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How to Map Your Curriculum to Durable Skills

We find skills and curriculum mapping fascinating, and after our dive into the basics of skills mapping and a conversation with an excited group of skills mappers, it’s clear that you do, too. In “Future Proof,” the Lab covers everything you need to build your curriculum for the future, tackling big concepts, key drivers in the space, and the tools and resources needed for you to get it done. 

21st century skills — otherwise known as soft skills, durable skills, human skills, or mobility skills — are the future of work. The last time we dove into skills mapping, we aimed to help our partners better understand it as a key tool for designing educational programs that better equip learners for the needs of an evolving workforce. Lab partners IBM and Goodwill, for example, have begun using skills maps to build their own internal curriculum for employees to further their skill sets. Nimble universities are using skills maps to reassess their educational offerings and rebuild from scratch (read: WGU Skill Mapping Approach).


So, what do you do if you’re not able to quickly and drastically redesign your curriculum to meet employer’s skill needs? 

Meet 21st century skills curriculum mapping. While skills mapping uses the skills the employment sector is seeking to develop curriculum, curriculum mapping allows faculty, staff, and administrators to use their existing curriculum as a foundation to tag 21st century and other in-demand technical skills. As a result, campuses are better able to equip learners with an identifiable skill set.

Skills mapping uses employer-driven skills as a foundation for building educational programs, while 21st century skills curriculum mapping uses a campus’ existing program to identify where top 21st century skills are already being taught.



What’s a 21st century skills curriculum map?

A traditional curriculum map illustrates how a program’s courses and requirements introduce and reinforce student learning outcomes. A 21st century skills curriculum map is a map or grid that identifies which foundational 21st century skills a learner must develop by the end of their program and where those skills are embedded. This often requires a translation of learning outcomes to skills and competencies (emphasize: skills should be employer driven).


What’s an example of a 21st century skills curriculum map?

A 21st century skills curriculum map for any institution might start with both cataloguing the course work and requirements for one undergraduate major and acquiring a list of foundational employer-needed skills (think: a skills map or the Lab’s T-Profile). 21st century skills curriculum maps may also address a singular course. Working with both sources of data, institutions would cross-walk them: Where am I already teaching 21st century skills? Where could I better embed these skills into my course or program?


How are colleges and universities using 21st century skills curriculum maps?

Palo Alto College in San Antonio, Texas, is offering the Lab’s Collaboration micro-credential as part of their Advanced Manufacturing Certificate, a program that is intentionally seeking to develop collaborative learners. After working together to outline a 21st century skills curriculum map, Palo Alto and the Lab identified a single course (BMGT301 Supervision, as seen below) in the certificate  as the clearest hub for Collaboration. Using their map, Palo Alto was able to elevate the existing course content to make the competencies behind Collaboration more transparent.


An example of a 21st century skills curriculum map: Palo Alto College mapped their Supervision (BMGT 1301) course to the competencies that make up the Lab’s Collaboration Badge, identifying clear gaps and areas to strengthen.


How can I get started on my campus?

Download the Lab’s prototype 21st century skills curriculum mapping tool to start identifying employer-driven skills in your program. We first tested this early revision with a group of faculty at the Summer Academy for Adult Learning & Teaching (SAALT) for the University of Maine System last week and are working on a higher fidelity interactive prototype that will allow you to map and track the development of these skills throughout your program. 

Apart from the Lab’s work, other players in the space are developing curriculum mapping tools to illuminate gaps and show you what you’ve got. Coursetune is a digital platform that allows you to map skills across an entire program. Another, eLumen, helps manage your curriculum mapping process, even allowing you to sync with third-party skill libraries for a more seamless skill tagging experience. 


Interested in giving the Lab’s 21st century skills curriculum mapping tool a try? Let us know what you think and how we can build a better version 2.0 by emailing our team at

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