Building Bridges

How Many “Two by Fours” Does Your Curriculum Use?

By Kathy Harvey-Ellis

For my day job, I work in marketing, for EnVision and another company. After this winter, however, I also feel like I work in home improvement – of our own home. I am my own general contractor. From the repair of a supporting beam in our garage, to minor water damage in our house, to our nascent attempts to renovate our long-suffering kitchen, the projects have taken center stage in my life.

I call contractors. I talk with them, and I make notes. I hire people. They bring materials, and begin to work. While I know generally what they will do, I don’t always know their project plan or understand specifically how it will address what I need done. After they leave, I carefully examine the finished work, trying to evaluate its success without knowing exactly what I’m looking for. Have they consulted the most knowledgeable people on their staff? Have they used quality materials? Really, I’m just hoping for the best.

If only I had a construction plan, a blueprint. Then, I would know what they are preparing to do, and if their plans match what I need done.

For a successful “construction job” or learning solution, instructional designers need a curriculum blueprint, too. Their blueprint, a design document, guides the team to a solution leading to improved performance.

The curriculum blueprint will tell the reader the Who, What, and When of the learning plan. Let’s start with Who.


My garage repair project involves a project manager, structural engineer, construction foreman, and construction workers, each with specific and different responsibilities. Similarly, the curriculum plan describes who has responsibilities in creating and executing the learning design, and what exactly their tasks are. These people include the instructional designer, subject matter expert (SME), project manager, reviewer, and more.

Early on, the document also describes the “homeowner” or target audience– the learners. What are their roles within the company, and what is their experience level? Which factors motivate them to perform well, and which approaches to learning do they prefer? This information helps lead the design team to choose certain modalities and activities to “construct” the curriculum.


Like a construction project’s scope of work, the “what” portion of the curriculum blueprint tells the team all of the work that needs to be done to ensure the learners are taught effectively.

The blueprint document addresses the blend of learning modalities that the curriculum includes, whether those be elearning or classroom training (in-person or virtual), on-the-job training or hands-on lab time. The evaluation strategy may be described here as well.

Once the learning blend is established, the blueprint will incorporate the curriculum development, including a list of the physical deliverables generated. Slides, instructor notes, and learning manuals all fall under this category.

While these components are critical pieces of information in the blueprint, the bulk of the document is an outline of the curriculum’s modules, comprising the topics, delivery modalities, and learning activities that support the learning objectives.


The outline includes estimated learner time for each topic, allowing the team to plan for delivery of the training. The blueprint also spells out the order of the modules and any prerequisites.

The curriculum blueprint provides an organization with a logical framework to construct a learning solution. Similar to how a construction company supplies a scope of work and builds a structure, such as a garage, the curriculum blueprint designs and frames a training program. “A curriculum blueprint provides a clear overview of what will be included in the training, how the training will flow, and in what manner the training will be delivered,” explained Irene Stern Frielich, EnVision’s President. “Having a roadmap helps guide the developer, though she may decide to make a different design decision as new options arise during the development phase.”