Designing your SEKE module

Creating a SEKE module has processes and challenges much like many other modules. However, there may be additional considerations due to external organisation involvement, this means we need to consider the three-way relationship between the external organisation, the students and the tutor. The learning can often be experimental, as a result of working on an external, and often live, project or task. We look at the different types of SEKE projects and modules, the use of synthetic situations to evaluate and build student skills, and then consider a number of learning design steps. Although you will have your own university’s processes and ways of developing a module, this tool will help you whether you are new to SEKE or already have experience in it.

Using this tool helps you to:

  1. Become more confident in embarking on a SEKE module.
  2. Have a checklist of key considerations.

Learning Outcomes

Additional Resources




Creating a SEKE module has the same processes and challenges of any module. However, there are additional considerations due to external organisations being involved. There are also some risks and uncertainties associated with involving external partners are significant, and there are ways to overcome this.

This tool will help academics who are new to SEKE, as well as those who are experienced and covers:

  1. The different forms and types of SEKE modules
  2. The options
  3. Design considerations
  4. Practicalities

Why have a SEKE module?

The Creative Students Creating Business research and other studies have shown the benefits to students’ learning and preparation for life after University. SEKE learning also contributes to the professional development of academics and the learning of external organisations. SEKE modules also have a follow-on benefit to student engagement in the classroom for non-SEKE modules.

Different types of SEKE modules

There are 3 basic types of SEKE module:

  • A challenge based on an exploration/speculative issue faced by an organisation or society. An external client proposes the challenge, the tutors and students interpret and shape this into a project brief. The students, clients and tutors are creating and sharing knowledge. Due to this the project is speculative, the risks of failure are minimal - there is no detriment to the client, so students can use their creativity to the full. 
  • A challenge based on a live, current issue, faced by an organisation or society. An external client proposes the challenge, the tutors and students interpret and shape this into a project brief. The students, clients and tutors are creating and sharing knowledge. The project has immediate relevance, and there may be some downside to the client if things do not turn out as expected.
  • A research-based challenge based on a live, current issue, faced by an organisation or society. An external client proposes the challenge, the tutors and students interpret and shape this into a project brief. The research element means students might not be proposing new products, creating performances or artefacts - just delivering research analysis and insights. The students, clients and tutors are creating and sharing knowledge. The project has relevance, but often longer term for the client. There may be some downside to the client if things do not turn out as expected, but as it is research, it might not be informing immediate decisions by the client - just giving them insights.

There are other type of SEKE learning activities:

  • Degree Apprenticeships. Although students are using their classroom learning in their workplace, the projects are usually not ones that are overseen by the tutor, and assessed. However, specific modules within a DA programme may well fall into one of the 3 categories above.
  • Placements. Some of these are assessed, and some not. Students are using their previous learning (e.g. from the past years) in the workplace, and the university has no control over the project work.

Whole or part-module

SEKE can be the basis for a whole module, or just part of it.


The challenge is the balance between the set up and preparation time, the time on the project, and the time on final assessment.

Sometimes, a whole term or semester or teaching block of several weeks can be quite challenging for students working on a SEKE project. Especially if the project focus is narrow, and has less variety or is less demanding than other projects

If modules run across entire semester, term or teaching block (eg typically 10-12 weeks), consider:

  • At the design stage, keep modules short (e.g. 5 weeks). That way students can keep the end in mind easily, and this will help students to focus, and reduce the feeling of things dragging on.
  • Break down the project into different phases. This can lead to small wins or achievements, and will lead to bigger gains overall. This might give the opportunity to adjust the team dynamic, such as giving a different student a chance to be the team leader.
  • Have distinct feedback sessions, where progress can be fully reviewed, and the students consider how they can adjust their approach for the next phase.
  • Talk to the external client about the need for variety, and ask for their suggestions as to how the interest can be maintained. For example, a business trip or field visit or creative performance at a key facility or organisation. This will give students something to look forward to, other than a final presentation or demonstration/performance of their work.


Many institutions are developing part-modules, or shortened SEKE learning experiences.


5 week learning experience:

  • Week 3 - a client presents a problem or challenge.
  • Weeks 3 to 5 - students research, investigate, and create.
  • Week 5 - students present their results, or the performance. 

