Adopting a pedagogical renewal boosted by a new LMS – Learning process re-design due to COVID-19

Teksti | Tuija Marstio

Laurea UAS is currently changing over to a new learning platform. An important part of this process is a pedagogical development work parallel to the technical transition. It is carried out via learning design method. The feedback from the teachers show that learning design is useful in providing a student-centred insight and a point of inspiration for their own teaching context. The outbreak of Coronavirus made us look for alternative ways to go about the pedagogical upgrading process. Not only did we find a solution to develop it online now but also found a way to facilitate the future learning design practices.

Laurea University of Applied Sciences (Finland) is presently changing over to Canvas LMS. Instead of just copy pasting the current contents of the old platform to the new one, we are taking the opportunity for a pedagogical renewal of all teaching offered at Laurea. Thus, the courses are transferred to the new platform and simultaneously re-designed in accordance with the jointly agreed design practices. This is why all our staff members (about 350) participate in pedagogical as well as technical Canvas workshops. The transition period is one year, which means a great number of workshops. The technical training for the new LMS is carried out online whereas the pedagogical work was originally planned to be done in face-to-face mode.

ABC Learning Design method for pedagogical planning

For the pedagogical workshops, we decided to use the ABC Learning Design method (ABC LD) as it meets very well the concept of learning design and can be carried out in a short amount of time. ABC LD is a pedagogical planning method based on cards that present different types of learning, underpinned by Conversational Framework (Laurillard, 2013). The method has been developed at University College London as part of an Erasmus+ project and thus all related materials are available with a CC-licence.

When planning a course teachers are inclined to place strong emphasis on the contents of the learning intervention or the way to deliver it (tools, methodology). One can compare this way of planning to product- centred or context-centred logic that is often applied in service business. The ABC cards help the teachers to focus on the students’ learning experience and their different ways to learn while designing a course. In service business, this translates to customer-centred logic and service design is based on it. Learning design follows to a great extent the principles of service design: it puts the learners as users at the centre and prioritises what they do. Learning design shapes the learning path of the student as well as the landscape through which the student walks (Goodyear, 2015). It gives a systematic approach for designing learning interventions. A crucial feature of ABC Learning Design method is its’ collaborative nature: teachers work in teams in workshops and produce jointly a visual storyboard of a course. At Laurea we have adopted the ABC cards to respond to Laurea’s pedagogical model Learning by Developing.

The piloting stage was promising..

At the beginning of this year the pilot phase for the new LMS was launched and also the pedagogical workshops with the ABC LD method were tested. This method has been built for physical encounters. An important aspect of ABC workshops is how the learning type cards generate a discussion amongst the teacher team and give them a distinctive mode of thought and a set of tools and methods. During the piloting stage, we ran 15 pedagogical workshops in F2F mode. With “we” the author refers to the digital Cell of Laurea (dCELL) and a group of digi-lecturers appointed throughout the six campuses of Laurea. The feedback from the academic staff has been positive and encouraging. Teachers have found that the pedagogical workshops helped them to get a comprehensive view of the course from the student’s point of view. Also, the workshops serve as a framework for the planning process the teachers would otherwise do but in a less structured manner.

 ..but then Coronavirus overtook us

On 16ht of March all Laurea campuses were shut down due to Coronavirus and, like teaching, all in-house training had to be developed in technology-facilitated settings. It was thus necessary to find a solution on how to transfer the ABC pedagogical workshops online. The basic question was how to enable the use of ABC cards on a virtual storyboard. After some testing, we ended up with two alternative solutions for the storyboard, which proved to be successful. Up to date, we have run 20 workshops online.

ABC Learning Design workshops offline and online. Photos: Tuija Marstio

Our solution for ABC LD online

Firstly, pictures of both sides of the ABC cards are needed. They are then inserted to the digital version of the visual manuscript base for which we use two alternatives: one built on a word document, and another one on a Padlet wall formatted in the storyboard structure. Teacher teams can decide which format they prefer to use.

The pedagogical workshops are now delivered through online sessions in the similar manner as if they would be carried out in physical encounters. During the workshops, the teacher teams design their courses in breakout rooms. In most cases there are two workshop facilitators which makes it easier to support all teacher teams and to follow the chat during the online session. Due to technicalities, some extra time is needed for adjusting the microphones, giving instructions on how to proceed in the breakout rooms, and other technical issues.

Which way to go in the future?

In many ways it would be better to be able to deliver the workshops face to face, working on a big storyboard, placing the cards physically and being able to react to body language of each other. However, the online method has its’ advantages. An online storyboard gives opportunity to write notes that can be easily archived and shared. For the facilitators it is easy to move from one breakout room to another without disturbing the group work. A great advantage comes from the teachers not needing to travel in order to participate in a workshop.

It is thanks to the pandemic that the online modality for our pedagogical planning work has now become a viable option for the future as well, no matter how the virus evolves.
It is probable that we will carry out a great deal of these workshops online next autumn. A need for a physical encounter depends on a number of factors such as new course or existing course; teachers familiar or not familiar with each other; challenging or easy to reach consensus on the course contents.

All in all, we have found the ABC method a good solution for both an online and offline learning design system, enabling the teacher an overview of the course design and guiding him/her through the process of creating a learning intervention.


  • ABC Learning Design (read 10.4.2020)
  • Goodyear, P. 2015. Teaching as design. HERDSA Review of Higher Education Vol.2
  • Laurillard, D. 2013. Rethinking university teaching: A Conversational Framework for the Effective Use of Learning Technologies.

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