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Agile Learning: Ultimate 2020 Guide (Tips + Tools)

Agile Learning: Ultimate 2020 Guide (Tips + Tools)

Interested in creating an Agile learning environment?

From technology trends to customer needs, the world is constantly changing.

And as a business, if you don’t embrace these changes, you could end up like the dinosaurs: unable to compete and ultimately going off the map. 

However, embracing changes isn’t just about implementing new software or business models. 

You also need to have close-knit employees who can adapt and use these new systems to develop amazing products.

But how do you do that?

Luckily, this can be solved with an Agile learning culture.

In this article, we’ll learn what Agile learning actually means and how you can leverage it. We’ll also highlight 7 no-nonsense tips to help you adopt an Agile culture easily.

 

This Article Contains:

Let’s get started.

But wait… without a clear idea of the “Agile” part in Agile learning, it’s going to be pretty hard to make sense of everything! 😫   

That’s why we’ll first dive into what the Agile methodology is before getting into the learning part.

However, if you’re already familiar with Agile and only want to understand Agile learning directly, click here.

What’s Agile?

Agile is a popular project management approach that focuses on innovation and stakeholder collaboration. It’s an overarching methodology that includes other frameworks like Scrum, Kanban, Lean, and more, each catering to specific project needs.

Here’s an example that sums up the Agile workflow:

Let’s say your team is developing a language learning app. 

In a traditional approach like Waterfall, you’ll follow a rigid development process, spending months developing the entire product (200+ language courses) only to find your customers unhappy with the final result. 

What they wanted: step-by-step courses for each language, Italian, for example.

What they got: the whole language rolled into a single extensive course, which is just plain confusing.

To avoid such situations, just use an Agile approach like Scrum.

Here, you develop the app in short development cycles known as sprints, focusing on only some features during each sprint. After each cycle, you submit a version (known as an increment) of the app to the stakeholders for review.

The stakeholders then give their feedback, which the Agile team implements in the next sprint. This way, you’ll develop exactly what they want, giving you happy customers who can’t wait to become multilingual!

However, there’s more to Agile development than just sprints, increments, and feedback loops. 

Let’s see what that is… 

Spoiler alert: it’s crucial to Agile learning.

What goes into the Agile methodology?

The Agile approach is built for flexibility, collaboration, and agility.

But you won’t achieve these just by following the sprint model. 

An Agile team should also follow certain values and principles, sorta like a code of ethics. These are mentioned in the Agile Manifesto, the guiding document for Agile practices.

Here’s a quick look at the 4 Agile values and 12 principles:

A. Agile values

According to the Agile Manifesto, an Agile team should prioritize:

  • Individuals and interactions over processes and tools
  • Working software over comprehensive documentation
  • Customer collaboration over contract negotiation
  • Responding to change over following a plan

B. Agile principles 

To help you understand each Agile principle easily, we’ve categorized them into 4 distinct groups:

  1. Agile Principles of Customer Satisfaction
  • Prioritize customer satisfaction through early and continuous software delivery
  • Even during late development stages, embrace change to target customer needs better
  • Deliver working products/services regularly to get frequent feedback from customers
  1. Agile Principles of Quality
  • The primary measure of progress is a working product that meets customer expectations
  • Maintain a constant development pace and aim for sustainable development
  • Pay attention to good design and technical excellence to enhance your agility
  1. Agile Principles of Teamwork
  • Stakeholders and developers should actively work together throughout the project
  • Create projects around motivated people, providing them with the support they need
  • Engage in face-to-face conversations for effective collaboration
  • Promote self organization within teams to quickly achieve better work quality 
  1. Agile Principles of Project Management
  • Cut down unnecessary workflows and steps, aim for simplicity
  • Regularly evaluate your team’s performance to become more efficient

How is this important for Agile learning?

Let’s put it this way:

If Agile learning is the Earth, then the Agile Manifesto is the Sun. 

Everything about Agile learning revolves around the Agile Manifesto.

You are essentially learning how to use the 4 values and 12 principles to boost efficiency in your environment. 

And now that we’ve covered the basics of the Agile method, let’s answer the bugging question…

What’s Agile Learning?

Agile learning broadly refers to any training or development approach that uses Agile values and principles for better agility, collaboration, and flexibility. 

