Course descriptions (in particular Intended learning outcomes, learning activities and assessment)

SAP has copied text from an earlier version of the course description when available and inserted it into the course base for the spring/autumn 2014 version of the course. If you are to teach on an already existing course, you can use this as a starting point.

When adjusting the description you should refer to the programme coordinator and head of programme. However, regarding the pedagogical aspects of the course such as intended learning outcomes, leaning activities and assessment the below guidelines for course descriptions must be used. The instructions are based on the principles of constructive alignment according to professor John Biggs. The guidelines can be found below. You can also contact Mikkel Hvidtfeldt Andersen in the Learning Unit at for sparring on this part of the course description.

In the box Table of Content you can choose any section of the instructions you prefer.

Formal prerequisites

Describe which programs or courses must be completed in order to be admitted to the present course. Quote either example 1 or 2:

Example 1:
  • There are no formal prerequisites for being admitted to the course

Example 2:

  • In order to participate at this course you must have completed one of the below-mentioned courses or have achieved equivalent competencies elsewhere. In case of doubt contact the Study Administration.
  • Interaction Design
  • Introductory programming with project

In the course base the student will be able to follow the hyperlink “Introductory programming with project” and check the content of the mentioned course.

Besides the formal prerequisites you may wish to add other relevant information. But you must make sure that this information is not mistaken for formal prerequisites. Choose between the type examples 3 or 4:

Example 3:
  • Job experience / experience with simple programming will be an advantage but is not compulsory

Example 4:
  • Experience with programming is not necessary

Intended Learning Outcome

At the IT University we have chosen to use John Biggs' SOLO taxonomy (Structure of the Observed Learning Outcome). The taxonomy consists of four qualitative levels of competences that can be observed as actions when performed by the student. It is important that the intended learning outcomes of the course description demonstrates that the student should obtain competencies at different levels.

The intended learning outcome is described by the most important competencies that the student should obtain by attending the course. Competencies should be seen as those new actions that the student will be able to carry out after the course. Normally there will be 5-6 intended learning outcomes. Read more about number of ILOs here. Only verbs expressing action may be used. Since "to understand" and "to possess knowledge" are not actions that can be observed directly, these type of expressions can't be used as verbs in the intended learning outcomes list. The reason is that the intended learning outcomes must send a clear signal to the students what and how they are supposed to perform during the assessment in order to pass the exam. Also the outcomes are the check list for the examiner and external examiner. So a sentence like: "the student should understand design methods" could be transformed into something like: "the student should apply appropriate design methods". See more examples below.

The description of intended learning outcomes in the course base will always start with the sentence: “After the course the student should be able to:”, because the intended learning outcomes form the assessment criteria at the exam.

Next follows the 5-6 intended learning outcomes. With for example these verbs:

  • Define...
  • Combine...
  • Construct...
  • Characterise...
  • Hypothesise...
  • Develop...

SOLO taxonomy = Structure of the Observed Learning Outcome

Here are some examples of verbs that would typically be used at the different levels. It is the course managers’ task to combine the verbs with meaningful objects. Have in mind that a verb that in some study programmes would be considered a rather low level verb might have a high level interpretation in other study programmes. In the end it's up to the course manager to consider the value of the combination of a verb and the area of study. (Inspiration to verbs in Danish can be found here). Pay attention whether all SOLO levels are covered – if so wished. In general the SOLO 5 level would be present at all professional master and MSc courses. It might not be present at bachelor level.

SOLO 2 – Unistructural level (The student's response only focuses on one relevant aspect)
  • Memorise, recite, paraphrase, recognise, find, identify, name, define, follow (simple) instructions, reproduce, calculate

SOLO 3 – Multistrucural level (The student's response focuses on several relevant aspects but they are treated independently and additively)
  • List, select, describe, account for, classify, characterise, apply method, combine, structure

SOLO 4 – Relational level (The different aspects have become integrated into a coherent whole)
  • Analyse, examine, explain, discuss, contrast, compare, differentiate, relate, argue, debate, integrate,predict, interpret, conclude, summarise, apply theory (to its domain), design, plan, organise, conduct, perform, adapt, construct, complete, solve a problem, participate (in relation to principles), implement, advice

SOLO 5 – Extended abstract (The previous integrated whole may be conceptualised at a higher level of abstraction and generalised to a new topic or area)
  • Reflect, generalize, theorise, hypothesise, put into perspective, prove from first principle, apply theory (to new domain), solve from first principle, create, develop, originate, invent

SOLO and grading scale

Intended learning outcomes have become particularly important after the introduction of the 7 point grading scale. A student is now evaluated at the exam by to what extent he/she fulfills the intended learning outcomes of the course or project. This means that it is very important that you formulate intended learning outcomes that are clear and measurable, because the intended learning outcomes will be the basis for the assessment taking place at the exam.

At the below link you can see a description of the 7 point grading scale. It is an official translation by the Danish Ministry of Education. Unfortunately, the English translation is not as focused on goal fulfilment as the Danish text! In order to get an idea of what the Danish text is like, you could try replacing the term "the relevant material" used below with 'course goals'.

All grading must be absolute! Absolute grading refers to grading based on fixed percentage scales (e.g., 100% = 12 points). By contrast, relative grading refers to grading based on score distributions within class. Relative grading is not an option in DK!

