How did you choose what to include in Discover Dentistry?

Course planning notes stuck up on a wall

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Posted Thursday 12 December 2013

To choose what would be included in Discover Dentistry was at the same time an easy and difficult task. Easy, as we have a clear aim of where we wanted a student to be at the end of the course – the learning objectives – but at the same time difficult as we need to present it in an order that will make sense to someone who knows very little about dentistry.

At the end of the course, we want someone who has worked through Discover Dentistry to have enough knowledge to be able to talk about dental topics with a university interview panel or work experience host, and as many of our teaching staff in the Dental School do these jobs, this bit was quite straightforward.

The ‘ordering’ bit was much more difficult, as we have to make some big assumptions about what people can learn quite quickly (as the course is quite short), and also we have to order things in such a way that we are not constantly referring to things ‘later on’. This is a tricky problem with course design, and it is a little like writing a story for the learner to follow: you might not know everything at the beginning, but it must be interesting and make you want to carry on to find out more.

If we get it wrong we’ll end up with a course that is a little like a film (poorly) adapted from a book: you’ll come out of the cinema saying “I need to read the book to understand the film I just watched.”

In order to make our course work for beginners to dentistry, our course design team had beginners to dentistry in it. If it didn’t make sense to them, it was changed, moved, adapted, and in some cases thrown out. We went through many plans for the weeks in the courses, choosing themes to help us (and you) identify the focus of learning each week, and doing lots of drawing on flipchart pads in order to test out the learner’s journey through the topics.

We found the best planning tool was a flipchart and a very long wall, and we stuck the topics to the wall and quite literally walked our way through the course (many times). The image for this post is a photo of the wall after one of our planning sessions.

Once we had things roughly worked out, we moved to a free digital tool ( that is designed for simple project management tasks and lists (and which is laid out similarly to FutureLearn courses) in order to start adding more detail. By moving to a digital tool we were able to share our plans more widely, and to start thinking about who was going to do each bit, and what it will look like.

Then came the much more involved job of actually making the course. It has been strange going from planning a video of learning to ‘brush like a pro’, to then being sat in a dental chair with a dental hygienist telling you your toothbrush is not up to the job while a camera captures your embarrassment!