Before you start planning a learning programme, there are a number of things to consider and decide.
Look at the sections below to find out more about each of these aspects.
NHS Education for Scotland’s Quality Guidelines for Digital Learning (NES 2022) gives a useful summary of the issues that should be considered at the very start of the planning process. See Education and Pedagogy Guideline for useful information and checklists focussing on learner-centred education. There are additional points for consideration in the guidelines for
You can engage with others through consultations, working groups or workshops to co-design and/or co-produce the programme. This will help you to decide on content, approach and methods. You may already be aware of a community of practice, practice educators or others who could provide subject expert knowledge and advice.
You should also think about how you will engage with learners in the process. How could past or potential learners be part of the development or piloting process?
Before you start to design and develop a learning programme, think about why the programme is necessary. This is usually because a service or organisational need has been identified.
A service/organisational need has been identified
To meet this need, a change in work practice is necessary
Staff need new knowledge and skills to change their work practices
Staff need to undertake learning
Who are the learners who will benefit from your learning programme and how will you identify them?
You may already have an identified cohort of learners or you may need to find out who requires this learning. You must always consider the learner’s needs so you can ensure your materials are appropriate.
It's important to think about
how has the need been identified and by whom?
what changes in practice are necessary?
what new knowledge is needed?
what new skills are needed?
To find out a learner’s baseline knowledge and skills, you should carry out a learning needs assessment (LNA). This will assess the individual’s knowledge and skills and identify any gaps. It will also help you to explore a learner’s needs more generally as well as informing decisions you'll make about the design of the programme.
An LNA helps you to identify
the level of knowledge, understanding and skill individuals already have in the topic or area
any learning already undertaken in the topic or area
any learning barriers that need to be addressed
the preferred learning styles of the learners and their preferred methods of learning
The results of your LNA will also help you to decide if
a learning programme is the most appropriate ‘solution’
an existing learning programme would address the skills gap(s)
an existing learning programme needs to be adapted
a new learning programme has to be designed and developed
For more information on Learning Needs Analyses, see
Developing aims, learning outcomes and success criteria for your learning programme is essential. Deciding on these at an early stage will help guide the planning, development and evaluation of your learning programme. It's also essential to share these with the learner. That’s why the examples below address the learner by using ‘your’ and ‘you’.
Learning aim = the overall purpose of the programme
Make a clear, general statement about the purpose of the programme. For example, The aim of this programme is to improve your ability to compose music.
Learning Outcome = what the learner will learn (sometimes called learning goal, objective, intention)
Learning Outcomes are specific statements about what the learner will know or become able to do as a result of the learning. A learning outcome can be knowledge or skills-based. For example,
By the end of this programme, you will be able to
By the end of this programme, you will be able to
Learning Outcomes should start with an action verb, such as use or identify above, so that the result can be observed or measured.
Success Criteria = how learners will demonstrate their learning (also called evidence)
You should always create and share SUCCESS CRITERIA with your learners, in addition to sharing the learning aim(s) and outcomes. What do learners have to do to be successful? For example,
By the end of the programme, you will be able to
By the end of this course, you will be able to
Bloom’s Taxonomy can be used to inform your aims and learning outcomes. This is a useful way of considering the level and amount of challenge required within your learning programme. Bloom argued that learning should involve more than simple recall, the lowest level of learning. To be meaningful, learners should apply, analyse and evaluate their knowledge and skills.
For more information on aims, learning outcomes and success criteria see
Governance arrangements should be in place at an early planning stage and be applied throughout the development cycle from initial concept through to post-launch evaluation and review.
Governance processes should include quality assurance of your learning programme. You could use standards, such as the NHS Education for Scotland’s Quality Guidelines for Digital Learning Resources (NES 2022) to quality assure your materials. You could also consider using ‘critical readers’ and tutor/learner feedback to quality assure your materials.
See the Governance & Quality Assurance Guideline for useful information and checklists focussing on governance processes and quality assurance.
It is important to begin planning how you will evaluate your educational resource at the very start of your project. How will you know that your programme has impact and achieves its aims? See the ‘Review and improve’ section for detailed guidance on evaluation.