The skill course design model (SCDM) is designed for certain situations. These are its boundary conditions, that is, the circumstances where it can be expected to do well.

If your course doesn't fit these conditions, SCDM might not be for you.

Intro courses

First, SCDM is for intro courses, where students all need the same basic problem solving skills. Students read the same content, and do the same exercises. Well, more or less. Variation is possible, as we'll see later.

Although content and exercises are more or less the same, timing and location is not. Students can work through content at their own pace, if that's what you want. Courses can have face-to-face components, or not. SCDM is suited to learning distributed across time and space.

Time and expertise

Next, you need to have the time and expertise to make a good course. You need expertise in the work domain, like programming, statistics, or whatever. In a university, that's not too hard to find.

You also need to know some instructional design principles. Many schools have only a few professional instructional designers (IDs), to share across all faculty. If the IDs do train-the-faculty workshops, that might be all you need.

Don't have IDs? One or two motivated professors can learn enough ID to make a course by themselves, if they're willing to do maybe 50 hours of reading and practice.


Exercises and feedback are key in skill learning. You can't skip it! Of course, that means grading thousands of exercise submissions per semester, even for a class of 50 or so students. Graders are cheap for most intro courses. Hire them, instead of faculty bearing the entire load.


SCDM relies on automation. Skilling supports SCDM. It has authoring tools, a slick grading system, student progress reporting, and much else. You can use SCDM without Skilling, but you'll need automation of some kind, if only to handle the feedback load. Remember, you can't skip feedback, if you want a good course.

I've been using Skilling and its precursors (CoreDogs and CyberCourse) for a decade. However, Skilling itself is only about a year old. Skilling is used in production, that is, in live credit-bearing, revenue-generating courses. It's still being worked on, though, and features are still being added. If you have ideas, even half-baked ones, please share.

So, the SCDM works when you:

  • Have an intro skills course

  • Are a subject matter expert, or have one available

  • Can learn about learning, or can work with an instructional designer

  • Can give lots of feedback (hire a grader)

  • Use automation

Section contents

SCDM introduction
Course goals