Early 2020 the faculty management implemented a four-legged strategy for the ABC Learning Design concept at the Faculty of Health and Medical Sciences, University of Copenhagen (UCPH). This case describes the background of this pivotal decision.
The Centre for Online and Blended Learning at the Faculty of Health and Medical Sciences has since the establishment late 2013 supported and promoted the use of blended learning modalities and educational technologies to enhance the variety and the quality of teaching and to support the intended learning outcomes (ILO). The activities have been varied and ample, however, often driven by relatively few and enthusiastic teachers at the faculty.
Although the efforts of the few and enthusiastic teachers continuously spread in the community of the teachers, we cannot say that there is a wide-spread focus on neither blended learning environments nor the use of educational technologies. A more strategic plan was warranted!
Thanks to the faculty’s and the more comprehensive 2023 strategy of the university, the focus on “digital teaching” has been strengthened during the last few years. In the strategy, it says that “in line with the overall ambition of enhancing the quality of teaching, we will develop and disseminate the use of digital teaching methods. Such methods must underpin the quality of teaching, increase learning intensity and help free up time for increased interaction between academic staff and students.” We, at the Centre for Online and Blended Learning, naturally spotted an opportunity to focus on the quality assurance of our educational programmes at the faculty by implementing the ABC LD model. Thus, we aimed for a management-based strategic plan for the ABC LD at both programme level and course level and thereby not only relying on network and hear-say – the few and enthusiastic teachers.
The four legs of the strategy
In January 2020, the faculty management ratified a recommendation on such a strategic plan from the Centre for Online and Blended Learning. It had four legs and based itself on two main rationales: 1) to facilitate the work with the courses and educational programme to optimise the use of relevant teaching and learning activities (TLA) with regards to the ILOs and 2) to spark a discussion on how to implement didactical appropriate educational technologies.
- New courses and educational programmes. As a part of the current procedure for developing new courses and new programmes, an ABC LD workshop will be a mandatory component in the processes.
- Ongoing quality assurance procedures (every 3rd year). An ABC LD workshop is implemented in the faculty’s current quality assurance procedures. Thus, every three years, all courses must organise an ABC LD workshop.
- Revision on educational programmes. At regular intervals, the study board of a programme finds it feasible to revise the programme. It can be smaller adjustments but also substantial revisions that require a new curriculum. An ABC LD workshop will henceforward be implemented as a compulsory element in the revision process.
- 4 Identification of courses with potential for improvement. As a part of the mandatory quality assurance setup at the faculty, an ABC LD workshop is incorporated as a compulsory component on courses where student or teacher evaluations points to one or more potential problems on the course.
Collaboration with Student Services
Needless to say, this strategy requires close collaboration with student services to ensure a flow of information on new courses, revision plans, plans for developing new programmes, and the outcome of the evaluation procedures.
The ABC Learning Design concept was initially spotted by UCPH during an ABC LD presentation being part of the League of European Research Universities (LERU) meeting back in 2017. Soon hereafter the inventors, Nataša Perović and Clive Young, kindly accepted an invitation to facilitate a train-the-trainer workshop for 15 teaching consultants from four UCPH faculties as well as a workshop for 20 teachers from a variety of disciplines within the Faculty of Health and Medical Sciences.
Since then the word spread at the Faculty of Health and Medical Sciences, exclusively, the Centre for Online and Blended Learning facilitated 17 workshops during 2018 and 2019 with the participation of approximately 320 teachers. The workshops have facilitated programmes, parts of programmes and courses (new and existing). Additionally, we have facilitated two workshops (a total of 150 participants) for the Faculty of Social Sciences and one for the Faculty of Law (6 participants).
The ABC LD concept was further presented at the UCPH so-called ‘L80 meeting’, a meeting for the university’s senior management (deans, heads of departments, faculty directors).
In 2019 the concept was presented during the yearly educational day at the Pharmaceutical Institute, and later the same year we facilitated a unique ABC LD workshop with the participation of 20 UCPH teachers plus Professor Dianna Laurillard. This workshop took place during the Institute of Public Health yearly “Institute Day”. Professor Dianna Laurillard further delivered a keynote on the “Connected Curriculum and Learning Designers approaches”.
Early 2020 the ABC LD was, as described initially, decided to be an integrated part of the faculty’s strategical work to improve and increase the use of blended learning formats.
Aside from the implementation at UCPH, the ABC LD concept has been facilitated five times as an integrated part of an Erasmus+ project related to the development of e-learning at five East African universities.
E-learning consultants have adapted the ABC LD concept at The Faculty of Science and at the Faculty of Humanities the concept is now an integrated part of their University Pedagogic course.
ABC LD “revisited”
The feedback we have received from the participants are very positive, especially when it comes to getting inspiration for new ways of implementing digital TLAs. Not surprisingly, we experienced that the workshop not only serves as a useful planning tool for developing programmes and courses but also has a vital function in strengthening the teacher community and thereby supporting both horizontal and vertical coordination. This community is, of course of significant importance for creating changes and implementing new TLAs.
Another significant experience relates to the composition of the group around the storyboard. We experienced that a group comprised of the course responsible, teacher and students gave the most fruitful discussions. In some instances, we also included it-pedagogical staff. By adding a variety of stakeholders, creativity was high.
There was, however, a general feeling, that the efforts put into the storyboard not always transferred into real changes. One of the issues is, of course, the well-known barrier; lack of time!
In an attempt to enhance the positive experiences and reduce the experience of not seeing any real changes, we initiated an “ABC LD revisited” discussion. The aim was both to discuss whether we should revise the actual workshop material (storyboard, cards, workflow) and to discuss and possibly describe a new framework for the workshops.
Before finishing the adjusted framework, the Coronavirus hit us. We did, however, consider some elements that we would like to try. Amongst those was an increased emphasis on preparing the participants for the workshop (what are the goals? expectations?) as well as increasing emphasis on discussions of the ILOs and provide more time in general for the workshop (two or even three hours).