Shell modules are units of study where the content is defined in terms of the learning process and the themes of knowledge to be developed. Shell modules facilitate explicit personalisation, learners taking control of their learning and the development of knowledge, understanding and skills that are useful to practice. In terms of what a shell module looks like, firstly there may be, for example, a focus on reflection, action research or evaluation processes as a vehicle to learn. Secondly, could be a focus on a topic which is applicable to a range of settings; that could then be applied to specific contexts, for example communication, change management, ICT in the work-place or practice based technologies.  

So what can be done with such modules?

Three clear and distinct purposes are identifiable. 

  1. Wrappers 
  2. Layers
  3. Complete programme

1. The shell modules may wrap around existing collations of credit as a way of bringing together knowledge and practice and new learning. A student who has a seemingly disparate collection of credits may sew together their understandings by undertaking work focused, process driven units of study. 

2. The shell modules may be layered with particular employer needs throughthe process of employer negotiation. The shell offers a predefined, prevalidated unit of study which can be ‘skinned’ to meet the needs of a particular sector or organisation. For example an employer seeking the development of project planning, may take a pre-validated module and negotiate particular areas of study or focus. Such a model is more sustainable than creating entirely bespoke programmes (especially for smaller or occasional cohorts). 

3. The shell modules may form a complete programme in their own right. Independent, motivated, autonomous learners can utilise the shell framework as a vehicle to learn about, through and for their practice. This option, it is anticipated, is particularly helpful in engaging the staff of small to medium enterprises and learners. Such a model of learning requires a pedagogy of facilitation.