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Agile Instructional Design: The Big Questions

by Jennifer Neibert

October 7, 2013

Feature

by Jennifer Neibert

October 7, 2013

“Those of you responsible for creating software training are likely already familiar with the agility required to meet project demands. For those of you not as familiar with that world, we’ll look closely at AGILE instructional design to determine if it is a process that gives us a greater ability to respond to our changing environments and needs—and keep up with today’s rapid pace of change.”

The only constant is change. It’s a philosophical quote that rings true for many of us. And, for many of us, the speed of change is only getting faster and faster. As eLearning professionals, how can we possibly keep up with the rapid pace of change and continue to design, develop, and deliver effective learning solutions? How can we ensure our learners transfer knowledge and skills to on-the-job competence and perform effectively at every changing moment?

AGILE instructional design is one possibility. AGILE (all caps) is an acronym that refers to five core methodologies applied to instructional design. This methodology, pioneered by performance-support practitioner and industry thought leader Conrad Gottfredson is related to but is not the same thing as agile software development, which I discuss in the next section of this article.

Increasing our agility with an AGILE approach

Those of you familiar with software development processes may also be familiar with the Agile Manifesto. Much has been written about agile methodologies, especially Scrum, Lean, and Kanban, which share several key elements: valuing one set of priorities, short iterations, transparency and accountability, and built-in quality. Keep in mind that these are software development methods.

AGILE instructional design, according to Gottfredson, is built upon similar values and represents five core methodology areas—align, get set, iterate & implement, leverage, and evaluate. Given the fact that we’re tasked to prepare our learners to meet the demands of our ever-changing business environments, instructional designers can also come to value the strengths of such an iterative approach. AGILE instructional design was “founded upon the need of today’s organizations to be agile and adaptive,” says Gottfredson.

Figure 1: AGILE instructional design, defined by Conrad Gottfredson, PhD, is an iterative approach to design and development

As we’ll discuss in this case-study series, AGILE instructional design is not a complete departure from the well-known ADDIE model. It is, however, a process of design and development that allows learning teams to more rapidly deploy a core learning solution, with a complementary performance-support system.

Why your project teams need pigs and chickens

Let’s say we’re scoping a project—operation breakfast: bacon and eggs. We’ve decided to use AGILE instructional design and build our project team with pigs and chickens. Wait, pigs and chickens?! As project team members, pigs are completely committed to the project’s outcome, as they must make the ultimate sacrifice to provide the bacon. On the other hand, chickens are involved in the project via egg production, but only in a non-sacrificial way. (Please note: No animals will be harmed in this series of articles!)

Our project teams are the same. We need both pigs and chickens. We need those pigs—the process owners, primary SMEs, design and development team members, etc.—to provide and review content, move the project forward, and take responsibility for the outcomes. But, we also need chickens. We need our executive teams to have visibility of our projects. We need to gather input from related stakeholders, both internal and external. As chickens, these individuals are certainly involved in our projects and may provide consultation or other guidance, but they’re not as committed to the overall outcome as the pigs.

Think about your current projects. Do you have a good balance of pigs and chickens? If not, how could you change the balance of power? Have you ever allowed chickens to derail your project momentum? Throughout this case study series we’ll look at the composition of a successful eLearning project team, through the lens of AGILE instructional design.

Answering the big questions

This case study will also seek to answer a few additional questions regarding AGILE instructional design:

  • Can eLearning teams really move content through the design and development process more quickly?
  • How do delays to other projects impact our AGILE instructional design work and timelines?
  • How is the SME relationship impacted?
  • Looking at the big picture, how can we best define a framework for handling and managing feedback and input?

Those of you responsible for creating software training are likely already familiar with the agility required to meet project demands. For those of you not as familiar with that world, we’ll look closely at AGILE instructional design to determine if it is a process that gives us a greater ability to respond to our changing environments and needs—and keep up with today’s rapid pace of change. Stay tuned! 


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Great intro article - looking forward to reading the subsequent installments. As our timelines continue to shrink (and our commitments continue to explode), all IDs and developers need to address how to do the most with what we have.
I am really looking forward to the next article. I've known about Agile software development but don't really understand it fully.
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