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Course Design Intensives


About the Course Design Intensives (CDIs)

The Course Design Intensive (CDI) is a team-based curriculum development process. It is intended for whole degree programmes, as opposed to modules or units. Typically it spans several months and involves consultancy and 2 or 3 days of workshops organised by the Oxford Centre for Staff and Learning Development (OCSLD). To read more about the origins, development and benefits of the CDI process, download this briefing paper (pdf file 144 Kb), written for the Higher Education Academy as one of the outputs of the Oxford Brookes Pathfinder Project. Several papers dealing with the role of CDIs in the curriculum development process more generally have been published (see Dempster et al 2012, Benfield 2008a) and a short article in Teaching News deals with CDIs at Oxford Brookes (Benfield 2008b). An external evaluation report is available; follow the link on the left or click here. Or, read on to get the gist of it.


The CDI format was originally developed by OCSLD in 2003 to support the University's eLearning strategy. Like the Carpe Diem model developed by Gilly Salmon and the CABLE process used at the University of Hertfordshire that emerged at a similar time, it aimed to develop coherent eLearning approaches in courses by designing in teams. The CDI process differs from other team approaches in that it is intended for whole degree programmes, who work in parallel during the process and share good practice as they do their design work. As a curriculum development process CDIs align directly with Graham Gibbs's (2012, p 10) recommendation, in his report on improving quality in higher education institutions, that "funding for innovation, both within institutions and by national bodies, should be targeted on programmes rather than on modules and on the involvement of entire programme teams rather than on individuals."

CDIs worked so well for developing technology enhanced learning that they are now used to support curriculum development of all kinds: assessment redesign, the development of brand new courses, designing for graduate attributes, even redesign of whole suites of undergraduate programmes. The process has been adopted by several UK universities, including the University of Brighton, Coventry University, Robert Gordon University and the University of Oxford. The CDI process has also been taken up in Australia. Greg Benfield, who leads the CDI process at Brookes, has been appointed Visiting Fellow at Victoria University, Melbourne, to help establish the process for supporting an ambitious university-wide curriculum renewal project (for more information see Curriculum renewal at Victoria University, Melbourne). Latrobe University in Melbourne adopted the process, which it calls FOLD, to support flexible and online learning development projects.

CDIs are not intended to win hearts and minds. They are for course teams who have already made a commitment to some specific curriculum innovation, e.g. 'blended' or fully online learning, assessment redesign, graduate attributes, or even designing a brand new course. They aim to develop the practice of course design and development in expanded, multi-disciplinary teams.

The idea is that the course teams bring their syllabus, learning outcomes, assessment regime, etc, and we supply experienced e-learning practitioners/developers, learning technologists,  subject librarians, or other relevant specialists, and work together to design and build your chosen innovation in your course. The basic process is shown at the right. The aim is to bring additional development resources into the picture for course teams in a concentrated way to get a quick result. We anticipate that by the end of the two days you will have the essential underpinning ideas and framework for your course, its basic structures, and some sample activities built and ready to go, with the remaining elements designed but still needing production.

We expect the working relations teams establish with design, technology and information specialists in these events to continue through to completion of the development work. Frequently this will extend over months, or even years, through evaluation and iterative improvement of the designs.

What participants say

Evaluations are usually highly complimentary.

One participant said it was a Another commented that the format gave them A third commented that the atmosphere is

fantastic opportunity to have 3 days! (unheard of) to work with like-minded colleagues

time to think, plan and explore in greater depth. The workshop had a thorough, coherent structure which worked at the necessary level

comfortable & vibrant  - a good place to learn & with the right support available to facilitate real progress


You will need to bring

  • yourself, your ideas, an open mind
  • syllabus, learning outcomes, assessment details of the course you be working on, together with resources that you could use to build online learning activities
  • wireless laptop or tablet (if you have one), especially on Day Two


There are several objectives underpinning this workshop format. To:

  • provide course development teams with access to design expertise
  • use the 'many hands make light work' principle
  • provide time and space to think creatively
  • provide an opportunity for concentrated work that leads to tangible outputs
  • use critical friends who can facilitate rapid iterative improvements to designs

There are some preconditions and assumptions we have to make:

  • that members of the course team agree to participate for the full two days
  • that members of the course team have had the relevant training or experience with the learning technologies they plan to use (eg, the VLE, Wiki, e-portfolio tool, etc)

Using the site

This site contains links to current/recent events and archives of previous events, including at other universities where we have delivered them. These archives usually contain photo galleries of the events, including representations of the designs created. Use the left sidebar to navigate the site.


Benfield, G. (2008a). "e-Learning Course Design Intensives: disrupting the norms of curriculum design." Educational Developments(9.4): 20-22.

Benfield, G. (2008b) "Fostering creativity in course design - Course Design Intensives (CDIs)." Teaching News 2008-09, Semester 1, online at

Dempster, J. A., Benfield, G. and Francis, R. (2012). "An academic development model for fostering innovation and sharing in curriculum design." Innovations in Education and Teaching International 49(2): 135-147.

Gibbs, G. (2012). "Implications of ‘Dimensions of quality’ in a market environment." [Online] Retrieved 5 Dec, 2012, from


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