Getting started

Before you start planning a learning programme, there are a number of things to consider and decide. 

  • Assessing learning needs
  • Developing your aims, learning outcomes and success criteria
  • Thinking about governance and quality assurance
  • Thinking about evaluation 

Look at the sections below to find out more about each of these aspects.

Getting Started

NHS Education for Scotland’s ‘Quality Standards for Digital Learning Resources’ (NES 2017) gives a useful summary of the issues that should be considered at the very start of the planning process (see Standard 1). Standard 4 provides guidance on governance and quality assurance.

Although the standards relate to digital learning resources, most are equally applicable to other types of teaching and learning.

How will you work with others to develop the programme?

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?

Assessing learning needs

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

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To meet this need, a change in work practice is necessary

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Staff need new knowledge and skills to change their work practices

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Staff need to undertake learning 

Target learners

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? 

 

Learning Needs Assessment

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  

Further Information

For more information on Learning Needs Analyses, see

Developing your aims, learning outcomes and success criteria

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

  • identify a range of music composition methods (knowledge-based learning outcome)

By the end of this programme, you will be able to

  • use a range of music composition methods and musical concepts (skills-based learning outcome)

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

  • identify a range of music composition methods (knowledge-based learning outcome) by listening to complex musical pieces and identifying the methods used.

By the end of this course, you will be able to

  • use a range of music composition methods and musical concepts (skills-based learning outcome) by composing a piece of complex music.

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. 

Further Information

For more information on aims, learning outcomes and success criteria see

Thinking about quality assurance and governance

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 Standards for Digital Learning Resources’ (NES 2017) to quality assure your materials. You could also consider using ‘critical readers’ and tutor/learner feedback to quality assure your materials.

See Standard 4 Governance and Quality Assurance from NHS Education for Scotland’s ‘Quality Standards for Digital Learning Resources’ (NES 2017)

Thinking about evaluation

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 ‘Reviewing and improving’ section for detailed guidance on evaluation.