The Course Design Institute Goes to Darwin!


CDI participants at Charles Darwin University

Published 28 August 2023


UNSW’s Course Design Institute, which has been empowering academics since 2018 not just to design courses, but to understand the deeper aspects of learning and teaching, has seen its first alumni from Charles Darwin University.

In July, Dr Alex Bannigan, Head Academic Development and Engagement at UNSW, travelled to Darwin (Larrakia Land) to co-facilitate CDU’s first ever Course Design Program in collaboration with CDU colleague Laura Fairbrother. 

Laura discovered the Course Design Institute while looking for ways to promote excellence in course design at Charles Darwin University. “I could see through the videos on the website that the CDI was so clearly impacting people positively at UNSW,” she explained. “I could also see how deeply embedded in evidence it was.”

After meeting regularly with Alex to modify the program to fit CDU’s needs, Laura ran the first course with Alex’s help. “We used a train-the-trainer model. Now Laura has everything she needs to keep it going at CDU,” said Alex.

The Course Design Institute, an intensive five-day program, goes beyond the mechanics of course design to what’s important about a subject, why students are studying it, and what will help them to succeed. Participants look at the big picture of their course, then create or revise meaningful learning outcomes, authentic assessment tasks, and learning activities that will set students up for success.

CDI participants at Charles Darwin University

Dr Louise King, CDU’s Director Educational Quality & Excellence, who joined the program for the whole week as a peer facilitator, commented, ”The interactive and reflective sessions provided course and unit co-ordinators with the opportunity to focus on developing the understanding and skills for the constructive alignment of learning outcomes, assessment, content, and creative learning activities. The final gallery session was a marvellous opportunity for the participants to present their course design plans and engage with their colleagues across the university.”

All of the participants said that they would recommend the program to a colleague.

One commented, “I feel I had this big ah-ha moment around how to improve the unit learning outcomes so that I can teach to them and students also know what we are trying to achieve!”

Another said, “I thought my assessments are excellent, but no – this session of improving assessments will facilitate ‘enduring understanding’ in my students.”

Alex added, “It’s always a bit nerve-wracking introducing something you believe in to a new audience, especially when it’s a university with such a different context from ours. But the feedback from the participants has been fantastic! And people were willing to share, support and genuinely listen to each other and the facilitators.” 

If you are interested in finding out more or participating in the Course Design Institute yourself, visit

Editorial by: Laura E. Goodin and Alex Bannigan


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