So, you have an idea for a short program. You might have been offering face-to-face seminars or workshops and want to turn them into a course, or perhaps you’ve seen an opportunity for engaging with the wider community. But how feasible is this course idea?  

At UniSA Short Programs are educational programs which lead to a level of academic or professional attainment but do not lead to the provision of a University award.  More details about activities that are classified as short programs are available here

The following prompts and tools will assist in guiding you through the process of conceptualising what your short program might look like, where it might fit within the broader range of courses offered by competitors, and to begin planning your course curriculum.  

First, here is a Short Program Conceptualisation Tool. Use this to guide your thinking and planning during these early stages of conceptualising your intended short program. An added bonus is that the information requested within this tool is required for your approval documentation in the next stage, so you’ll not be duplicating effort unnecessarily. 

Within this tool you will need to provide: 

  • An overview of the issue this short program expects to tackle 
  • The aim of the course 
  • The course objectives or outcomes for participants  
  • Who your market/target audience is and how you will promote your course 
  • Details around fees and budget 
  • An outline of the contentunit value and structure of the course 
  • How you will assess participants, especially if it has a unit value 
  • Expected enrolment and the longer-term potential of your course 

Instructions for each of these elements are provided within the tool with some additional resources provided here to assist in your thinking and decision making.  

Importantly, if you decide to offer your short program online, this will be hosted on the university’s LearnOnline platform. There is no need for you to find a separate platform to build your course! 

One of the first steps you should take after identifying an opportunity for a short program is to think about who your market is. Where will your short program will fit amongst the range of other courses and learning opportunities out there? What is your unique selling point that differentiates what you’re going to offer from what your competitors are already providing? What fees should you set for your short program that fit with the rest of the market but also cover your costs? What’s your budget? (Use this Budget Tool to get you started.) You should also get in contact with your local Financial Advisor (central finance) to ensure you have considered all possible costs and details relating to financing your Short Program.

These details will need to be clear in your approval documentation and are an important consideration for approval panels. 

Aligning your short program with one of the AQF (Australian Quality Framework) standards is important to ensure you are pitching your content at an appropriate level.  

If your target audience is aimed at professionals currently in the workforce, you might choose an AQF level 7 or 8. These two levels correspond with Bachelor Degree (Level 7) and Bachelor Honours Degree/Graduate Certificate/Graduate Diploma (Level 8). If you think your short program will have an audience outside of these levels, such as a bridging course for students starting university, you might consider aligning with one of the other levels described on the AQF website 

Planning out your short program curriculum is different to writing the details of your course content. Curriculum planning is a high-level planning step where you will need to consider several elements including 1) the scope of the content you will cover and writing course objectives, 2) choosing a unit equivalent (if appropriate), and finally 3) aligning your course objectives with appropriate assessment/s. 

1 Scoping your short program and writing course objectives 

Writing course objectives is one of the first things you’ll need to nail down – these will guide all future decisions about what will be covered in your course. These course objectives need to be assessable and related to what you want your students to get out of this course.  

Here is a link to a resource compiled by staff in the Teaching Innovation Unit that gives some great clear instructions on how to write effective course objectives (staff login required).  

2 Choosing your unit equivalent 

When conceptualising your short program, you’ll need to consider how short your course, or courses, will actually be. Standard university courses are 4.5 units, typically taking between 10-13 weeks to complete and with a total commitment time from students of around 157 hours. Courses offered within a short program on the other hand could be shorter than this, but how do you determine what unit equivalent your course might be? 

The table below gives an indication of some possible course structures you might choose for your short program. Use this to guide your thinking and planning steps. Conceptualising a short program is quite different to the standard sized courses many of us are used to working with!  

Some questions you’ll want to think about are: 

  • How much time am I expecting/wanting students to commit to my short program? Remember this time includes the time needed for assessments, watching videos, completing quizzes and/or readings etc. 
  • How much content do I want/need to cover? What are the objectives of this short program – keep it focussed! 
  • Will this be a single course, or would a series of courses be more appropriate? What makes sense for your content, would a single course be appropriate, or do you need to split it up over 2 or more courses within your short program? 
  • What size do my assessments need to be to properly assess student learning in my course?  Check the Online Learning Activities and Assessments in Moodle table for different ways you might assess learning without being heavy on words. 
  • How many assessments can I include given the size of my short program? Choose something sensible and doable within the timeframe of your course. 
  • What fees should I charge given the size and scope of my short program?  You’ll need to do a market analysis in the Conceptualisation Tool to ensure you are competitive for your given market as well as covering your costs. 

Choosing your Unit Equivalent 


Total commitment time for the course (hours)^ 

Assessible Written Words (equivalent) 

Number of summative 






















Standard award course for comparison# 






NOTE: ^The time noted here includes time spent completing assessments in addition to completing the course materials; *Each assessment must be a standalone piece (i.e. essay, report) – avoid using ‘continuous assessments’ (i.e. weekly quizzes or weekly forum posts); #4.5 unit courses are equivalent to standard university courses.  

3 What are your options for Assessment/s 

Choosing the right type of assessment is really important to enable students to demonstrate their learning and understanding of the course content you’ve presented. The assessment pieces selected must align with your learning objectives and be appropriate for your intended audience.  

Also think about how your assessments will be marked or graded. The costs, both time and money, associated with marking/grading assessments needs to be considered and weighed up against other options for feedback. It is possible to create assessments that require less ongoing involvement while still supporting student learning, such as automated quiz feedback or providing self-assessed example answers. 

Whatever you choose needs to be appropriate for your:  

  • learning objectives, 
  • intended audience, 
  • time and word count limits,  
  • ability to mark/grade the assessment. 

UniSA provide a comprehensive list of possible assessment types listed in Appendix C (p.38-42) of the Program Approval Manual (staff login required). However, when delivering courses online, some of these assessment types may not be available or work in the same way as a face-to-face class setting allows. Contact the Teaching Innovation Unit  if you would like some guidance in making the switch to online assessments for your short program.  

For a list of available Moodle tools that you might use for assessments, take a look at the Online Learning Activity and Assessments table on the Design and Development page