Issues and Trends in Curriculum Design


The curriculum design process is based on the goals set by educators and trainers, and these goals often respond to the changes in the social and educational environments. Curriculum developers usually refer to the audience for which the curriculum is designed and settings in which it will be implemented (Conceicao, Colby, Juhlmann, & Johaningsmeir, 2011). While taking into account the field of the adult learning in the sphere of healthcare and nursing, it is important to discuss the general issues and trends associated with the curriculum design in the higher education. In spite of the fact that there are differences in designing the curricula for various disciplines and audiences, this paper discusses such issues influencing the process as the necessity to address diverse learners, the application of interactivity, and the lack of educators’ skills for working with technologies. The paper also reviews such trends that affect the curriculum design as the technology integration, the virtual education, and the experience-based learning while providing recommendations to address these issues and trends.

Issues in the Curriculum Design

The curriculum design can be discussed as a complex process, especially with references to the adult learning and lifelong learning principles that are actively adopted in the higher education. As the process is challenging, researchers and practitioners are inclined to determine such issues as the necessity of addressing the diverse needs of adult learners, as well as their learning styles; the necessity of focusing on the interactive strategies in curricula; and the necessity to improve the technical literacy of educators because of the focus on the technology integration (Curran, 2014; Ringsted, 2011). In spite of the promotion of the learner-centered education principles, the design of the curriculum according to these rules remains to be a challenge for educators who need to propose instructions appropriate for each learner and focus on their differences in the program (Graff, 2011; Ringsted, 2011). Another issue determined by researchers is the focus on using interactive approaches that are utilized today instead of traditional methods and strategies. More reliance on interactivity makes designers of curricula use their sophisticated skills in order to develop a program that can address the current trends in the sphere of education and adult learning.

Still, the most important issue to discuss in relation to the curriculum planning is the integration of technologies. The problem is in the fact that many educators lack the necessary knowledge in technologies, or their technical literacy is rather low (Curran, 2014, p. 238; Graff, 2011). As a result, they need to develop their skills while proposing curricula with integrated technologies and improve the approaches to the implementation of the technology in the educational process effectively. Designers focus on investigating the technologies in the educational settings and the ways of implementing them in curricula to achieve the educational goals and address the trends in the society (Curran, 2014). Educators and program planners work to address these issues in the curriculum design.

The social and educational settings are constantly changing while making curricula planners adapt their programs to the current trends in order to guarantee the efficient education. Researchers determine such trends in the area of the curriculum design in adult learning as the focus on the individualization, the active involvement of technologies and the Internet in the process of teaching and learning; the virtual education; the choice of interdisciplinary approaches; and the experience-based learning (Curran, 2014; Graff, 2011; Ringsted, 2011). According to Ringsted (2011), the modern educational strategies become more individualized, and a learner is perceived as the center of the educational process. As a result, the individualization as the feature of the current education should also be addressed in the curriculum development process because designers work to provide more individually meaningful assignments and tasks.

One of the most recognizable and discussed trends is the technology implementation in all aspects of education and learning. While developing curricula for contemporary courses and training sessions for young people, designers plan the online activities, the online access to the reading materials, simulations, and the work with video and audio materials among other methods and instructions (Curran, 2014). The active spread of the Internet and online communication also influences the sphere of the higher and professional education. Therefore, the task of curriculum designers is to choose the most effective strategies in order to integrate technologies in the learning and training processes. The virtual education is one more trend associated with the active use of technologies (Conceicao et al., 2011; Curran, 2014). The online courses and sessions became the part of the adults’ education process when persons choose to participate in online courses and combine the learning with their work. The hybrid courses are also the result of the technology spread in the society. These curricula and programs require the special approach to their design and planning as the methods and strategies used in the virtual or distant learning differ from the traditional education approaches and instructions.

