Using the ABC storyboard

This is the fourth of five blogposts that I’m writing as coursework for a teacher training course on open networked learning (ONL). In my previous blogpost, I argued why academics need extensive personal learning networks and described my continuous conversations with colleagues about the basic elements of our craft: how to work and write efficiently while keeping stress levels down. Academics rarely discuss these issues openly probably fearing that the conversation will reveal our weaknesses and thus ruin our image in the cutthroat business that is academia. This is a terrible pity resulting in much misery that could be averted with more collegiality and honest meta-reflection on our daily practice. In today’s post I want to give another example of how to facilitate collaboration among faculty members with the help of the ABC curriculum design method.

One of the things I appreciate with teaching online courses is that they tend to involve more than one member of staff. Designing online courses alone, as Tony Bates cautions us, ‘should be a fall-back position out of necessity, not a first choice … Your online teaching strategy should really be part of a wider strategy for teaching and learning within your academic department. Your first online course should fit within this strategy; if there is no strategy or plan for online learning, get involved in creating one’ (Bates, The 10 Fundamentals of Teaching Online, p. 22).

Collaborating on a course means that the course organizer will often need to share the basic ideas behind a course and explain why a certain design and delivery method was chosen. And through this process, a conversation can arise about learning objectives and teaching modes that might force a reconsideration of old habits and established practices.

At my workplace, Media History at Lund University, we currently redesign our courses, integrating more blended learning and increasingly flipping the classroom. This process is collaborative, involving all faculty members in our unit. To support our work, we use the ABC course development method, which is an excellent way to collaborate on course design.

Using the ABC storyboard

My Media History colleagues mapping a course using the ABC storyboard

The ABC method was developed by Clive Young and Nataša Perović at University College London. The strength of the ABC method is its time efficiency: the method allows teachers to quickly map the activities of a course and the hands-on approach is conducive for discussions of how to develop the contents of a course. It uses a storyboard approach along with a set of cards that can be selected, sequenced, annotated and used as discussion prompts along the course “timeline”. The cards represent six different types of learning modes:

ABC learning type cards

ABC learning type cards

The storyboard’s timeline units are flexible. You can be very specific, zooming in on the content of a specific session, or you can choose to think of the timeline as covering a full semester. ‘Discussion’ and ‘production’ can mean simply having a brief discussion with a neighbour in the auditorium, followed by a 5 minute writing exercise (remember that the physical setting in a lecture hall does not have to dictate lecturing only. Many other activities can be interspersed during a lecture).

One feature that makes the learning type cards so useful is the information on the backside. There you’ll find examples of the different methods supporting the specific learning type. They are listed in two columns, as conventional methods and methods using digital technology. Under acquisition, for instance, you see the conventional methods include reading books, listening to presentations, etc. The digital methods include watching recorded lectures and listening to podcasts. This means that if you want to introduce blended learning in your course, then simply turn the cards around to see how to make use of digital learning technology. To learn more about the ABC method, check out this Voicethread where I explain why and how to use it.


Bates, Tony. The 10 Fundamentals of Teaching Online for Faculty and Instructors. 2016.

Young, Clive and Nataša Perović. “Rapid and creative course design: as easy as ABC?Procedia – Social and Behavioral Sciences 228 (2016), 390–95.

ABC toolkit and further reading available here.

Collaborative course design – easy as ABC