Anything? 🤔

You read that right. 

The approach can be a-n-y-t-h-i-n-g from adopting the Agile method for software engineering to using it in instructional design for content development.

But wait… what’s instructional design?

Instructional design is the development of learning or training programs for a target audience. This includes developing instructional manuals, eLearning courses, simulations, video tutorials, etc. 

Instructional designers using Agile practices can create learning courses faster, delivering a version of the course to the stakeholder or learner after each sprint. Plus, when you involve the learner during the content development, you’ll be able to create courses that truly help them. 

However, Agile learning’s application doesn’t end there.

You can even use it to create an Agile culture in organizations, schools, or universities.

Before we find out how to do that, let’s understand two differences:

A. Agile learning vs. learning agility 

A common misconception about Agile learning is that it’s the same as learning agility.

Sure, they sound the same. After all, “agile” means speed, right?

However, Agile learning and learning agility are two different concepts. 

Agile learning is the application of Agile practices to the learning process, as we discussed before.

On the other hand, learning agility is an individual’s ability to adapt to new situations. Sorta like figuring out what to do in unfamiliar situations like a real-life Indiana Jones!

Individuals who can learn and unlearn based on past experiences usually have high learning agility. They’ll be able to easily approach the situation, analyze it, and find relevant solutions.

In fact, someone with high learning agility can help create an Agile learning culture

How?

They can better anticipate what could change during sprints and guide other members on the Agile approach.  

B. Agile learning vs. ADDIE model

Besides Agile, instructional designers also use an approach known as the ADDIE model for content development.

ADDIE is an acronym for:

Analyze > Design > Develop > Implement > Evaluate.

In the ADDIE model, you must complete each phase before proceeding to the next one. Pretty much like the Waterfall model in project management

Here’s a quick look at how Agile and ADDIE differ from each other:

Agile Learning Design ADDIE Model
  • Agile follows an iterative and incremental approach
  • ADDIE takes a linear route 
  • In Agile, a learner is involved from the start of the development process to its to the end 
  • In ADDIE, the learner comes only at the start and then, at the end (once the product has been delivered)
  • Agile is more flexible to changes and transparent throughout the process
  • ADDIE is a rigid model where transparency might happen only in the Analyze stage 
  • Only a brief plan is chalked out at the start of each sprint
  • Requires intensive planning at the start

That actually depends on your project requirements and complexity. For example, if your course is fairly simple and basic, using Agile doesn’t make sense.

But if you’re developing a highly interactive course, like learning games, Agile learning design is the way to go. 

Let’s now understand how to apply Agile learning to organizations and universities.

Agile Learning In Organizations

Transforming your company into an Agile learning organization can help you survive in a dynamic business environment. 

What does it mean to be an Agile organization?

Remember, it’s about creating an Agile learning culture

For example, if there’s an extensive employee training course, you could divide it into smaller phases (just like sprints). This makes it easier to tackle and manage.

Some important elements for Agile organizational learning include:

  • Facilitate peer learning and knowledge sharing between employees
  • Update existing content regularly to include new topics
  • Break down learning objectives into personal learning goals
  • Support the learner with help from an Agile coach or Scrum master 
  • Aim for personal, social, and professional development

Essentially, it involves anything you do to make the learning process faster, collaborative, and flexible.

Agile Learning In Universities

You can also apply the Agile mindset in schools and universities to make learning more effective. 

How?

Let me put things into context here:

  • Customer = student
  • Software development process = learning/teaching process  
  • Increment = increase in students’ skills/knowledge

Divide semesters into learning sprints, each having a sprint goal, lasting for 2-3 weeks. 

Before the sprint begins, split students into small groups and plan the learning content for the next few weeks. And once the sprint’s over, review the lessons learned and identify areas of improvement. 

Not only does this improve teamwork and collaboration, but the constant feedback and reflection will help each student improve.

7 No Nonsense Tips To Adopt An Agile Learning Culture Easily

Sure, Agile learning sounds great.

But whether it’s an organization or a university, how do you implement such a culture?

Simply creating sprint-like sessions or asking Agile learners to help each other isn’t enough.

Don’t worry! 

Here are seven simple ways you can do that:

1. Identify and involve every stakeholder 

Know why most projects, including Agile eLearning courses, fail?

