Using Mind Maps to Develop Your Curriculum

Justine Ickes
Nov 5, 2014 8:18:00 AM

Creating an online school can be a real trip. When you’re deep into the course design journey, moments of inspiration often hit you when you least expect them. On the best days it’s smooth sailing. You’re riding high on a wave of ideas and you can hardly keep track of them all.


Notes scribbled on a napkin. A flipchart full of free associations. Even a couple of words pecked out on your smartphone. Any surface will do when you’re in the e-learning design zone.


Other days, your ship runs aground and you find yourself casting about for ways to make your consumer learning course fun, engaging, and educational. Whether this is your first time navigating online learning, or you’re a seasoned course designer, you’ll need tools to help you stay on course. How? With mind maps, flowcharts, and other visual tools.


Mind mapping is an e-learning course designer’s best friend

Whether you’re a visual person who’s happiest working with images or a text-happy instructional designer who loves the written word, take advantage of interactive tools to help you brainstorm your core content, organize learning activities, and fine-tune your course objectives. With the advent of interactive, user-friendly software, it’s never been easier to map out a course outline.


Here are three free or low-cost tools that’ll keep you afloat, whether you’re working solo, or co-creating a course with a virtual team: 

  • Padlet has an easy drag and drop interface. Simply type in your ideas and then group them into topic areas. You can choose between two layout styles – free form for people who like to color outside the lines and streams for more linear thinkers. Are you working with a colleague to create a curriculum outline? With Padlet you can invite co-designers to collaborate instantly. Is your design still in the draft stage? Padlet will let keep your settings private until your design is ready for prime-time.
  • With LucidChart flowchart software you can create diagrams that communicate your ideas visually. Collaborate with your design team or share your draft outlines. Real-time chats let you give and get feedback on your course-in-progress. Want to talk through your ideas? LucidChart integrates with Google Hangouts so you can share screens, and see and hear your colleagues while you edit your curriculum map.
  • Coggle is another free mind map tool. With the software’s color wheel you can group different topics and identify core content and supplementary information by color. Want to go back to an earlier version of your course design? Like LucidChart, Coggle keeps a record of all your revisions.

Don’t see a tool here that matches your curriculum design style? Check out this list of free sticky-note tools or search for “free mind mapping tools” on Pinterest.


The next time you set sail with a new e-learning program, remember to pack the right tools. Use mind maps, flowcharts and other visual software to help you and your learners reach your destination.

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