For the past two years the Postgraduate Learning Design Team have been working with the Faculty of Health to develop the Master of High Performance Sport, which is primarily an online course. Here we reflect on the key elements that have made this a successful co-design process.

What is co-design?

In the context of course and subject development, co-design refers to the process of bringing people together (teachers, industry experts, students, technical experts, media experts and learning designers) to design and develop subjects. It leads to the development of better solutions to address problems and challenges – in our case, better teaching and learning experiences.

Codesign makes ideas, experiences and possibilities visible and tangible.

Burkett, I. (2012), An introduction to co-design, Centre for Social Impact, University of NSW

At UTS, co-design is built around a close relationship between the learning design team and the academics. It brings the subject matter expertise and teaching expertise into discussions about the design of quality student experiences and online resources. 

Keys to successful co-design

The successful co-design of the Master of High Performance Sport can be summarised into 4 key elements:

1. Shared decisionmaking

Traditionally, the development of a subject has rested squarely on the shoulders of the academic teaching the subject. However, moving to online teaching and learning requires a new approach and way of working. 

In a co-design approach, the ownership of design and development is shared, and decisions are made together, making the most of the expertise within the team.

2. Trust

Academics new to this way of working were asked to ‘surrender to the process’ and they did! Some of the ways trust was established included:

  • A sense of responsibility and commitment amongst team members
  • Using good communication and collaboration skills such as asking good questions and listening
  • Helpful processes and documentation
  • A team culture of honesty, curiosity and openness
  • Sharing a united vision to produce the best learning experience possible
  • Having fun!

3. Flexibility

Moving to online teaching and learning means a move away from traditional lecture/tutorial/exam approaches. The team had to rethink the design of learning experiences: to be flexible and open to new ways of working, curating content, using and developing media, writing and communicating, facilitating, providing feedback, designing learning activities, assessments etc.

The team also had to be flexible in the way they worked together. For example, working on a particular problem may require developing different ways of approaching, understanding and representing the problem to get to a common understanding. This is only step 1 to designing a solution! 

4. Learning focus

The co-design process provides a way to build capability amongst participants. The team learned from each other to develop capabilities in the areas of learning design, and facilitation as well as digital capability such as using media and Canvas.

The team had a clear vision for their approach to learning and this is communicated to students to orient their approach and underlines all the subjects that are developed.


The new course has been a success. The following feedback from students demonstrates that they are transferring their learning into their professional life:

UTS has changed the way I learn, analyse and approach my every day.

Sports Physiotherapist and High Performance Sport Student

I have been able to gain valuable insight from leaders in the industry and pick up clinical pearls that I can apply immediately to my practice has been the most rewarding aspect of the course.

Sports Physiotherapist and High Performance Sport Student

Feature image by Anna Zhu

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