ABC Learning Design, ABC to VLE

ABC Learning Design, ABC to VLE

July 16, 2019 0 By JR

I am pretty sure that a couple of years ago I was at some other conference and had heard about this ABC method of designing courses. I have to say I was quite pleased with how the workshop went and that this might be the single biggest take-away for me from EDEN19. At least 80 institutions are currently using this method for developments.

ABC is a hands on workshop meant for rapid course design. The creators claim that an entire program can be designed in just 90 minutes, assuming that the instructors and program heads arrive suitably prepared. This method leans heavily on storyboarding, which can take many forms, and initially it reminded me a lot of learning battle cards (which I’ve used a few times in other areas). ABC itself refers to a few key ideas: Arean (University Central London’s center for course development), Blended Learning (as in Sharma 2010), Connected Curriculum.

Connected Curriculum. https://www.ucl.ac.uk/teaching-learning/connected-curriculum-framework-research-based-education

The workshop method tends to be used for entire programs rather than course by course.

  1. program lead: explains why we are here doing this
  2. facilitators: run workshop – each table creates a “module” (module/unit/course, isn’t nomenclature fun?,  that lasts 3-6 months)
  3. promenade, showing what they’ve come up with

If it’s an existing program, bring the program docs to the workshop. If it’s a new program, the facilitators and program leads should run some preliminary workshops on developing learning outcomes etc.

At the beginning, each module/course team is provided a storyboard. This board includes some of the basic information about the course. This includes: the course title, description, weeks/topics by row, and other connected curriculum notes.

They’re also provided with another course overview panel to fill out, known as the “tweet and shape”. There are a few things I really like about this. First, the idea of “tweet your course” made the participants in the workshop really consider how they were going to describe the course they were working on. Often, course descriptions are quite general and bland, so it is through this “tweet your course” activity that they were able to begin to describe their courses in a way that gathered attention. Some of the descriptions folks came up with almost made me want to take the course right away! Next, the radar chart. Ever since a few RPGs I played used radar charts to shape your protagonist, I have really been into this style of representation. For the course I was working on in this workshop, we really got to see how far the chart stretched in acquisition, and practice, and not so much in other areas. It’s helpful to have that staring you in the face. Lastly, there is the “blended graph”. This is something that I think if I were to adapt this material for distance courses that we could switch it to “synchronous” and “asynchronous”. Any other ideas?

One last component that’s needed before beginning the course design are the 6 “learning types cards”: acquisition, collaboration, discussing, investigating, practice, production. These cards have two sides: a description, and method/process/tool. Beginning with the description on the front, participants will arrange cards onto the storyboard in the order they see the week’s activities unfolding. I’ll admit, that even though I was familiar with the research the creator’s pointed to, that the descriptions still made it a bit tricky to know exactly which to use, so our table peeked at the back to help us out. On the back, they have “conventional methods” and with “digital technology” for how that learning activity could be accomplished. There are blank spaces provided so that you can even add your own, and check boxes so that you know which you’ll use. Again, these focus on blended learning, so perhaps with a distance adapted version they would be synchronous and asynchronous as the two options. Alternatively, we could take a page out of Matt Crosslin’s book, and make one column “instructivist” (teacher guided) and the other “constructivist” or “connectivist” (student guided).

ABC Learning Types Cards

There are defined steps that the facilitators will take the participants through in the workshop, but eventually you end up with something like this:

Helping financial advisors to help their clients plan for a comfortable retirement.

After 90 minutes you have a series of storyboards to take away with you, and if each pod was working on a course, you can design a program in that time frame. Now, the design is not where things stop, but as a high level design activity this workshop I think would be a useful tool for many CTLs and other development units in higher ed. I like the idea of a “Pop-up workshop” that can be done with the cards and board etc. This workshop is just about the design, but does not include “what next”; how do you get it into the VLE for example. How do you execute the deliverables? There is an additional handout that includes an “action plan” for that following stage.


Young, C., & Perović, N. (2016). Rapid and creative course design: as easy as ABC?. Procedia-Social and Behavioral Sciences, 228, 390-395.