Part of the
Centre for
Engineering Education
TU DelftTU EindhovenUniversity of TwenteWageningen University
Centre for
Engineering Education


+31(0)6 48 27 55 61


Project introduction and background information

Digital education provides a unique opportunity to reshape our educational practices in order to optimally use our limited resource in terms of human capital and continue to provide excellent education to our students. However, education at most universities is still organized around monographic stand-alone topic courses, offered in a predetermined sequence and taught in plenary lectures. At the same time it is well-known that the ingredients needed for (deep) learning are: boundaries (context), resources and a question that triggers our imagination. The goal of CMODE project was to develop a course design strategy based on these three pillars that can be extended to curriculum design.

Its subsequent project; CMODE-UP used the results of CMODE, and aimed towards creating evidence-based design principles for teachers to design their courses in engineering education with online modules.

Objective and expected outcomes

The general objectives of CMODE and CMODE-UP was to arrive at evidence-based design principles for modular on-demand digital education in higher engineering education and CBL contexts.

The following sub-objectives are addressed with CMODE and CMODE-UP:

  • Explore the possibilities of on-demand modular education within the current curriculum structure.
  • Design a real life case that provides the motivation for deep learning in the modules.
  • Optimize face-to-face lecturer-student contact to maximize the ratio value/time.
  • Develop an intelligent digital learning environment including digital assessment tools.
  • Design digital learning environment making use of existing online material supplemented with new material if needed and implement in CANVAS.
  • Establish best practices, do’s and don’ts and a roadmap towards broader implementation of design principles for modular courses in higher engineering education.
  • Optimize use of our limited resources to make lecturer time count.
  • Maximize the added value of TU/e education with respect to online programs.  


  • The C-MODE blueprint is based on existing literature and best practices and TUe expertise.
  • The "design principles" and the "teacher guide" of CMODE-UP are based on: a) a systematic literature review on peer-reviewed published articles on modular courses in higher engineering education, b) expert reviews, and c) think-aloud interviews with teachers.
  • The design principles of CMODE-UP will be  further validated through implementation at TU/e engineering courses in coordination with selected teachers.
  • The design principles will be  strengthened and adapted using empirical data and practical implementation.
  •  The methodology will include three consecutive phases: 1) Phase-1: Modular course design using the “design principles” and the “teacher guide” of CMODE-UP, 2) Phase-2: Collect data with the delivery of the modular courses, and 3) Phase-3: Analyze data for construction of a final framework for modular course design in higher engineering education.

Expected outcomes

  • Evidence-based design principles that can guide teachers and course designers in design of courses with a modular approach.
  • Modular educational concept that can be implemented within the constraints of the current curriculum.
  • Improved performance and satisfaction of students and lecturers.
  • Reduce pressure on lecturing space and lecturer time.
  • Roadmap towards a broader implementation of modular courses.

Results and learnings

CMODE-UP resulted in two products to facililate design of courses with a modular approach.

The first product contains eight design principles for the teachers to consider as they design their course with a modular approach. Two exemplary design principles are relevant to the two questions: “How do you want to group and sequence the modules?” and “What are the strategies to facilitate students’ effective use of modules?” The design principles are expressed with questions and several options below them. For each principle, the teachers first examine the related part of the second product; the teacher guide. Based on the option(s) chosen, the teacher is recommended to examine the teacher guide for more information.

The second product; teacher guide seeks to further support teachers in designing courses by showing them selected illustrative articles. This teacher guide is a practical source to illustrate how the design principles have actually been implemented in the literature. This guide provides the teachers with example articles for each design principle. This teacher guide does not tell the teacher to apply certain design principles, but gives examples and shows how and why a teacher might choose from different design options.

In this ongoing research, the researchers are working on the iteration and validation of both products, through implementation at TU/e engineering courses in coordination with selected teachers.

Our current actions for dissemination include:

  • conference presentation; the 49th SEFI Annual Conference, September 13-16, 2021, Technical University Berlin (virtual)
  • 4TU final-report
  • presentation at the 4TU Modularization event, December 9, 2021, and
  • article to be published in a peer-reviewed journal.

Practical outcomes