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Understanding Agile Instructional Design

Understanding Agile Instructional Design

As you can interpret from the word 'agile', agile instructional design is a new-age learning approach for efficient learning. The term has been popular in the past with software development experts. However, relatively recently it has also successfully established its ground in learning and development.

The core philosophy propelling this approach is 'adaptability'. In the simplest words, the agile method is about finding quicker and smarter solutions to contemporary training challenges via collaborative learning. Regardless of this breakthrough strategy, it is a valid question about what makes agile instructional design special. After all, collaboration and adaptability are not exclusive characteristics of this particular approach. Hmm. 🤔

Well, if you wish to learn in greater detail, then follow the article as we unravel the concepts behind this learning methodology.

See also: How to become an Instructional designer?

agile instructional design for training

What is Agile Instructional Design?

Agile is a project-oriented learning solution that focuses on providing efficient ways of learning alongside others. It is all about creating ultimate educational experiences with the help of others without compromising the needs of the learners.

Let's break down the concept into simpler words. It requires all the relevant stakeholders (SMEs, L&D professionals, course creators, etc) to collaborate and simplify the issues for greater understanding. They then devise smarter ways of tackling those issues.

The agile instructional design approach was coined back in 2001 by a group of engineers in response to the "waterfall methodology". Contrastingly, this traditional method dealt with learning in the form of independent phases which trickled down into each other to offer the final result. The issue here was the isolated dealings of these phases and the lack of systematic interaction between them. Hence, agile came into the picture to fix these shortcomings.

Some of the core values include:

  • Emphasis on interpersonal relations for learning rather than passive cramming of tools
  • Learning practical knowledge (technical, personal, and professional)
  • Tackling emerging challenges through collaborative efforts.

Besides training, agile instructional design serves an important purpose in project management, software development, and marketing sectors as well. It is a dynamic approach to developing efficient learning experiences.

Benefits of Agile Instructional Design

  • Learner-centric approach: It prioritizes the needs of the learners and offers smart strategies for improved interactivity. As a consequence, learning is more focused on the individuals instead of the process of learning.
  • Quality learning in less time: Since projects are divided between teams it is easier to work on the tasks. No one feels burdened or singled out. Instead, learners can work in a more focused way and complete their tasks in less time.
  • Less need for revisions: Given that the agile approach requires users to run their tasks through multiple editing phases, it rules out little issues. Hence, one avoids sorting last-minute tweaking and adjustments to the courses.
  • Better collaboration: As people join in from across various disciplines to work towards a single shared goal, it inculcates a sense of team-building. Consequently, fostering collaboration and diminishing any unhealthy competition.

Examples of Agile Instructional Design

Image courtesy of Heather Carreiro.

The agile instructional design is quite diverse in terms of its application and interpretation. Since the strategy came into being, several L&D industry experts have come up with their own variations of it.

Previously, Lean and Scrum were the popular ones in the domain of software development. However, later on, the basics were picked up by and applied in the Edtech industry. Here are some of the popular examples of agile techniques in the L&D industry.

Successive Approximation Model (SAM)

The SAM model was devised by Allen Interactions as an agile interpretation of the traditional instructional design approach, the ADDIE model. With the ADDIE model, emphasis was largely on the repetition of concepts for longer retention.

For the longest, this solution for stabilizing the learning curve effectively worked. However, the primary issue with ADDIE was that it was rigid with backtracking and simply required users to follow instructions. With SAM, users could work together in groups and analyze the issues instead of being passive followers. Thereby, it encourages a sense of problem-solving.

SAM has further two categories; SAM1 and SAM2. SAM1 is for smaller courses and tasks that require quick learning. Whereas, SAM2 is an extensive eight-step process across three phases. It offers greater structure and organization.

A.G.I.L.E

A.G.I.L.E is a step-by-step process developed by Conrad Gottfredson, a learning strategist. It is an acronym for Align, Get set, Iterate & Implement, Leverage, and Evaluate. Agile offers an immersive and analytical approach to breaking down and solving tasks. Since evaluation is a big part of the process, this makes for timely feedback and a tracking mechanism. The purpose of these steps is to make concepts less complex and enable learners to engage with them skillfully. Learners apply the steps to each section of the project in individual phases called sprints.

LLAMA

LLAMA or "lot like agile management approach" was designed by Megan Torrance as a learning solution for her company, TorranceLearning. The primary goal behind it was to offer ways of improving the quality and speeding up the production of the final products. By incorporating older strategies such as ADDIE with agile methods, LLAMA was able to offer valuable team-based learning experiences.

Unlike ADDIE, where users follow through with a rigid step-by-step plan, LLAMA emphasizes "iterations" i.e. assessment and review process along the way of design and development during the project management. Consequently, the end result is free of any lapses and issues.

Rapid Content Development (RCD)

RCD is an agile instructional design method with three key sections. These include the preparation stage, iterative design, and course creation templates. The key characteristics shape RCD as a solution for course design projects of 2-3 weeks long. Here the stakeholders all engage collaboratively to map out the project and create content. Furthermore, to make it easier, it offers a library of standard templates for course creation.

It is quite popular in L&D as a quick working approach and perfect for people looking to develop standardized courses.

Conclusion

Agile instructional design is a project-centric learning approach that involves people working in a collaborative setting. Thereby fostering a sense of community amongst them. Unlike the traditional instructional design approaches, Agile is all about iterations and making adjustments throughout the process rather than simply following instructions. Consequently, learners end up with sharper problem-solving skills and are quick to adapt according to new challenges.

This was our brief take on the subject. Let us know in the comments what you make of agile instructional design.

Further reading

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