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Choosing learning activities

A single learning objective can be met through a range of learning activities. The choice of activity is in part about the type of learning experience you wish students to undertake. An influential model for thinking about learning activity design is Diana Laurillard’s Conversational Framework / ABC Model. This model identifies six approaches to learning with which students might engage across a ‘block’ of study, or across an entire module:


  • Staff-led lectures, presentations or demonstrations (online or in-person).
  • Independent set reading: books, journals, websites.
  • Watching films or video recordings (eg of events).


  • Analysing the ideas and information in a range of materials and resources.
  • Collecting and analysing data.
  • Searching for and evaluating information and ideas.


  • Undertaking practice-based exercises or projects (eg through in-person labs or field trips).
  • Using models, simulations, virtual labs and field trips
  • Engaging in performances or role-play activities


  • Writing essays, reports, blogs, or solutions to problems.
  • Giving oral presentations or demonstrations.
  • Creating in-person or video performances.
  • Creating design outlines, artefacts, models, photos or videos.


  • Synchronous discussions: eg seminars, webinars, whole class discussions, interactive lectures.
  • Asynchronous discussions: discussion boards, digital notice boards and white boards, email, blog comments.


  • Group exercises, practicals or projects, which can occur in-person or online, and be synchronous or asynchronous.
  • Group presentations.
  • Collaborative writing, videos, or performances.

(Adapted from Laurillard, 2012)

When designing activities across longer stretches of learning, Laurillard’s framework can help you to ensure there is a balance between different types of activities and that no single type of activity predominates.

This can, in turn, help you to design a more varied, collaborative and active learning experience for your students, as well as to increase inclusivity and more effectively meet the needs of different students.

The framework also places activity to the fore rather than focusing on ‘content to be covered’ and also encourages an explicit focus on how and when opportunities for feedback should be included in the design.  

The following module design template encourages you to map out the activities in your module week-by-week by type of activity and to consider skills development and feedback mechanisms linked to each activity. This process may help you to ensure an appropriate balance and variety of activity types across the module as a whole.

Module design template

Laurillard, D. (2012). Teaching As a Design Science: Building Pedagogical Patterns for Learning and Technology. Abingdon: Routledge.