agile learning design OpenSesame

Why your organization should embrace agile learning design

Typically learning designers have always used the well-known ADDIE model (analyse, design, develop, implement, and evaluate). This is like a conveyer belt – it starts with design, moves into development and then finally deployment. It gives a solid structure to projects but doesn’t allow for much flexibility and typically takes longer to deliver a product. For example, if a client wants to make a significant design change to an e-learning module once it has already been developed, this will usually be difficult and expensive.

Agile learning design

So what’s the alternative? Agile learning design refers to any approach to content development that focuses on speed, flexibility and collaboration. The term evolved from the software development industry and is now one of the fastest growing trends in learning and development.

It’s increasingly being adopted by Learning and Development teams due to its adaptable nature, which allows the development process to respond flexibly to changing client needs. Typically work in an agile project is split into mini projects called “sprints”. In these sprints you create prototypes (quickly designed versions of the final product) which you then test with clients and end users and iterate until it is ready for release. You can learn more about what is a sprint and how to get started in Mind Channels course, What is a sprint? available through OpenSesame.

The difference

Let’s take the example of developing a ten-module learning course. Using the ADDIE model you would scope and design all 10 modules of the course at once, and then move into developing all ten modules together. Only once they are all fully developed – which let’s say take 6 months – will the end users and clients get a chance to have a hands-on test. It’s not uncommon that even though they have approved scripts, it’s only after having a proper hands-on test that the client discovers something significant that needs to be changed. So not only do you need to wait 6 months before releasing anything, any changes requested at the end of process will be costly both in time and budget terms. By using the agile methodology you could split the project into ten 3-week sprints, each focusing on an individual module. In these sprints you would scope and build a prototype and then test it with the end users and gather feedback for changes. You’d then make these changes and produce a Minimum Viable Product – a ready to release version of the module which meets the key user needs. This allows you to release the first module after 3 weeks and mitigates the risk of late changes from the client.

This is just the beginning

There’s much more detail to go into including the different team roles and documents, but for now in true minimum viable product style, we’ll end the blog here! For more information about how to get started with Agile learning, check out Introduction to Agile Project Management by OpenSesame course publisher Mind Channel or contact OpenSesame at

About the author: Claudia McFarlane is a Director at Mind Channel with over 15 years’ experience in digital learning, scrum master and agile learning design. Using design thinking to help organizations and L&D teams to embed and sustain behavior change to create the workforce of the future. Her experience spans from both consultant and management roles within learning and development for public and private sectors organizations.