Courses must be designed to enable students to meet all the course learning outcomes within the nominal time indicated by the credit weighting of the course. You are encouraged to revisit the learning outcomes associated with your course and consider if these remain appropriate given the current situation. Guidance on what to consider when reviewing intended learning outcomes and, in particular how you can assess if a student has met these, is provided below.


Designing Learning Outcomes

What you can do

When considering a major restructuring of a course, it is a good time to revisit the course’s learning outcomes and consider if they need to be updated.  

When reviewing/revising learning outcomes for blended delivery, remember that you will need to be able to assess all learning outcomes. You should therefore think carefully about how students will be able to demonstrate to you that they have achieved a learning outcome. 

Writing learning outcomes is not an easy task. Striking a balance between being over-prescriptive (producing too many) and too vague to be of use (too few) is never easy. Before finalising your learning outcomes, it is a good idea to have a critical friend look over them to see if they are easily understandable and if they map well to the planned assessment. 

When writing learning outcomes, some useful things to remember are: 

  1. Focus on the student--what the student will be able to do by the end of the course or programme. 
  2. Describe outcomes, not processes or activities. 
  3. Start each outcome with an action verb. 
  4. Use only one action verb per learning outcome. 
  5. Avoid vague verbs such as know and understand. 
  6. Check that the verbs used reflect the level of learning required.  
  7. Ensure that outcomes are observable and measurable. 

How to do it 

For a range of support available on writing learning outcomes, see here.

Mapping learning outcomes to assessments

What you can do

It is acknowledged that staff have worked hard to carefully design learning outcomes, fretted over every word and thought hard about which verb is the right one. It is now important to make sure that these are communicated to students and that they are enabled to understand what new skills and knowledge they will gain from undertaking a course. It is important that the learning outcomes are clearly presented on your course page and incorporated into the course design. At the most basic level, clearly mapping learning outcomes to assessment can help both staff and students to understand why they are being assessed in certain ways and what it is that they have to demonstrate to be able to do well. 

This can be done through providing a simple summary table for assessment (see example below). To make this useful to students, it is helpful to include the list of learning outcome directly before the table to reinforce the link between learning outcomes and assessments. 

This can also be a valuable way to ensure at you are assessing all learning outcomes and to help identify possible areas of over assessment. 

Assessment name Type Learning outcomes Due UoA Week (teaching week)  % grade 
Unit self-test Online self-test   1,2,3   Across term 0
Short answer assessment units 1-4   Online short answers   1,2 12 (6)   
20th Oct 11pm  
Short answer assessment units 5-7   Online short answers   2,3   19 (13)  
8th December 11pm  
Research proposal   Extended writing   1,2,3,4   18 (12)  
18th December 11pm  
Alternative assessments

What you can do

It is acknowledged that a great deal of work has already gone into redesigning assessments in these challenging times. However, as we continue to adapt to the current situation, all staff are urged to continue to reflect on their assessment plans and to consider what further refinements are needed to ensure we are able to deliver our assessment in a blended delivery environment. This will mean that traditional on-campus end-of-course exams will not be possible for the majority. In addition, with the delay to the start of term and reduced length of the first half-session, you may want to think about re-ordering your assessments so that work which may require a heavier marking load falls earlier in the semester. This may also provide an opportunity to consider adding a greater level of live or authentic/real world assignments rather than assessment being focused on knowledge and fact recall.

Things to consider

When designing assessments, consider the timings both within a course and where possible at a programme level to allow all students sufficient time to complete assessments/assignments. This will help support student and staff wellbeing.

How to do it

For some great examples of methods of assessment, see here.

Authentic assessments

What you can do

Authentic assessment encourages meaningful and contextual assessments. If your course has real world use/relevance, use activities undertaken in those real-world environments as a model for your assessments. To encourage students who are used to traditional essays and exams and may be nervous, explain the rationale of the assignment and how it will help them in their future career.

Authentic assessment includes the use of activities such as portfolios, group projects, reports, journals and presentations. Debates, discussion board contributions and wiki creations could also be assessed.

Things to consider 

  • Are your assessments inclusive? Can you change your assessments to make them more inclusive?
  • Non-traditional assignment styles can be hard for students from different pedagogical backgrounds. Consideration should be given to providing  additional advice about what is expected and what criteria the markers will be using. 
  • Consider making use of formative assessments to allow students to practice with a new format.

How to do it

For some examples of creative assessment ideas, see here.

Pedagogic Evidence base