In any learning materials development process, a critical step is clarifying what learners need to learn. A focus on the concepts and competences learners are expected to acquire enables you to select appropriate content and sequence it in the materials, to promote and support the acquisition of stated competences.

Purpose and Outcomes

In the overall planning for the course you clarified the purpose and the outcomes. The materials need to make explicit the aims and learning outcomes. This has several benefits:

  • It enables learners to know exactly what knowledge, skills and values they are expected to acquire and strengthen.
  • It guides your selection of appropriate learning resources.
  • It enables you to pinpoint the most appropriate content.
  • It guides your selection of learning activities to help learners acquire the stated competences.
  • It guides your assessment of what learners have learned.

Writing specific learning outcomes appropriate for the level of the course and ensuring they are measurable and achievable can be quite tricky. Communicate the learning outcomes in ways that make it easy for the intended target audience to understand them. Help learners to see the link between the learning outcomes and the assessment activities.  



Once you have clarified key concepts, content, competences and skills, the materials focus on how to promote and support the development of the specified concepts and competences. You will identify the methods best suited to developing these with the particular target audience. Think about:

  • What pre-course knowledge do learners have?
  • Which concepts are new to learners?
  • What kind of support do you need to build in to the materials to enable learners to develop a thorough understanding of the key concepts?
  • What kinds of learning activities and supporting content do you need to include?
  • What kinds of learning skills, including research and study competences, do learners need?
  • What cross-critical competences, such as critical thinking, analysis and evaluation, information gathering, organizing information, communication, teamwork, and managing tasks, do learners need?
  • Will you use case studies? If so, which case studies would be most suitable?
  • Will you use the input of experts in the field? If so, how will this be done?
  • Will you incorporate field visits to provide learners with an experience of authentic contexts?
  • What contextual examples will you use?
  • Will you use research findings?              


  • This is a Saide module structure example (as seen in section 2 of this Guide: Course Design) to record the specific content, concepts and competences for each unit (60KB, 3 pages).

Learning Resources

As part of your materials design strategy you may have decided to look for existing materials that you can use or adapt (i.e. reuse). The first place to start looking for existing materials in your particular topic or field of study is OER. You can consider a range of multimedia OER such as videos, audios, and graphics for use in any course. E-learning courses can incorporate a wider range of digital resources. Multimedia and digital resources afford a range of opportunities for interactivity and support. What they can offer and the implications of using them for a particular course and target audience must be clearly understood in order to derive maximum benefit. Where there are no suitable existing resources, you will have to develop the materials from scratch.

When making a decision about the types of learning resources to use you need to consider questions such as:

  • What are the purpose and learning outcomes of the course?
  • What is the learning and teaching approach used?
  • How will the resources be used by learners and educators?
  • What is the expertise of educators to facilitate the use of the learning resources?
  • How ready are learners to engage with the learning resources?
  • What are the costs involved in acquiring and adapting existing learning resources?
  • How long will it take to adapt and/or develop the learning resources? 



Design Review Questions

Now that you have thought more intensively about what learners need to learn, check:

  • How appropriate are the learning resources you have selected?
  • How do the learning and teaching approaches and content support the development of the concepts and competences you identified?
  • Do you need to include additional resources? If so, what kind of resources would strengthen the development of the concepts and competences?
  • How appropriate is the delivery mode (off-line, campus-based, remote etc.) you have chosen for the course?