Click to see 7 point grading scale and explanations

Example of Intended Learning Outcome

Here is an example of intended learning outcome for the course Digital Culture and Society:

After the course the student should be able to:
  • Discuss the notion of culture as it is applied to respectively ethnography, cultural studies and science and technology studies (STS) as well as the implications of different approaches to culture when studying digital communication.
  • Relate how the new media culture understands technology to a broader historical context.
  • Discuss different methodological perspectives in the study of digital culture and society and apply them in practice.
  • Apply the key concepts taken from sociology and other cultural theory in relation to different empirical issues and cases.
  • Individually identify a current and original area of research related to the course’s theme and carry out a case based study with the theories and methods presented in the course as a point of departure.

Note the use of verbs such as “discuss”, “relate”, “apply", "Identify” etc. They express different levels of competence. We recommend that you graduate competences in this way.


Please give a short introduction to the course content. For instance:
  • The relation between elements of the course and a larger context. How and where to apply the learning of the course
  • Scientific and/or practical methods that the course relies on or that are used at the course
  • Central terms and concepts
  • In general all abbreviations must be explained i.e. AI = Artificial Intelligence or Appreciative Inquiry?

It is important that the descriptions of content are not mixed with the sections for intended learning outcome, learning activities and assessment. It must be easy for the students to see what is what.

Here is an example of content from the course Advanced Models and Programs

The subject of the course is programming language technologies, with special attention to advanced technologies that are likely to influence software practice over the next ten years. The content of the course is structured in a number of themes, for example:

Programming language design
  • Functional/declarative languages: Scheme
  • Higher-order functions, continuations, call/cc (Scheme, Ruby)
  • Other object-oriented languages (Smalltalk, Scala, Ruby, Python, ¿)
  • Syntax and transformation

Static analysis
  • Type systems, type inference (Standard ML, C# 3.0)
  • Haskell¹s type classes, generic programming, domain-specific languages
  • Logic, design by contract, extended static checking (Jackson¹s Alloy, JML,Spec#, ESC/Java, ...)
  • Dataflow analysis

Real and abstract machines
  • Abstract syntax (programs as trees)
  • Bytecode (programs as instruction sequences), stack machines
  • Automatic memory management, garbage collection
  • The C programming language and register-based machines

Learning activities

In this section you should describe in depth the learning. Examples of teaching activities are – among others: group work, project work, experiments, role play, student presentations, lectures, feedback, peer-to-peer feedback, plenum debate, buzz groups, enterprise collaboration, training, case based learning, problem based learning, portfolio, assignments etc. Describe how the activities in the course help the student practicing the competences described in the Intended learning outcome.

You may supplement with important principles that may be characteristic for your course: Variation in teaching activities, active students’ participation, reflection, oriented towards labour market practice, use of digital technologies to qualify learning processes etc.

For more inspiration: Learning Activities in the Teaching & Assessment Wiki

Here is an example from the course Digital Culture and Society

Learning activities:
14 weeks of teaching consisting of lectures and exercises.
The course is an introduction to networked media communication and consists of lectures and various exercises.

The lectures will focus theoretically on reading and discussing various approaches. Further, digital and social media tools will be used hands-on with self-set objectives.

During the exercises you will work in groups and investigate various subjects, such as social media or global collaboration technologies, both at an experimental and analytical basis, and discuss and analyze their communicative and interactive aspects. The subjects can revolve around a specific technology, such as blogging, Facebook, Youtube, Twitter, etc., or you may chose to focus on a specific communicative genre, such as journalism, social entrepreneurship, business communication, or political communication.

Practical use of new media will be an integrated part of as well investigating and analyzing contemporary cases. Through a variety of online and offline projects, you will develop a critical and historical informed perspective on digital communication. You will expand the skills you need to be an active participant in the new media culture. Furthermore, you will practice presenting and communicating your reflections during the course in order to prepare for the oral exam.

Mandatory Activities

Link to info about mandatory activities


In this section you should describe in depth the assessment in your own words. Make sure to settle on one (or a combination of) assessment form(s) that are suited to assess the intended learning outcomes according to the principles of constructive alignment.

Describe the exam process. Describe length and preparation time. If the exam comprehends written work, you must write which.

More about deadlines and study calender in the study guide.


As some students will purchase the presented literature beforehand please be as accurate as possible when listing author, title, publishing year, edition, publisher, ISBN, journal, number.Or wait to put the information in the course base until shortly before course start (when your are certain what you will use).

List only books and articles that will in fact be used at the course. Literature that is only supplementary to the curricula must be named so.

At ITU we strive for a high academic standard and this has consequences for the literature used on our courses. The syllabus for all courses taught at the IT University must contain at least one research article. A research articles is defined as published in scientific journals, conference proceedings, workshop proceedings or proceedings from symposiums or the like. Covering a range of universities should be present at these occasions. In case of doubt contact the head of study program.

Courses at bachelor level are exempt from this rule.

There are two boxes in the course base regarding literature. You can write your own text in both boxes. The literature list gives potential students an impression of the content, level and workload of the course.

Research articles
In this box you must write the research articles used on the course.

In case of none please write “%” in the box (technical reasons)

Literature not including research articles
In this box you should write the rest of the literature used in the course.