Participating Effectively in Programme and Module Design

Welcome to Episode 12 of Our Student Voice.

To view and interact with the introductory video, click on Start Here in the video screen.

Click here to view a larger sized video in a separate tab.


As a Class Representative, you may be invited to participate in the review of a module on your programme, or a review of the whole programme.

This episode will help you understand how TU Dublin designs its modules and programmes.

The episode will explain the core concepts, terminology and the underpinning processes of curriculum design that will enable you to contribute effectively to the design and review of programmes and modules.

As a Class Representative, your participation in curriculum design enables TU Dublin to ensure its programmes are developed according to the principles of Student-Centred Learning (SCL).  

Student-Centred Learning (SCL) is an approach to education overcomes some of the problems inherent to more traditional forms of education by focusing on the student and their needs. A partnership approach to curriculum design - involving lecturers and students - is critical to achieving Student-Centred Learning. 

As a class representative, or as a student in TU Dublin, it is important that you remember the following when you are participating in programme and module design:

Understand the Programme and Module Design Process: The design of programmes and modules involves engaging with relevant people, agreeing credits and learning hours, designing learning outcomes, designing assessment, and designing teaching and learning activities.

Understand the role of Learning Outcomes: Learning outcomes provide clear, measurable descriptions of what a learner should know and be able to do when they successfully complete a programme or module.

Know how Assessment relates to Learning Outcomes: Learning outcomes must be assessed. During design, a decision is made on how each learning outcome will be assessed, whether by an exam, an assignment, a presentation, or some other method or combination of methods.

Curriculum design is undertaken by a programme team, with appropriate inputs from all stakeholders. Student input is extremely important for the effective implementation of this process.

Constructive Alignment

Curriculum design involves:

  • The design of Learning Outcomes.
  • The selection of the most appropriate teaching and learning methods to achieve the learning outcomes.
  • The selection of the most appropriate assessment methods to assess students' achievement of the Learning Outcomes.

The alignment of these three components of a module or programme is essential for the formation of an excellent student learning experience. This alignment is termed "Constructive Alignment".

Programme Level

Each TU Dublin programme is aligned to a level on the National Framework of Qualifications. TU Dublin programmes range from Level 6 to Level 10. Honours degrees are placed at Level 8 of the framework, Masters degrees at Level 9 and Doctoral at Level 10.


Each TU Dublin programme and module is assigned a number of credits using the ECTS system.

The European Credit Transfer System (ECTS) is the common credit system in place at TU Dublin and in other Universities in Ireland and in Europe to assign credits to a programme or module.  

The ECTS credits for a programme are based on the convention that 60 credits measure the workload of a full-time student during one academic year. Each ECTS credit corresponds to 20 'learning hours' (not all learning hours are hours spent in class sessions). Credits in ECTS can only be obtained after completion of the work required and appropriate assessment of the learning outcomes achieved.


A Student Handbook comprehensively describes the programme or syllabus as it is taught and administered and includes the specific programme assessment regulations. It is initially approved by a Validation Panel and amended over time as part of the Curriculum Design process. 

A module is described in a module descriptor. This is a brief document (~2 pages) that provides, for each module:

  • Module Overview
  • Learning Outcomes
  • Indicative Syllabus
  • Learning and Teaching Methods
  • Total Teaching Contact Hours    
  • Module Delivery Duration
  • Assessment
  • Reading List

Learning outcomes are statements of what a student is expected to know, understand and/or be able to demonstrate after completion of a process of learning.  

Well-written learning outcomes include the following characteristics:

  • They specify what the student must be able to do.
  • They are achievable within the time and resource limitations of the module.
  • The specified action is assessable (i.e. observable and measurable).

Learning outcomes usually begin with some preamble - typically “By the end of this module, the learner will be able to:”

This is followed by a performative verb - something that shows what the learner will be able to do e.g. state, describe, discuss, write, present.

If we use more abstract verbs such as understand, know, appreciate, then it is less clear what the learner will be able to do at the end of the module and this may make it difficult for us to articulate our assessment strategies.

The learning outcome can also show how the learner will do what you are talking about, for example, using a range of formats, in a range of contexts.  

A well-constructed learning outcome might look something like this:

Describe key marketing concepts, theories and techniques for analysing a variety of marketing situations and present them in a range of formats. 

A constructively aligned outcomes-based curriculum should demonstrate coherence between learning outcomes and the methods employed to evidence that this learning has taken place.

The assessment strategy must be designed to provide a valid measure of the intended learning outcomes. However, this is not the only purpose of assessment.

Assessment serves several purposes, namely:

  • Assessment of learning is used to check whether learning has taken place and to what level, to enable the selection of student for employment or further study or to provide a licence to practice for professional programmes. There is also a need to provide evidence of programme standards for quality assurance purposes and professional bodies.
  • Assessment for learning is designed to support learning and provides feedback to students on their strengths and areas for further development during the programme. These assessments also enable lecturers to identify areas of difficulty and inform changes in teaching strategies.
  • Assessment as learning where the assessment becomes part of the learning process, such as self or peer assessment enables students to understand programme standards and make judgements about their work and that of others.  

Assessment can also be described as high stakes or low stakes:

  • High Stakes Assessments enable students to demonstrate competency, strengths, and overall synthesis of individual module objectives across each stage of a programme.
  • Low Stakes Assessments enable students to nurture competency through practice and learning from mistakes, and are typically focused on specific elements or content in a module or course.  

Good assessment practices require that a module/programme should balance the purposes in its assessment strategy.

These learning activities are designed to help you develop the knowledge and skills required for this episode. These learning activities are also a requirement for the Curriculum Co-Designer Digital Badge.

Learning Activity 12.1. Module Descriptor

Identify a module descriptor in your student handbook. Address the following questions:

  1. Are the learning outcomes appropriate for the module?
  2. Does the assessment align with the learning outcomes?
  3. What alternative assessment methods could be applied?
  4. Are the learning and teaching methods appropriate for the learning outcomes?
  5. What alternative learning and teaching methods could be applied?

If you are working towards a Digital Badge, include this (or a link to this) in your E-Portfolio.

Learning Activity 12.2. Programme Learning Outcomes

Locate the Programme Learning Outcomes for your programme. Briefly explain (1 page, or 1 minute video) whether the Programme Learning Outcomes help you, as a student, understand what you will be able to do as a graduate.

If you are working towards a Digital Badge, include this (or a link to this) in your E-Portfolio.