How can we engage and enable our time-pressured academics to design rich blended and online courses (modules)? Most leading research based universities now have aspirational strategies to develop future-looking, digitally rich, flexible courses attuned to students’ expectations for engaging, professionally related learning experiences. Yet we know only a few of our pioneering academics currently have the design skills, technology knowledge and above all time to remodel their programmes to the creative standards the future of education demands. Deep institutional change must by definition engage mainstream academics but current methods of learning design consultancy and ‘away-day’ workshops are support-intensive and time consuming, therefore poorly scalable. This contradiction frustrates educational ambition at all policy levels.
Recognising the need for a radical rethink, the digital education team at University College London (UCL) has pioneered an effective ‘light touch’ alternative team-based approach. ‘ABC’ is a high-energy hands-on workshop; in just 90 minutes teaching teams work together to create a visual ‘storyboard’. The storyboard is made up of pre-printed cards representing the type and sequence of learning activities (both online and offline) required to meet the module or programme learning outcomes. Assessment methods, cross-program themes and institutional policies are all integrated into the process. The key to this approach is pace, engagement and collaboration. ABC has been found particularly useful for new programmes or those changing to an online or more blended format. The approach generates high levels of engagement, creative informed dialogue and group reflection about curriculum design among even time-poor academics.