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Course and Learning Design

Good teaching is characterized by accord between learning objectives, learning activities and form of assessment, so called constructive alignment teaching. This means that you should choose learning activities and forms of assessment that support the learning objectives in the best possible way.

Norsk versjon: Emne- og undervisningsdesign

Many factors can have an effect on the students learning, both internal individual processes, external stimuli and social relations. What learning activities you as a teacher choose, can have a big impact for the individual student's learning.

When the student's learning is in focus, then the course should be developed with certain things in mind, such as building an inclusive teaching- and assessment practice, and crucially, to allow for a rewarding learning experience to the students.

Factors in course and learning design

Good course design assumes good planning and ensures that there's a clear correlation between competence descriptions, the learning outcome descriptions, and learning- and assessment activities in the course (Hagelia, 2018).

The forms of learning must be designed to promote the student's expected learning outcomes, and assessments throughout the course should allow the student to show what they have learnt, and what they have achieved in terms of expected competence.

When you plan and design a course you need to take a holistic approach where each teaching session is made up of different and varied learning activities that are suitable for promoting the student's ability to understand and apply the curriculum.

Good subject design should go hand in hand with good learning design. The terms are connected, but they refer to two separate process levels (Hagelia, 2018).

  • Course design is part of the planning process for study programme, it deals with an overview and includes both an educational and an administrative side. Here, both the institute and the faculty are actively involved in the process as client and approver.
  • Learning design focus mostly on the educational part and on planning and execution of the individual learning and assessment activities.

The development principles for course and learning design are mostly the same regardless of whether the course and teaching situation you are planning is to take place on campus, hybrid or fully digitally.

Although, research in recent years has focused more attention towards the distinctive aspects of fully digital and hybrid teaching (Rapport LINK, UiO, 2020; Goodyear, 2015), as well as the challenges you may face when planning and developing teaching in these formats.

Course and learning design for hybrid or fully digital study programmes demand a higher degree of symmetry and flexibility in the choice of learning activities (Rapanta et al. 2021) to maintain the connection between the different dimensions (UiO, 2020). It also demands higher focus on universal design and facilitation of the student's academic cooperation and social relations (UiO, 2020).

How to get started with teaching design

When designing your teaching sessions you need to think holistically keeping constructive alignment in mind. Which frameworks do I need to adhere to? What resources do I have available? Which learning activities are best suited to enhance students learning outcomes? What assessment activities are best for measuring the achieved level of knowledge and skills of each student?

This connection between learning activities, learning outcomes, and assessment, is based on constructivist learning theories and has been described through the concept and theory of Constructive Alignment (Biggs & Tang, 2014; Biggs, 1996), or "meningsskapende samsvar" as it is called in Norwegian.

The model of constructive alignment gives you a framework for planning and conducting teaching while also making clear to the student the processes that enable them to take responsibility for their own learning.

SALSA teaching and learning design

SALSA is a methodology that assists you in designing and developing teaching. The methodology can be implemented in various formats and supports the planning of teaching sessions, workshops, and entire courses. SALSA can be adapted to different phases, parts, or specific challenges in teaching and can also be used in program-level planning.

The SALSA acronym is a compilation of the terms "StudentAktiv - Likeverdig - Synkron - Asynkron" (StudentActive – Equitable – Synchronous – Asynchronous) and represents a set of premises and framework factors that are significant for the planning and implementation of teaching.

The Unit for learning and technology conducts SALSA workshops for academic communities that want to use the methodology for planning or editing courses and study programs. Read more about SALSA methodology for subject and teaching design


Contact Section for teaching, learning and digital services via NTNU Help for more information about SALSA teaching design and planning your courses.