Due to the current situation with COVID-19 we are sharing ways to run Online ABC Learning Design workshops.

Redesigning a third year Bachelor’s degree module at the Faculty of Sciences and Engineering


Institution: Sorbonne University

Description: Design of a blended module of a third year Bachelor’s degree using ABCD method

Authors: Vassiliki Michou, Franck Launay, Ali Abou Hassan, Giovanni Poli

Date: April  2020

Course details: Toward a Green & Sustainable World

Course details:

This module is a course on chemistry and more precisely about Green Chemistry proposed by Sorbonne University to students of four partners’ universities (Sorbonne, Prague, Warsaw and Heidelberg). It has been designed as a blended course that will be offered in the frame of the international project “Academic Partnership for Innovation in Teaching and Learning (API)” led by Warsaw university.

Within the academic development chapter of the API project, Sorbonne university was involved in a training session for the participants of each partner university, including one member of the teaching team. In this context, an ABCD (activity based curriculum design) workshop was organized at Warsaw in June 2019 aiming at providing a common method for course design as well as a common language for teachers and instructional designer to use, by inviting a reflexion on a student centred teaching that takes equally in account the time and workload of the students. Then, it became natural for the French participants of the API project to use the ABCD method to design their course “Toward a Green & Sustainable world”.

In addition to the usual challenges, the design of this course faces several difficulties, such as time and logistics constraints. It should also be noted that that the course has to be proposed to students from 4 different universities, hence amplifying the issue of student’s heterogeneity.

Case Study

Redesigning a third year Bachelor’s degree module at the Faculty of Sciences and Engineering

Photo of the course design

Context of change

The ABCD workshop is part of the general offer of our university for the academic development on pedagogy. Blended learning is one of the top projects of Sorbonne University as well as the internationalisation of its courses. ABCD is a flexible and customizable method that has been adapted to our own teaching format in order to help designing or re-designing blended courses in our university.

A second workshop held at Sorbonne University in February 2020 gave the opportunity for the teaching team to create a concrete storyboard of its course.

ABC workshop plan

The ABCD workshop proposed by Sorbonne University is derived from the ABC original workshop developed by UCL. It was was facilitated by an expert, specialised in academic development and instructional design.

The teaching team worked with the expert in February 2020 and continued afterwards for finalising the course design. The teaching team worked on a new storyboard paper that facilitates the design of face to face activities and online ones. In parallel, for a better estimation of the students’ workload, the indicators of effort-time were added both on the activity cards and on the storyboard matrix. Besides these modifications, the used materials and method remain the same as the previously presented on-site ABCD method. A specific excel document was also created for the team to note and add the disciplinary content to the course design.

ABC design

The “Toward a Green & Sustainable World” module is a blended course that starts with online sessions and continues with a face to face part offered during one week at Sorbonne University.

Since February 2020, this course with a slightly different blended format proposed across two semesters (Green Label 1 (LV1), then Green Label 2 (LV2)) is also part of Sorbonne’s second and third year bachelor degree curriculum allowing the validation of 3 ECTS (LU2CI009/LU3CI009 and LU2CI019/LU3CI019).  Its main aim is to offer students the opportunity to appropriate the concepts of green chemistry (1st part) and, more generally, to discuss on their application towards sustainable development (2nd part).

In order to achieve these objectives, this module provides online sessions and chapters outlining the fundamentals of green chemistry and sustainable development based on didactical contents (learning clips, articles, etc) as well as numerous quizzes for self-evaluation. In the frame of the “Toward a Green & Sustainable World” module, this part of the course will be open for the participants of the four universities two months before the on-campus session.

All students will use Moodle to access the course resources, follow virtual meetings, interact and collaborate. For the online and face to face part of the course, the teaching team will stimulate the participation by moderating and motivating discussions.

By using the ABCD method, the teaching team has designed, in a consensual way, the activities to be proposed during the online course and has decided on the modalities to be applied in order to make the students from the four different universities work together in international groups of four before their arrival at Sorbonne University.

As the students selected by the four universities will not necessarily have purely chemical profiles, the distance learning course will start with a few tests of basic knowledge. Quizzes will be organized to identify possible weaknesses and advice on revision will be given in the first stage. Then, green chemistry and its twelve principles will be introduced with the help of a video filmed in association with CAPSULE (Center for support on pedagogy and experimentation) and some basic texts. The metrics used to qualify how a chemical reaction is green will be introduced and students will be asked to practice their calculations. This first part will conclude with an evaluation. In a second phase, various other videos related to sustainable development themes will be viewed by the students who will have to answer comprehension quizzes at the end of each one. The third and last part of the distance learning will consist in the preparation of the Summer School. To this end, using presentation video clips, five PhD students from Sorbonne University chemistry laboratories will present their research subjects which will become case studies during the on-campus week. Groups of four students mixing one from each country will be formed and have to choose one of the five topics. Then, each group will work online with the corresponding PhD student.  Their mission will be to appropriate the research theme and produce a document.

During the on-campus activities, a project-based approach led by groups of four students with personalised tutoring has been retained. Each group will join a chemistry lab on our campus and will be invited to participate to experiments with the PhD student mentor. During the end of the week, they will analyse the environmental impact of these experiments and propose appropriate solutions to better respect the 12 principles of green chemistry. In order to do so, the groups of 4 students will have two 4-hour periods supervised by the teaching team and their tutor to debrief and propose written diagnostic and remediation elements that will be presented orally to the whole class on the last day. The week will also include an invited lecture on sustainable chemistry (first day) and a visit in a company to discuss concretely on the implementation of the 12 principles of green chemistry.

This course will be in English and the included videos will be in English or subtitled.

