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Guidelines for completing the module descriptor form

The module descriptor is a public statement of your module content. It is important that this statement is clearly and completely articulated to allow students to make informed decisions when selecting modules.  For a brief description of the information that should be included in each field of the UCD module descriptor form check out Making the Most of Your Module Descriptor

For instructions on how to technically complete the UCD module descriptor go to the UCD Registry Quickguide to Editing Modules.  Other documentation, including an FAQ list and a longer, more comprehensive guide to completing module descriptors, is available on the Curriculum Management website.

Some aspects of the module descriptor form are pre populated but there are a number of sections which allow scope to elaborate on the key features of your modules.  While all sections of the module descriptor should be carefully completed, it is worth paying particular attention to:

  1. Writing the module learning outcomes
  2. Workload & FTE; 
  3. Assessment.



Workload/FTE sometimes referred to as ‘student effort hours’ can be categorised in three ways (or schedule types):

  • Class Contact;
  • Specified Learning Activities
  • Autonomous Student Learning.


Class contact

Class contact refers to all timetabled learning activities where a teacher/lecturer is present. There are currently three common class contact groups:

  • Class Contact – Lectures: Lectures refer to the formal didactic presentation of theoretical/conceptual material to students, regardless of the size of the class.
  • Class Contact – Small Group: Small group teaching refers to tutorials or seminars where material previously covered in lectures or independent study is reviewed or explored in further detail.  Its purpose is to help consolidate students’ understanding of theoretical/conceptual material, and in some subjects, to make connections between theory and the practical elements of a module.
  • Class Contact – Practicals: Practical refers to laboratories, design studios, clinical practice etc., where an instructor is present.

Specified Learning Activities 

These are activities that the student is required to perform and which take place when the teacher or instructor is not present, e.g. placements, projects, some forms of practical work.

Autonomous Student Learning 

This refers to the background reading etc. essential to achieving a full understanding of the specified learning outcomes for the module.

Depending on the nature of the module the weighting of the schedule types may vary (Table 1). For example:

  • specified learning activities and autonomous student learning may be weighted more heavily at masters level;
  • the nature of the specified learning activities is different for on-line/blended modules.


Table 1: Examples of Weighting of Indicative Student Effort Hours


Class Contact


Class Contact


Class Contact

(Face-to-face and monitored online)

Specified Learning Activities

(Out of class)

Specified Learning Activities

(Online or out of class)

Specified Learning Activities

(Online or out of class)

 Autonomous Student Learning  Autonomous Student Learning  Autonomous Student Learning


The student effort hours must add up to UCD’s regulation for the module size and credit.  The UCD General Regulations can be found in the UCD Governance Document Library.



Modules may contain a variety of assessment types. It is important to clearly and consistently define module assessments. Follow Making the Most of Your Module Descriptor a guide to making the most of your module which includes a variety of assessment types. It is recommended that you use the ‘descriptions’ window in the Assessment area to clarify key details of the assessment for student reference.

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