Teaching & Learning


Designing and promoting successful short courses: know your ABCs!

14 July 2015

The Life Learning team, with support from Digital Education and the Arena Centre, recently ran a popular workshop for UCL staff which shared plenty of helpful tips, tools and advice to help them develop successful short courses.

Life Learning ABC workshop

The workshop attracted a range of UCL staff from lecturers to education managers, from Space & Climate Physics to the Division of Medicine and raised awareness of the issues to be considered, and support available in developing short courses. Staff were given various tips, advice and opportunities to discuss courses they were involved in.

It focussed on the below areas.

Think ‘marketing’ throughout the process

Jenni Bozec, Marketing and Communications Coordinator in the Life Learning team, illustrated why thinking about marketing your course is very important: even before you start designing it. Knowing who your audience is and what they want is an essential element of your course design and promotion.

Identifying the unique selling points (USP) of your course early on also helps you to:

  • validate your idea and work out if you have the potential for a quality course
  • give you confidence in what you are producing which will also help you to price it correctly and competitively
  • guide you in how you can market it.

Proactively market your course – don’t rely on your audience coming to you

Jenni continued by highlighting that the short course market, particularly continuing professional development (CPD) is highly competitive. In some industries, the UCL brand is not well known or may not necessarily be an advantage. Working out the real benefits of the course for your target audience and making it visible does need a bit of investment in time and money (though there is a lot you can do for free!).

Your marketing messaging should focus on what is important to your target audience and be solution orientated: identify how coming on this course will solve their problem; make their business more competitive; or advance their career.

Developing a marketing plan also really helps you identify opportunities and make sure you don’t miss any! For help planning your marketing, please contact Jenni.

Make sure your course can be found, then give it to them on a plate

Charlotte Harry, Life Learning Web Editor and online content expert, highlighted how creating a clear descriptive course title is essential if you want your course to be found on search engines like Google. Make sure people can understand at a glance who the course is for, what they'll learn, and at what level. And consider doing some keyword research!

She also helped the group explore how to design a good course description by looking at 1) how to write for the web and 2) why it’s important to do so (because people read differently online, and Google rewards excellent content!). By being concise and using clear subheadings, bulleted lists, ‘chunking’ content into small bites and writing in plain English, etc., you can make it much easier for your audience to assess whether they should sign up. Don’t make them have to work at it – give them all the information they need on a plate!

The ABC method of course design and how it can benefit short courses

Mina Sotiriou, Senior Teaching Fellow, alongside Clive Young and Nataša Perović from Digital Education led a highly interactive section of the workshop and had the groups designing the learning activities for their courses, following ELE’s new ABC design method.

This rapid-design method helps you create a visual ‘storyboard’ which lays out the type and sequence of learning activities required to meet the learning outcomes and how these will be assessed. ABC is particularly useful for new courses or those changing to an online or a more blended format. The method uses an effective approach based on research from the JISC, the body funded by UK HE and FE to champion the use of digital technologies in education and research, and UCL IoE.

Ensuring your course design is effective and engaging benefits you in various ways:

  • You will create a pedagogical sound course and therefore a better learning experience for the participants
  • It helps you understand how much is going into the course in terms of resources which can be reflected in your pricing as you know what your course is worth.
  • It also helps you to identify what resources you need so you can allocate resources correctly, in terms of staff time and materials like video.

Even participants not normally involved in course design found this part of the workshop very useful as it gave them an understanding of what was involved in designing and producing a course.

Get your own bespoke workshop

The workshop touched on only a few of the important factors involved in designing and promoting successful short courses. If you would like Life Learning to deliver a workshop for your department or faculty, based on your needs, just contact the team at lifelearning@ucl.ac.uk