ABC Design Workshops: An exploration

As with digital education teams across all Universities, here in CTIL we’re helping staff to adjust to a very different way of teaching in 20/21. While we have been wanting to support staff to make greater use of technology to support learning – it’s now been thrust upon us – and for many (CTIL included!) this is a very daunting prospect.

To help us with the move to blended learning we’re adopting the ABC design method, it’s an approach we’ve used in Dundee for the last 4 or so years, primarily in conjunction with MOOCs (Massive Open Online Courses). FutureLearn use a slightly modified version, as it fits in well with their social learning approach which underpins their course design. As the ABC approach takes this student centric approach – looking at supporting students to develop a learning community, something that’s natural for many face to face, but harder online, it seemed to be a logical route forward to take with the MOOC design.

The ABC Design method was developed by UCL, a few years ago – the earliest blog post I can find from them (on a very quick search!) was 2015, though they actually started in 2014. 

This video is a quick introduction to how UCL run an ABC design workshop – a workshop that was clearly before lockdown! 

An Introduction to ABC Learning Design

Last week, within the CTIL team, we led a series of 3 workshops, with staff from across the University, drawn primarily from our team of digital champions. We gave an overview of the ABC methodology and investigated how we might work with our key contacts in disciplines, to run workshops in their own disciplines, where colleagues can support each other. 

We learnt a lot over the week, and adapted the session during the week. One of the biggest challenges to some participants were the tools you can use to begin to plan out and visualise the sequence of learning activities. In the workshops we’ve run previously (and most others!) face to face, the PostIt was king. However, online alternatives are needed. We’d started to use Miro, but quite a few thought that overwhelming. Then Wednesday saw several of us attending a webinar run by the ABC-learning Design group, with teams from across the world sharing how they’ve adapted the ABC approach to work online. This was invaluable in pointing us to various workshop resources all shared with Creative Commons licences, including Office 365 templates developed by Laurea University of Applied Sciences, a Padlet developed by Suzy Houston (Glasgow Caledonian) and a Trello board by Alison Hall at Durham Business School – which could all be adapted to the needs of Dundee staff. 

We’re also very aware that many staff have a lot of pressures on their time; some are still marking, some are teaching (their children), some are caring for other family members. Some aren’t so familiar with technology. This is where our “recipe cards” (quick handy hints – covering links to the how to, and critically the pedagogic benefits of a particular online activity) will come in, as well as the guides (for those that want just the how tos), our virtual drop-ins – for a chat about ideas – and so on.

One activity we got staff to do was to “Tweet your module (and try not to use any of the words in the Module name” – here’s a selection of them.

Selection of the tweets that staff developed in the first workshop
Tweet your module!

The next stage will be working with specific teams to start discipline focussed workshops, and developing some exemplary modules we can share across the University!

A busy summer, but one I’m certainly looking forward to!


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