Principles and Processes



Five principles guide Curriculum Development at United States University: 1) Faculty and Program Ownership, 2) Authenticity, 3) Rigor, 4) Student Learning and Success, and 5) Centrality of Assessment. 

1. Faculty and Program Ownership: USU supplies the infrastructure of cross-programmatic principles, processes, and support. The program faculty create and direct their curricula based upon their academic and professional preparation and experience and mutually agreed to in their particular curriculum committees. As such, program faculty "own" their courses, writing, recording, selecting content, deciding on assignments, as well as their expectations and parameters, and participating in the evaluation of the course and program data and the decisions that result therefrom. Program Directors are responsible for maintaining the program's vision, goals, and standards. 

2. Authenticity: In accordance with the USU mission to provide "professional and personal educational opportunities" that are "relevant and accessible," programs are expected to be authentic to their disciplines, especially regarding the daily working practices that graduates will encounter. 

3. Rigor: Each program is constructed based on Program Learning Outcomes (PLOs), written by the program director in concert with their Dean and academic leadership for guidance in an appropriate degree level utilizing Bloom's Taxonomy, authenticity to the discipline and the student population, and measurability. Course Learning Outcomes (CLOs) and assignments are written in alignment with the PLOs, to prepare students to achieve the appropriate learning outcomes for the degree level and discipline by graduation. Some programs may also use disciplinary standards or expectations to structure their curricula to the appropriate level. In addition, programs must demonstrate that their courses are designed for appropriate seat-time per credit hour awarded.

4. Student-Learning and Success: Faculty are expected to use their curriculum maps to plan and document course-by-course scaffolding at the program level. At its heart, the map represents where students are introduced to, develop, and master the skills defined by the PLOs. However, programs are encouraged to use their curriculum map to scaffold non-PLO skills or activities across the program (clinical preparation, a significant research project or portfolio, technology skills, etc.). 

Faculty are expected to design their courses with the online experience (student and faculty), online environment, and online pedagogical best practices in mind at the course level. Following the content, engagement should be a leading focus.  Expectations include clear and intelligible instructions, activities integrated into content, multiple opportunities for engagement between faculty-student, student-student, student-content, and learner-centered technologies that support either disciplinary/ professional expectations or the learning process itself. 

5. Centrality of Assessment: As a WSCUC institution, our programs and courses are also designed with assessment in mind. The PLO assessment results form the basis of further curriculum revision and redevelopment as part of a continuous improvement process. PLOs are to be concise and measurable, and CLOs are expected to be aligned to the PLOs as mapped across the program to demonstrate and support the scaffolding of skills. All assignments in a course should be aligned to at least one CLO, with specific assignments in each course identified as particularly suitable for direct assessment of the student's achievement of the aligned PLO's. All of this preparatory design work supports our continuous improvement efforts involving clarity of learning expectations, quality of the learning experience in support of those expectations, and inquiry into whether these efforts are successful, as demonstrated by student work. 


Several committees are involved with the curriculum at United States University, either directly or as part of review and improvement planning.

Curriculum Committees
Program or college faculty curriculum committees write, review and approve PLOs and agree to general programmatic guidelines and expectations for the program courses. After courses are developed, built, and implemented, curriculum committees review course-based and program-based data such as surveys, PLO assessment results, external board or licensing pass rates, as well as Key Performance Indicators (KPIs) such as persistence, retention, and graduation rates, to plan for the course and program improvements. 

Assessment Task Force
Working with the Institutional Assessment Task Force, program faculty are responsible for creating annual PLO assessment plans, organizing any additional scoring faculty, participating in the blind scoring, leading the discussion of results with their curriculum and faculty committees, and writing the annual report and improvement plan. They will also be responsible for following up on the annual improvement plans, ensuring that changes are implemented, tracked, and scheduled for re-review. (See PLO Assessment Handbook for additional details.)

Program Review (Program Teams and Program Review Committee)
Program Directors and their Program Review Teams are also responsible for the self-study and improvement plan required from the institutional Program Review cycle (a minimum of once every five years). Key elements of the program review include a description of the program and its structure, a discussion of its pedagogical approach, an analysis of course and program data, particularly its PLO assessment results plans resulting therefrom, and an evaluation of its effectiveness of those plans. The purpose of the program review is to evaluate the quality and viability of a program as a whole with continuous improvement in mind. 

Faculty also participate on a rotating basis in the Program Review Committee (PRC) as part of the peer-review process of other programs at the University. The PRC receives the self-studies, arranges external reviews with peers recommended by program faculty, and writes a Findings and Recommendations Report with finalized Improvement Plans (building on contributions from the Program Team and the Provost). The reports are shared both with the Programs and Executive Leadership as they agree to MOUs on any actions going forward that require institutional support. Final Program Review Reports and Improvement Plans are shared with the Faculty Senate. 

Course Documentation
To support the University's effective communication and transparency goals, the program major and course information are shared with the public and students in multiple venues.

Program Learning Outcomes are published on the university website, the University Catalog, and every Course Guide. PLOs also structure the program curriculum maps and any alignment documents maintained in support of disciplinary standards. 

Course Learning Outcomes are published in every Course Guide, related syllabus, and course shell in the LMS; they are also indicated in the program's curriculum map according to their alignments to PLOs. CLOs structure the course modules and are listed weekly in the Course Guides and course shells. 

Course Descriptions are published on the University website, the University Catalog, in every Course Guide, related syllabus, and course shell. They are available through the student portal when students register for classes. 

Course Revisions
A course revision may occur when any of the following take place: 

• Course is identified and scheduled for full revision by school (major revision) 
• Out of print textbook(s) (minor revision) 
• Technology change (minor or major revision) 
• School-wide innovation (minor or major revision) 
• Errors in the course (quick fix revision) 

Major course revisions are scheduled and initiated by the schools and involve a collaboration amongst SMEs, faculty, Program Directors, and instructional designers. Full course revisions adhere to USUs course development guidelines and follow an instructional design process documented in the handbook and require 50% or more of the content updated. . 

If upon review the school determines a course or specialization needs to be retired, the schools initiates the process to end date and retire the course(s). 

Development and Build Process 
The creation of courses at USU consists of two functions: development and building. Course development is a faculty-owned process. Course shell building and maintenance (in the LMS) is an administrative process.

Course Development Process
Program faculty (or at times, a contracted SME) work in a Course Guide template to develop course content. This includes almost all of the content of a course: written lectures or recorded videos, textbook reading information, linked readings, websites, or external video content, assignments in their various forms, instructions for external learning tools (math software, case study simulations, etc.), designed engagement opportunities, etc. The Course Guides also include sections for the designation of LMS settings (for uploadable assignments, quizzes, discussion forums, etc.). All academic decisions are made and recorded by the faculty in the Course Guides. Program faculty are also responsible for maintaining the document's institutional style to maintain consistency of student experience and efficiency of course building. 

Course Building Process
Instructional Designers/builders transfer the Course Guides' content into Master shells in the LMS. College leadership is responsible for high-level quality assurance of both the Course Guides and the Master Shells, primarily in maintaining the five principles listed above, the consistency of the student experience, and the clarity and consistency of this work's documentation.