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What Is AGILE Instructional Design?

What Is AGILE Instructional Design?

Creating great content for learners requires using the proper methodology. You must ensure the lessons you teach are quick, targeted, and appropriate for the elearning environment – where most customer and employee training occurs today.

Not only that, but it’s critical that your design process be iterative so that you can keep improving it repeatedly. That’s the only way you’ll ensure the success of learners and other stakeholders in the rapidly changing online environment – whether you’re using it for marketing, sales, customer success, or all three.

There exist any number of ways to approach instructional design and software development, of course, but Agile Instructional Design consistently rises to the top for several reasons. It’s fast, for one thing. It’s also easy to align with your goals.

Perhaps most importantly, it removes the “Panic And Run” element many teams feel when they face the daunting challenge of designing learning and development materials meant to cover “Very Large Skill Sets.” If you’re looking for intelligent content solutions that reflect the pedagogical needs of this century, then you can’t afford to overlook Agile as an option.

In this post, we’ll discuss the basic principles of Agile course design and its fundamental process. Then we’ll consider some of the most compelling benefits of the Agile method and how you can start with it today.

AGILE Instructional Design

Basic Principles of Agile Instructional Design

At its foundation, Agile is a project management approach that simplifies instructional design by breaking it down into concrete phases. It takes its inspiration from ADDIE, developed in the 1970s and named for its five stages: Analysis, Design, Development, Implementation, and Evaluation. We will discuss each phase in more detail below.

The fast pace of modern society soon found ADDIE lacking, however.

“At the beginning of the 21st century, the software development community realized that they needed to follow a more flexible and efficient process to develop products,” explains Shopify. “Agile methodology was introduced as an attempt to both cut costs in software development and make better software in the process.”

Agile development, launched in the early aughts, uses ADDIE’s same phases to break down the more extensive process of creating content into smaller, more adaptive chunks. This makes the release of the product (known as a milestone) more achievable and less anxiety-inducing.

However, the Agile approach and ADDIE model differ in one important way: while ADDIE is agnostic to timelines, Agile learning design is particular about how long its “chunks” will take. These are typically between 2 and 4 weeks when the goal is to create a deliverable product.

That might seem like a short period, but the iterative process on which Agile relies takes a lot of the pressure off. The goal is to nail the primary goals first, then use future sprints to refine deliverables into genuinely exceptional products.

Just how do Agile users do this? Let’s take a look.

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AGILE Instructional Design Process

When put into practice for content development, the Agile principles and design method results in five primary phases of the development process.

1. Analyze

In this first phase, the design team works to identify what the learning content needs to offer to users. What is the full scope of learning? What do they need to walk away knowing? When do they need to know it? How do skills build on one another? And so on.

This is an excellent time to consult subject matter experts about what must be included in the course. Those experts might speak to instructional design and pedagogy, your specific SaaS needs, or the industry with which your product assists.

2. Design

The design phase is all about outlining prototypes. What form will the course take? What content will go where? How will quizzing, testing, interaction, multimedia, and evaluation occur? The nuts and bolts of the process are hammered out in design sprints.

3. Develop

Here, the elearning development team gets to work. They create the software for the instructional design model, coding and building the interface learners will actually use.

Note: You have heard the word “scrum” about Agile methodology. This is a sub-approach in which design and development occur concurrently – e.g., developers start building before the process is fully designed. That allows them to identify and address snags in the design phase without waiting for formal evaluation.

4. Implement

The rubber meets the road with implementation. That’s when team members take a break and give the product to the public. They let real users give it a go, see what works and what doesn’t, and bring it back for evaluation.

It’s important to remember that the goal of Agile is to be quick and efficient. Therefore, it’s not necessary to iron out every kink before implementation. Nor is it necessary to make A Giant To-Do about it. Instead, you can quietly rerelease it as often as needed to get it right.

5. Evaluate

If we’re talking about a physical product, the end of a sprint results in releasing that physical product onto the market. You can then take customer feedback, improve the next manufacturing round, and rerelease. Ideally, the product gets better each time.

The same is true of a SaaS (software as a service) product and the instructional design that goes with it. Once you put the product out there, you gather all the information customers send: What did they like? What did they dislike? When customers churned, where in the process did it happen? How long did they stick around? And so forth.

Using this information, you address bottlenecks and pain points to improve the course design, then quickly rerelease it. There is a significant overlap with the scrum methodology. Over time, revisions stack up and get addressed, so the product improves.

AGILE Instructional Design Process

Successive Approximation Model (SAM)

Based on ADDIE and Agile, SAM – an acronym for the “successive approximation model” – seeks to reduce the time needed to create a good product by bringing evaluation to the forefront sooner.

“Developed by Dr. Michael Allen of Allen Interactions, this model uses a recursive rather than linear process for course development,” explains Kennesaw State University. This is similar to Agile but differs because “The simplest SAM model comprises three parts: Preparation, Iterative Design, and Iterative Development. The key word here is iterative, which is the basis for this model and signals that each step is meant to be repeated and revisited.”

Note that these three steps don’t comprise the

Whether you use SAM or the less complicated Agile, the results are often the same: your course design projects and the instructional design process get faster, smoother, and more manageable.

There are a number of other instructional design approaches. For instance, David Merrill invented his Principles of Instruction to describe how courses must Activate knowledge for learners, Demonstrate how it works, allow them to Apply it, and help them Integrate new learning outcomes into their existing knowledge base.

Robert Gagne, on the other hand, created an overall framework comprising nine events of instruction. These cover everything from gaining student attention to providing learner guidance to assessing their performance after receiving instruction.

No matter what instruction design approach you choose, you’ll see a number of benefits from taking such an intentional approach to your training programs – especially in the marketing realm.

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AGILE Instructional Design Results and Benefits for B2B SaaS Companies

Using Agile for higher education, customer training, employee education, and even marketing offers many perks. The wealth of learning solutions it can create in a short period, working quickly and using templates, is almost shocking. You’ll see benefits that include:

More Flexibility and Control

You're much more flexible because you don’t have to have everything done right the first time. And because you don’t need giant sums of money or gobs of time, you maintain more control over what goes out to the public. (Compare this to a single iteration, where boards or other stakeholders are breathing down your neck to complete it – and make it perfect.)

Less Risk

Knowing you’ll have another crack at the product in 2 to 4 weeks makes it much less risky. As long as you do your necessary due diligence, there’s no reason you can’t release a less-than-perfect product, knowing it will become more satisfactory every time.

Greater Customer Satisfaction

Agile offers two significant benefits to customers. One, the product reliably improves all the time. Two, they don’t have to wait for big new releases to address their problems; they simply disappear in weeks or months.

Happier Teams

Happier trainers see better results with education. Happier customer success teams see fewer tickets and field fewer screamy phone calls. Happier marketers train prospects before they become customers, ensuring they stick around longer to make the department look good.

More Predictable Timelines

Since you know when a sprint will end, you always know when the next product will release. This allows for better allocation of resources, more effective planning and budgeting, and less stressed-out bosses.

A Better Product

Simply put, a product that relies on Agile will just be better – if not now, then pretty shortly. The goal is to keep improving continually. This allows you to change with time, add new features as needed, and truly listen to the people who fund your bottom line.

Become More Agile Today

Are you interested in putting the Agile process to work for you? Here at Raven360, we’re all about creating the best, most effective learning models possible – and the Agile framework sits right at the top of the list for customer success, corporate training, marketing, and more.

Don’t wait to get the help you need. If you’re ready to learn more about creating an Agile project to meet your training needs, we invite you to get in touch today!

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