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Building a Curriculum Inventory: Documenting Time

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Documenting scheduled and unscheduled content

The CI’s content is primarily sourced from data typically found in a content management system (CMS) or a learning management system (LMS), which often includes student calendaring and scheduling features. The details from the calendar can then feed into the CI, bringing details about learning events such as the amount of time spent, the instructional methods, the learning objectives, and more. 

CI data may also come from a system that does not include student calendaring features, but in either case, a large amount of CI data is tied to events, whether for learning, assessment, or both.

For events which have a date and time, including them in the CI is straightforward – scheduled lectures, workshops, simulations, etc. have a date, start time, and end time. However, there may be curriculum content which is not so neatly scheduled and documenting unscheduled content in your CI is challenging. It is recommended that your school adopt a consistent approach to capture not only the scheduled, but also the unscheduled curriculum content. Below are a few scenarios to consider. 

Task #1

Identify which portions of your curriculum may be unscheduled and not visible on a student calendar and may need a special approach to be included in your CI.

Studying and other pre/post activity work

One common example of protected study time is that which is prior to high-stakes assessments, including concentrated time to prepare for licensing exams, and these may be more straightforward to include in your CI if they have set dates and times.

Another example is the studying during ‘off’ hours students are often responsible for. It may be studying assigned to the students as part of the curriculum. For example, there are some instructional methods which necessitate students to study on their own and prepare for an upcoming teaching event or assignment. Perhaps the students are participating in a problem-based learning (PBL) activity and need to do some research to prepare for a patient case discussion. Or, perhaps the school is implementing a flipped classroom model to their instruction and has assigned some ‘pre-work’ as independent learning before the classroom activities.

Are these types of activities required or optional? Are they scheduled on the student calendar? If so, how do you consistently determine how much time to assign? Is it based on the average amount of time students need to complete the independent learning assignment or some other threshold? If they are not calendared, why not? If the answer to this question is, “Because there is no room on the calendar,” it may prompt your school to consider whether the amount of required content planned for the students, including scheduled and unscheduled curriculum activities, is feasible. 

Join the Curriculum Community to continue the conversations around determining and documenting study time and other unscheduled events.

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The advantages to calendaring curriculum activities like those described above are that (1) They will be easier to pull into your CI, thus giving you a more complete picture of your curriculum, and (2) The amount of curriculum required for the students will be visible, and thus easier to manage.

Task #2

Determine your school’s approach to documenting study time in your CI.

Clinical learning

Again, some clinical learning activities are scheduled, and thus may be more straightforward to bring into your CI. However, many clinical learning experiences are unscheduled. Let’s consider the following example:

Perhaps in an obstetrics and gynecology (OBGYN) clerkship, there are a series of learning objectives and clinical cases that students complete during a six-week rotation. Students within the cohort may have different schedules and different learning experiences on any given day. Ultimately, each student meets the clerkship requirements by the end of the rotation. 

There is more than one “right” way to represent this curriculum in your CI. One approach is to group clinical learning time according to how many total hours students have spent in clinical time during a given week (e.g., 60 hours), so that the clinical time in the clerkship overall is approximate to the average student experience. 

Access more school-specific examples from the Building Better Curriculum webinar series

Solving this issue is an opportunity to bring the content experts, in this example, clerkship directors, into the curriculum mapping process so that they can advise the appropriate amounts of time spent in unscheduled clinical learning. Keep in mind that it is important to choose a system you can implement consistently across clinical content and courses so that clinical learning is represented accurately in your CI.

Task #3 

Determine your school’s approach to documenting clinical unscheduled time in your CI.

Other unscheduled curriculum

Beyond pre- and post-activity study, and clinical learning, there may be other scenarios for unscheduled curriculum activity. For example, perhaps the students are assigned a term paper that they work on throughout a months-long course. How will this be represented in your CI?

Perhaps for these kinds of assignments, you enter it in your CI with the assignment due date, or the date it was assigned, and the approximate number of hours. Or you could estimate a certain number of hours per week that students will spend on the paper. 

What other kinds of unscheduled curriculum activities need to be included in your CI? One of the choices in the CI Standardized Vocabulary list of instructional methods is “Independent Study,” which may be helpful for documenting protected study time. It will be helpful to have a consistent approach with documenting unscheduled activities across your curriculum and courses.

Task #4:

Identify any remaining areas of your curriculum which are unscheduled and determine your school’s approach to documenting these in your CI.

Beginning details for events

Now that you have an understanding of the many kinds of unscheduled curriculum that you may need to consider ahead of time, you can make a list of the events and unscheduled curriculum to include in your CI. You can refer to the list of courses, modules, and threads/themes you created in Chapter 4: Determining your CI Organizational Strategy. For each of these, your list of events and unscheduled curriculum will need to include:

  • Title 
  • Date
  • Start and end time
  • Duration (hours, minutes)
  • The course, module, thread, or theme to which the event should be linked. (Again, in the CI technical standards, these organizational buckets are referred to as ‘sequence blocks’.)


Task #5

Document the title, date, start and end times, duration, and course/module link for each event you are including in your CI.

The goal of the CI is to create a CI that represents the curriculum for a hypothetical, typical student. It may be that a single event is listed in your CI more than once if it is experienced more than once for a given student. 

For example, perhaps there is an event around “family discussions in the PICU”, where students attend the experience once while on the pediatrics clerkship, and a second time while on the OBGYN clerkship. Perhaps the students’ learning objectives are tailored to shift focus between the child and parent, depending on which clerkship they are currently attending. In this hypothetical scenario, the same event title may be in your CI twice because an individual, hypothetical student experiences the same event more than once, each with a distinct purpose.

Task #6

Confirm that any events listed more than once in your CI are unique and meant to be experienced more than once by the typical, hypothetical student. Remove any accidental duplicates.

Further details regarding events will be coming in later chapters in this guidebook, so finalizing the list of both scheduled and unscheduled learning to include in your CI now will set you up for success in the upcoming work.

Chapter 7 key questions

  1. What unscheduled learning occurs in your curriculum, such as clinical or independent study time? What approach will your school use to document your unscheduled curriculum? How will you ensure your approach is applied consistently across courses and content?
  2. List your scheduled and unscheduled events and curriculum to include in your CI for each course/module you identified in chapter 4, along with Title, Date, Start and end time, Duration (hours, minutes), and The course, module, thread, or theme that the event should be linked up to.
  3. Are there any accidental duplicate events in our CI list? Are all the events listed more than once in our CI truly experienced more than once by a given, typical hypothetical student?

Additional resources

Log in to the Curriculum Community for additional resources, peer-to-peer conversations, and get your questions answered.

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Access past chapters of the Building a Curriculum Inventory Guidebook

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