Reflections on a data-informed blended learning design workshop

Maddy Redmond

Category: Centre for Innovation in Higher Education

10 August 2018

I recently attended a Jisc workshop focusing on blended learning design and data-informed blended learning design.

The blended learning design model chosen by Jisc for the workshop was the ABC (Arena, Blended, Connected) model developed by staff at University College London (UCL). ABC is a blended learning design model developed by UCL from earlier models produced by Jisc and Professor Diana Laurillard, Professor of Learning with Digital Technologies at the London Knowledge Lab, UCL Institute of Education.

We played with the colourful ABC storyboarding method in this hands-on and interactive workshop. I was pleasantly surprised by how simple it made the design process, enabling a group of strangers to produce a course/module design within an hour. A real positive was the clear and consistent focus on learning activities and the colourful, well crafted, comprehensive postcards forming the basis of the design workshop.

The groups completed the following tasks:

Task 1 – five minutes to produce an engaging tweet about the course – to capture the essence in a catchy way to hook in an audience. Staff are encouraged to think about the course/module in a new way. Our table produced the below for a Level 1 Law undergraduate skills module: ‘From Rumpole to Silks… learning the skills you need to develop a compelling argument’.

Task 2 – five minutes to draw the shape of the course by proportion of each type of learning activity featured. The workshop centres on six common types of learning activity, each represented on a different coloured card: – discussion; collaboration; acquisition; practice; inquiry and production. Plotting the ‘shape’ on a graph gives a quick visual overview of the weighting attached to each of the core activity types. This captures the course as it is prior to the design workshop, i.e. how it has been designed in the past or, for new courses, how you envisage it will be.

Task 3 – five minutes to mark on a spectrum of blended to face-to- face, the proportion of the course’s ‘blendedness’, for want of a better term. For example, is this course is wholly face to face or wholly online or a blend of the two? This shows at a glance how blended or otherwise the proposed design is intended to be.

Task 4 – the main part of the workshop is producing the design itself. Each group is tasked with using the activity cards to design the module, course or programme, by sequencing the cards along a course timeline and then ticking the specific activities on the reverse of each card to show the specific student tasks, e.g. group presentation, individual essay. The teams factor in assessment, both formative and summative, by sticking silver or gold stars against the activities. This simple approach creates a quick visual overview of the balance of assessment and allowed for simple re-jigging until overall consensus was reached within the group, and completed design achieved.

Task 5 – the final short task involved reflecting on the new design, re-drawing the shape and re-plotting onto the ‘blendedness’ spectrum. The team can see at a glance the extent to which the blended element of their course may have changed.

The ABC model aims to develop a structured approach to learning design and this workshop provides a rapid paced, engaging session enabling groups to achieve a design within a reasonable timeframe. I like the interactive nature of this workshop and see its potential for engaging staff in a fresh and enthusiastic manner.

However, I am sceptical that a two hour session is sufficient to produce a fully-realised design, especially at programme level with colleagues engaging in difficult discussions and choices. These sessions require close steering from a third party to keep discussions focussed and to time.

Overall, I found this to be a valuable workshop session.


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