The other important trends include the interdisciplinary approach and the shift to the experience-based learning while working with adults. Researchers propose to make curricula more integrative in terms of developing the interdisciplinary connections (Conceicao et al., 2011). Although this approach is actively used in the curriculum planning in order to guarantee the focus on the general and wide education, it is possible to observe more interest in this approach today, especially referring to the adult learning (Conceicao et al., 2011). Another tendency is the focus on the experience-based learning to educate adults. The theory of experiential learning explains that adults gain the new knowledge and develop skills through the reflection on their previous experiences (Conceicao et al., 2011; Ringsted, 2011). While making conclusions about the past cases and situations, adults build the strategy to overcome the current issues. This theory should also be reflected in the modern curricula developed for adult learners in order to guarantee the provision of the program that addresses the needs of this category of learners.

The first issue to address in relation to curriculum design process is the necessity of responding to the diverse needs of learners. In order to overcome this issue, designers should pay more attention to planning activities that respond to the interests and needs of the diverse student or adult population. The curriculum should be diversified in order to be regarded as efficient in the context of the current trends. One more recommendation is related to integrating the interactive strategies in curricula. Interactivity remains to be the important feature of the modern curriculum and program, but educators experience problems while addressing it in their curricula. The designers should determine the most successful interactive components, instructions, and techniques that can be integrated into the curriculum to address the learners’ needs in the supported communication and interaction. The most challenging issue to address is the improvement of the technical literacy of educators, including designers and teachers (Curran, 2014). In order to guarantee that the technology is implemented effectively in programs and meet the course goals and objectives, curriculum designers should be trained on the subject of technology integration. It is important for planners to develop their skills in utilizing the technologies in programs for the purpose of improving the curriculum.

Recommendations regarding the application of trends in the process of curriculum development include the shift of the planners’ attention to the learner-centric models. In order to address the trend of focusing on the individualization in learning, it is necessary to propose activities and instructions that are aimed at developing the individual knowledge and skills of learners. This approach is most effective in working with adults, and the individual practices and tasks should be effectively combined with the teamwork and collaboration.

Such trend as the active use of technologies and the Internet in the learning process should not be ignored by the program and curriculum developers. Before starting the curriculum design, the planners should choose between the virtual or traditional course as the most effective ones to address the set goals. In many cases, the online program can be more effective for learners than the traditional one because of providing them with more flexibility in organizing their time and the learning process. Therefore, curriculum planners should use opportunities to integrate more online activities in their courses in order to make learners more engaged in the process.

The recommendations regarding the utilization of the interdisciplinary approach and the principles of the experience-based learning include several points. The first one is that curriculum designers should determine connections between courses and make them obvious in the curricula to involve students in developing skills in the analysis and synthesis of information and critical thinking skills. The other one is that curriculum designers should adopt the principles of the experience-based learning while developing the curriculum for adults. This approach includes the focus on practical tasks rather than theoretical discussions and lectures. The learning through the experience is more appropriate to refer to while planning the course for undergraduate students or adult learners.


The review of the research on issues and trends in the curriculum and program development indicates that the main issues that can influence the design of courses are usually associated with the lack of skills and experience observed in planners and educators. The problem is in the fact that educators often experience difficulties while addressing the current trends in the sphere of education. It is important for curriculum designers to pay more attention to developing the approaches to integrating technologies in the learning process, but they often face problems because of the lack of the focus and undeveloped skills in this area. In addition, more attention is paid to reconsidering the core of the learning process, and curriculum designers should address the strategies appropriate for the adult learning in their plans and programs in order to respond to changes in the society and the sphere of education.


Conceicao, S. C., Colby, H., Juhlmann, A., & Johaningsmeir, S. (2011). Curriculum design in health education. New Directions for Adult and Continuing Education, 2011(130), 17-27.

Curran, M. K. (2014). Examination of the teaching styles of nursing professional development specialists: Best practices in adult learning theory, curriculum development, and knowledge transfer. Journal of Continuing Education in Nursing, 45(5), 233-254.

Graff, N. (2011). An effective and agonizing way to learn: Backwards design and new teachers’ preparation for planning curriculum. Teacher Education Quarterly, 38(3), 151-168.

Ringsted, C. (2011). Developmental aspects of medical competency and training: Issues of curriculum design. Medical Education, 45(1), 12-16.

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