Quality Enhancement


Course Design

Course design is a key process that all faculty are engaged in to help students to achieve the learning outcomes. It should be informed by international benchmarks (Dublin descriptors, subject descriptors, and requirements of accrediting bodies) and internal NU policies and regulations.

Please note that the detailed procedures and templates are available to relevant NU stakeholders only. 

The following steps are helpful in designing a new course:

Course Approval Procedures

The course approval process is managed at the School level. The NU Course Specification Form, which consists of definitive and non-definitive sections, is the governing document approved by School Learning and Teaching Committees. The Course Syllabus Template (non-definitive section) may be adapted to reflect the specific nature of the course or to meet the accreditation requirements.

To approve the course, the following actions should be taken:

Step 1. Collaborate with Internal and External Stakeholders

To ensure a programme’s cohesiveness, all faculty involved in the delivery of the programme, should:

  • discuss how their courses contribute to the achievement of the program learning outcomes and NU Graduate Attributes;
  • develop a common approach to assessment and student workload;
  • agree on teaching strategies and learning activities.

Students’ and external stakeholders’ views should also be considered in designing a course.

Step 2. Use Different Pedagogical Approaches

Faculty should consider embedding the following approaches into their courses:

  • Student-centred learning;
  • Inclusive learning;
  • Internationalization;
  • Research-integrated teaching;
  • Technology-enhanced learning.
Step 3. Design SMART Course Learning Outcomes (CLOs)

Learning outcomes are statements that describe what students are expected to know, understand and/or be able to demonstrate upon completing a course. The NU Learning and Teaching Toolkit #4 provides an overview of how to write course learning outcomes that are SMART, constructively-aligned with the program learning outcomes and the EQF, Dublin descriptors, and other benchmarking points.

Step 4. Design Assessments

When designing assessments, faculty should ensure their alignment with the CLOs, and their compatibility with the program assessment approach and NU Assessment Strategy.

It is important that assessments enable students to demonstrate their achievement of the CLOs. The NU Learning and Teaching Toolkit #2 and #6 are helpful in designing assessments and providing formative feedback.

Step 5. Develop the Course Content

Course content should be informed by the relevant benchmarks (e.g. requirements of accrediting bodies, level and subject descriptors). The following questions can be considered when designing the course content:

  • How will this curriculum material contribute to the achievement of the CLOs?
  • Are the assessment and teaching methods aligned with the course content?
  • Will the course encourage active learning? Does the course content not only incorporate international cases, but also reflect the local context?
Step 6. Plan Learning and Teaching Activities

In selecting learning and teaching methods, ensure the learning and teaching activities:

  • support the achievement of the course learning outcomes;
  • are compatible with the NU Learning and Teaching Strategy (focusing on innovation, inclusion, and research integrated and inquiry-based learning);
  • are in line with the common program-wide approach to teaching;
  • engage students in classroom learning and assessment activities;
  • promote equality, diversity and inclusion in the learning environment. For more information, please read the NU Policy on Support for Students with Disability and Special Learning Needs.

In designing the course, be mindful of the student workload, which should be aligned with the ECTS model. The workload indicates the time that students need to complete all assignments and learning activities to achieve the CLOs.

One ECTS equates to 25-30 hours of student work (including teacher-student contact hours, directed and independent learning activities, with the relative proportions varying depending on the course type and level). Read more about this in the NU Learning and Teaching Toolkit #5

Step 7. Envisage Quality Assurance and Enhancement Mechanisms

Plan strategies to assure and continuously improve the quality of the course. This includes the wide involvement of internal and external stakeholders in course design and review.

Annual course monitoring, which can give rise to modifications, will be helpful in maintaining and improving the quality of course delivery. Read more about the annual review process.

Course Approval Overview
  1. The Course Specification Form should be sent for review to the Program Leader/Department chair;
  2. The course documentation should be approved by the School Learning and Teaching Committee /or equivalent body;
  3. All affected parties should be informed about the new/modified course.