Developing CAT 1.0


By Carolyn Hoessler

When I first arrived at the GMCTE one of the first curriculum development projects I got involved in was the curriculum inventory tool. Initially called Currimap, it was in its initial feedback and trial stages and still growing: over the next few months, feedback from colleagues and faculty led to additional capabilities, refinements and flexibility being built into the code by our programmer. This fall we were pleased to launch our Curriculum Alignment Tool (CAT) 1.0. CAT is now an open-source resource available for those on our campus, and also with the code available for other institutions.
Throughout CAT’s development we have strived to balance (1) a straightforward interface and complex data management, (2) flexibility of input and complexity of analysis, and (3) functionality and protection of programs’ data. Our journey in creating CAT involved deep consideration of the purpose of CAT 1.0, based on the goals of programs we work with and our own knowledge as educational developers.

Balanced Rocks
Our goal was to create a straightforward system for describing courses, linking between components of each course’s design such as outcomes and assessments, and then connecting these courses together for a bigger picture of a program. By highlighting the features of courses, we intend to provide food for thought, reflection and consideration so instructors and program curriculum leaders can continue learning about what and how they are teaching.  Such data provides one piece within a broader data set for programs conducting an inventory as part of curriculum renewal (see Susan & Sheryl’s dynamic video or diagram about the cycle).

The challenge was to balance flexibility of input and complexity of analysis when deciding what components will be open for instructors and program administrators to change and what lists and layouts will be standardized.  The decision is similar to survey design where open-ended questions provide new insights but also require in-depth coding or narrative analysis, while closed-ended choices are quicker to summarize. We chose to provide some fixed lists along with areas for comments, with selections based on extensive feedback.

When data is being collected there is always the question of who has access and what the data will be used for. Developing CAT involved discussing and drafting a statement of data use and access to clearly outline what we will and will not do with the data. All data collected via CAT is for the use of the specific academic department or college who is asking their instructors to enter information. For functionality of CAT, data within a course or  program are used to populate lists for linking information previously entered such as assessments or outcomes. As educational developers we also have access to answer questions, select options or otherwise assist programs. When sharing information about CAT, we will be only able to share aggregated data, our fictional demo program, or any programs that volunteer. Full details of the use and access policy are in the guide

For more information and resources about CAT visit

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