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Designing a Unit

Designing a unit involves planning and developing a unit of study for delivery. It involves making choices about what, when, where and how to teach. Resources are provided on the following aspects of unit design:

  • Blueprints and Checklists
  • Aligning the curriculum
  • Stages in unit development
  • Designing and writing your unit

Unit Design Blueprint

Choose a Unit Design Blueprint from the options below or adapt one to suit your requirements.

Checklists

Quick checklists and guides:

Aligning Curriculum

A key principle of unit design is how to ensure that learning outcomes, learning experiences and assessment are aligned.

Constructive Alignment and Why It is Important to the Learning Process
Higher Education Academy in the UK (Engineering Subject Centre) provides useful information the importance of alignment principles to the curriculum design process.

Bloom's Digital Taxonomy
This resource helps write learning outcomes with different levels of sophistication and complexity.

Teaching Teaching and Understanding Understanding
A 19 minute You Tube video clip based on the constructive alignment theory developed by Professor John Biggs.

Constructive Alignment Course Mapping Spreadsheets

The following Example Spreadsheets and Instructional Documents provide the needed guidance on how to Map your Course Learning Outcomes to Unit Learning Outcomes, AQF levels and more. There are two blank templates provided for AQF 7 level courses and AQF 8 level courses. For other variations of degree courses feel free to modify the blank templates as needed. 

Unit Site Design

A well designed, user friendly Blackboard site is essential to effective teaching and learning. A good design has a consistent 'look and feel', which provides ease of navigation, familiarity and promotes student engagement.

Each Blackboard site is created with a default Unit Template that includes section headings and preloaded content. The aim of the template is to provide consistency for students as they navigate multiple sites and learning environments. However, this foundation is only the starting point for designing an effective and engaging unit site. There are many ways that staff can customise their Blackboard site to meet the needs of their students. The Unit Site Design Quality Checklist supports this creative process by outlining important design considerations and recommended practice.

The checklist can be used to review existing sites or to plan a new site. For example, a site review may focus on how well the structure and content support student learning. In unit planning, it can help you organise the design of your teaching.

Download the Unit Site Design Quality Checklist

screenshot of Unit Site Design and Quality Checklist

Unit Design Case Study – Creative Arts (Education)

The unit blueprint below was developed as part of the redesign of a Creative Arts unit for Education students. The unit was designed for a blended approach, consisting of online components with the inclusion of a face to face workshop.

Peter Cook explains the unit design process that he used to map out the curriculum elements of the Creative Arts unit. This involved mind mapping and blueprinting, using School of Education's blueprint template.

Other case study videos:

Blueprinting Creative Arts 1: A Unit Design Case Study

In starting the design process the first thing that I think is quite an important thing is to understand the philosophy of what this unit is about. So where does the unit come from, why is it in existence, and then to work from that place. The philosophy is also a really important thing because I think that it is a checkpoint for us to always work out whether or not we're doing what we set out to achieve. The biggest part of that was the blueprinting process. So the aims of our unit were very clear that we needed to escalate students' confidence and competence in the creative arts. But how do we actually do that? So before approaching the blueprint process, there was a fairly significant mind map of what it was that was going to be involved in each of the four art forms in this particular unit. Having done that we were able to recognise both from our accreditation process which has a whole pile of information about what students are going to be covering, we were able to dump that into these chunks of learning that were being designed, making all of those steps become more fluid, and it aided both the blueprint process but also the end result.

So there was quite a lot of work that went into me sitting at home with a whole pile of butchers paper and being able to actually understand what was essential and what was needed to happen then. The next thing that occurred was that I undertook the heavy blueprinting process. This particular process, even though it has a formalised template approach, that the School of Education uses, that we were able to look at all of those individual components and be able to understand how all of those things would influence the students' learning. The interesting thing for us is that, still, we went backwards, saying 'Here is when the summative assessment needed to occur and let me now make sure that the outcomes were being addressed through the learning activities, prior to that'. So it all aligned very neatly and went from one to the other. The reason why I actually am quite a fan of the blueprint process is, for us, that it didn't work. I say that, at that moment in time we're able to say that the unit as it had existed previously, was not actually going to be achievable in the new structure. So we were confident that we had the right material, it just was in the wrong order. So when we looked at the blueprint that all we needed to do was to take the second five topics and put them first and in essence that made this unit achievable.

Having done that process we were also able to see that there was a very strong need for a flow-through both for the formative assessment tasks that would happen online and also for the summative assessment tasks. So we were able to go back to our original philosophy and say 'Here is our online material, here's what going to happen either in our weekly workshops or as external students in an intensive workshop and here is how it's all going to be assessed'. This was quite an important document for us because it actually limited, structured and gave sound advice to a whole pile of philosophy and ideas.