Reflecting Upon Completing a Programmatic Alignment

Concurrent Session 3
Streamed Session

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Session Materials

Brief Abstract

This presentation reflects upon the process used to align an entire master’s degree program to industry-specific standards from a national organization to ensure its graduates attain desired competencies.  The presentation discusses the project inspiration, process, and overall workflow used to align courses to specific competencies.


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


The Training & Development Program within the College of Education at NC State seeks to prepare adult learners with background knowledge and skills necessary to pursue entry-level or advanced positions within any industry as trainers, instructional designers, or administrators.  Students entering the NC State Master’s of Training and Development program are either preparing to enter the workforce or enhancing their opportunity in their current positions. Each course in the program emphasizes interaction, collaboration, teamwork, and reflection to aid in the adult learning process.  Upon completion, students receive a Master of Education (M.Ed.) degree that provides them the opportunity to integrate their learning and training into various industries that design, utilize, and evaluate training. 

In 2017-2018, a new course was created to meet a project management competency, which was determined to be lacking by professionals in the training industry.  After designing the course to meet one of the ATD competencies, the program coordinator desired to align the remaining required program courses to other competencies in the ATD Competency Model.  This created an opportunity to complete a programmatic alignment as well as a curriculum crosswalk to ensure all courses had core components such as the following to meet these competencies: learning objectives, learning materials, assessments and activities.  In establishing, creating, and revising all of these items, we also aligned program courses to specific industry competencies that training professionals should have. Some competencies are specific to courses whereas others are across courses and seen in multiple areas throughout the program.  

This presentation demonstrates how the programmatic alignment was completed, competencies implemented, and crosswalk developed to ensure students enrolling in the future meet desired competencies for the training industry.  The presentation discusses the steps taken throughout the project, lessons learned, and challenges incurred and overcome.

Project Description

In 2015, 1,381 talent development professionals were surveyed regarding what skills were most essential for successful completion of their jobs. Sixty-seven percent of these professionals indicated that effective project management skills were necessary. Since NCSU is a land grant university, its mission is to teach practical skills in response to social and industrial demands.  Providing students with industry standard knowledge, skills and attitudes aligns the Training and Development master’s program with this mission. After the survey of industry professionals was completed, it was determined that students graduating from the master’s program were missing a core competency of project management. From this research, intent to build a competency-linked course was born.  The goal of the first year of this project (2017-2018) was to create a new competency-linked course for the program based on core industry competencies and survey research.  

The first course created in the 2017-2018 project year was based on project management with relation to instructional design and training. The course, called Operation and Organization of Training & Development Programs (most likely to be renamed Managing Learning Programs in Training and Development in the near future), resulted in a much closer alignment with the professional needs and standards in the field. The course design integrated a competency directly related to managing projects and was the first step in a larger goal of aligning the entire online Training and Development program courses with the remaining competencies. This project sought to align the program with college and departmental mission statements, assist in improving student labor market outcomes, and create community partnerships.

A course design project undertaken during the 2018-2019 project year sought to align the entire online Training and Development program with the ATD Competency Model.  The courses in the Master's in Training and Development were originally designed with the Association of Talent Development (then ASTD) competencies in mind. Over the years the ATD competency model has been updated and the Master's in Training and Development courses have been modified as they changed hands.  As a result, the courses were no longer aligned with the objectives of the competencies. This project aligned the courses in the Master's in Training and Development program with the ATD competencies. 

To complete this project, a curriculum crosswalk was developed and completed.  In addition, course layouts, assignments, and assessments were revised and redesigned to ensure they mapped to the competencies to provide students the knowledge needed to succeed in the training industry.  The newly aligned courses and integrated competencies will benefit all 70 currently enrolled students, over 100 currently enrolled graduate certificate students, faculty, and adjuncts. We hope that by completing this project that it will also lay the groundwork for next steps of transitioning the Master's in Training and Development into a fully online, competency-based master's program.

As the lead instructional designer and project manager on this project as well as an adjunct faculty member of the Training and Development program, I plan to reflect upon my experiences in aligning these courses and sharing best practices, tools, and tips that may help others endeavoring to complete the same type of alignment in their educational arenas.  

Materials to Be Used in Session

  • Presentation slides

  • Handout with infographic about program and/or project process

Audience Engagement

The 10 minutes of Q&A/group discussion will revolve around aligning a program to industry standards, completing crosswalks and course maps as well as understanding competency-based education.  The methods I plan to use to engage the audience are tools such as Padlet, Poll Everywhere, think-pair-share, and TopHat.  

Presentation Learning Outcomes

At the end of the session, participants will be able to:

  • Learn how to complete a programmatic alignment

  • Identify key themes of a programmatic alignment

  • Apply curriculum development and instructional design strategies to ensure program objectives are met