Resource Database: Geography, Earth and Environmental Sciences

Title Redesigning a Module Using a Resource-based Learning Package Focused Around a Set of Assignments
Originator Peter Newby
Department Centre for Higher Education Research, Middlesex University, Queensway, Enfield, Middlesex, EN3 4SF, UK
Tel. +44 (0)181 362 5344
Fax +44 (0)181 362 5345

Summary: This case study examines how a set of carefully structured activities can be used to replace a set of lectures by independent study. The reduced amount of contact time is focused on a series of seminars based around ideas and judgement. The assignments are designed to meet the knowledge and skills specified in the learning outcomes.



The course leader of the final year module 'Heritage Conservation in Practice' at Middlesex University decided to redesign the module using resource-based teaching for three main reasons:


In redesigning the course the course leader had two main aims:

Student workload

The redesigned course is based around 15 hours of classroom based work and 120+ hours of individual work. This replaced a 14 hour programme of lectures and 8 hours of seminars.

The classroom based work became a seminar built around ideas and judgement. Either the course leader or a student takes a predetermined theme and presents ideas and develops task questions that help others in the group to form their own views. Topics include 'Can we apply ideas about individual personality to a place?', 'What value frameworks are there in heritage management?'.

Most of the individual workload is based around a structured set of assignments. Each student undertakes four out of five topic assignments, a project report, an oral presentation and a seen three hour examination paper. The module mark is based on the project report and the examination, the other two elements are formative, but failure to complete them constitutes failure of the course. Each student completes a weekly learning diary.

Suggested readings and videos are given for each of the assignments. A maximum of 800 words is set for each assignment. The five topic tasks set the last time the module ran were:

Learning outcomes

A set of outcomes are specified for the course and the relationship between the outcomes and the course activities are mapped (see table below):

At the end of this module you should have achieved the following outcomes:



  1. improved your research skills in particular
    1. identifying and specifying a 'problem'
    2. analysis and classification
    3. gathering qualitative data of a judgemental or attitudinal nature
  2. developed your ability to write succinctly
  3. improved your presentation skills
  4. understood the process by which you confront a research issue.


Relationships between outcomes and activities

Outcome Where achieved
Assignments Projects
1 2 3 4 5 Research Presentation
Knowledge 1 X            
Knowledge 2   X X X      
Knowledge 3           X  
Skills 1a           X  
Skills 1b X         X  
Skills 1c     X     X X
Skills 2 X     X      
Skills 3     X       X
Skills 4     X     X  



Responses via the end of module questionnaire were generally poor because this was the last module the students took. However, those that were returned showed that the students valued the experience because they felt they were working as third year students should work and that they were enjoying the challenges. For some, it raised their self-esteem and self-belief. There were no problems of access to resources because with groups of up to about 20 students the course leader could schedule who did what, when. With larger groups there would need to be a different strategy.


Active learning
Independent study
Resource based learning

This is one of the case studies which appears in the GDN Guide "Resource-based Learning in Geography"

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