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Free resource: Course descriptor template


James McLuckie of Eden Tree supplies the community with another great free resource. We hand over to him to explain.
A course descriptor is a document that gives prospective learners detailed information about a course so that they can make an informed decision regarding its suitability for them. The template, and guidance, given here provide the means for you to create your own descriptor.

Completing the template

The blank template is presented after these guidance steps.
The template features a series of headings, with prompts [in parenthesis] for you to insert your own text to provide potential learners with details of your course. Both the headings and the prompts are guides only. These can be adapted, expanded or deleted as appropriate. However, each heading represents a particular piece of information that most course descriptors should look to include.
The headings included are:
  • Course name. Insert the full name of the course. If applicable, include the award, awarding body or organisation associated with the course.
  • About this course. Provide some introductory information about the course, including its purpose, and include some general guidance regarding its delivery and content. You will go into much of this information in more detail later on in the descriptor, but you should aim to give readers a solid synopsis of the course.
  • Who should take this course? Here you are looking to capture the kind of learners who would benefit from completing the course, e.g. those needing to become skilled in a particular discipline, seeking to refresh their skills, or looking to follow-up a previous course. It's important to be realistic regarding who the course is appropriate for.
  • Learning outcomes. Including details of the learning outcomes is key, as these should outline the skills, knowledge and behaviours learners can expect to attain on the course's completion. It is worth looking at your learning outcomes again from the perspective of a potential learner reading them. This will help to ensure that they are specific and realistic enough, e.g. outcomes for an introductory language course should provide an accurate representation of the level learners will achieve, rather than give the impression that they will be fluent by its completion. (You may wish to talk in terms of performance outcomes or learning objectives.)
  • Outline of content. Detail the subjects the course will cover. The exact level of detail that you should go into is subjective but you should, at least, provide a list of the units/modules included plus a summary of what is involved in each of these.
  • Learning methods. It's important to tell learners exactly how the course will be delivered. Some methods may not be suitable for certain learners (e.g. some may need a flexible approach to times and dates, so predefined workshop days may not be an option), so give as much information as you can. Additionally, tell them how they will be assessed (if applicable), e.g. final exam, essay, multiple choice questionnaire etc.
  • Time commitment. It's also essential that potential learners know exactly what they are committing to if they enrol on the course, including what home study is expected. This will help them to make a realistic decision regarding whether the course is something that they can successfully complete.
  • Resource commitments. If learners are required to own certain pieces of equipment, or are expected to purchase additional materials, this needs to be communicated to them from the start. Again, this will help them to decide if the course is right for them.
  • Entry requirements. If learners need special entry requirements before being accepted for the course (e.g. a particular qualification or completion of a prior unit) be explicit about these here.
  • Further information. Many potential learners will have questions regarding the course, so detail where they can find answers to these. Provide telephone numbers, email addresses or website information, as appropriate.
You can adapt this template as required. For instance, you may refer to your 'course' as a 'programme', or 'learning outcomes' as 'learning objectives'.
You may also wish to add additional sections, e.g. details of cost or course facilitators.
We have provided an example course descriptor, created using this template, for a project management course.

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