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ABC Learning design


Moving activities online with ABC – take it further

By Clive Young, on 21 April 2020

In the previous blog post Moving activities online – as easy as ABC? we began to look at how the six learning types used in ABC can guide us to consider digital alternatives to ‘conventional’ teaching and learning? and suggested some basic tools in Moodle. 

In this post we review the previous post and go to the next stage to think about some pedagogical uses of these tools. This post is based on an additional sheet of distance learning options we often use in the ‘classic’ live ABC workshop when working with wholly online courses. The original sheet can be downloaded here.

The original sheet can be downloaded here.

How can we use these learning types?

The ABC ‘storyboard’ (right) describes the learner journey through sequences and combinations of activities based on these learning types. This helps academic teams clarify the pedagogic components of the course in context and look for opportunities to move activities online. If such storyboarding is not possible (the ABC team are investigating online options), some components can still be applied. For example, academic teams can map the relative prevalence (usually in study hours) of each of the activity types. This often reveals opportunities for, for example, more collaboration, discussion or investigation, and helps teams prioritise areas for (re)development.

A complimentary framework under consideration is to use the well-known SAMR model. SAMR categorises four self-explanatory degrees of technology integration; Substitution, Augmentation, Modification, and Redefinition. SAMR can be used by beginners as a step-by-step progression model or for experienced users as a menu of options.

Let’s review the six types in turn, adding to what we already know.


What learners do when they read books and articles, listen to lectures and podcasts, watch demos or videos. In this way learners acquire new concepts, models, vocabulary, models, and methodologies. Acquisition should be reflective as learners align new ideas to their existing knowledge. Conventional methods often include face-to-face presentations, demos and master classes.

Moving acquisition online: reading multimedia, websites, digital documents and resources listening to podcasts, webcasts watching animations, videos. Online quizzes can be used to check learner progress.

Take it further: more teaching and learning ideas

  • Guided readings (library resources)
  • OER resources (external)
  • Podcast (media)
  • Collaborate Webinars (virtual classroom)
  • Q&A forum (forum, where teachers answer student questions)
  • Video lectures (webcast),
  • YouTube videos (external)
  • Field/lab observations (media/blog/wiki)
  • MCQs – formative with automatic feedback
  • Portfolios (UCL MyPortfolio)/ UCL Reflect blog



Encourages the learner to take an active and exploratory approach to learning, to search for and evaluate a range of new information and ideas. Students are guided to analyse, compare and critique the texts, data, documents and resources within the concepts and ideas being taught.

Moving investigation online: in many disciplines using digital resources and analytical tools are already part of students’ activities.

Take it further: more teaching and learning ideas

  • Web search (forum, wiki)
  • OER resources (external)
  • Literature reviews and critiques (forum/blog/wiki/RSS)
  • Field/lab observations (media/blog/wiki)
  • Action research
  • Authentic research / data analysis – write a paper
  • Lead a group project


Enables knowledge to be applied in context. The learner modifies actions according to the task and uses feedback to improve. Feedback may come from self-reflection, peers, the teacher, or from the activity outcomes. Practice often includes significant face-to-face components including labs, field trips, placements, practice-based projects and face-to-face role-play and groupwork.

Moving practice online: The most challenging of the six activity types, some activities are hard to substitute without losing important learning outcomes. Videos of methods, simulations, models, sample data sets, image and video banks, online role-play and case studies may be used to address some of the learning aims. Online quizzes can be used to test application and understanding.

Take it further: more teaching and learning ideas

  • MCQs – formative with automatic feedback
  • Online role play (forum, virtual classroom)
  • Reflective tasks – group or individual (forum)
  • Case studies (forum, lesson)
  • Rapid-fire exam questions (forum)
  • Advanced role play – you are the consultant etc.
  • Simulations – use of models and tools


Requires the learner to articulate their ideas and questions, and to challenge and respond to the ideas and questions from the teacher, and/or from their peers. Conventionally this is achieved through face-to-face tutorials, seminars and class discussion.

Moving discussion online: There are a number of good online options, including Moodle discussion forums which can be real-time (synchronous) or run over an extended period (asynchronous). Online forums can be even more productive than conventional tutorials as more students may contribute. For a richer discussion, Blackboard Collaborate can be run as a synchronous session.

