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Clive Young, Nataša Perović, University College London, United Kingdom


How do we best help our time-pressured academics design rich blended and online courses? To address this, University College London (UCL) has developed ABC, an effective and engaging hands-on workshop that has now been trialled with great success over a range of programmes. In just 90 minutes using a game format teams work together to create a visual storyboard using cards to outline the type and sequence of learning activities (online and offline) required to meet the course’s learning outcomes. ABC is particularly useful for new courses or those changing to an online or more blended format.

UCL’s ABC Method

ABC facilitates an activity-based approach to learning design. Adapting the University of Ulster’s Viewpoints approach, a UCL card-set was developed in 2014 based on Diana Laurillard’s notion of six learning types, derived from her wellknown Conversational Framework. The six learning types are acquisition; inquiry; practice; production; discussion and collaboration, and these form the ABC six-card set [...].

Benefits of ABC

By necessity this rapid-development approach focuses on a simple set of pedagogic principles. Rather than being restrictive this has been found to generate discussion about the fundamental purposes of the programme and foregrounds the student experience. The workshop itself is structured to encourage collective discussion with a focus on collaboration and consensus, starting with the initial “tweet” exercise. An important aspect of ABC is the staged progression from broad abstraction to concrete activities. Storyboarding provides a visual narrative that teams find easy to work with and the paper-based format encourages creativity and adaptation. The cards themselves act as an aide memoire of potential activities, helping to bring pedagogic diversity to the design. Assessment and feedback also become a natural element of this form of activity-based design rather than driving the module structure.

Young, Clive & Perović , Nataša, and (2016). ABC Rapid Blended Course Design for Educators [abstract]. Book of Abstracts, 2016 EDEN conference, Re-Imagining Learning Environments (pp. 106). Budapest, Hungary. ISBN 978-615-5511-08-0



UCL E-Learning Baseline: enhancing e-learning provision


Presented at the EDEN conference 2016




  • An interesting approach. Much better to start with learning rather than what is to be examined.  My suspicion is that you could use any number of different underlying frameworks (including any number of learning style theories and possibly even astrology) to achieve something similar: it's about thinking about the diverse ways learning happens more than the particular framework. I tend to use the Lewin/Kolb cycle in a similar way, sometimes Pask's serialist/holist model, occasionally even multiple intelligences. Though I am highly sceptical of all of them as meaningful representations of reality, it's useful in the design process, as you say, to have an aide memoire. With that in mind, using this framework might make it rather easy to forget reflection. Reflection seems to be an implied afterthought in the production learning type, rather than something central to the activity. This is quite strange, given Laurillard's Conversational Framework in which reflection plays such a central and critical binding role.

    My more general slight concern with the approach is that, in a truly integrated design, all of these learning types are tightly intertwingled. Especially when experiences/activities are correllated with technological toolsets (as suggested by the cards), the metaphor runs the risk of being treated as one of assembling pieces to build a machine. It would be very easy to come up with a Lego-like construction, one of those awful designs where students go to one place for their discussions, another for their acquisition, another for their practice, etc. Perhaps it would be better thought of as being more like a cake, in which the individual ingredients are inseparable and indistinguishable from one another when they come out of the oven. And, of course, it makes a huge difference how you mix them, and how you bake them, with each part and each process deeply affecting all the rest.

    Jon Dron July 11, 2016 - 12:54pm

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