Friday, May 04, 2012

Agile Instructional Design: PLAN

A while back I wrote a post that elaborated on the flowchart I had embedded in a paper on how I envisioned Agile Instructional Design (AID). As I wrote the post I realized there was to much information for a single post. I provided a high level description of the AID flow within the first post with the promise to provide detailed descriptions of each step in later posts. This post describes in detail the activities performed and outcomes desired from the PLAN step of Agile Instructional Design.

PLAN - this is the process of taking the learning vision from the previous step of the AID methodology (ENVISION) and planning the learning journey. As was previously discussed the methodology is an iterative process that can begin as soon as the first words of the knowledge domain have been identified. As planning begins it is a good idea to review the learning themes and the learner roles. It is the time while capturing and documenting the vision that planning would begin. Often within these design processes (whether individual or group) that the main planning items are easily identified early in the process. Often these are not immediately articulated; yet, this is where peoples intuition becomes apparent. As you work through the planning step items that seem most appropriate from the envisioning step bubble up and become the items of focus. These items should be recorded for the next iteration of envisioning. The steps of planning are as follows, and some of these items may change from iteration to iteration.

  1. Identify anchor subject - the anchor subject grounds the learning into a theme meaningful to the learner. A well chosen anchor will bring authenticity to learning and more deeply engage the learner through "role play" and bringing "fun" into learning. Finding an anchor that can span different course subjects (ie. science, language, history, maths, etc.) also allows the learner to explore the anchor from different perspectives which can deepen learning.

    Outcomes: a written description, rich-media artifact or some other method of capturing a description of the anchor subject. The anchor subject should provide a collection of user stories to help clarify and increase understand-ability.

  2. Caribbean Pirate Map
  3. Identify interdisciplinary opportunities and requirements - how can the anchor subject and knowledge domain as a whole span more than a single discipline? Can the learning methods, approaches and lessons be utilized so learning can occur in many different areas? If the anchor subject was "pirates" it could be discussed in all courses. Economics would talk about the financial realities of being a pirate and the greater economics of the time. Language Arts could speak to the languages of the Caribbean or the South Asian Sea. Geography could explore the different regions of the world who have struggled with piracy. History could look at piracy through time. Technology classes could look at piracy as it applies to the modern age. With a well chosen anchor subject the interdisciplinary opportunities are numerous and will deepen learning.

    Outcomes: a written list, concept map or other approach to identifying the interdisciplinary opportunities with descriptions of how they would be tied to a lesson or module.

  4. Examine timeline, instructional strategies and research - There are many attributes toward determining the instructional strategies for any module, course or curriculum being built. The following are some of the attributes to be considered;
    • Timeline and Schedule - how long is the course? the time of day? number of hours available?
    • Geography - where are learners located? is this a classroom course, exclusively online, or blended? What resources are available given the geography?
    • Access - what bandwidth is available? what technology resources are available given geographical restraints?
    • Cohort - Who is the cohort of learners? how tech savvy are they? is discussion more appropriate?
    • Pedagogical approaches - given the above restraints what will be the most effective learning environments. Should the approach be inquiry based, a MOOC, use constructivist theories or connectivist practices?
    • Previous experience - Determine if there is research available for similar learning situations. What worked? How could things be improved? 
    • Research Opportunities - Are you capturing information from this learning development project to add to the research? Are you contributing back? Are you being transparent?

    • Outcomes: a table, mind-map, story or other approach that answers all the above questions formatted in a way to deepen understand-ability.

  5. Identify learning objectives and modules - once items 1 through 3 above are completed it comes time to review all the artifacts created and gathered from this step and the previous ENVISION step to identify learning objectives and learning modules. Keep in mind being agile, so the task of identifying objectives and modules can start at any time. Having stickies or a way of recording these for later review is a part of agility. Identifying objectives and modules should be fairly straight forward if the previous tasks and steps had depth. Surprisingly, the objectives and modules fall out of the information created and gathered.

    Outcomes: a written list of learning objectives and identified learning modules. This should be published and made available for feedback and collaborative efforts.
Remember, with Agile Instructional Design it is about the designers learning and being iterative. As soon as enough information is gathered to create and start building learning modules, these modules should be built. Agile Instructional Design is iterative and shipping learning modules often is a key measure of success.