Skill courses help students learn to do tasks independently, like:

  • Writing programs

  • Analyzing data

  • Writing technical documents

Universities have many such courses. Most are about solving problems, not rote performance.

Student studyingI’ve been teaching skills like programming for a long time. It’s taken a while to get it right, but at last everything has come together. Students learn useful skills, classes are fun, and the semester runs smoothly. If you’re looking for a way to do right by your students, without driving yourself crazy, this is a good place to start.

The skill course design model (SCDM) is based on other people’s work. First, the “what”: what should a good course be like? For that, we can use learning science and instructional design (ID) research, particularly 4C/ID and complex learning. For a quick intro to that world, see chapter 7 of Neelen and Kirschner’s Evidence-Informed Learning Design (2020).

Second, there’s the “how”: how do we go about making a good course? For that, we can dip into backwards design, like Understanding by Design (2005). UbD is systems analysis, applied to courses.

Some people in corporate training see courses as one part of a larger performance system, that helps people get things done. The 5 Moments of Need framework is an example. In the workplace, we might give people performance support tools, like checklists for uncommon tasks. People learn how to use the checklists in courses, and in refreshers as new performance support tools are created.

SCDM is about making and running skill courses. However, skill courses can be one part of a performance system. SCDM’s emphasis on learning for tasks is compatible with the broader view.

Section contents

Boundary conditions