Take it further: more teaching and learning ideas

  • Interview an expert (forum/chat)
  • Webinars (Collaborate)
  • Model answers/examples of previous work (forum)
  • Analyse chat text (in course or uploaded)
  • Job/professional reflections (blog)
  • Group discussions on the topic, problem, reading (chat/blog/wiki)
  • Social networking – participate (external)
  • Reflective tasks – group or individual (forum)
  • Special interest groups – share on a topic (forum)
  • Lead a group project



Requires students to work together in small groups to achieve a common project goal. Building on investigations and acquisition it is about taking part in the process of knowledge building itself. Learning through collaboration therefore includes elements of discussion, practice, and production.

Moving collaboration online: Some parts of group and project working lend themselves to digital communication to help discussion and planning of project outputs. The practical elements depend on the discipline but in some areas it will be possible to build a joint digital output and complete the task entirely online.

Take it further: more teaching and learning ideas

  • Collaborative wiki – what do we know about …?
  • Develop a shared resource library (database/glossary/wiki)
  • Social networking – participate in Twitter etc (external)
  • Special interest groups – share on a topic (forum)
  • Mentor other learners



How the teacher motivates the learner to consolidate what they have learned by articulating their current conceptual understanding and reflect how they used it in practice. Production is usually associated with formative and summative assessment and can cover a wide range of items; essays, reports, designs, performances, articles, models etc.

Moving production online: In some disciplines, digital representations are already common such as presentations, videos, slideshows, blogs and e-portfolios.

Take it further: more teaching and learning ideas

  • Interview an expert (video/forum/chat)
  • Literature reviews and critiques (forum/blog/wiki/RSS)
  • MCQs – formative with automatic feedback
  • Develop a shared resource library (database/glossary/wiki)
  • Shows/demonstrates learning (displays, posters, presentations)
  • Portfolios (MyPortfolio)
  • Case studies (forum, lesson)
  • Summarisation tasks (upload texts – individual or group)
  • Rapid-fire exam questions (forum)
  • Concept mapping (external)
  • Create video of performance (media)
  • Audio commentary of performance (media)
  • Collaborate ‘viva’
  • Make and give a presentation (external)
  • Video blog (external)
  • Write a report (external)
  • Make an analysis (external)
  • Case studies (report on or create)
  • Advanced role play – you are the consultant etc.
  • Action plan for workplace
  • Action plan for further study
  • Authentic research / data analysis – write a paper
  • Prepare professional briefing
  • Create podcast (media)
  • Work assignment (blog/report)
  • Interview professional colleagues
  • Lead a group project

6 Responses to “Moving activities online with ABC – take it further”

  • 1
    Marianne Kok wrote on 8 June 2020:

    Dear ABC team,
    My collegues and I are interested to know whether a script or other information or other resouces are available in order to set up an online version of the ABC design workshop.
    Kind regards,
    Marianne Kok
    Amsterdam UAS
    Fac. Maatschappij & Recht (Humanities)
    Dpt Education & Research

  • 2
    Natasa Perovic wrote on 5 February 2021:

    Dear Marianne, please have a look at examples here: https://abc-ld.org/online-abc-ld/

  • 3
    Natasa Perovic wrote on 5 February 2021:

    Hi Marianne, several online examples can be found there https://abc-ld.org/online-abc-ld/

  • 4
    Jo Canavan wrote on 18 January 2021:

    I am interested in trialling your method in Tasmania with teaching in the vocational education and training sector. Just wondered if you had delivered workshops successfully to this cohort of teachers. Thanks.

  • 5
    Natasa Perovic wrote on 5 February 2021:

    Hi Jo, please see the section ABC LD in Schools here: https://abc-ld.org/online-abc-ld/

  • 6
    Rosa Spencer wrote on 16 February 2021:

    Hi, Really like the ABC method. Was wondering if you could clarify for me what the ‘ticks’ on the module shape diagram represent whereby you’re drawing the shape of the module in terms of ‘aquisition’, ‘collaboration’etc? I understand they’re representing the student activity but is it ‘weeks’ of work? ‘percentage’?

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