Adaptive learning requires students to engage in novel scenarios within and beyond the discipline context. While the purpose of a course, and thus its nature, rests with the course assignments, the quality of a course is determined to a large degree by the support provided for students to undertake those assignments and attain the desired learning outcomes. Explicit statements of learning outcomes do not inherently give the student an insight into the learning processes required. Teaching, learning and assignment support can be designed to make more transparent those learning processes that are most effective in achieving, or working towards, the intended learning outcomes.
To support this, the course should aim to provide students with opportunities for obtaining feedback on their ideas and their approaches through debate and discussion and sharing of work, as well as providing an environment for reflection. Extending this to peer assessment, students can learn valuable lessons when given access to the work of their peers by engaging in the evaluation of what is and what is not good quality work in their subject area, using the same open-ended approaches the tutor might use.
The emphasis of the course design thus needs to be placed firmly on supporting the activities of the students and highlighting the capabilities to be developed rather than centring on the subject content of the course. Specific learning outcomes can only be developed and assessed by offering the students the opportunity to undertake specific and appropriate learning activities. The requirement in research-led teaching is to provide assignments and activities that allow the demonstration of the adaptive learning capabilities and qualities in a student’s work. By nature, such assignments tend to be more open, challenging and motivating than those that require the demonstration of established knowledge and procedures, characterised by adoptive learning outcomes (Ramsden, 1991). By offering such designed activities early in the course, the students are not only made aware of the course module expectations, but also supported in developing the required capabilities and making appropriate use of the learning resources, guidance, feedback and opportunities for reflection provided. In turn, students themselves can contribute to the course, bringing in resources that support the formation and expression of their ideas and justifying these. In general, the nature and effectiveness of the course support can influence the students’ learning experience, and more importantly, can determine the overall quality of the course.