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Purpose and Outcomes

The overall objectives or outcomes of a course help us to make decisions about content, structure and assessment. The content will help us in designing the learning pathway that we want learners to follow.


  • This Saide Design Map template shows a learning pathway that connects the objectives/outcomes, the content and the assessment tasks (58KB, 1 page).


We are often tempted to pack a course full of content to try to give the best to learners. We need to consider carefully what set of concepts (and skills) we want learners to understand, and what is manageable in that context. We need to make sure that there is sufficient content across the course to provide a scaffold towards those concepts.


  • This link to Carleton College Science Education Research Centre's A Reflection on Choosing Content offers insight into the relationship between learning goals, context and content.
  • This Saide Module Outline example can be used to plan the content in line with the objectives/outcomes, the assessment strategy and key learning tasks (65KB, 2 pages).


The learning pathway – the golden thread that connects the purpose/objectives, the content and ultimately the assessment tasks – reflects the approach to learning. The way in which we structure and sequence the content is underpinned by an understanding of how people learn.

From Salmon’s 5 Stage Model (2000), which we used to think about structure (in section 2.1 of this Guide), we can also see the need to accommodate the increasing role of learners in finding and creating content. At higher levels learners become increasingly independent in sourcing and synthesising additional content. We need to be sure that they have sufficient technical skills and conceptual knowledge to make good choices. The structure will support them to return to the learning pathway when necessary.


Resources (Types and how they will be used)

Randell (2006), in Resources for New Ways of Learning, suggests that there are three important questions that will lead to good decisions about resources. These questions are:

  • Who is the audience?
  • What is the purpose of the programme?
  • How will the learning resources be used?

Resources need to support the content/concepts/skills development in a course. The resources that you choose need to be appropriate, and integrated into the teaching and learning process. Consider also whether you or others may be able to use the resource in other contexts.

You may have decided early on in your planning process to find out whether there are any suitable existing materials. Generally the first place to start is looking for OER.

The choices you make now about resources are refined during materials development (see section 3.2 of this Guide: What do learners need to learn?)



Design Review Questions

You might want to think about these questions as a way of summarising what learners need to learn:

  • How will the content you have designed help your learners achieve the objectives? Is there too much content, or too little?
  • What support will you provide to learners who need more time or resources to cope with this learning experience? How will you motivate and engage learners who want to move faster or who want to know more?
  • Review your content. Are the links between sections clear or do you think learners may lose the learning pathway?
  • Review your resources. Why did you select these resources? What are the cost implications? How accessible are these resources? How reusable are the resources?