It’s mainly because the team doesn’t include all stakeholders in the development process.

And by “all”, I mean anyone who’s related to the project, not just the learner

This includes:

  • Principals: people who buy your product
  • End-users: people who interact with it
  • Insiders: people within the organization who impact the project

Only when you work with all these people will you be able to identify what they want, develop solutions, get their feedback, and update the solution accordingly.

Why?

Generally, people aren’t good at clearly defining what they want. However, they can give you ideas, and when presented with an option, they’ll clarify what they like/don’t like. 

And as each stakeholder has a different perspective, you’ll be able to collate their ideas and feedback, helping you create something that everyone loves. 

An excellent place to receive stakeholder feedback is during the sprint review meeting. 

Learn more about how to maximize your sprint review meetings

2. Encourage peer learning

Here’s another question. 

Who’s more approachable: your friends or your boss?

That’s right!

Regardless of whether you’re an employee or a student, you’re more likely to be open and comfortable when interacting with a friend or a peer.

It’ll be much easier to learn from them rather than from a teacher or an Agile coach. That’s why it’s essential to encourage peer learning in an Agile culture. 

If you have employees who are skilled at something, ask them to train their peers. Instructional designers can also design learning content that promotes peer learning among learners.

Not only will this boost collaboration and flexibility (remember these are essential elements in Agile learning), but it’ll also improve everyone’s ability and knowledge. 

3. Make learning continuous

An Agile team should be: 

  • Self-organized: teams decide how to do the work without any input from non-members
  • Cross-functional: team members have different skills and talents, all working towards a common goal

While this makes room for better flexibility, agility, and collaboration in the team, it can be achieved only if learning is continuous. 

What does that mean?

In continuous learning, an Agile learner acquires new skills and knowledge on an ongoing basis. Pretty much like learning on the fly.

This requires them to take initiative and challenge themselves to achieve self organization and cross-functionality when part of a team.

Here are some ways to develop a continuous learning environment:

  • Define business goals and create learning plans around it
  • Create personal plans for each employee to narrow it down to specific goals
  • Give them the latitude to make decisions on their own without the management’s interference 
  • Offer access to professional courses via memberships/subscriptions
  • Encourage online learning and training workshops
  • Hold coaching or mentoring sessions

4. Break it down into bite-sized chunks

Remember how we talked about splitting courses/semesters into short sprints?

Learning in short bursts is the perfect way to create an Agile learning culture. Not only does this make learning more comfortable, but it also gives a learner what they need at the moment.

I mean, when you’re busy with tasks, deadlines, and meetings, learning can take a backseat. 

But at the same time, without learning a new skill, you may not be able to perform the task!

Instead of using extensive learning courses, give people bite-sized, digestible chunks (packed into 5-10 minutes) that’ll help them learn something new quickly. Once they’re done learning, they can move on with their tasks without wasting any time.

5. Make time for inspection and reflection

Being Agile doesn’t mean that you have to work or learn at a stretch. 

Sure, it should be continuous, but there must be some break between each learning sprint to pause, inspect, and reflect. After all, that’s what the 12th Agile principle is all about!

This way, you’ll know what’s working or not working and can fine-tune your approach in the upcoming sprint. 

If you’ve heard of Agile retrospective meetings, you’ll know what we’re talking about. During a retrospective, you inspect your team’s performance in the last sprint to become better in the next sprint. 

Feeling a little lost? We’ve got you covered! Learn everything you need to know about Agile retrospective meetings

Now back to our regularly scheduled programming…

For example, in eLearning development, instructional designers can create milestones after each iteration or interim course deliverable. The learner must conduct an introspective review of these milestones before moving on to the next phase. 

So remember to pause, breathe, and reflect, as that’s also a part of the Agile learning culture

6. Appreciate learning

Who doesn’t like being appreciated for a job well done?

It helps:

  • Boost someone’s morale and happiness (happy employees are more productive!)
  • Strengthen relationships to create room for collaboration and improvement
  • Encourage transparency and trust
  • Make them feel empowered to take on more challenges or responsibilities

So if you’re a manager or team leader, appreciate team members for achieving a milestone or performing well in a course. Thank them for being open to new ideas and embracing change, aiding the organization’s Agile transformation.

