Course & Unit Design (HE)
Course design at CDU is undertaken within the framework of the Course Accreditation and Re-accreditation Process (CARP). CARP is managed by OLT's Accreditation and Quality Team and comprises two stages:
Stage I - Resource and Planning Approval where consideration is given to planning and resource issues associated with course accreditation and re-accreditation.
Stage II - Quality accreditation where consideration is given to quality assurance issues associated with course accreditation and re-accreditation.
The accreditation or reaccreditation of a course is overseen by a Course
Advisory Group (CAG) who review, evaluate, analyse and reflect
all elements of a course and contribute to the completion of CARP
documentation. Information about the composition, role and operation of
CAGs can be found on the stakeholder
arrangements webpage. Further information about CARP,
including electronic proforma documents, is available on the CARP webpage.
Once courses or units are approved, the unit lecturer/coordinator should contact OLT to advise of new external units and/or Learnline units (internal or external).
When the lecturer is at the stage of producing the learning materials, he/she should make contact with a member of the Academic Development Unit from OLT in order to discuss educational design and options (print, Learnline, web and multimedia) for the unit.
When planning and designing a higher education unit it is useful to consider the following:
- What do I want my students to learn and how can I express my goals/learning outcomes to them and make them clear to myself and my colleagues?
- How should I arrange teaching & learning so that students have the greatest chance of learning what I want them to learn – what are my teaching strategies?
- How can I find out whether they have learnt what I hoped they would learn – what will my assessment be?
- How can I estimate the effectiveness of my teaching and use the information I gather to improve it – how will I evaluate my teaching?
(Ramsden, Paul. 1992. Learning to teach in higher education. Routledge, London.)
The CDU unit information template then provides a clear statement that advises students on the unit outcomes, strategies and assessment as well as relevant policies and the resources and support available to them.
Learning outcomes are clear statements of the things students can
reasonably expect to know or be able to do by the end of a course or
unit. Learning outcomes are usually developed for both courses and
Course learning outcomes describe the overall skills and knowledge
students are expected to cumulatively attain by
the end of a course. Course learning outcomes may be taught and
assessed both directly and indirectly through
multiple activities across multiple units and contexts. They therefore
influence the overall learning and assessment strategies selected for a
An example of a learning outcome for a course in applied sciences may be:
Explain how the structure and function of body systems are altered by various diseases and conditions.
Unit learning outcomes are narrower than course learning outcomes
and set out the specific skills
and knowledge students are expected to be able to demonstrate by the
end of a particular unit. In a well designed unit there is a direct
relationship between the learning outcomes, the learning activities and
the unit assessment.
An example of a learning outcome for a particular unit within a course in applied sciences may be:
Explain how cells are injured by the aging process.
Writing learning outcomes
Writing learning outcomes involves a careful choice of words. Good learning outcomes should be SMART:
Specific, Measurable, Achievable, Realistic, Timeframed.
Before writing learning outcomes, consider the following questions:
1. What do you specifically want your students to be able to do or know when they have finished this course or unit?
2. How will you measure or assess whether your
students have achieved
3. Given your students' pre-existing knowledge and
skills, are these outcomes realistically achievable within the
timeframe of the course or unit?
4. What learning activities will help the students achieve these outcomes by the end of the course or unit?
Thinking about these questions will help you to create a clear
relationship between learning outcomes, learning activities and
assessment activities. This is known as curriculum alignment.
Learning outcomes are usually prefaced by the
completion of this unit the
student should be able to…
This is followed by a measurable or observable outcome, which
comprises two parts:
- an action verb that is measurable and assessable such as: analyse, apply, calculate, critique, demonstrate, describe, design, discuss, develop, evaluate, explain, perform, state, use, etc.
- the object or topic.
On completion of this unit the student should be able to describe the key elements of a supply chain for manufactured goods.
In choosing your action verb, think about how you are going to
assess the outcome and select a specific verb that will help rather
than hinder assessment. Avoid verbs such as 'understand'
'appreciate' or 'realise' as these are difficult to directly observe,
The following commonly used educational frameworks
may help you to select appropriate verbs according to the category of
learning you want your students to engage in:
1. Bloom's Taxonomy of educational objectives was developed in the 1950s is widely used by curriculum designers. It identifies three learning domains, each with sub-categories, and provides keywords that can be used when writing learning outcomes for each domain and sub-category. For a detailed description visit educator Don Clark's Big Dog and Little Dog website or download Bloom's taxonomy of educational objectives.pdfdeveloped by the University of Queensland.
2. John Biggs' SOLO taxonomy (structure of the observed learning outcome) provides a systematic way of characterising how learners' performance grows in complexity as they master new tasks. SOLO describes five levels of performance sophistication. When applied to learner responses to an assessment, the taxonomy can identify which level of performance the learner has achieved. For a detailed description download Biggs' structure of the observed learning outcome.pdf developed by the University of Queensland. A visual representation of the five levels can be found on educator James Atherton's LearningandTeaching website.
For examples of the difference between good course learning outcomes
and those in need of improvement, visit the University of
Educational Development Institute.
For further advice on writing unit learning outcomes, including how
link learning outcomes with learning and assessment activities,
download Learning outcomes.pdf developed by the University
Reference: Bloom, B. S. (1956) Taxonomy of Educational Objectives, Handbook I: The Cognitive Domain, New York: David McKay Co Inc.
CDU has a set of graduate attributes which academic programs will deliver. These attributes are also mapped to a national set of employability skills which will be incorporated in training packages (see topic: Planning for Delivery, VET).
Graduate attributes refer to skills acquired by students regardless of discipline of study. Such skills are relevant to lifelong learning and include acquisition, application, creativity, knowledge base, communication, teamwork, social responsibility, flexibility and leadership. The incorporation of graduate attributes into CDU courses is integral to student development and skills.
Further information can be found at the Graduate attributes website.