The ABC Learning Design Workshop


Mark Glynn (who heads up our Teaching Enhancement Unit) and colleagues are involved in an Eramis+ project, ABC Learning Design. Last Thursday I attended one of the project’s workshops. I was aware of the ABC work and have recently written something about it for a chapter in Helen Beetham and Rhona Sharpes 3rd Edition of Rethinking pedagogy for a digital age, along with a number of other Learning Design frameworks. The workshop was run by Clive Young and Natasa Perovic from University College London. ABC is designed to be a ‘light touch’ approach to design. The workshop was two hours, consisting of a half hour introduction followed by 90 minutes of activities. The aim was to create a visual storyboard, made of a sequence of learning activities. The learning activities are based on the taxonomy developed by Diana Laurillard as part of her well known Conversational Framework.

The first task was, focusing on a module or programme, to agree a ‘tweet-size’ description of the course. We then drew a rough shape of the project against Laurillard’s learning activities:

  • Acquisition: Learning through acquisition is what learners are doing when they are listening to a lecture or podcast, reading from books or websites or watching demos or videos.
  • Collaboration: Learning through collaboration embraces mainly discussion, practice and production. Building on investigations and acquisition it is about taking part in the process of knowledge building.
  • Discussion: Learning through discussion requires the learner to articulate their ideas and questions, and to challenge and respond to the ideas and questions from the teacher, and/or their peers.
  • Investigation: Learning through investigation guides the learner to explore, compare and critique the texts, documents and resources that reflect the concepts and ideas being taught.
  • Practice: Learning through practice enables the learner to adapt their actions to the task goal and use the feedback to improve their next action. Feedback may come from self-reflection, from peers, from the teacher, or from the activity itself, if it shows them how to improve the result of their action in relation to the goal.
  • Production: Learning through production is the way the teacher motivates the learner to consolidate what they have learned by articulating their current conceptual understanding and how they used it in practice.

Then we indicated to what extent the course was face-to-face or online.


Next we added the various learning activity postcards to the timeline of the course. On the back of each of the six types of learning activities are examples of how these can be realized either through conventional activities or online activities. We ticked which of these we thought were appropriate. Then we used silver and gold stars to indicate which activities were formative or summative. Finally we returned to the graph drawn at the beginning and re-drew in relation to our chosen activities.

I was amazed at how much we managed to achieve in 90 minutes. As a team we had an excellent discussion and it was interesting to hear the other team’s thoughts on their design process. I particularly liked the ‘tweet’ of the module as it really gets you to think about what the essence of the course is.

An excellent set of resources associated with the project are available online, well worth a look.

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