ELearning Development - The Agile Way!

ELearning Development - The Agile Way
Summary: Since the word "eLearning" was first used at a Computer Based Training (CBT) systems seminar back in 1999, a number of structured design methodologies (ADDIE, SAM) have been used to develop eLearning content. As far as methodologies go, you will be hard pressed to find two eLearning project managers (PMs) who agree upon which methodology is "right" and which is "wrong". The fact is that many of those "iterative" models, where content is developed using a cycle of repeated processes, have proved immensely resilient over the years in projects that produced high-quality content. However, now, there is a new kid in town. "Agile" (has been around for several years!), and eLearning sponsors and PM's are taking notice of it!

What Is Agile eLearning development?

To really understand what Agile eLearning development is all about, let's have a brief primer of what an existing iterative model - ADDIE - does. Developed in 1975, at the Florida State University primarily for IT project development, ADDIE produced eLearning content in distinct and iterative phases: Analysis, Design, Development, Implementation and Evaluation.

  • Analysis are conducted to come up with course requirements
  • The content is designed and passed to the developers
  • Developers develop the content using appropriate eLearning software
  • The developed course is implemented
  • The course is evaluated by clients and users
  • ...and if the changes are needed it goes back into the hands of the Instructional Designer.

Agile is associated with agility in developing content. It is designed to compress development time, usually associated with iterative processes, and takes a radically different approach to developing eLearning content. Simply put, Agile:

  • Brings all the stakeholders together in a huddle...yes, INCLUDING the client/end user!
  • They agree on small/discrete chunks of what the course should look like in a "scrum" (meeting) session
  • That part of the puzzle is built in a "sprint" (iteration), with any issues/changes addressed quickly
  • The team then moves on to the next segment of the course

Obviously, the above points do not justify what Agile actually is, and what it does. However, when compared to other iterative processes, Agile:

  • Engages a broader cross-section of stakeholders earlier in the development process
  • Helps the project team stay focused on developing eLearning courses and content, and NOT get distracted by the "process" of developing the course or content
  • Delivers tangible/usable deliverables early in the process, at regular intervals, and addresses changes/defects quickly in the development process

No one is suggesting that the advent of Agile has made everything that eLearning PMs and Developers learned and did over the last decade obsolete. Quite the contrary! What Agile aims to do is take eLearning project development to the next natural level in its evolution. That means building (not fully replacing) upon the wealth of knowledge and experience of the existing body of knowledge.

In my next blog post about ELearning Development – the Agile Way, I will cover best agile practices for best results, so stay tuned!

Last but not least, to learn about Project Management and Instructional Design for eLearning in general, you are more than welcome to check the Instructional Design for ELearning: Essential guide to creating successful eLearning courses book. This book is also available in Spanish http://amzn.to/1ur9Fiu