eLearning development teams are moving faster than ever — and experiencing a lot of change along the way. As a result, there is a lot of strain on the team members as they struggle to keep up with industry trends while delivering the best eLearning courses to their learners. Traditional methodologies, tools, workflows and strategies aren’t cutting it anymore. eLearning developers need something new, adaptive and iterative — something Agile.
Challenges in Adopting Agile
The Agile methodology aims to reduce the cost of production, increase the business value of the course and deliver the course more quickly. Adopting an Agile eLearning development process is easier said than done, however. Even though many eLearning course development teams are aware of the rewards that Agile brings, there are still challenges. These challenges mostly stem from the existing architecture of their organization and a lack of in-depth analysis.
Every organization and every team has a legacy process that has been working up to now. If there is an already functional eLearning course development process that yields some results, it can be difficult to change it, let alone replace it. You might hear, “Why bother changing something that is working?” or, “Should we really risk it all for something that might be better?”
Here are some strategies that can help address this challenge:
- Identify elements of the existing system that could be improved and suggest changes.
- Crunch the numbers and identify what would improve based on the suggested changes.
- Implement those changes individually, especially the ones that don’t require a financial investment.
- Open a conversation with fellow eLearning professionals regarding revamping the eLearning course development process.
Lack of Awareness
The term “Agile” has become popular, but it is often still used as a term rather than a practice that improves results and production. Many people love talking about Agile in eLearning development more than thinking of ways to implement it. We need to reduce the gap between an idea-generating conversation and the creation of an actionable strategy. There should be more focus on “what can we do to implement Agile in eLearning development” than on “the ideal way of implementing Agile in eLearning development.”
A deeper understanding of each element of the process is necessary to make the entire process more Agile:
- Identifying things you will not change, like the tools used or the chain of command, will help in determining the boundaries of the process.
- Consider how the team processes feedback and how much external feedback impacts the direction in which the project is proceeding.
- Aim “low” enough. Transitioning from Waterfall to Agile is not an overnight process. If all the potential changes are taken into consideration at the same time, it will be overwhelming. However, there is always a small step you can take first.
There are certain prerequisites for implementing Agile in eLearning development, including having a dedicated cross-functional team, a budget, an Agile coach and an Agile mindset. Moreover, the development process can vary for different courses. Agile is a methodology that’s based on external factors, and external factors can change.
Here are a few things to keep in mind:
- “Agile fever” is when an organization applies Agile to all its processes. Not all processes need to be Agile — making a process Agile if it doesn’t need to be can lead to disaster.
- Make sure that all team members are on board with the changes that Agile brings. When the workflow changes, it can also change the work culture around it, which matters a lot, especially if the team is cross-functional.
- Consider any interdepartmental changes that may be necessary. For example, aligning the finance department with the eLearning development team can remove a lot of delay in the process.
- Consulting with an Agile coach will help the team transition to Agile swiftly while minimizing losses.
The issue of complexity is not because Agile is complicated. Rather, it’s because altering the way an organization or an eLearning course development team has been functioning is complicated. Be patient with the process, and keep an open mind. Implementing Agile in eLearning development is an Agile process in itself, as it depends on feedback and subsequent iteration.
Applying the Principles of Agile
There are four principles of Agile. Different eLearning professionals may interpret them differently, depending on their current workflows, but here is some general guidance:
Individuals and Interactions Over Processes and Tools
Conversation, both among the eLearning course development team members and between them and their clients (internal or external) is of utmost importance. Internal team discussions will help you create a better strategy, while your interactions with clients will help you understand the problem they are trying to solve with the new eLearning course. It is not a good idea to try to make the team work a certain way and with certain tools regardless of the conclusions drawn from those discussions.
Working Software Over Comprehensive Documentation
The ideal outcome of the Agile process is a course that fills the identified performance gap. In many cases, however, prolonged discussion among subject matter experts (SMEs), clients and developers results in confusion, because the focus shifts to how detailed the solution needs to be rather than which solution will best solve the problem.
Customer Collaboration Over Contract Negotiation
Learners should be involved in the development process of the course they will be using. Collaborating with these “customers” will give you a better idea of how to build the course, what is working and what you need to change. This approach reduces the odds of failure and increases the value of the eLearning course.
Responding to Change Over Following a Plan
Implementing this principle will save your eLearning development team a lot of resources and your clients a lot of time. Receiving good feedback will lead to the development of a better course. Ideally, there should be review cycles after every iteration of the course’s design; your team can determine the appropriate time period between review cycles.
Implementing Agile in eLearning development has a lot of benefits, including proper allocation of resources and less wasted time and money, more impactful eLearning courses, and increased customer/learner satisfaction. The first step is having a thorough understanding of the challenges that might impede the adoption of Agile and creating actionable strategies for each of them. Then, keep track of wins and losses to understand what you’re doing right and what you need to fix.