What was actually done

An optional course on Green Chemistry has been introduced in september 2019 as part of Chemistry curriculum of the Bachelor’s 2nd and 3rd year. Actually, during the second semester of 2019-2020, the first part (on-line course) is going on and Sorbonne University students are following it whereas the module for the API project we designed will start in May 2020.

Initially, the pedagogical team had thought on an introduction to green chemistry through videos and texts, with questions to ensure learning (Green Label 1). A forum was planned, but it was not sufficiently scenario-based. The workshop proposed in February 2020 at Sorbonne University and other discussions with CAPSULE helped to raise awareness among the whole teaching team of the importance of face-to-face / distance storyboarding activities and to better take into account the students’ workload related to each sub-activity. Now, it is clear that the ABCD method, with the richness of the typologies of activities and their numerous descriptions, will have been of great help.

It has been implemented for the “Towards a green and sustainable world” module planned as part of the API project, but it will also allow, at longer term, a reconceptualization of the offer currently proposed for the undergraduate students at Sorbonne University. The design of the international course allowed for a better thinking about the link to be established between its two parts (discovery/application of the principles of green chemistry). The participation of PhD students from the university was not initially envisaged in the French version. More generally, the teaching team has integrated that it is necessary to develop more formative evaluations and, also, to facilitate interactions between students within the context of team-project implementation.

What support was required/provided

As mentioned before, the teaching team had already worked on the Green Chemistry course for Sorbonne University students, but this module needed to be adapted to the specific blended format of the API project taking in account the asynchronous periods of online (two months) and face to face (one week) teachings. In parallel, the resources of the course (videos and texts) and the evaluation (quizzes) had to be translated in English or modified due to the heterogeneity of the European audience. A special attention had to be given to the workload and students investment time for proposing a module that can deliver a 3 ECTSs validation as partner universities decided it. For helping the teaching team to concretize the design of the API course, the ABCD facilitator and expert proposed an overall tool based on an excel file that allows to describe the pedagogical activities (type, disciplinary content, if the activity will be part of a formative or summative evaluation, etc) and to link them to the intended learning outcomes of the module. As this module is a blended one, the tool allows the teaching team to place the activities at the face to face part or at the distance one.

A specific Moodle site has been created and its content was to be enriched between March and April for a start in early May 2020.  Before being interrupted by the Coronavirus containment and the decision of the API organization to postpone the Summer School either in December 2020 or in spring 2021, the pedagogical team was about to incorporate, with the help of CAPSULE, English subtitles to the videos chosen to address sustainable development in the module already proposed at Sorbonne University. The introduction video had already been produced in English. It also remained to organize the choice of English texts and to produce new quizzes or translate some of the existing ones. For its side, the pedagogical team was about to call for volunteer PhD students to propose case studies during the week in the classroom. Video clips introducing each student’s activities would have been produced between April and May 2020. The episode of the containment will have had the interest to raise the awareness of the teaching team of the opportunities of Moodle for distance learning, which should be a good help for the continuation of the project. In addition to a more detailed story-boarding of the activities, the teaching team had contacted the lecturer planned for the face-to-face week. The idea was to organize an interactive conference with the use of answering machines.

To view the online excel document: https://docs.google.com/spreadsheets/d/1nB0IVyFxV25nNCjw23UZ8tvecyXw7XcPGDc0_jtp9kM/edit?usp=sharing

Redesigning a third year Bachelor’s degree module at the Faculty of Sciences and Engineering

Impact and evaluation

By opening to international students, the “Toward a Green & Sustainable World” module will promote students exchange. All four universities participating at the API project will send five students following the course.

A first evaluation of the course was done from the project partners in November 2019 after its presentation. Colleagues asked us to better define the background requirement in chemistry and if students from other discipline such as biology, physics and biochemistry could apply. We answered that the course has been designed for Bachelor’s degrees with a major in chemistry. These questions led us to plan tests to check the students’ basic knowledge for the online part of the course with the option of personalized revision guidance. Setting up international groups for project work is important for the success of the Summer School. It will also hopefully help to smooth out the disparity of levels between countries. We were asked about the added value of this course compared to others delivered in a conventional manner. The real advantage for us was based on the articulation between the learning phase and the practical application phase through the analysis of authentic situations encountered in research laboratories. An important attention was brought on the expectations in terms of storyboarding for successful hybrid teaching.

Redesigning a third year Bachelor’s degree module at the Faculty of Sciences and EngineeringPoster of the Green chemistry module for the API project

Successes and lessons learnt

The ABCD method has the virtue of providing a user-friendly environment for people who have never been involved in the design of blended learning. This method has appeared rigorous and at the same time entertaining to the participants. The excel file is a real asset to keep track of the work done in the workshop. It is indisputably true that the ABCD workshop followed by the teaching team influenced the design of the course which was very weak at the start.

Scalability and transferability

The ABCD workshop is part of the official catalogue of training on course design. We run the workshops on demand and they are adapted to the needs of each teaching team.

Within a larger project of redesigning several courses for more blended formats the ABCD designing method was declined in two versions. It is also part of a face to face workshop within an online academic development module about Blended design.

Further information

You can find an example of the excel story-boarding document at the link https://docs.google.com/spreadsheets/d/1q6Mjx5FfACMAh2NvAkojGNeSDwxEWid5fPjUZ5nAbTE/edit#gid=209226546

Redesigning a third year Bachelor’s degree module at the Faculty of Sciences and Engineering

A new storyboard matrix that indicates clearly the f2f / distance part of the design

Redesigning a third year Bachelor’s degree module at the Faculty of Sciences and Engineering

Adding on the cards the notion of time as work charge time for students

Redesigning a third year Bachelor’s degree module at the Faculty of Sciences and Engineering   Redesigning a third year Bachelor’s degree module at the Faculty of Sciences and Engineering

Do NOT follow this link or you will be banned from the site!