May 12, 2022

Demystifying Agile in Instructional Design

The amount of change in our industry right now is exhilarating, not only in terms of improvements in technology and data standards, but also with advances in managerial thinking and human-centered approaches like design thinking. . L&D teams and the organizations they work for are experimenting with many new ways of working.

Enter agile project management

A new way of working is Agile project management. I say “new” because Agile itself has been around for almost two decades – if you consider the
Agile Manifesto as the beginning of Agile in the software development industry. The goal of the manifesto was to discover “better ways to develop software by doing it and helping others to do it”. He suggested that software developers value four specific principles:

1. people and interactions over processes and tools
2. working software on full documentation
3. collaboration with the client on the negotiation of the contract
4. responding to change rather than following a plan

So essentially Agile project management is an iterative and incremental process and approach to guiding the design and construction of projects in a very flexible and interactive way. Additionally, Agile focuses on maximizing customer value and promoting high team engagement. Additionally, the manifesto presented a framework of values ​​that would allow teams of programmers to develop software in a way that allowed for changes to underlying needs and continued discovery of requirements throughout the project.

Apply Agile to ID

With the success of Agile project management in the software industry, it’s no surprise that L&D practitioners have sought to adopt it. Indeed, many of the guidelines in the manifesto probably sound very familiar to instructional designers, such as:

  • The highest priority is customer satisfaction through early and continuous delivery of valuable software.
  • Accommodate changing requirements, even late in development. Agile processes harness change for the customer’s competitive advantage.
  • Deliver functional software frequently, from weeks to months, with a preference for shorter lead times.
  • Businesses and developers must work together on a daily basis throughout the project.
  • Build projects around motivated individuals. Give them the environment and support they need, and trust them to get the job done.
  • The most efficient and effective method of conveying information to and within a development team is face-to-face conversation.
  • Working software is the primary measure of progress.
  • Agile processes promote sustainability. Sponsors, developers and users must be able to maintain a constant rhythm indefinitely.
  • Continuous attention to technical excellence and good design enhances agility.
  • Simplicity, the art of maximizing the amount of undone work, is key.
  • The best architectures, requirements, and designs emerge from self-organizing teams.
  • At regular intervals, the team reflects on how to become more efficient, then adjusts and adjusts its behavior accordingly.

As you can see, in many ways the design-build aspect of software design and development is similar to that of instructional design and development, and this similarity is even stronger when we develop the e-learning or other digital learning experiences.

There are, however, several key differences between the two types of work. Some honors include:

  • Instructional designers should focus on learning objectives and performance outcomes, in addition to functions and functionality.
  • Most instructional designers work on multiple projects at once, while software developers are usually dedicated to a single team.
  • Instructional designers often have to wait for content or input from subject matter experts, and they need to factor this downtime into their project plans.

These disparities between the nature of software development and ID are either a source of frustration for instructional designers in their application of Agile methods, or they lead to the development of new adaptations, such as LLAMA (Lot Like Agile Management Approach) or SAM ( Successive Approximation Model). Teams that adapt their Agile project management approaches to account for these differences in work experience success.

Just as Agile can be applied to different programming languages ​​and different types of software and applications, it is important to note that Agile project management is different from the instructional design methodologies used on the project. With this in mind, Agile project management is how we:

  • extend the effort
  • define tasks
  • estimate work
  • set a schedule
  • deliver and release work product frequently and iteratively
  • Communicate with our peers and customers, both internal and external.

Agile is distinct from the specific identification techniques and approaches we use to create this work, whether we use the Six Disciplines (6Ds), Merrill’s Principles of Instruction, Allen Interaction’s CCAF Model (Context, Challenge, Feedback of activity), individualized instruction theory, Bloom’s technology or Torgerson’s MILE framework for micro-learning. Agile is also independent of learning modality or medium and can be applied to e-learning, instructor-led learning, micro-learning, blended learning, performance support, virtual reality or projects that use a social setting for informal learning.

You want to know more ?

There is no doubt that many teams have successfully implemented the Agile approach to software development. However, some of you who are new to the idea may be wondering where to start. If so, join me at
ATD Core 4 Conference. We will explore various Agile tools and techniques for estimating, planning and managing a design and development project.