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5 tips from Life Learning to help you develop a quality short course

16 April 2015

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The Life Learning team's popular workshop at the Teaching and Learning Conference, provided valuable advice and guidance to help staff from across the university to build quality short courses.


Here are their tips for success:

1 Identify your USP (unique selling point)

Your USP is a vital part of building a successful short course. There is a lot of competition across the sector - many institutions and organisations offer courses and learners often have access to free information online. Therefore it’s imperative to highlight the value of your specific course (be it the high quality of teaching staff, our institutional reputation, distinctive learning components, the inclusion of dimensions within the connected curriculum initiative etc.). Adapt your marketing and messaging accordingly.

Think about your goals and the audience – why is the course running? What is the alternative for learners? Look at your competition and what we can offer that they cannot. Who actually is the learner? By drilling down in to these interlinked points it becomes easier to identify the point, and unique selling point, of your course.

2 Factor in costing – correctly

In the early stages, it is imperative to look at everything which involves a cost-element in order to get an accurate idea of the time and money the course requires.

Academic time not only includes design, delivery and assessment but often also specifics such as the uploading of materials and content, forum moderation and updating learners with necessary information. Back-fill and overheads need to be considered too.

Venue costs – whether external or internal and from set-up to finish – will require consideration as well administrative duties pre, during and post the delivery of the course.

3 Think about your course design

When you design a course there are two important questions you need to think ‘why’ and ‘how’.

The ‘why’ refers to the aims of the course i.e. what is the purpose of the course? What are your teaching intentions? Is your course a project outcome?

The ‘how’ refers to your teaching approach and delivery. Will you apply a collaborative approach, a problem-based learning or scenario based-learning? Will your course be delivered face to face, online or in combination of the two (blended learning) ? Is your course going to be cohort based or open registration? What will the duration be?

You also need to think of your resources, time and costs which will affect the quality of your course. Will your colleagues be helping you develop and deliver it? Are the materials licensed? Reading lists and videos that are made available to UCL students are not necessarily usable by external learners on short courses due to copyright.

Making your course activities fit your tools and resources presents plenty of choice. The Life Learning team can offer guidance in this area.

4 Create a simple marketing plan

A tailor-made plan for each course is very helpful in getting the most out of your communications channels.

Don’t be afraid of using your existing data bank of learners and correspondents who may be interested or able to cascade the event through to their contacts in a particular industry or sector.

Your USP is valuable here in helping you to create specific, engaging messaging which can be formatted for each of your channels (social media, print, digital etc.). It is important to monitor engagement of these channels as they often inform any future marketing required for similar courses.

Writing a plan can be the ideal way to get you thinking about opportunities, relationships and potential ideas to promote your course that you may otherwise have not considered.

5 Work with Life Learning

Life Learning at UCL can work with you to identify your course’s USP, understand your costing and pricing, think about which materials would be beneficial for the course and to develop a targeted marketing plan. This includes being listed on the Life Learning course finder with content that’s written for the web and optimized for search engines like Google.

The aim is for UCL to become a leading provider of high quality short courses, to create a pathway to impact (as featured in UCL 2034) and to create a high margin of income which can be reinvested.

Further information:

· UCL Life Learning website

· The Life Learning Team