Providing effective course information

Front cover of guide to studying History at University of SheffieldHaving clear course information is critical to students engaging with their course.

Staff who teach on the course also need to have a good understanding of how it works. This will help them to support students effectively.

This guide focuses on the information that you provide to current students both at the module and programme level.

For information for prospective students see the links at the end of the page.

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The importance of good course information

Effective course information helps students to:

  • take ownership of their learning
  • minimise stress and anxiety
  • make the right decisions for module choice, other key decisions
  • understand the “rules of the game”. What does the department expect of them regarding participation, assessment etc?

Effective course information helps teaching staff to

  • understand the programme as a whole and how their “bit” fits into it
  • support students by making references to other parts of the programme. This will help them to make connections across the programme
  • manage student expectations

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In practice

What course information do students need?

Explicit information about:

  • Learning outcomes
  • Assessment information (task information, criteria, marking processes, dates and deadlines)
  • Feedback (when and in what format provided, how to use it)
  • Student expectations and responsibilities (attendance, participation, independent study, safety)
  • What you can expect from staff (staff roles in teaching and support, office hours, feedback etc)
  • Approaches to teaching and the rationale for this
  • Timetable
  • Key decisions to make
  • Key contacts
  • Academic and pastoral support

If you are planning changes to your programme which will affect existing students, check the guidance on Managing Academic Programme Changes and Withdrawals. You may well need to consult students and then provide them with information about the changes.

How do I provide course information?

When planning how to provide information, consider:

Who?
All staff who teach on a programme / module should have a good understanding of it and be able to provide consistent information to students.

  • Programme information is provided at department level
  • Individual tutors reinforce this information and provide more detail where appropriate

When?
Plan out how to provide information over the academic year / duration of the module.

  • Students receive detailed information about the programme during intro week or earlier / beginning of a module.
  • Reiterate important information at key points e.g. assessment information prior to an assessment period.
  • What information do students need to transition from one year to the next?

Where?
Choose a location where students can find the information easily in one place. Take a consistent approach across the department. Most departments use:

  • internal google or other sites
  • Blackboard
How can I get students to engage with course information?

Students often receive a lot of information at the start of the academic year. This can be overwhelming. Providing information at different stages during the academic year can help. You could also design tasks to help students familiarise themselves with the information.

  • Intro week / first week of the programme - fun quiz / treasure hunt to find information about the programme.
  • Students “mark” example assignments using the marking criteria and then discuss with peers and the tutor. Follow up at a later date by peer marking of practice assignments using the same criteria. These activities help students to understand the marking criteria and the requirements of the task before they start on an assessed piece of work.
  • Co-produce the “rules” for engagement for a module or activity with students. Share the agreed version with all participants.
  • Refer regularly to course information or aspects of it in personal tutorials.
  • Review your course information regularly. Involve students in the process.
How can I make my information accessible?

Blackboard Ally allows students to download information in a range of formats.

See the University’s guidance on Digital Accessibility in Learning and Teaching.

Examples of good practice

Interactive Programme Overview (Chemical & Biological Engineering)
Programme structures and information relating to individual modules.

Week by Week Breakdown of Tasks (PDF, 249KB) (Enterprise module)

Module Information on Blackboard (PDF, 1MB) (School of Languages and Cultures)
Table with linked documents on Blackboard, giving students an at a glance summary of what they need to do for each week of the module. Contains instructions for creating the table in Blackboard.

Undergraduate Intro Week Information (History)
Comprehensive guide to starting a new programme. Includes a useful introductory guide to Studying History at Sheffield.

Overview of Assessment components and deadlines (Civil and Structural Engineering)
Assessment components by level with key details such as deadlines for submission and feedback, percentage weighting.

SoMaS student intranet (School of Mathematics and Statistics)
Handbook for all students in the School.

Feedback mapping (Medical School) The school provided details of the feedback students would receive across all modules. This document shows some examples.

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Further information

Links and downloads

Internal links

External links