The 7 Design Steps of CAD – Curriculum Architecture Design

CAD Design Team Meeting Design Steps

The secret to success in the design of the “ideal” T&D Path is having 1-the right data, and 2- the right data processors, and 3- the right process. Data processors process analysis data and make design decisions in a predictable process. Predictable in terms of touch time and cycle time and quality of the output.

In PACT’s Curriculum Architecture Design (CAD) methodology…I teach designers at the CAD level to trust the process – just as I taught analysts learning to run Analysis Team Meetings – and trust the process. I then teach them how to facilitate the analysis steps and the design steps – PACT processes – in such a way so as to anchor the design to performance – and to provide “as much flexibility as feasible” and “as much rigor as required.” And to have the Design Team assembled be the “owners” of the design – and not the designer.

The 7 Design Steps of CAD are framed in the following steps:

1- Establish the Path
Talk with the Design Team about T&D Paths – will there be one, two, seven different Paths? What does the Target Audience data suggest? How many definable populations in the Target Audience – where each might need a slight variation here and there to address the true differences in requirements, processes, environmental materials, tools that exist; or varied/flexible to account for the incoming knowledge/skill profiles being hired.

What does the front end look like?

I suggest that we think Modular…and initially see the T&D Path as having three segments: Beginning – Middle – End. As a device for sorting our analysis data. I ask them to trust me, trust the process.

And then we start discussing the Beginning of the Beginning of the Path – that will have content that orients one to the entire Enterprise, and then it’s sub-component organizational entities – be they Divisions, Business Units, Segments, etc., answering:

  • What are they, what products/services do they render and to/for which customers? Who are our customers’ customers and what are their requirements? Who are our competitors? What are our processes, locations, partners/value chain members? Who are all the other stakeholders beside our customers? And other “typical” Company Orientation content.

Then the “B of the B” continues orientating the learner/Performer to the function (Sales, HR, Finance, etc.) that they work in (and “for” and “with” too — depending on the sophistication/richness of the T&D Path’s content). Then the Path’s content orients the learner/Performer to their own job and it’s processes, it’s AoPs and the high level output/tasks of each AoP.

In the Middle of the Beginning I see deeper orientations to the specifics of “My Job”, those “advanced organizers” that I have reflect the AoPs (Areas of Performance) structure – because IF it worked as an organizing framework for the analysis data gathering and review efforts – it should work to organize the content – both Instructional and Informational – need to enable Performance Competence development – as framed by the analysis’ framework of AoPs.

Then in the End of the Beginning of the T&D Path I tell them, I see all of the Immediate Survival knowledge and skills being addressed – addressed to the “how to” level. Deployed in a blended manner.

And here in “establishing the T&D Path” with the Design Team, is where I introduce the first decision point for them – a decision that they make later – this is just their Advanced Organizer for that later step – that they will have to decide what content goes before the “End of the Beginning ends” and where the T&D Path “Beginning of the Middle begins.”

In other words, what are the “lines of demarcation” of the Path’s Beginning, Middle and End? And what time frames do they represent? We may guess right now – but as we shape the T&D Path with content and decide how to deploy the content we’ll see how our guesses at timing of the progress a learner/Performer and how long it might actually take – might change once we see what is truly practical/realistic?

I am not afraid to talk “ahead of ourselves” with the Design Team – so that they see how we’re going to approach this task, the design of a performance-based T&D Path – in logical steps – so that they see that there is a process (a method to the madness). I talk our way through the 7 steps and bring up what we as a team will be doing…and what I the designer will be doing as a both a Facilitator and as an Instructional Designer – and what they as a Design Team will be doing as the “facilitated.”

I tell them we are going to sort all of the analysis data “that you generated in the Analysis Team meeting” – sort the Outputs/Tasks and then sort all of those enabling knowledge/skill items – all (tell them the number of enabling K/Ss from the analysis effort here), as well as the assessment data for Existing T&D that we might use “as is” as well as ‘after modification.”

Then I ask them how that modular front-end (the beginning/ middle/ end of the Beginning) of the T&D Path accommodates the sub-types in the Target Audience. We review the TAD (Target Audience Data) together. I talk about the flexibility requirements of the “front-end” of a T&D Path. So – if “new target audience” members come from inside the Enterprise – they should be able to skip content and target new content unique to their incoming K/Ss (Knowledge/Skills).

