“Agile” is on every eLearning professional’s mind since it comes with the promises of the perfect course development strategy and results after deployment. There are a lot of things that eLearning course development teams do to become more agile. Some of them are:
- Daily standup meetings
- Frequent feedback cycles
- Working in sprints
- Involving the client in the development process
Still, the issues with the implementation of agile persist, or at least the results are not as glorious as predicted before implementing agile in eLearning. In this article, we will discuss the prerequisites for the same mistakes to watch out for and try to figure how agile should NOT be implemented.
Getting ready to implement agile:
The members of the team need to have enough experience and the desired skill set to design the eLearning course. There also need to be enough developers, designers, creators, and managers in the team.
The mindset of the team members needs to be at par with each other. It is encouraged that the team should be self-organized and the communication between them should be organic and spontaneous. Agile thrives on qualitative team coordination and it won’t mean a thing if the team is not able to communicate effectively.
Although agile works in a shorter time frame, it is necessary to make sure that there is enough time and money. There also needs to be proper tools, infrastructure that will support the team and will equip them to finish building the course in time.
For example, if a team believes that a visual collaboration tool will help them achieve their goals faster, they should get it ASAP. Delaying the process by involving other departments who are not directly involved in the development process is not ideal.
The level of involvement that a client prefers to have in the eLearning course to be made decides how agile the process can be. In the initial phase, the client comes in with just their problem and desires that the team figure out the solution on their own. However, things change.
If the client prefers to direct the process, the agility will be different. Even though agile encourages taking repeated feedback from the client, knowing the boundaries and setting them upfront is an ideal strategy.
The nature of the course, the number of modules, medium of instruction, etc, determine how many resources are required for the complete development of the eLearning course. To implement agile in eLearning development, it is important to know what resources are required.
For example, if a course needs to have animated videos, there needs to be an investment in terms of hiring graphic designers. Adding new members to the development team has a lot of impacts, especially if the team is small.
Don’t implement agile if
Before adopting agile in the eLearning development process, eLearning professionals should focus on tell-tale signs which will suggest whether the team/agency/organization is ready for the leap.
If existing processes are not properly set
It might appear that focussing on the process is a direct violation of one of the core values of agile, but they are important. Processes get stuff done and it makes things streamlined. Simultaneously, it tells the designers and developers what needs to be done next and provides structure to the organization. What agile’s core values suggest is that if the members of a team believe that a particular process should be chosen over others, the value that more.
In order to make your current process more valuable than before and get more out of it, you need an existing process. An existing process could be broken down into smaller chunks which can be edited and improved as things progress ahead. It is far easier to make an existing non-agile process agile, rather than transitioning to agile from chaos.
If the teams are not right
The success of agile in eLearning development depends upon how efficient each individual in the team is. If the teams are not self-organizing, unable to communicate organically, collaborate efficiently, transfer information among each other, take important decisions together, figure out solutions to complex issues in the least, then you are not ready for agile.
Even if all of the above things are on point, it is also important that the members of the team are of the right skill set and have enough experience to pull off the job.
If strategy and vision are not set
Ask yourself and all the members of the development team these following questions:
- Does everyone know the vision of the organization?
- Do they know their own importance in the process?
- Do they know what other collaborators are working on?
- Is everyone aware of the long-term strategies?
The big picture should be visible to all the members of the team. This will enable the team as a whole to function spontaneously towards the completion of the eLearning courses.
Mistakes to watch out for
The common mistakes are often not addressed. There are some mistakes that are chinks in armor and are to be avoided.
- Not letting go of traditional philosophies; new is always better
- Imposing tasks and duties on people, forming teams, etc; basically applying agile in a traditional methodology; teams are self-organizing; autonomy and trust
- Restructuring business; cross-functional teams; objectives for a team; tools and communication strategies, roles and responsibilities
- Getting the right information: get coaches, understand the true principles of agile, get educated and educate others
Fixating on traditional philosophies
A few paragraphs ago, we talked about the importance of processes. It is, however, equally important to be able to modify them as things progress. Nothing is set in stone when it comes to building eLearning courses. Titles, tools, responsibilities, are some of the things which should be changing as things progress forward.
Processes are to be built around people and not vice-versa. Much of the hiring is done on the basis of a candidate being a good fit for the position. However, to truly implement agile in eLearning development, the team should decide what are the positions and responsibilities for each of them. When the aim is set and decided upon, which is building a proper eLearning course, the process should be built around people.
Imposing tasks and duties on people
One of the important things about self-organized agile teams in eLearning development is, the collaborators are aware of the next task. Decisions are taken together, whether it is about fixing bugs or about figuring out the next move. Micromanaging the members of the team is detrimental to the spontaneous and organic progress in eLearning development.
Many times it happens that a member of a management team suggests doing something and are not aware of the internal discussions completely. In those cases, external interference in the form of micromanagement will slow down the rate of eLearning course development.
Roles and responsibilities should be determined internally within the team. The necessary software, people, and the flow of work should be something that everyone is okay with. The purpose of implementing agile in eLearning is to empower teams to create positions and define responsibilities based on the requirement. If the power to do so is with the individuals who are not directly involved in the process, agility won’t be achieved.
In many cases, it is assumed that the entire hierarchy and process for the same need to be changed. However, more often than not, there are few but delicate changes. One of the purposes of agile is to make your existing process better, not disrupt it. Work with what you have and fine-tune as you go ahead.
Getting the right information
The first investment in the venture to transition to agile should be made in knowledge. Talking to the right people, reading case studies, following correct advice, and working with a team who are aware of agile are a few points that one should consider. Many eLearning teams and agencies are hiring agile coaches who are qualified to help them make the leap.
The next important thing is to get educated yourself. Following an expert’s advice is good but it will only take you so far. Reading various books and articles about agile and encouraging the development to do the same will help. It will also help you open discussions and make changes to your process on a fundamental level rather than just scratching the surface.
Just as it is important to know what needs to be done, it is equally important to know what needs to be avoided. A lot of individuals appear to know what needs to be done and what are the new things that should be included to make the process more agile. It is, as a matter of fact, more important to get rid of things that don’t help. Because not only resources are being spent on mistakes, it is also causing additional damage in terms of adding to the chaos.
Also, don’t forget to apply this theory to your personal life!