In today’s rapidly changing business environment, employee onboarding and career development programs are becoming more dependent on virtual and online platforms; therefore, learning & development professionals must become more agile. We need to do more, do it better, do it faster, and do it smarter if we are going to keep up with the demands of our continuously changing learning environments, advances in technology, and increased competition—more so now as we all settle into a new year and a “new normal.”
Background and Methods
According to Oxford Languages, the English dictionary provided to Google, agile is defined as:
ag · ile
- able to move quickly and easily.
- relating to or denoting a method of project management, used especially for software development, that is characterized by the division of tasks into short phases of work and frequent reassessment and adaptation of plans.
The second definition is highlighted in this article and has applied to the instructional design process for years, acronymized as the AGILE methodology (Align, Get set, Iterate and implement, Leverage, Evaluate). This methodology can be summarized as a collaborative approach between designers, developers, stakeholders, subject matter experts, and end users that occurs in multiple “bursts” with review points, feedback, and adjustments. It focuses first and foremost on the end users and how they experience the content as opposed to the content itself. The development process is an iterative one that requires the ability to quickly adapt and respond to changes in design, scope, technology, and demand.
The well-known ADDIE model (Analyze, Design, Develop, Implement, Evaluate), on the other hand, has been applied to the instructional design process for decades. ADDIE focuses first and foremost on the content—the desired performance outcomes, measures of success, and knowledge base that supports both. And yes, the learners are always front and center.
Advantages and Pitfalls
Based on my experience working with both methodologies, I have summarized some of the perceived advantages and pitfalls of each below.
Shown here are some advantages and potential pitfalls of the AGILE methodology.
|AGILE Advantages||AGILE Pitfalls|
|It is a great methodology for rapidly responding to change and working on only what is needed when it is needed.It focuses on the learner’s experience and reaction and leverages feedback to quickly implement improvements. It fosters collaboration with frequent touchpoints among designers, developers, subject matter experts, and learners.||Long-term strategies can often take a back seat while focus is on shorter-term and quicker wins.There is less focus on content and tools needed to drive behavioral change and skill-building, often resulting in “band-aid fixes” instead of true problem solving. A considerable commitment is required from all stakeholders, including the learners, for it to succeed.|
Shown here are some advantages and potential pitfalls of the ADDIE methodology.
|ADDIE Advantages||ADDIE Pitfalls|
|It provides a structured step-by-step approach to instructional design and development.Learning objectives for the overall training program along with assessment tools, supporting content, and activities are planned early in the process.At the end of the process and conclusion of the Evaluate phase, plans can be created and implemented with actionable improvements.||With its linear approach and systematic dependencies, it can be too time consuming and costly, especially for shorter projects with quick turnarounds.Poorly written learning objectives can lead to outcomes that are difficult to measure and content that does not address the need.The methodology can seem too cumbersome to participants who do not understand the instructional design process.|
Working Better, Faster, and Smarter
So how do we combine and leverage the advantages of these methodologies, and how do we avoid the pitfalls so we can do more with our training in better, faster, and smarter ways?
We ready ourselves (and others) for the challenge by applying the best of these methods, building related competencies, improving skills to increase productivity, leveraging strengths, and following the “Acres Dozen” tips below:
- Obtain buy-in from all stakeholders and commitment to timelines; build in a timeline “cushion” whenever possible for unknowns and “extra brush strokes.”
- Do not be afraid to scale and customize the methodologies to your business. Use what is practical and effective for the demands of your projects.
- Consider the impact of short-term solutions on long-term strategies and plans.
- Identify the key takeaways before deciding on a visual theme for your training. (Trust me, it is a lot easier to adjust a theme to fit the content than it is to adjust the content to fit a theme.) What I mean by this is do not disregard the user experience—it is critical—but be sure to know your material first so that the visuals connect rather than distract from it. If it must be forced, it probably is not the right match and will undoubtedly lead to extra review/edit cycles during development and/or add time, effort, and risk to the project.
- Create measurable learning objectives by calling out specific, observable actions that can be assessed for ability and proficiency.
- Acquire a strong eye for visual design and ability to effectively communicate with text, colors, graphics, sound, and layout.
- Learn how to rapidly produce and/or procure media (graphics, video, audio, etc.). Learn the shortcuts. Visit the tutorials. Subscribe to external libraries and resources.
- Expand expertise in the use of powerful authoring tools and build your flexibility for producing materials for any training solution.
- Apply logic for solving complex programming challenges and opening doors for more creative solutions, interactivity, and measurement. Look for ways to create the right conditions and programming for content, animation, timing, navigation, branching, feedback, assessment, and scoring that can be repeated and repurposed in meaningful ways.
- Keep up with research and development to stay current on the latest technology and trends as well as common tips, tricks, features, enhancements, “glitches,” and/or fixes for the tools you use.
- Be adaptable to change, willing to challenge yourself (and others), and willing to share with and learn from others.
- Communication is critical. Frequently and consistently communicate progress, action items, accomplishments, risks, and solutions.
- And always remember to celebrate the wins, learn from the failures, and grow from the experiences.
What would you add to this list? Leave us a comment!