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Agile Instructional Design | What You Need to Know

Updated: Oct 18, 2022

Explore our comprehensive guide to Agile Instructional Design.

Contact us today to begin the Agile instructional design process.

As an instructor, it's up to you to ensure that learners have the right course materials to supplement your lessons. In the past, you've probably selected course materials (such as textbooks) and at the end of the process, you received a static resource for your students to use for the coming year and, likely, many years to follow. In the case of textbooks, they were likely expensive, rarely updated, and far from the best resource for your learners.

It's time for a new approach.

If you’ve spent any time researching software creation, you’re surely familiar with Agile software development— a set of guiding principles with the goal of empowering development teams to be streamlined, collaborative, and flexible to change. Even if you’ve never written a line of code, Agile can be a valuable way to solve all kinds of problems.

At Skyepack, we equip instructors with customized course materials created to provide the best learning experience possible for their students. Drawing from the speed, efficacy, and flexibility of the Agile framework in software development, we’ve pioneered the use of Agile Instructional Design to create highly effective courses.

We'll walk through everything you need to know about the Agile Instructional Design process for developing course materials by answering the following questions:

  • What is Agile Instructional Design?

  • Why use the Agile Instructional Design model?

  • How do you use Agile Instructional Design to create digital course materials?

Incorporating Agile principles into instructional design is a fairly new development,

and one that we’re pioneering here at Skyepack. Should you use this hybrid methodology when preparing for your future courses? Let’s find out.

This section contains an overview of Agile instructional design.

What is Agile Instructional Design?

Before we cover Agile Instructional Design, you first need a strong understanding of Agile as it was originally used— for software development.

Coined in 2001 by seventeen independent software practitioners, Agile software development is an umbrella term that encompasses a set of frameworks and principles that prioritize collaboration, self-organizing and cross-functional teams, and the ability to quickly respond to change. Essentially, the goal of the Agile methodology is to create a collaborative environment in which team members have the agency and understanding to respond to change as needed.

Agile development prioritizes collaboration, self-organizing teams, and agility.

Agile software development is based on 12 principles, found on the Agile Alliance website and outlined below:

  1. "Our highest priority is to satisfy the customer through early and continuous delivery of valuable software."

  2. “Welcome changing requirements, even late in development. Agile processes harness change for the customer’s competitive advantage.”

  3. "Deliver working software frequently, from a couple of weeks to a couple of months, with a preference to the shorter timescale."

  4. "Business people and developers must work together daily throughout the project."

  5. "Build projects around motivated individuals. Give them the environment and support they need, and trust them to get the job done."

  6. "The most efficient and effective method of conveying information to and within a development team is face-to-face conversation."

  7. "Working software is the primary measure of progress."

  8. "Agile processes promote sustainable development. The sponsors, developers, and users should be able to maintain a constant pace indefinitely."

  9. "Continuous attention to technical excellence and good design enhances agility."

  10. “Simplicity–the art of maximizing the amount of work not done–is essential.”

  11. "The best architectures, requirements, and designs emerge from self-organizing teams."

  12. "At regular intervals, the team reflects on how to become more effective, then tunes and adjusts its behavior accordingly."

Rather than a strict development framework, Agile development is a mindset— one that’s focused on flexibility, collaboration, speed, and sustainability.

At Skyepack, we’ve merged Agile software development principles with instructional design best practices to create the Agile Instructional Design process that we use in-house. When our professional instructional designers and educational media specialists apply Agile principles, the digital course materials we create are customized, dynamic, affordable, and available on a faster timeline.

Download this resource for Agile-based curriculum development tips.

This section covers the benefits of the Agile instructional design model.

Why use the Agile Instructional Design model?

There are a few reasons why we’ve chosen to craft our in-house instructional design process with Agile principles at the foundation. Let’s walk through four key benefits that result from following the Agile Instructional Design model:

This illustrates the benefits listed below.

Prioritizes the Learner

Agile Instructional Design evaluates and incorporates the goals of each individual learner by acknowledging preexisting knowledge and learning styles. The information that you include in your digital course materials will both address any mandated learning objectives and align with what's most helpful for your learners.

For example, we know that virtual reality and augmented reality are both steadily rising instructional design trends. But, if your learners don't have access to the technology needed—such as VR headsets—to view these experiences, it doesn't make sense to incorporate them into your digital course materials. A learner-centric resource would take these limitations into account and incorporate other engaging but more accessible features, such as infographics and note-taking elements.

Encourages Ongoing Collaboration

Our Agile method prioritizes a collaborative approach from key stakeholders, professional instructional designers, and educational media specialists alike. Incorporating many viewpoints leads to stronger content, as your stakeholders likely have unique insights into how your course materials can be improved.

With other design methods, your materials are evaluated at the end of the process, with one or two rounds of feedback incorporated into the final materials. After the resources are shared with learners, they're not designed to be updated or revised—similar to a physical textbook created through traditional publishing means. At best, this could lead to an exhaustive final revisions process; at worst, your course could quickly outgrow your finalized materials and send you back to square one of the curation process.

