Recipe: Nordic Rebels micromodules for engaging learning

Nordic Rebels is an award-winning* Finnish-Danish movement established in 2018 aiming at goosebumpifying learning. We rely on some of the famed Nordic values and strengths: openness and trust, storytelling and cuisine, design, and pedagogical competencies. 

We have created publicly available design videos focusing on multidisciplinary teamwork, design processes, and skills for the future. Whilst shooting the videos for the third season during summer 2019, we realized they could be used in a multitude of ways, and as a result we started toying around with the micromodule concept.

In essence, one micromodule corresponds to roughly three hours of students’ effort, meaning that nine micromodules counts as one credit in the European Credit Transfer System (ECTS). 

Of course, this is only our estimate, and the main point here is that the material can be used in many different way but particularly to  offer students a balancing act for all the real-time teaching sessions happening via Zoom or similar products.

Below, we give an example of one micromodule focusing on compassion and courage in teamwork This micromodule can be utilized as a way to kickstart a team project during your course or alternatively as a session to reflect on the teamwork experience so far.

Serve to:
(Sub)Groups of 3-4 students, who are tired of attending Zoom lectures all day long

Prep: 2 hrs
Activity: around 1.5-2 hrs



Method: Micromodule on compassion and courage in teamwork

This method gives a recipe on how to create a micromodule on compassion and courage in teamwork. See the General method below if you want to create your own micro module

  1. Assign students into teams. A good team size is 3 or 4 people to allow everyone to contribute.
  2. Ask the participants to watch Nordic Rebels Season 1 Episode 2
  3. Next, the participants should discuss the episode in their team and fill out our Team Contract
    • Team discussion on the episode and collectively creating a mind map, for example (30 to 45 minutes)
    • Using the discussion as a basis for filling out the Team Contract (30 to 45 minutes)
  4. Finally, a reflection and debriefing session with the whole class (30 to 45 minutes)
    • Mind maps created by the teams can be uploaded to the course platform so they can be accessed by everyone 
    • Teacher facilitates the discussion focusing on the episode and reflecting on the Team Contract and its relevance
    • If you are running this micro module as part of a larger project, this is the opportunity to relate it to that.

Following this template, this micromodule should cover approximately 100 to 165 minutes. It can be made longer by including relevant readings, for example, or shortened by focusing on the episode only (leaving out the Team Contract activity and emphasizing team discussion instead). 

Notes and tips:
If you are using additional materials, be explicit about how the episode, readings, and the activities are linked together. Think of creating micromodules as crafting narratives!
Think about the amount of micromodules you would like to create for your course: one, several, many? How are they linked to each other and to the course’s learning outcomes in general?
One episode can be used in more than one course – it really depends on which vantage point you take! 
Creating micromodules is not tied to a certain platform or LMS – they can be integrated in any way you can think of!

As has been mentioned in another recipe, leave enough time for reflections and collective sense-making.
We started shooting the episodes in 2017 and the third season was filmed in 2019, so our episode guests might have developed their thinking ever since. 
When designing the outputs for the assignments and activities, focus on supporting the participants’ learning experience instead of controlling whether they have gone through the contents or not.

General Method

  1. Go through the Nordic Rebels episodes and see which of them resonate with the course you are teaching, and choose one. (To help you go through the episodes quickly, we have created a teacher’s manual for each episode. This document is being updated on a regular basis.)
  2. Start from the session’s learning outcomes and the key message, what would you like to leave the participants with. (In other words, learning outcomes for the session from your course you were thinking of transforming into a micromodule). Consider the individual or team-based activity that connects with the episode.
  3. Consider any additional readings or material you might need to offer a comprehensive topic or to fit with your learning outcomes and activity.
  4. As we mentioned above, one micromodule roughly corresponds to three hours of work, but based on our experiences these hours should be spread out to avoid attrition. One option would be to spread out the micromodule on three consecutive days: pre-material (Day 1), activity (Day 2), reflection (Day 3). 
  5. Provide the students with a brief to the micromodule: what are the learning outcomes, what happens and when, where the participants can find the material, and how does the micromodule link to the overall learning outcomes of the course.
  6. In terms of the activities, we recommend doing offline activities to balance the time spent in front of the computer. Having said that, reflections can also be done offline, the main thing here is to focus on ensuring the participants do not spend too much time in front of their devices (most likely they will do that after courses when binging on Netflix, for example). 
  7. For activities and reflections, make sure to have concrete outputs. They can be letters, visualizations, audio recordings – producing something concrete in the end ensures the participants remember the experience better.

If you would like to know more about our approach to micromodules, you can read more about it in a recent blog post we wrote on our website.  We hope it gives you an idea for how you can start creating your own micromodules.

Published by Miikka J. Lehtonen

Hey there! I'm currently an Assistant Professor of Strategic Design Management at Dubai Institute of Design and Innovation as well as one of the co-founders of the award-winning movement Nordic Rebels that aims at goosebumpifying learning. Prior to joining DIDI, I worked at Aalto University in Finland and the University of Tokyo in Japan. In addition, I have also prior work and teaching experience in Denmark, the United States, Russia, India, and China. My current research interests and teaching methods focus on visual methodologies and knowledge production, blended learning, management and creativity in game companies, design practices and management in contemporary organizations, and national design competencies.

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