Curriculum design for open education/Introduction: Key concepts and big ideas

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Introduction: Key concepts and big ideas

What do we mean by 'curriculum design' in this course?

Contemporary definitions of curriculum design emphasise overarching course (or program) level approaches to defining what learners are to learn, the related forms of learning activity and assessment, and how learners progress through their programs of study. Curriculum design processes are essential to all new courses, and are applied to the review and renewal of existing curricula in response to changing social, economic and technological developments. Definitions of curriculum and curriculum design vary across cultures and educational sectors. In Australian higher education, definitions of curriculum design could span the philosophy of learning and teaching, and planning the learning environment to ensure support for students’ learning (Kift & Field, 2009). Similarly, curriculum "encompasses course purpose, course values, how students learn, the structural framework of courses and learning and teaching approaches" as described by Professor David Sadler, former Deputy Vice-Chancellor (Students and Education) at the University of Tasmania (Sadler, personal communication, Dec 22, 2014). In the context of open education we identify both opportunities and challenges for curriculum design, which we explore and model throughout this micro course. Some of the key shifts include more modular course components suited to reuse, multiple learning pathways, informal and formal (accredited) study options, and new mechanisms to assess prior learning and gain credit for learning.

Contemporary curriculum design

Curriculum design is now practised in a context where approaches to technology enhanced learning (TEL) and teaching have been widely adopted in higher education, as demonstrated by the University of Tasmania’s curriculum principles (pdf). Open, online education is similarly enabled by internet technologies, and Web 2.0 tools in particular, such that curriculum design for open education proceeds in a critical dialogue with open technologies. Curriculum design processes are also increasingly informed by professional accreditation requirements and other external reference points and standards such as the UK Subject Benchmark Statements. Institutional graduate outcomes are also typically addressed in curriculum mapping, with the aim of progressively developing learners’ graduate capabilities and employability.

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During this learning pathway you will:
  • Consider aspects of contemporary curriculum design, and share your interest and involvement in it
  • Consider key open educational practices (OEP), and the ways you engage with ‘openness’
  • Identify potential benefits of OEP for students and staff in your learning environment and curriculum context.