“Businesses today are seeing an increasing need to more rapidly adapt to changing environments. If you need a biz to be agile you need an architecture to be agile too.” - Kim Jones (Fashion Designer)
A recent HP survey of over 600 IT and software professionals earlier this year found that Agile had more or less become the default software development methodology. 67% of the surveyed companies called themselves “Purely Agile” or “Leaning towards Agile” and a further 24% claimed a “Hybrid” development approach. Agile first found favor with software product development and then moved into more and more software development areas. eLearning cannot be immune to this spread and there is growing appreciation as well as growing adoption of this development approach in eLearning development now.
I picked the particular DevLearn session to attend since I wanted to explore more about how Agile project management could be applied to eLearning/mLearning course development projects. At eNyota, we have already gone Agile in our software development teams recently but have not really thought this through completely on the course development side of things.
Some questions in my mind were:
At the end of the Agile Project Management in eLearning Projects session one pretty clear conclusion was that the traditional ADDIE development model, which mirrors the Waterfall development model in software development, has some clear challenges and limitations. Principally these are to do with the fact that this is still, largely, a linear process. This means that a fair amount of time is taken to deliver usable content. Then there is the associated lack of flexibility – a change in the end output will mean going back to the start of the process and changing every step till the end.
In the Agile Development approach, rather than plan the entire project upfront in great detail before development, the focus is on looking at faster iterations and smaller builds. Feedback is sought from the client early in the process and incorporated into succeeding iterative releases. The idea is to deliver something that is closer to what is usable and meaningful to the client/their learners and improve successively from release to release.
Instead of the traditional model:
Image from Megan Torrance’s book – A Quick Guide to LLAMA (A lot like Agile Methods Approach).
A simple example in the eLearning context could be instead of doing all scripts/all storyboards for all modules before development starts, first get the functional modules ready and deliver them fast. Post delivery, seek and assimilate feedback not just from the stakeholders, but potentially from the learners also, and go back to the release to incorporate the changes. A continuous process of iteration of the modules will drive towards the final end product that is likely to be much more market-tested.
While the subtle difference in looking at smaller iterations may seem no different from the traditional way of executing eLearning projects one module at a time, in the context of a complete project this is a vastly different way of looking at things. I’m convinced that once you go Agile you may never go back!
The compelling reasons to do Agile in developing learning material include:
The quick limitations I see with Agile in learning projects include:
Of course, as has been much-documented, eLearning is inherently different from software development and this means that we cannot blindly adopt Agile; but it is clear that there is utility with the right adaptations. The challenges are not small. For one, Agile puts a much greater value on the continued collaboration between the stakeholders, learners, and developers – not always easy to pull off consistently.
Τhat being said, Agile is getting a lot more attention in the eLearning development context. Many books have been written and, while it is early days, there is a clear trend towards rethinking the traditional model of ADDIE and utilizing the learning from doing Agile software development projects to learning projects as well.