5 quick wins for more agile e-learning development


I write and present on agile e-learning development since 2011. People like it a lot, but the response that I often get is that implementing it completely is a bridge too far. People are asking me for a starting point and quick wins. So here they are. 5 quick wins for more agile e-learning development.  If you want to know more on agile, check out my links at the bottom of the post.

agile  1. Create  an agile e-learning customer

  2. Make your Return On Investment measurable

  3. Include agile best practices

  4. Create an agile culture

  5. Test your course

 

1. Create an agile e-learning customer

This is the most important one. In the old ‘waterfall’ methodologies like ADDIE you will have a lot of contact with the customer (internal or external) during the sales process and the design stage. But during the period of the production there will be hardly any contact. And then suddenly: the delivery of the result. In an agile approach you stay in contact with your contractor all the time. You do a demo every week or every two weeks, showing them what you have done so far and you will get feedback on what you have created. This way you will connect the customer to the process. After a demo you will decide together what the next priorities are (see point 3). The great thing about this is that you give them responsibility in the production process. This makes the process very different. Instead of being ‘we’ (developers) and ‘them’ (customer), it can become us.

2. Make your Return On Investment measurable

The customer wants value for its money. In the past sales of e-learning was mostly driven by the available budget (we want to do e-learning and our budget is $x) or savings (if we don’t have to do a face-to-face training or can cut back on it our savings will be $x, if e-learning is cheaper we have a profit!). But that time is over. You have to prove your added value. You can only have that if your e-learning has real measurable goals. Ans what is more these goals should connect to the business goals of your customer. So if the goal of the customer is to make 10% more sales, or increase efficiency by 10%: figure out what the added value of your e-learning is,  set clear goals  and measure afterwards.

3. Include agile best practices

There are some quick wins in the best practices of agile e-learning development.

Create user stories: The development work is not described in technical details, but in a user story. It is a description from the perspective of the end-user. This is crucial for the communication between managers, customers and developers. We all understand what it means for the end-user.

Work in short sprints: Work in periods of one or two weeks (a sprint). Make sure that your user stories can be done in one sprint. Too big?: cut them up.  At the end of each sprint the development team does the demo.

Use a backlog and set priorities: You need to have a list of all user stories that need to be done. You can use specific software for that but any spreadsheet will do. In that sheet you will add the estimation (amount of work) and the priority for each story. At the beginning of the project and after each demo you review the list (with the customer), and the development team picks stories from the list with the highest priority. This way of working has some surprising effects. First you manage the project with your customer, and you can control it better. Let say you plan for a 6 weeks (6 sprints) project. You will find sometimes that your customer will tell you after 5 weeks, that the result is already good enough and that the project is done and accepted. Sometimes the customer wants to add user stories based on what he has seen so far in the demo’s. In this set up it will be clear that that is something new and unplanned. So the project needs extra time and extra funding.

4. Create an agile culture

All these things will have an effect on your culture, but the most important thing is how your view your team. In an agile approach the team is one, and everybody in the team is responsible for the result. This is a big game changer. No more: “We are late because he didn’t finish the designs on time”, or “We are late because the testers didn’t finish on time”. The team is responsible for the tasks (user stories) and if one of the members does not have enough time, the others will help out. In the ideal situation all embers have all necessary skills. This is never the case in the real world, but still it is surprising how much work and responsibility people can share if you encourage them.

5. Test your course

Before putting your course out to all learners make sure you do a beta test. Invite a group of users to go through your course before putting it live. Plan time to process their remarks and after implementing them go live. You will be surprised how much difference this will make.

Agile

Of course there is much more to SCRUM and agile than these 5 points. But each of them would make a good start and an instant improvement.

Old post on agile e-Learning development:

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