We live in a world where the ability to be nimble, flexible, and responsive is becoming increasingly more important. Demands on our time and resources continue to rise, while at the same time delivery and performance expectations have also increased. In response, many organizations (Omnipress included) have started to adapt and embrace a culture of agility—from how we develop and launch our software products, to how we approach our strategic planning and even our marketing programs. Until recently, it never occurred to me that the agile process also translates to training and development.
After doing some digging into what Agile Training and Development means, and understanding how it’s being put into practice by associations and corporations, a huge lightbulb went off and all the pieces of the giant “Training Puzzle” fell into place:
Most of the hot-button topics that we tend to focus on, such as micro-learning, mobile learning, just-in-time training, and peer-based learning are all the cause and the effect of Agile Training and Development. This means that we’re all currently working on agile learning, whether we realize it or not.
What is Agile Training and Development
The idea of agile learning design is not a new concept. Organizations have been discussing and experimenting with this principle for at least a decade. Essentially, agile learning design takes the agile framework of IT product and software development—meant to increase speed-to-market and market responsiveness through an iterative process— and applies them to the practice of instructional design.
In contrast, many organizations have historically used an ADDIE approach (or Analysis-Design-Development-Implementation-Evaluation), where development follows a linear series of phases (best known as “waterfall” in the software development world).
Agile learning addresses both how educational content is created, tested, and distributed and how organizations structure themselves to create a culture of continuous learning.
Using the Agile Framework for Course Development
For course development, the traditional ADDIE approach dictates that all segments or modules of a course are scoped, developed, and tested together. While potentially more thoroughly vetted before release, this approach can take significantly more time to complete, and late-breaking changes more costly to implement.
Conversely, the agile approach prioritizes speed over perfection, breaking these segments into smaller pieces, which are developed in faster sprints. Each sprint is highly iterative, collaborative, and responsive to testing and feedback. As a result, training can be released and assessed faster, and, according to some experts, ultimately results in more successful programs.
The Need for an Agile Learning Culture
So, why the need to develop and release new programs and content more quickly? Because the world is changing faster than ever and we need to be able to keep up.
We have real-time access to more data than ever before and can use this insight to both develop and respond to new technologies, systems, expectations, standards, and processes. This fuels the need for more training and more training content. In fact, our 2019 Training Trends Report notes that 51% of survey respondents offer more than 10 different educational programs, and 60% expect this number to increase in the coming year.
Not only do we need agile processes to create training content, but organizations also need to foster an agile learning culture so that employees can adapt and change more quickly and effectively. In the IT or product development world, the agile framework promotes speed-to-market. In learning, agile promotes speed-to-proficiency.
For organizations, this means making learning part of a continuous, sometimes even organic process. It means on-demand access to educational content, at the times and places it’s most needed. And it means promoting peer learning and collaboration as part of the training process.
Sound familiar? This is the exact reason that topics such as micro-learning, mobile learning, just-in-time learning, and making learning experiences more hands-on and collaborative are so prominent in the training industry right now. These practices help facilitate agile learning in the workplace by making training and development more effective, efficient, and practical. At the end of the day, it’s all interconnected. We’re all in the business of agile learning, whether we realize it or not.
The Need for More Agile Trainers
What we’re hearing from many organizations is that one of their greatest roadblocks is the trainers, who may be used to delivering education in more of a traditional lecture style. Within the agile learning framework, these subject matter experts need to be nimble and flexible, too. Like what we’re seeing in the K-12 classroom, they need to serve more as a facilitator or moderator than a lecturer to foster discussion and collaboration. And they need to feel comfortable pivoting within the classroom if necessary, based on how learners are responding in real-time. As an industry, how do we collectively train our trainers to be more agile instructors?
While topics such as mobile and micro-learning have always sounded like a good idea, I’ve run into plenty of instances where organizations feel pressure to adopt these practices because they are becoming so prominent, without necessarily stopping to examine why. What is the driving factor behind these trends? The answer…agile. There is a growing need for all of us—designers, learners, organizations, and instructors—to be more nimble, flexible, and responsive so that we can keep up with the rapid pace of change, and, ultimately, do the great work that helps us fulfill our mission.