9 Top Tips for Getting Started With Agile Learning

getting started with agile learning

You may already understand the myriad of benefits associated with Agile Learning. But getting started with implementation is another matter entirely.

Between terminology, timelines, and methodology, a lot of research and planning goes into adopting Agile Learning. So it’s easy to feel overwhelmed when you’re getting started.

The good news is, you don’t need to be an expert. Just like the core principles of Agile itself, iteration is critical. Don’t be afraid to switch things up and experiment until you get your Agile Learning processes just right.

But for the brand new beginner, here are some top tips for getting started with Agile Learning:

1.Keep on learnin’

While the principles of Agile remain the same, it is often applied quite differently across business functions and organizations. So while you might have read up on the core ideas of Agile and have an idea of how it should look, take the time to research specific case studies of how other learning and development teams have used the methodology. You might pick up some useful tips or perspectives that hadn’t occurred to you during your initial research.

It’s also a good idea to speak with any other teams within your organization who have already adopted an Agile framework. Your IT/Engineering team would be an excellent place to start. If a team within the organization has already adopted it successfully, they might be able to provide tips or frameworks specific to your organization. So, you’ll have a jumpstart on what will work for your organizational culture.

2. Choose your kick-off project

Carefully select an upcoming project. And if you have a hand in choosing the team to work on the project, so much the better. Try to select a project that is already likely to be highly successful but is not of critical importance at this stage.

However, there should also be a motivated sponsor who will help to drive the project forward and champion the new Scrum methodology.

Don’t choose a project that is already underway, is complex, or has already experienced challenges. At this first experimental stage, you want to set up your Agile Learning team for success and figure out what works for your internal culture.

Starting with a microlearning project is a useful place to begin. The projects are shorter by nature, so they will be easy to slot into your selected Sprint schedule.

3. Organize your Agile team

The last thing you need for your first foray into Agile Learning is an unwilling team. So, for your first Agile Learning team, choose people who are:

  • Open-minded
  • Takes initiative
  • Communicates effectively
planning training projects

Don’t forget that you’ll be assigning specific Agile roles to different project team members, too. As you scale your Agile Learning efforts, more team roles may need to be included, especially for more complex projects. But these quick tips will help you get your first Agile team up and running and help you decide who should take each role:

Product Owner

(usually a senior member of the Learning and Development team)
The Product Owner helps to keep the vision, impact, and longterm success of the learning experience at the forefront of your Agile Learning efforts. They help to direct collaborative efforts and keep the team updated on any significant developments that may come up. Focusing on the high-level, they steer the ship and course-correct when needed.

Scrum Master

(perhaps a junior member of the training team with some project management experience)
The Scrum Master is the role most closely associated with a traditional project manager. They focus on fine-tuning processes, providing feedback, maintaining cohesion, and mentoring other members of the team. Although a flat team structure is an essential concept in Agile, the Scrum Master oversees day-to-day operations, manages the Scrum Board, and ensures everyone stays on target.

Team Members

(Will be mostly instructional designers/developers as these are the people responsible for the technical side of creating the product, which in your case, will be learning experiences)
Team members are the makers: front- and back-end engineers, copywriters, designers, videographers, you name it. Team members have varied roles and skills, but all are responsible for getting tasks done on time and maintaining excellent quality.

Stakeholders

(the people who use the end product: learners and subject matter experts)
Your stakeholders are those with a vested interest in the success of a project. But usually do not have a hand in the technical development of the result. Their contribution helps to keep the overall vision front of mind for the rest of the team. And during the development and testing of your new course, their feedback will be invaluable.

agile learning team

4. Document your progress

Getting started with Agile Learning makes an experimental period and a few test projects necessary to see what works for you and your teams. So it’s vital that you monitor progress closely and document challenges, wins, bottlenecks, and efficiencies along the way.

With each project, you’ll be smoothing out the creases in your Agile Learning design methods and getting closer to the productivity levels you need.

Moreover, you should be involved in the projects as the champion of Agile Learning to offer support, guidance, and perspective to project sponsors, SMEs, and anyone else involved.

5. Roles over tools

While there are lots of Agile-focused project management tools and software available, piling onto your tech stack should not be your number one priority at these early stages.

As you scale Agile Learning across all learning projects, it will most likely become necessary to find technology to help you streamline processes and maintain better oversight. But for now, your priority should be getting the roles and processes right on a couple of experimental projects.

Establishing a productive Agile Learning team and running a successful Sprint is the primary goal.

agile learning backlog

6. How to create your Backlog

The “Backlog” is a fundamental tool for prioritizing your team’s workload and listing out everything (and we mean everything) that needs to be done to develop a single course or learning experience.

The Product Owner is the owner and gatekeeper of this list. So it’s their job to assemble, prioritize, and update the Backlog.

The Backlog is not the same as a “to do” list in that it will never be “complete.” As the project develops and needs fluctuate, the Backlog should be continuously updated, and new items added.

Also, the Backlog should be detailed. Don’t be afraid to get into the nitty-gritty details and break down items into step by step tasks.

7. How to plan your first Sprint

A “Sprint” is part of the Agile philosophy. It’s a set period, during which the Agile Learning team aims to complete a set amount of tasks to create and improve the end product.

planning a Scrum
Source: Visual Paradigm

1) Sprint planning

Choose a timeframe
You must decide on a specific timeframe from your Sprints. This timeline varies from organization to organization and even from team to team. But they are never longer than one month.

As you develop Agile Learning processes, you may decide to change up your Sprint durations according to what works best for your team and your course design.

Pick your items
While planning your first Sprint, pick items from your Backlog that the team is aiming to complete during this specific Sprint.

The team should choose tasks that are highest in priority level and then decide who will be responsible for their completion.

2) Sprint operations

The Daily Stand-Up
The Daily Stand-Up is an essential feature of Agile Learning that helps keep the team as a whole on track. The idea is to literally “stand up” together once a day for no longer than 15 minutes. It should happen once a day and preferably at the same time every day.

During the Stand-Up, each person of the Agile Learning team should give a quick update about:

  • What they worked on the day before
  • What they will be working on today
  • Any obstacles or challenges they need assistance with

The Daily Stand-Up is not for discussion, debate, or decisions. If an item needs further exploration, separate meetings should take place with those on the team for whom the task/issue is relevant.

The Retrospective
After each Sprint, allocate a set amount of time for reflecting on the finished work, the processes used, and the finished product.

The whole team presents their work to each other and discusses how to improve processes for the next Sprint.

3) Rinse and Repeat

Now that your first Sprint is complete, you can take the lessons learned and start the process all over again.

Choose new items from the Backlog and start your next Sprint planning.

agile learning team

8. Transparency is key

Visibility and transparency are core components of using Scrum effectively. So it’s vital that you create a visual representation of all the project’s moving parts and Backlog. This is known as a Scrum Board.

Lots of teams simply use Post-It notes on a whiteboard. But there are highly effective, free online tools like Trello that do a great job of digital visualization.

9. Bring in the professionals

People who are unfamiliar with Agile and Scrum methodology are often suspicious of taking on such a drastically different way of working. So it can take some work on your part to educate them on the benefits of Agile Learning.

Consider booking some in-depth Scrum training for you and your team with an external expert. It’s a great way to get everyone on board and familiar with the basic methodology and terminology.

Getting started with Agile Learning can seem daunting at first. But with these top tips, you’ll be heading for your first Sprint in no time at all.

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