With our Agile Instructional Design process, your stakeholders are looped into the process every step of the way. This way, you can rest assured that the materials created meet the unique needs of your course.

Produces High-Quality Deliverables Quickly

The Agile methodology prioritizes the needs of the team creating content and providing a flexible environment for that team to work within. Rather than design decisions getting caught in a bureaucratic bottleneck, teams operating from an Agile mindset have the autonomy to respond to changing expectations or challenges in the design process independently.

So, if you were to call up the team at Skyepack and ask for a modification to your course materials— even if it’s mid-semester— an actual person will be on the other end of the line, happy to make those adjustments for you in a timely manner. You won’t have to start the instructional design process from square one. No more waiting until the next edition of an outdated textbook is released to share updated guidance with your students!

Creates Affordable Materials

Lastly, but certainly not least, the sustainable nature of Agile Instructional Design means that your digital course materials are significantly more affordable.

The Agile mindset prioritizes creating content in an efficient manner and regularly evaluating the processes used to discover areas of improvement. You can trust that the Skyepack team is creating content in the most straightforward, efficient way— which not only saves time but also resources expended on the project.

So, while the cost of digital course materials is paid by the students who purchase the materials, the resources will still be more affordable than textbooks created through traditional publishing means.

This section covers how Skyepack uses Agile instructional design.

How do you use Agile Instructional Design to create digital course materials?

At Skyepack, we use the Agile Instructional Design method when we curate and create digital course materials for higher education, K-12 education, corporate training, and professional development courses.

In addition to the many benefits we've discussed already, our Agile Instructional Design services come at no cost to instructors. Once your materials are curated, designed, and launched, your students can purchase lifetime access to your course materials with a low flat fee.

This graphic illustrates Skyepack's Agile instructional design process.

When you partner with Skyepack, you’ll have access to a dedicated service team composed of professional instructional designers and educational media specialists. Let's walk through the six steps this team will take to create top-tier materials for your learners.

1. Analyze

Our team starts by taking a deep dive into your course subject matter and your current teaching strategies to evaluate the following:

  • Current learning resources used

  • Learning objectives and topics covered

  • Assessment strategies

  • Learner needs

The goal of this step is first to understand your course and your learners before making recommendations later on. From there, we'll begin researching the resources that best align with your needs.

2. Research

Next up, we explore all of the potential resources that could be used in your digital course materials. This can include instructor-created content, peer-reviewed open-source content, and licensed third-party content.

If requested by the instructor, we may also identify possible areas for overall course improvement.

3. Design

We then design a dynamic layout and learning experience for your course materials. This process is entirely customized to your specific course, and the layout, design, and flow of the digital course materials are adjusted to align with your curriculum.

Rather than having learners flip to the end of a dusty textbook on day one of your course, they'll be able to navigate through your digital course materials in a way that corresponds to the flow of your course. We'll prioritize creating a layout for your materials that's fun, engaging, and dynamic to keep your learners' attention from day one.

From there, we custom curate the course materials (building from those discovered in the research step) to flesh out this dynamic layout.

4. Curate

We'll then leverage content from a variety of high-quality sources to curate the best materials for your learners.

This includes:

  • Peer-reviewed, open-source content

  • Licensed, third-party content

  • Instructor-created content

  • Skyepack-created content

Pulling from the resources discovered in the Research phase, we'll carefully curate content that is the best of the best, only pulling open-sourced and third-party resources that are reputable and peer-reviewed. Additionally, Skyepack doesn't take ownership of any instructor-created resources, so you can rest assured that any presentation slides, diagrams, or articles you've created will remain in your ownership.

5. Build

Next up, we’ll build your course to meet the specifications outlined earlier in the process. With Agile's collaborative approach, we'll work with you to develop a project plan that will give you full insight into every step of the process.

While our team builds the materials, you'll have the opportunity to review and approve everything we create from start to finish.

6. Launch

Last but not least, your course materials will go live, providing day-one access to students.

Prior to launch, you'll have direct access to one of our team members to handle any issues that may arise. Then, after launch and as long as your course is active, you'll be able to communicate with a member of our team to make needed updates and changes.

Curious what this process looks like in action? Explore case studies from professors who have experienced the benefits of a custom instructional design process.

How can you use Agile instructional design in your efforts?

Wrapping Up: Using Agile Instructional Design

It's simple: Agile Instructional Design results in more effective digital course materials due to its collaborative and flexible nature. Not to mention, it achieves these results faster than other design methods.

As you prepare your curriculum for next year, consider how custom-curated digital course materials can elevate your course. Then, to learn more about how Skyepack uses Agile Instructional Design to create digital learning materials for courses just like yours, contact us today.

In the meantime, you can get started learning about digital course material creation by exploring the following instructional design resources:

Contact us to begin the Agile instructional design process.

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