Write clear and engaging module headings

Before sequencing the content and learning activities, and planning the details, you may find it useful to plan out the heading structure of your modules.
This process will help you to:

  • create a structure for your module that is logical, sequential and complete
  • consider the structure of your module as ‘a chronological story’ that will enhance the overall student experience
  • use consistent, clear headings that will inspire, inform or challenge your students
  • help students navigate the content and return to relevant topics for revision.

On this page: 

1. A good heading structure will flow logically and follow a deliberate progression

While you are planning the Unit Outline, write or type out your planned heading sequence as you would if you were listing headings in a Contents page. This will give you a useful ‘bird’s eye view’ of the structure of your module. Once you can see the headings listed together, ask yourself:

  • Is the progression of topics logical?
  • If sequential, does it progress in the best way?

Example A: Look at your list of headings to get an overall view of the sequence

Writing an essay

Choose your essay question

Do your research

Plan the essay

Write a first draft

Redraft and review

Note that each of the sub-headings in Example A, above, begins with a verb and forms a sequence of instructions. Even without the content written, it is easy to understand the process that is being taught.

Example B: Create a series of questions

Each of the sub-headings below forms a question that a student is likely to ask. By asking a question that is in a student's mind, you create a connection with the student. This is a good way to demonstrate to students that you don’t expect them to know everything from the start.

Types of academic publications

What are academic sources?

Where do academics publish their work?

What are peer-reviewed journals?

How can you check if an article is peer-reviewed?

What sources will you use at university?

Finally, consider the activity headings. Are they simply a list of ‘Activity 1.1’? Add more detail to spark interest in your students, help them understand what is expected and navigate their progress through the topic.

Example C: Include relevant information in the Activity headings

Glance through the following variety of activity headings. Can you tell what the activity involves just by looking at the heading? Do these headings spark your interest more than ‘Activity: Watch’ might?

Activity 1.1: Watch and Discuss: Donald Trump vs Greta Thunberg

Written Activity: Text analysis in practice

Quiz Activity 1.2: Academic research

Activity 3.4: Your turn: Plan your own essay

Discussion Activity: ‘Memory and Recall’ Podcast

2. A good heading structure will be easy to scan and navigate

Since Blackboard doesn’t offer a table of contents or list module headings in the navigation bar, help your students navigate your module by using compound headings.

Example D: Use compound headings to help students navigate

Literary theories: Overview

Literary theories: Examples

Literary theories: Controversies

Literary theories: Activity: Watch and discuss

Example E: Use a clear numbering system to help students navigate

1 Literary Theories

1.1 Overview

1.2 Examples

1.3 Controversies

1.4 Activity: Watch and discuss

3. A good heading structure will spark student interest and curiosity

Questions to consider:

  • Does your topic begin in a way that will engage students (e.g., ‘Introduction to psychology’ could become ‘Journey into the human mind’)
  • Could you re-order the structure to place the most important issue first, and then ‘hang’ the rest of the module off that?

Example F: Begin your module at the most compelling point

Note how the structure of sub-headings below begins in ‘the present’ as a way to capture student attention and place the rest of the learning in context. While your plans for the curriculum might be a chronological sequence, consider how you might begin or re-order the learning in order to maximise engagement and understanding.  

Module 1: Climate change

Where we are now: Evidence that climate change is happening

What we know: The science behind the evidence

Where have we came from: Human behaviours that are affecting the ecosystem

What mistakes have we made: Anthropocentrism and power structures  

What we can do: Sustainability and science


Once you have written your unit (see Step 2) and uploaded the modules to Blackboard, select 'Shift + Alt + L' to see s list of headings on the page. Use this to help you navigate the page and to check the structure of each module. 

4. Topic heading checklist 

Use this checklist to review the structure of your topic headings: 

 Is the heading structure logical, sequential and complete?

 Does it include an introduction that will spark curiosity or interest in the topic?

 Does it follow a chronological story that will enhance students’ overall understanding?

 Are the headings consistent, clear, engaging and informative?

 Do the headings help students navigate the content?

 If a student is distracted or called away, will it be easy for them find where they left off? 

 Does the heading structure end with a summary and a reference (or even better, a teaser that sparks interest) to the topic that will follow?

Where to next?

(Please note - it's better to refer to the Online version rather than export, as it's always up to date)