Dr. Barbara Martin — Lead Author
Educational Consultant, Former Professor

Download PDF of Best Practices #2: Curriculum & Program Development


Solar education programs have existed for more than three decades. Three of the earliest and most notable programs were developed by ARCO Solar (a PV module manufacturer), the Florida Solar Energy Center (FSEC, a university-based research, testing and education institution), and Solar Energy International (SEI, a private training organization).

These organizations independently developed education and training programs based on their assessment of constituent needs. The primary target audience for all three was the solar industry. However, the duration of training, technical content, and focus on specific solar occupations varied.

In 2002, the first national job task analysis (JTA) was prepared by industry experts and professionals for photovoltaic (PV) system installers. Originally, this JTA was to be a framework for a national certification examination. However, it has also been used as a guide for the development of PV installer curricula and programs. The North American Board of Certified Energy Practitioners’ (NABCEP) PV System Installer JTA has been updated several times since 2002. Other NABCEP JTAs have been produced for jobs in solar thermal, PV technical sales, and small wind.

This paper gives a brief overview of the curriculum development process—with special attention to DACUM (Developing A CurriculUM) methodology and JTA. We have used the terms curriculum and program interchangeably because we are discussing the process of development rather than a specific set of courses that might constitute a particular curriculum or program.

Typically, an instructional program is a set of structured learning experiences used to teach a particular subject that is offered by an educational institution or recognized educational provider. It can, but does not have to, lead to a formal degree or formal award such as a certification. A curriculum is a set of courses or a plan for a particular area of study that may or may not be linked to a particular provider and may or may not lead to a formal award. The process of course development is addressed in a separate section.


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