Analytic Quality Glossary


A B C D E F G H I J K L M N O P Q R S T U V W X Y Z Home


Citation reference: Harvey, L., 2004-21, Analytic Quality Glossary, Quality Research International,

This is a dynamic glossary and the author would welcome any e-mail suggestions for additions or amendments. Page updated 22 September, 2021 , © Lee Harvey 2004–2021.


Novel Recipes




core definition

A module is a formal learning experience encapsulated into a unit of study, usually linked to other modules to create a programme of study.

explanatory context

Modules are usually combined to create a coherent holistic learning experience, although this may not always occur.


Modules can be of short duration, such as a term or semester, or spread over a whole academic year. They are normally linked to levels of study, but some modules may bridge different levels.


In the US, the term ‘class’ or ‘credit course’ is used as the equivalent of a module of study.

analytical review

The University of Exeter (2004) defines module as:

A discrete learning experience that is described by explicit learning outcomes assessed at a named level. Modules may be subject to prerequisite or co-requisite conditions.


The Quality Assurance Agency for Higher Education (QAA) (undated) defines module as:

A self-contained, formally structured unit of study, with a coherent and explicit set of learning outcomes and assessment criteria. Some institutions use the word 'course' to refer to individual modules.


University of Wales, Swansea (2004):

A module can be described as the building block of a degree scheme –– it is a self-contained component of a degree and is normally made up of series of lectures/tutorials/practicals. Each module has its specific aims, a syllabus, a teaching/learning pattern and a means of assessing a student’s progress.

Although modules are regarded as stand-alone building blocks, departments will group certain modules together and identify them as being compulsory modules for particular degree schemes. For instance, a Law degree will be structured in such a way that certain law modules would be compulsory in each year of study. Normally, by the time a student reaches the final year of study, the number of compulsory modules will have been reduced to allow for greater choice of modules within the department, thereby enabling students to study more specialised topics. Such modules are termed optional modules. …Students will normally be given an opportunity to study elective modules as well; that is, modules which fall outside the main subject(s) of the degree scheme. For instance, a student studying an engineering discipline might wish to study an elective module in a Modern Language during the first year of study. … Modules will be taught at different levels, reflecting the academic standard of the module and the demands placed on students as they progress from year to year.

The Ministerio de Educacion, Cultura y Deporte (2003), referring to vocational education and training defined education modules as:

coherent blocks of training associated to units of competences which in turn form the qualifications. This represents the basic unit of a professional training so as to determine the vocational titles and certificates (…). Every module is characterised by the specifications of the training which includes: the denomination, the level of qualification concerned, a alphanumeric code, the unit of competences to which it is associated and the duration of the training expressed in hours’ [translation Le Mouillour, 2005]

associated issues

There are concerns that unitisation of learning fails to lead to either a coherent whole or increasing depth of study. This is often seen to be a particular problem where modules are delivered in small time units, where students are taking several modules at the same time and where there is relatively free choice which makes building depth of understanding from one module to another more difficult to plan.

related areas

See also

formal learning





Ministerio de Educacion, Cultura y Deporte, 2003, Bases para la elaboración del catálogo nacional de cualificaciones profesionales. Madrid, available at, accessed 25 May 2005, available 9 October 2012.

Quality Assurance Agency for Higher Education (QAA), undated, Glossary, available at, accessed 4 January 2017, not available 20 June 2019.

University of Exeter, 2007, TQA Manual, Learning and Teaching Definitions, Last updated August 2007, last reviewed September 2011 (originally 2002), accessed 20 September 2012, still available 20 June 2019.

University of Wales, Swansea, 2004, Undergraduate Study, What is a module?, undated, accessed October 2004, not available at this address 20 January 2012.

copyright Lee Harvey 2004–2021

A NOVEL Who bombed a Birmingham mosque?


A B C D E F G H I J K L M N O P Q R S T U V W X Y Z Home