We need to create a design of information and instruction that is “robust” to all of the variants – to work within all of the constraints and meet the requirements – which should be to assist all motivated learner/Performers in becoming Performance Competent. Performance Competent = ability to perform tasks to produce outputs to stakeholder requirements.

I get large flip chart paper and lay that out on a long conference table and mark off the Beginning and the Middle and the End on the T&D Path – which is now three or more flip chart pages taped one-to-another, end-to-end on the table. And I mark off the Beginning/Middle/End of the Path’s Beginning – to remind them of what we’ve discussed will go into each of those sub-segments of the T&D Path. To make this much more visual for them.

Then we discuss what is safe to assume and what is not safe to assume about the Target Audience. I usually let them talk this out until they are off topic. Once we have gotten a pretty shared understanding of the target audience or audiences by discussing what was captured during the analysis phase about them in the Target Audience Data, we can begin to process our other types of analysis data.

2- Sort the AoP Data
This is where the “Output/Tasks/Roles&Responsibility/Gap Analysis Data” gets sorted, gets processed.

This analysis data – the “Output/Task Cluster” as I typically refer to the whole data-set – gets sorted into the End of the Beginning of the T&D Path, or into the Middle of the Path, or into the End of the Path. I had the analysis data printed off into what I call AoP Slip Sheets: which contain a “row” off of the Performance Model charts. It is these Slip Sheets, usually a 1/4 to a 1/2 page (but sometimes a whole page).

These different sized pages make the design process very visual, we can see the tasks of the job being taught in some logical order – as they are placed on the tabletop T&D Path marked B-M-E.. The placement logic comes from the Design Team – and the designer, who through control of the process can help the Design Team be more efficient with their time.

Once all AoP Slip Sheets are initially sorted they are reviewed for sequencing needs or clustering into little menus on the path – all temporary! – I remind the Design Team members.

We have a lot more data to process.

But here I ask the first “acid test” question for them. As I try to close out this step with them…

IF we taught the learner/Performer population “how to” do all of these Output/Task clusters of data – would we be finished with the T&D Path?

Does this “T&D Path” now anchor us into the real world’s performance expectations? All of the expectations? Covering the total “job?” If not, then what are we missing – or is “it” a sub topic/task detail still in the AoP content that has been spread across the table, on the B-M-E segments of our evolving T&D Path?

3- Sort the ETA Data
I then walk over to the wall where I had posted the 7 steps (with check boxes as the bullets) and check off 1 and 2. I read off the 3rd step and then walk back to my assembled team and explain that this is where we accommodate all of the existing content that we uncovered and rationalize its use in the T&D Path that we are framing.

Each T&D Event (course, module, workshop. session – at the administrative level/tracking level) is represented on a T&D Definition Sheet when we intend to use it as is. Or the data comes to us on a T&D Source Sheet when we intend to use it after modification. It is these two types of “sheets” that is sorted.

T&D Definition Sheets, often printed on dark gold paper regular size (for the US that is 8.5 x 11 inch paper), are going to exist on the T&D Path as one of its Events. T&D Source Slip Sheets, often printed on 1/2 pages, are going to end up inside the definition of a Module – later after step 5.

So we talk our way through each T&D Definition and place it on the Path relative to all of the AoP Slip Sheets already there. If the content of that T&D Definition “enables” some task-set (on an AoP Slip Sheet) it must go in front of that AoP-Task-set. If it enables more than one AoP-Task-set then the T&D Definition Sheet must go in front of them all. It might push that T&D Definition into the Survival Skills segment of the Path (the end of the beginning of the T&D Path). If so – so be it!

4- Sort the EK/S Data
Next the Design Team must do the sometimes tedious task of sorting through huge numbers of Enabling K/S Slip Sheets. Maybe it’s always tedious.

The K/S Slip Sheets are 1/2 to 1/4 size pages, and includes only “one K/S Item” – identifies its K/S Category and other analysis data from the K/S Matrices – finally – which AoP’s the K/S Item enables. This last pice of information is critical – in that it guides the sorting on this data onto the T&D Path.

One by one, each K/S Slip Sheet is reviewed for its content, the category, the item, its criticality, difficulty to learn, volatility and depth (from the K/S Matrices data) and lastly – which AoPs this item enables.