1 week learning experience:

  • Day 1 - a client presents the problem or challenge via zoom to the whole cohort. 
  • Day 8 - students or student teams present their responses in class, or live on screen to the client who gives feedback.

The above examples can be applied to projects with a strong element of co-production, such as a student or student team working alongside a community group or school, where the project is about a shared experience between all involved.

Using synthetic situations

An idea is to use “synthetic” situations, such as a case study or challenge created by tutors, but based on a real or live issue or organisation. The students are getting no interaction with an external organisation. Tutors can simulate a “client”.

Synthetic situations can be used to evaluate students' skills as well as building skills before embarking on the live projects.

These skills might include:

  • Working in teams
  • Project planning and organising
  • Problem solving
  • Presentation skills
  • Primary and secondary research (responsibilities for sharing research information between students, their tutor and the external organisation need to be discussed and agreed)

Many modules do this already, but it’s useful to have a clear progression of skills towards a live SEKE module. For example, a Level 5 SEKE module should be supported by modules in Level 4. Course design should be looking at progression anyway, as a general principle, but if you can isolate the specific additional skills students are expected to develop when on their live SEKE module, this will enable students to learn more effectively.

Basic skills. One can imagine a hierarchy of skills, and at the base, if students have not developed the basic digital skills below, they may struggle.

  • How to send an email
  • How to manage chat
  • How to use an online calendar
  • How to use a shared drive
  • How to use an online meeting tool such as Zoom (even if the module is face-to-face, there will be many situations where students will need to meet as a team, or with the client, using Zoom or any other online platform).

Module Learning Design

Each university has its own ways and processes for designing modules, and the advice below focused on the SEKE specific elements is broadly based on the University of Portsmouth’s Enable approach to course and module design.

We strongly recommend involving students, as co creators, throughout the process. Where you can involve external organisations - they may not want to get into the detail, but they can input into the overall design and shape of the module.

Creating a Shared Vision

Decide on the vision for the module, before you start to develop Learning Outcomes. Identify and decide on the key module features; for example, you might pick themes such as: social learning, assessments based on the real-world learning experience, the extent of student vs tutor led learning, the balance of learning off site vs on campus.

Check your vision contributes to the university’s wider aims of SEKE learning and more generally being a civic university, building a strong eco-system with external partners.

Create your module strapline

Create your module strapline - a short catchy phrase that grabs people's attention. Make sure it resonates not just with your students, but the external organisations (does it excite them to get involved in your module?).

Create a mission mapped to your university’s desired hallmarks or attributes that the university wants all its students to achieve. Aim to keep this brief and engaging. 

Consider posting this on wider social media to engage a further audience with your module.

Develop the Learning Outcomes and Assessments

Develop Learning Outcomes (LOs) that can help the students to see how the module contributes to the development of ongoing employability skills and their personal brand. A test is can the LOs be used by the student in their LinkedIn profile “I learned how to do:....”

Consider the balance of assessing the students’ output, the students' learning (they may have learned a lot, even if the final product was less successful than expected), the group versus individual balance.

Often a portfolio assessment is useful, as the students are likely to be able to demonstrate their progression during the module  

Create a storyboard and the main activities

Rather than getting into a mechanical week by week mindset, think about the overall structure and phasing. Consider the core activities, and how they integrate the different learning type elements and identified learning design principles.

Once you have the storyboard, you can add more detail, such as the weekly learning activities. Think about how you can use the SEKE Toolkit in specific areas of the module: will you be asking students to consider specific tools in particular weeks, how will the tools work alongside other teaching materials, such as Linked-In Learning, and activities you have designed as a module team?

Review your design and create an action plan

Focus on action-planning to maintain momentum around learning design. Use your module, or wider course team to review your design. You can also share it with key external partners.

Implement your design into your VLE

You will need to go through your university review and approval processes. Then create your VLE site.

Review the module while it is running, and at the end. You can hold an event where students, tutors and external stakeholders are invited to informally celebrate progress and gain feedback as to what is working well, what can be improved. Try to do this twice during the module. The interaction between these 3 groups of people creates a rich discussion, and  is another way than a standard survey, to gather feedback and insights.



Please download these additional resources and worksheets.

References used in the creation of this tool:

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