Thursday, January 05, 2012

The implementation of AID

I have many examples of using Agile Instructional Design (AID) over the last five years. Approaching my learning design using agile techniques is just what I do. This approach was developed by combining my 10 years experience using Agile software development techniques, my years of being an adult educator (both on-line and off) and my graduate studies in education and information technology. Whenever I take on instructional design / learning systems architecture projects I use agile techniques. Below is a list of project that I believe provide excellent examples of AID or have benefited from Agile techniques to get to completion.

Examples of Agile Instructional Design 

Personal examples
I am always looking for opportunities to learn. These become learning projects both big and small. My focus is in three main areas; (though I wont turn away from an opportunity that emerges).
  1. Folk music and dance
  2. Adult learning approaches and practices
  3. Learning Systems Architecture / Software Architecture
I follow through on all steps within AID with these personal learning projects. I envision the journey, I plan my approach, I build content and context, I test and review my materials, I assess my depth of learning, I stabilize the end result and I deploy and engage all materials I create during my learning. I iterate often when I am on a learning journey.

All of this activity can been seen across my blogs, wikis, social media, discussion engagements, etc. The best way to follow along or review what I have done is by reading my blog or drilling down on the links found within many of my projects.

WikiEducator is an exemplar for using AID when building a community of practice. There was no official ID methodology when WikiEducator was founded or as the learning content continues to be built. The people who learn most from working within WikiEducator are the learner participants who are using, reusing and building content (this supports the AID idea that learners are the Instructional Designers). When considering the AID steps they have been applied very well within WIkiEducator. This was not by design, but by what worked best for this dynamic learning community working toward building free learning content for the commonwealth countries. WikiEducator was envisioned and continues to be evangelized by Wayne Macintosh who, working with the Commonwealth of Learning, founded WikiEducator. The building of WikiEducator has been very iterative and has, not by design, followed the Agile Instructional Design (AID) approach. This is how I see WikiEducator has followed AID;
  • Its approach to envisioning curriculum (or learner) development has been twofold; first it had a handful of knowledgable educators and technologists, lead by Wayne Macintosh, to create learning content and modules within the collaborative environment of a wiki. As soon as the domain names were registered and the on-line resources (mediawiki platform) were available, content began to be developed. Essentially this small goup of founders became the stewards of the WikiEducator community of practice. Second, it allowed small groups of learners / instructional designers to create their own micro-wikis hosted within the WikiEducator platform. The success of the envisioning is due to being aware of the activities within the wiki to adjust and support the areas of greatest growth and success. WikiEducator envisioning supported the strength of self-organization.
  • The planning of wikiEducator oscillates between the exemplary benevolent dictatorship of Wayne Macintosh and the self-organization of its board members and micro-wiki groups. The planning process was very good at adjusting to areas of need and forming partnerships with domain experts. The planning process did amazing work in supporting all the micro-wiki curriculum / content developers. WikiEducator allows the planning process to influence its envisioning.
  • The build of content, curriculum and programs was most often put into the hands of self-organizing groups who worked together to create what they felt would best meet the needs of the learner. In some situations, existing content was utilized and improved upon. The content licensing scheme was. and is, seen as an important attribute of build success. The build process of learning modules also was allowed to influence the technical platform decisions of WikiEducator as a whole, this allowed the overall platform to improve and assisted greatly in setting technical direction. Learners were also engaged early in the build process to become creators, user and re-users of content.
  • Given the wiki environment the stabilization and deployment becomes a part of the build process. All content is immediately available to the learner community as soon as it is saved to the wiki. This creates amazing opportunities for learner engagement and self-organization. And allows the learner content to be improved and adjusted to suit a changing knowledge domain.
Even though there was no formal Instructional Design methodology utilized by WikiEducator, many of the content development practices within WikiEducator are great examples of an Agile approach. Reduce the rituals and empower the community.

Murder, Madness and Mayhem
In 2008, a University of British Columbia course (SPAN312) took it upon itself to integrate the coursework with Wikipedia and the UBC course curriculum. The course set out to create content (wiki pages) focused on Latin American Literature, with the goal of getting a page promoted to be a wikipedia featured article. The course far exceeded this goal. More than three wiki pages were featured (which is a huge accomplishment) and over eight pages were identified as good articles.

I consider this project as a good example of Agile Instructional Design for it exemplifies success when a vision is created and quickly engaging the learners to become the content creators / instructional designers. The plan was loose with well articulated success criteria and assessment approach. The learners were left responsible to build the content. To stabilize the materials and deploy them to the live environment. Similar to WikiEducator using the wiki to publish blurs the process of build, stabilization and deployment.

Continuing Legal Education of British Columbia
There were two particular projects build during my time with CLEBC that took an Agile approach and both had considerable success. There two projects were; CLETV and Search.

The CLETV project was tasked with creating an on-line live streamed episodic legal education "talk show". Each episode would include discussion with legal experts on a particular legal issue. The process of creating and deploying this video learning environment included a number of technical and pedagogical iterations. The technical iterations were to resolve issues around the capture and broadcast of video in a format well suited for the internet. The pedagogical iterations were to find a format and screen layout to encourage learner engagement and to ensure the time spent engaging with the video learning could be used toward required professional development credits. The elements of AID that were present within this project were;
  1. quickly getting a product to the learner so we could assess success, and improve the technologies chosen
  2. choose the minimum screen elements (software widgets) to allow quick deployment and begin to get live learner feedback regarding engagement
  3. test early and often within the development process to reduce stabilization time
  4. build upon successes and use open formats to enable re-use of saved video elements
  5. continually improve the product through learner and stakeholder engagement
The Search project was tasked with upgrading the existing CLEBC search to improve search times, include additional information sources and implemented a federated and faceted search. Search is an important tool for inquery based learning approaches as is provides access to information through both direct querying and focused browsing of information. This search project took a more traditional approach with additional elements of Agile. It was more traditional in that the internal project team spent time requirements gathering, investigating technologies and approaches and sourcing out vendors to implement the solution. It was also traditional from an instructional design perspective as it wasn't looking to innovate greatly, but stayed with proven approaches to inquiry. The agility came in via a pragmatism; traditional approaches can become very ritualized, they will often take the "correct" path rather than an immediate simpler solution. The project sought out ways to quickly learn what it required to make sound business decisions and committed to a vendor with proven search technology and approaches. Agility came into this project through;
  1. seeking the minimum solution which would provide success
  2. engaging end-users and stakeholders when making user experience design decisions.
  3. problem solving around the design of facets and in reconciling the taxonomy within search results
This post has been dedicated to providing implemented examples of what I consider Agile Instructional Design (AID). All of the projects (with the exception of Murder, Madness and Mayhem" the 2008 edition of SPAN312 facilitated by UBC) I have been directly involved. The common thread through-out all of these projects is the implementation of learning through the use of current and emerging on-line technologies. I strongly believe that using Agile / Lean techniques when designing learning and implementing the on-line technology to support this learning is how all instructional (or learner) design will occur in the future. Learner needs and knowledge domains change too quickly for traditional instructional design techniques to keep up and to keep the learning content current. Technology and social media changes to quickly for Agile and Lean software development techniques not to be adopted for technology based instructional design projects.