CU Course Design SPRINT

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What is a CU Course Design SPRINT?

The five-day CU SPRINT is a rapid prototyping exercise based on the Google Ventures (GV) Sprint methodology. The five-day CU SPRINT is designed specifically for accelerated design, development, and viability testing of Higher Education degree programs. Starting with the ideal graduate and working backwards, by the end of the process the Course Development Approval and Review (CDAR) paperwork will be complete, with the course design ‘tested’ by current students on similar programmes of study.
Five Day SPRINT-01

Disruptive Humanities: A SPRINT Case Study

Find out how the CU SPRINT helped Darren Reid and Brett Sanders develop a brand new masters course in the Humanities. Darren and Brett discuss the CU SPRINT process and provide advice for anyone wanting to give the process a go.

The Process

Pre-Sprint: Setting the Scene

Before any sprint, it is important to consider why you wish to undertake one. A sprint, although rapid, takes a lot of time and effort from those involved. It also only works if those undertaking the process are invested in its success.
Once you have decided to take part in the sprint process, there are a number of things you can do in advance to help make your life easier. We recommend having a pre-sprint meeting where possible. This helps you do the following;
  • Identify the key stakeholders in the process
  • Arrange the most suitable time for the sprint to take place
  • Provide an overview of the process to the participants (you can also use this guide)
  • Clarify the expectations of participants (ie. sole focus on the process)
  • Answer any questions the participants might have

Day One: Mapping Monday

The kick off day. Similar to the GV sprint, we aim to get participants thinking about the product (the course) they wish to produce. After the initial introductions and background to the process, we ask the course team to collectively produce a list of attributes they wish to see in their graduates. From this, we produce a graduate statement — in other words, the product outcome. This provides a reference point for the rest of the week. We believe courses should be designed starting with the graduate and working backwards, building innovative approaches into as much of the course as possible.
After lunch, we start to map themes to the course. These will differ from discipline to discipline, but may include things such as digital literacy, research, professionalism, and so on. We try to narrow the themes down to no more than six core strands, which will form the backbone of our ideal graduate. These themes are then mapped to a ‘Swim Lane’ diagram to provide a visual reference point to their relationship with the course. We then utilise the ‘How Might We’ exercise to provide a set of questions to consider throughout the design process.
The course team then ‘dot map’ the results of the ‘How Might We’ exercise to provide a condensed list of key questions. These are then mapped against their most applicable location on the swim lane diagram for reference on Tuesday. Once participants leave the room, the facilitators stay behind, recording the information and producing digital versions for reference.

Day Two: Development Tuesday

By now, we have the starting point for the course design. It’s time to start mapping our ideas into a structure. The structure will vary depending on the level, mode, and type of study, but the concept remains the same. We have developed a ‘circuit board diagram’ to help visualise the thoughts of the course team. This provides a visual reference for course assessment milestones. The course team will begin to map possible assessment types against the themes from Monday, and develop an assessment narrative for the course. Throughout this process, the facilitators act as critical friends, asking why certain decisions have been taken, in an attempt to ensure quality, digital literacy, international opportunity, innovation, and excellence in learning and teaching.

Day Three: Prototyping Wednesday

By this point, the course team are usually quite mentally fatigued (and understandably so). Wednesday morning is a little more relaxed, and focuses on the marketing aspect of the course. At this point, we try to bring students in to provide a different viewpoint on the process. We spend the whole morning prototyping a course page that would feature in the main University website using Adobe Experience Design (Adobe XD). We have a template already set up, and spend the morning with the course team producing text and images which sell their course to the intended market. This usually includes; a course overview, why study the course, what they will learn, the employability offering, how the course will be taught, and any internationalisation offerings. You can also choose to mock up a prospectus page if it suits you better. The mock website will be used to sell the course to management as well as provide context for the testing phase on Friday.
In the afternoon, we start work on the course documentation. At Coventry, we have two parts to the course documentation, a public facing document and an internal document. The whole of the afternoon is focused on filling out the public facing aspect. This is done in real-time on a cloud-stored document by one of the facilitators, freeing up the academic team to concentrate on further developing their thoughts and ideas for the course.

Day Four: Typing Thursday

Thursday is paperwork day. As with any new course, documentation has to be completed. The whole day should be spent on producing the full course specification documentation. As with yesterday, this is produced in real-time, providing another artefact at the end of the process.
It is important to have links to relevant documentation at hand prior to the day commencing. This may include relevant quality frameworks, institutional guides, teaching and learning strategies, or corporate plans. These are used to help structure the documentation as well as ensuring appropriate language is adopted.

Day Five: Testing Friday

Friday keeps true to the spirit of the GV sprint. It’s testing day. We usually set aside three testing sessions, each no shorter than half an hour (you usually can’t get them out of the room afterwards!). This is your opportunity to test the prototype on your key stakeholders — the students. We recommend you use students from similar courses, whilst throwing in a few curve balls like enticing students from another faculty or school. Use this opportunity to gain valuable feedback on your design. Is it marketable to your audience? Does it provide them with what they need? Is it exciting enough? Are the assessments appropriate?
Remember that mock website from Wednesday? Use it to provide context to the course design. You can use this feedback to make the changes necessary to approve the course for delivery.
Just as valuable as student feedback is the feedback of staff. Where possible, bring the whole course team back together. After all, it’s likely they’ll be the ones delivering the content. This is also an opportunity to bring in staff from other disciplines to provide an alternative viewpoint. Whilst discussions take place, one of the facilitators will be frantically taking notes, recording any useful insights for the future.

Post-SPRINT: Reflect and Consolidate

After a tiring week, it’s time to relax. Reflect on the achievement you have undertaken. In five days, you should have gone from idea to prototyped course design – no mean feat! Reflect upon your favourite moment of the process, and also on your worst. We would love to hear how you got on. You can email us about your own SPRINT experiences at or tweet them to us @disrupt_learn using the hashtag #disruptedu

Tools and Resources


Facilitator Guide

The facilitator guide to the CU SPRINT provides an overview of how to run a course design sprint. It acts as a reference point for facilitation throughout the process.


Participant Guide

The participant guide provides a reference point for those involved in the sprint process. It acts as an overview and sets the scene for the expectations of the process to come.


Resource List

Use this checklist to make sure you have all the equipment needed to run a CU SPRINT. Some specialist equipment such as sprint timers may in cases be borrowed from the DMLL.


Crazy Eights

The Crazy Eights exercise can be used early on in the SPRINT process to rapidly prototype ideas.


Dot Mapping

The dot mapping exercise provides a corner stone of the CU SPRINT process.


Case Study

Watch a case study on SPRINT from Darren and Brett in the School of Humanities.

Discover how SPRINT can work for you!

If you’re thinking of using a CU SPRINT to solve a problem or develop a new product and need some support then you can get in touch with the Disruptive Media Learning Lab team.

Call: 02477 659495