)

  2. Setting the stage for a CBE course redesign (Outcome:  program courses will be redesigned to clearly map to the ATD stated competencies for the profession) (10 min)

    1. ATD national standards and their connection to our program

    2. Competency based instruction

    3. Principles of redesign:

      1. Designing in a way that ensures that between and among all courses, the competencies are being met

      2. Designing in a way that is shareable between instructors

      3. Designing in a way that encourages the creation of engaging student activities when needed/looking at activities across the courses for cohesiveness & opportunities

      4. Designing with a course map

  3. What does this look like from an Individual course redesign perspective? (Outcome:  individual courses will map to certain competencies, and will be flexible enough to be taught in regular and summer sessions, and by different instructors) (12 min)

    1. Course map - share map & template

    2. 5 x 3 design - like an accordion, it’s flexible

      1. Show course from spring 2019 (pre-design)

      2. Show summer course (first implementation of a 5 week session - schedule)

        1. Note flexibility of the five modules in five weeks

        2. Note absolute match between all activities and course map

      3. Show course from fall 2019 (regular semester - schedule)

  4. Building in connections with students (student engagement approaches/effective teaching practices - show these within course) (7 minutes)

    1. Note increased interaction (synchronous mini cases guided by instructor vs. group only)

      1. Facilitative/coaching approach

      2. Teamwork (Guided approach) - discuss mini cases

      3. Synchronous sessions (Zoom meeting signups for case studies)


  1. Individual reflection activity (5 minutes)

    1. Think of a course or series of courses in your context that could benefit from a CBE approach.  Share that via padlet (have padlet created in advance for everyone to contribute to).

  2. Q&A (10 minutes)