Then the Path must be reviewed to find the earliest instance of an enabled AoP – for this K/S Slip Sheet must be placed in front of that first AoP. AoPs are no longer in their original sequence (from the analysis efforts). They are placed “however” on the Path – “however” with a logic. And – they are broken out further into Output/Task Clusters. But still the AoP Slip Sheets are identified by their AoP – so that is used to place each K/S Slip Sheet.

Once that is done, often for 400 to 1200 discreet K/S Items, the table top with the flip chart pages representing the T&D Path might include sequenced AoP Slip Sheets in one color, T&D Definitions Sheets in another color, T&D Sources Slip Sheets in another color, and K/S Slip Sheets on white paper (due to their number). By this time, in my experience, the members of the Design Team really know where the AoP data is, where the Existing T&D is going to be, and where all of the K/S items will be learned.

Time for another “acid test” to be administered: “Given what we as a Design Team have accomplished – are there any weak or missing areas from your perspectives? I ask the assembled.” We talk that out and make new slip sheets or full size sheets and retro-fit new data onto the path, trying to get “it” identified and placed (sequence-wise).

I let the team really talk this out – get into all of the details, add words to the printed out forms and formats we are using. I need to get them comfortable that we’ve got a very complete set of data that truly cover the job requirements of our target audiences. And the next steps are going to bury all of this rich data into the layers of the CAD design.

5- Modularize the Data
Now it is time to define the Modules of our modular design. Module is a term that means chunk. Segment. Component. I appreciate that for many it has a very precise meaning -most likely different from how I use it. The term “Module” in PACT occurs only in the CAD level of design and it is a temporary design “devise” – later in PACT, in two other design levels – MCD and IAD – those “Modules” of a CAD become “Lessons.”

But for now in CAD, Modules are the Chapters and the Event is a Book.

Starting at the very beginning of the Path, the first Slip Sheet is taken up and stapled (or “paper clipped”) to a blank Module Specification (Mod Spec) that is white in color. Now the task is to see if any of the other nearby Slip Sheet should go into this first Module with that first Slip Sheet. We try to accumulate appropriate content into Modules, using “Rules/Guidelines of Modularity” that we share with the Design Team so that they can play appropriately.

If a Slip Sheet does not go into an existing Mod Spec, then a new Mod Spec must be created to “house” that latest Slip Sheet. This is a tedious process as well. When done the table top T&D Path should be covered in white Mod Specs and golden T&D Definitions. Check the sequence logic of the Modules as you do the next step.

6- Eventize the Modules
This is the final packaging step of CAD Design. All those Modules (think: Chapters) on the Path need to be put into Events (think: Books). Starting at the beginning o the Path the Modules are processed to go into a T&D Event – using yellow T&D Event Specification blank templates. A Module either goes into the first – and later into any existing T&D Event – or it starts a new one.

Modules are stapled or clipped to the Event Spec and placed back onto the T&D Path in an appropriate sequence. When done the table top version of the T&D Path is covered in gold pages for the existing T&D (T&D Definitions) that is going to be used “as is” – or it is in yellow pages for the T&D Events, the gaps in the current curriculum offerings for the Target Audience or Audiences.

7- Clean-Up and Finalize the Path
This final step of the design process addresses naming (using naming conventions) Modules and Events, estimating the deployment modes and lengths of the content of this modular design. This step is also where the Path segments might be adjusted/changed as needed: where the 3 segments of “Beginning – Middle – End” used as an initial sorting framework – might become 4 to 8 to 12 stages/phases/blocks (my clients over the years had some interesting labels for the T&D Path’s segments). We re-estimate the cycle times, We re-evaluate the sequence of Events.

We go up and down the Path and make sure that we have a consensus from the Design Team on all of the data.

CAD Path Supervisors.jpg

Some T&D Paths look more like a Menu than a Path…

CAD Path Prod Mgrs

After closing out the 7th step I like to debrief the entire Design Team.

1- I ask them to take a piece of paper and write down two numbers: the % of “everything under the sun” that we captured in our design – and the % of all critical items did we capture in our design? I collect those and board them on a flip chart easel. Someone does the math and we determine the average for each category.

Then, one at a time, and in order, I continue…

2- I ask them for their comments about the product we produced.

3- I ask them for their comments about the process we employed.

4- I ask them for their comments about any issues that they see for us going forward.

I capture all of their comments on flip chart pages at the front of the room. We thank them for their time and participation and send them on their way. We then begin the final room clean up step before ourselves heading out.

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