Some (further) thoughts about ‘agile’ learning design

Tony Bates, online learning and distance eductaion resources, Jul 12, 2015
Commentary by Stephen Downes

If you want to learn about agile learning design, you are probably better off learning about agile software design - from which it is derived - than from reading about agile learning designe. Agile is a well-established and well-tested approach to designing software in dynamic and changing environments; we are using it at NRC to build LPSS. But note, you'll find some key differences between the two. The agile design I read in this Tony Bates article owes a lot more to traditional learning design than it does to agile. Imagine these principles applied to learning:

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

Now compare with what we read in the Tony Bates article summarizing Peter Rawsthorne’s model of agile learning design: "clearly defined and measurable broad learning goals... sub-goals or topics, negotiated with learners... core learning materials and tools chosen in advance by the instructor... assessment based on pre-determined criteria linked." I can see the relation between this and agile - but it's like Rawsthorne can't let go of the core principles of instructional design where they conflict with an approach that would result in, well, a cMOOC.

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