A Case for Centralized Curriculum
Since its inception in 1976, University of Phoenix has practiced a centralized curriculum for creating and teaching courses. This means that every faculty member who instructs a course does not create the syllabus for the course, choose the textbook or decide the learning objectives. While this may seem constricting, it is the opposite.
I have been teaching at University of Phoenix for about 20 years and started teaching online for the University in 1995. I have also taught courses at other universities and “traditional” colleges where there is no centralized curriculum format.
By utilizing a centralized curriculum, University of Phoenix provides its instructors with the ability to focus on the education part of teaching and not the preparation. Instead of writing a syllabus or sifting through multiple textbooks to find the right one that supports the learning objectives of the course, instructors can concentrate on incorporating real-world elements into the students’ educational experience. This helps students learn how the theories learned from textbooks can be applied to their professional lives and industries.
Many academic leaders who are against centralized curriculum criticize it as being a “cookie cutter” method of education. University of Phoenix classes are not cookie cutter but rather follow a framework, which is strong model because it creates consistency. Hundreds of thousands of students at University of Phoenix have all taken the same class and learned the same set of objectives, all from thousands of different faculty members.
Some schools offer a different experience. Two students could take the same course taught by two different instructors. At the end of the courses, the two students may have learned different material. On the contrary, the centralized curriculum at University of Phoenix ensures quality, consistency, and measurable outcomes.
Additionally, instructors at University of Phoenix have the freedom to add, remove or shift around assignments, case studies and more from the syllabus if they feel it will help students with the core objectives of the course. Basically, the centralized curriculum at University of Phoenix is an outline that provides the what of the course; the how remains up to the instructor.
This way, instructors may not be experts in designing courses, but they are experts in the fields they teach, allowing them to put their own stamp on each course they teach.
At other colleges, the instructor must create a course around a three-sentence course description. If, for example, a school without a centralized curriculum asked me to teach a course three days before the start date, I wouldn’t be able to do it because I know I wouldn’t have enough time to prepare for the course.
It should also be noted that these courses are not created by a nameless, faceless entity. The curriculum development team at University of Phoenix, inclusive of our academic Deans, frequently seeks faculty input. After a year of teaching a new Psychology course, I was asked to provide feedback on what I liked, what I disliked and my recommendations for improvements.
This centralized curriculum is also a benefit to our students. In many ways, University of Phoenix students are more serious than your average college student. Many University of Phoenix students are older. Their parents are not paying their tuition and most of them have a full-time job and the responsibilities that come with being an adult. A centralized curriculum helps them focus on their education and ensures that there is a consistent delivery method to each of their courses. Students may consistently know and expect what learning objectives they will be expected to meet. It is also helpful because students know how the syllabus for their next class will be formatted.
This article originally appeared in the Chronicle of Higher Education, UOPX Campus Viewpoints section. To review our current faculty articles, visit: https://chronicle.com/campusViewpoint/University-of-Phoenix/29/.