To acquire professional competences that entail performance of complex skills, an authentic learning environment is required focused on the integration of all aspects of competences. However, most educational programmes offer separate building blocks, such as separate modules for knowledge and skills. Students accumulate what they have learned in these modules as they progress through the curriculum. In this paper the authors advocate the Four-Component Instructional Design model (4C/ID), which offers a whole-task approach to course design for programmes in which students learn complex skills. The four core components of this approach are: learning tasks, supportive information, just-in-time information and part-task practice. A concrete example from medical education will be presented to clarify both the general ideas behind this approach and the differences between the whole-task approach and conventional educational designs.