DS 83: Proceedings of the 18th International Conference on Engineering and Product Design Education (E&PDE16), Design Education: Collaboration and Cross-Disciplinarity, Aalborg, Denmark, 8th-9th September 2016

Year: 2016
Editor: Erik Bohemia, Ahmed Kovacevic, Lyndon Buck, Christian Tollestrup, Kaare Eriksen, Nis Ovesen
Author: Morris, Richard; Covill, Derek; Milne, Mark; Elton, Eddy; Smith, Steven; Grundy, Cathy
Series: E&PDE
Institution: School of Computing, Engineering and Mathematics, University of Brighton
Section: New Design Paradigms
Page(s): 224-227
ISBN: 978-1-904670-62-9


Breaking degree courses up into smaller, modularised units of study has offered students flexibility
and cross-disciplinarity in their learning paths and has been widely taken up within the UK university
system since first appearing in the 1960s. Deconstructing subjects into constituent components can
however be problematic for holistic subjects where students need to reconstruct these individual
modules back into successful whole bodies of understanding. Product Design courses is an example of
this type of holistic subject, and typically uses project modules as the vehicles for students to re-unite,
synthesise and integrate individual subject knowledge back into a common whole. It can however still
be problematic, for example; to synchronise subject delivery with project requirements, to avoid
overburdening staff and students with modular and project assessment, to balance the requirements of
both theory and practice, and to provide the scheduling framework that makes organisational sense to
students. In 2013/14 course staff at the University of Brighton introduced a quasi-non-modular course format,
which replaced the repetitive weekly format symptomatic of modular delivery. The aims of this
change were to overcome some of the problems perceived to be related to modular delivery. The new
format stripped apart traditional subject groupings and delivered subject knowledge in a block module
format with a sequence mirroring the design process. Whilst educational efficacy is difficult to verify,
the findings suggest that this change has been highly effective. It also revealed more explicitly some of
the deeper learning structures that can get overlooked within the modular system, through which
further enhancement of this non-modular system and the course have been developed in 2015/16.
This paper outlines the changes and lessons learnt by the course team over this 2 year period. It is felt
that these findings offer lessons not just for Product Design tutors but for practitioners and
administrators across the education sector.

Keywords: Modular education, Product Design, Higher Education pedagogy.


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