Guide to OBE
What is OBE?

Adopting outcome-based approaches to student learning involves four important areas of work for the purpose of enhancing quality of student learning in our programmes:

  • as the starting point define clearly what students should be able to do on completing their course of study (intended learning outcomes)

  • design the curriculum, teaching, learning and assessment to enable students to achieve the intended learning outcomes (alignment)

  • collect data on studentsˇ¦ achievement of learning outcomes (outcomes assessment)

  • use outcome assessment data to inform further development and enhancement of the programme/subject (continuous improvement)

When developing and implementing OBE at the early stage, you may have a lot of questions. We have prepared some answers for you below.

Frequently Asked Questions:

If you do not find the answer to your question in the following FAQ, contact us via email.

What does it mean by adopting outcome-based approaches to student learning?

Adopting outcome-based approaches to student learning involves four important areas of work for the purpose of enhancing quality of student learning in our programmes:

  1. Articulation of desired learning outcomes
  2. Alignment of educational provision with desired learning outcomes
  3. Assessment of student learning outcomes
  4. Continuous improvement based on outcome evidence



We always have 'objectives'. Aren't they the same as 'learning outcomes'?

'Objectives' are what you try to achieve. There are different types of 'objectives'. Taking a swimming course as an example, the following explains how each type of objectives differs from a 'learning outcome':

  • 'Students will be able to swim with breast stroke and free style' is a 'learning outcome'. It is written from students' perspective and specifies the competences to be demonstrated by students.

  • 'Students will learn to swim with breast stroke and free style' is a 'learning objective' written from students' perspective. But it is still not a learning outcome because ' learn to swim' only prescribes a process of learning instead of specifying the result of learning.

  • 'The course will develop students' techniques of breast stroke and free style' is a 'teaching objective' which explains what the teacher intends to do. But what the teaching will do not necessarily result in learning outcomes of the students.

  • 'The course will teach breast stroke and free style' is a 'teaching objective' which only lists the content to be taught (breast stroke and free style). This is the farthest from a learning outcome as it gives no consideration to the students at all.



What learning outcomes are appropriate for PolyU programmes/subjects?

Learning outcomes refer to the knowledge, skills and attitudes to be demonstrated by the students upon completion of a programme/ subject. In PolyU the overarching outcome for all undergraduate programmes is developing 'all-round students with professional competence'. This means that our graduates are expected to possess academic/ professional knowledge and skills such that they can perform readily in their respective professions; and at the same time to possess a range of generic attributes and competences for all-round development such as critical thinking, creativity, team work skills, leadership, capability for life-long learning, etc.



How should I teach my subjects if I adopt the outcome-based approach?

Outcome-based approach does not prescribe any standard teaching method but offers a principle for designing your teaching--the teaching and learning methods should be effective for helping students to achieve the intended learning outcomes. Generally speaking, teaching and learning methods which involve students actively in thinking and applying knowledge to real-life problems are more conducive to the development of all-round students with professional competence. Click to see a range of teaching methods



How should I assess the students in my subjects if I adopt the outcome-based approach?

The key is to select assessment methods which can validly assess the intended learning outcomes. For example, if an intended outcome for a Computer Programming course is 'to be able to design and develop web-enabled software components using Java,' this is better assessed by a software development project than an essay. Click to see a range of assessment methods for different learning outcomes



How does the outcome-based approach help our programmes meet the demands of the industry?

Programme teams are encouraged to solicit input from the industry when formulating the programme outcomes. This ensures that graduates possess competences that match the needs and expectations of the industry. Some professional bodies (e.g., ABET [Engineering]) actually set outcomes (or require outcomes be set, e.g., AACSB [Business]) for university programmes and enforce them through their accreditation process.



Will the emphasis on learning outcomes, like many other initiatives, die down in a few years?

The emphasis on student learning outcomes is a worldwide trend in higher education. In Hong Kong, the University Grants Committee (UGC) has also started to advocate the adoption of the outcome-based approach to student learning in local universities. The forthcoming UGC Educational Quality Audit will also put special attention to student learning outcomes.

PolyU has pledged in its Academic Development Proposal to the UGC to implement the OBA in its full-time undergraduate programmes starting from 2005 and has reiterated this commitment in its report to UGC on the progress in the planning for the 4-year undergraduate degree structure.

Both of UGC and PolyU senior management have affirmed that OBA to student learning is a prominent long term commitment in Hong Kong higher education and warrants attention and involvement from staff at all levels.