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Course Design Blueprint

How do we select modules, refine or and structure module content? 

Courses are structured into a set of modules, each with a defined credit value. Here we look at how all these elements might be brought together with the subject content to determine a module structure for the course.

The Development Process

  • Phase 1: Subject selection and refinement : Review essential areas of subject matter that need to be included in the course and identify elements that may be optional or out of the scope for the course.
  • Phase 2: Creating structure and order: Map the content into modules, determine the level of study for each, and plan the delivery sequence. 
  • Phase 3: Defining the student experience: Determine how the students’ learning will progress through the module structure, mapping how subject, academic and skills will be delivered, practiced, refined and assessed.
  • Phase 4: Optionality and Independence: Consider the inclusion of optional modules and how these may enable students to complete independent study on topics of particular interest to them. 


Depending on the nature of the course and the discipline, some course teams will have a significant amount of freedom in selecting what their course content should consist of, whilst other courses may be highly limited. Course content will need to be placed into modules to form a coherent structure as a whole course rather than forming what appears to be a random set of modules.  Some content may require students to have already completed significant learning to enable then to engage with it or only be suited for study in the final year. Course team guidance List the subject areas that need to be included, and consider the following questions:
  • What is the core discipline content to be included?
  • How does this content meet employer needs, and what is the expected level of competency on graduation?
  • Is there an expectation that students are familiar with this content prior to starting the course?
  • Can the content be included in the course given the resources available?
  • What do students need to have covered before encountering this content?

Indicative content description

While it is recognised that for many modules the content will vary each year to suit circumstances and current trends and issues, there should be an underlying description of what each module will always cover to enable students to achieve the module's learning outcomes.  This is captured in the 'Indicative content' section within each module specification. Providing an indicative content that is very detailed can restrict flexibility in delivery. Generally, such detail is best reserved for module handbooks and Brightspace presentation.

Course teams are encouraged to adopt a consistent approach to presenting indicative content in their modules. 

Once the subject areas are identified, these need to be placed into a Module structure. While it is not always easy to achieve, course teams should aim to divide the subject matter up into cognate collections that can each form a single module that represents a clearly understandable portion of the curriculum. Each level of studies will normally consist of six modules (of 20 credits each) including any required elements such as research methods in Honours degrees.

Remember: if you are redesigning a traditionally delivered course for Block and Blend, you may need to reorder the content within and across modules to ensure progression of skills, knowledge and behaviour through each level.

Once a course module structure has been defined plan in detail how the students' learning will progress. In particular, the course team will need to explore how subject, academic and transferable knowledge, skills and attributes will be delivered, practiced, refined and assessed through the course of the students' studies.
  • The delivery of academic skills learning will be an essential element of the early part of all courses, ensuring the students are appropriately equipped to engage with the studies they are embarking upon. While some course teams choose to employ a single module to deliver academic and study skills, it is more appropriate to develop these skills through a series of modules.
  • The planning of a progressive assessment strategy should inform how module assessment strategies are determined, ensuring that students have opportunities to practice and mastered fundamental competencies before moving onto more challenging content.
  • Where engagement with placement opportunities is a key feature of a course, the process through which students are prepared for this is important and needs to be threaded into the modules.
In practice, many courses do not have sufficient resources to be able to offer a range of study options for students. However, some courses will choose to include lower priority content or specialist pathways in optional modules. Some courses include independent study modules where a student is able to explore a subject related area independently, offering a means for students with particular passions to extend their studies in a personally meaningful way.