While you can reward them with some incentive, the emphasis is on genuine appreciation. 

A creative way to show your appreciation is through thank you cards or a Kudo Box. Instructional designers can also include colorful pop-ups or gamify the course to appreciate learners.

So why not appreciate your team members today? The results might be life-changing!

7. Leverage powerful Agile tools

Look, we get it.  

Learning the Agile framework isn’t the only thing that’s on your plate. 

You also have to-dos, tasks, deadlines, meetings, and hundreds of other things to manage.

So a lot of support is required to aid Agile transformation

Luckily, with a powerful Agile tool like ClickUp, creating an Agile culture becomes a cakewalk!

Wait, what’s ClickUp?

ClickUp is the world’s #1 Agile project management software.

Used by 100,000+ teams in companies from startups to major corporations like Google, Airbnb, Netflix, and Nike, it’s the only tool you need for Agile transformation

From managing projects to analyzing your remote or in-house team’s performance, ClickUp can handle anything and everything you throw at it. 

The highlight?

Most of its features are 100% FREE! 🤩

Here’s a quick look at how ClickUp helps teams create an Agile culture:

A. Goals to help conquer your sprints

A simple hack to boost motivation is to set goals

However, setting a large goal and tackling it in one go isn’t actually the best approach. Instead, if you have small measurable milestones along the way, you’ll easily achieve the goal.

But how do you go about that?

Just use ClickUp’s Goals feature!

Goals are high-level containers that break down into smaller, measurable Targets

For example, if your Goal is “create an Agile culture in my organization”, set Targets like “develop Agile-oriented learning courses” or “boost team collaboration”.

All you need to do to achieve the Goal is to complete these Targets, and as you complete each one, ClickUp auto-updates the overall progress percentage. This gives you an accurate idea of how close you’re to achieving the Goal. 

For maximum flexibility, you can measure Targets with various units like:

  • Number: use a value like 10 or 1000
  • Tasks: complete a set of tasks to finish the Target
  • Budget: set an amount of money (perfect for budget goals)
  • True/False: just two possible outcomes, True or False

B. Automate repetitive routine tasks with powerful Automations

What if you could perform time-consuming, repetitive tasks in your workflow with a clap?

Sorta like “clap to turn on/off the light”. 💡

Well, you don’t need one when you have ClickUp!

ClickUp offers 50+ preset Automations to help automate repetitive routine tasks in your workflow. Not only will this give you some agility, but it’ll also free up your time and resources for more important tasks.

But how does it work?

When a trigger happens and a condition holds true, ClickUp executes a particular action.

And while you can always create a custom task Automation, you’ll probably find what you’re looking for in the prebuilt Automations. 

Some of these include:

  • Change task priority when its status changes
  • When assignee removed, change tags
  • Change task status when the due date arrives
  • When all subtasks are resolved, create a new task
  • Change tags when a task’s due date arrives

(Click here to check out more preset Automations.)

C. Pulse for analyzing your team’s “pulse”

Evaluating team performance is an essential part of the Agile culture.

One way to do that is by analyzing your team’s activity levels with ClickUp’s Pulse feature.

Pulse uses machine learning to identify what tasks your team is most focused on right now. It then automatically generates activity reports to help you understand where time is being spent.

Whether you want to know what your Agile software development team worked on during a busy day or ensure that urgent tasks are being tackled, Pulse has got you covered. 

You can also use Pulse to:

  • See trending tasks for each team member
  • Know who’s online/offline
  • Automate your Scrum meetings
  • Identify your virtual team’s busy hours during a day ⌚
  • View what tasks members are currently viewing/commenting on 

But these aren’t all of ClickUp’s amazing features

To help make the most of the Agile process, this powerful Agile tool also offers other features like:

Conclusion

Whether it’s developing an eLearning course or implementing organization learning, using the Agile learning practice is essential to survive in a dynamic environment. 

Not only does it improve an individual’s knowledge and abilities, but it’ll also boost their teamwork and productivity

However, creating an Agile culture can be challenging if you don’t have the right Agile tool to help you out.

That’s why you need the best Agile software there is, ClickUp!

With a wide variety of powerful features, it has everything you need for seamless Agile transformation.

Press START to sign up for ClickUp and start your Agile journey today!

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