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The curriculum design workbench – Showcasing a whole of degree design tool

Lawson, R. (2015) The curriculum design workbench – Showcasing a whole of degree design tool. In: Showcase (HERDSA) 2015, 7th July 2015, Melbourne, Australia.


This paper focuses on a whole of course (degree) approach to curriculum design that allows valid assurance of learning (AoL). This approach requires a change of mind set for many academics who have engaged in curriculum design in the past. The common practice has been to develop a set of subjects (units of study) that cover all the necessary areas and a degree is awarded once sufficient subjects are passed by the student. Whole of course design removes the silo effect of developing subjects in isolation to work with course teams to develop an integrated and scaffolded approach to the curriculum, where subjects relate and build on each other in a progressive way allowing students to see how each element of the course relates to the overall course learning outcomes (CLOs).

Authentic, scaffolded assessment tasks are an important element of whole of course curriculum design. Assessments are often designed within individual subjects and in this way retrofitted to meet CLOs rather than being designed specifically. The whole of course approach prompts the course team to work together to identify suitable tasks for CLOs and then use these authentic tasks to design assessments that can be administered under the university system (considering workload, assessment policies, moderation, academic integrity, and so on). Once a set of assessment tasks are developed for each CLO they are then scaffolded throughout the degree providing students opportunities to develop skills and knowledge as they progress, increasing in complexity over time. Once this scaffolding is in place then the assessments get mapped to suitable subjects and adapted to meet the subject context.

This process has been supported by the development of an online tool (Curriculum Design Workbench) that guides curriculum design teams through this whole of course approach to curriculum design for assuring learning. It provides a structure for adopting this holistic design approach as well as collating design data as the team progresses. This paper will showcase this open source tool as a vehicle for discussing the whole of course design principles.

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