The fields of software development, design and product management have depended on agile methods for build and development for a number of years. But what about the use of agile methods in education and the development of content that supports learning?

The agile methodology is characterized by the division of projects into short phases of work called sprints. Sprints are interspersed with rapid review, feedback, and adaptation of scope. Agile is seen as being more adaptable and dynamic than the more traditional ADDIE approach still used in so many areas of work. ADDIE, often referred to as waterfall, takes a more linear approach, with projects split into five distinct phases: analyze, design, development, implement, and evaluate.

When it comes to learning and education, agile is gaining ground as a means of adapting programmes to a varying pace of learning, to a range of incoming skillsets within a cohort, and to the changing needs of stakeholders.

Agile learning can support individual learning paths, leading to improved outcomes as well as a greater depth of learning. While difficult to achieve in the traditional classroom that is supported by printed textbooks, technology now opens the door to a more agile, adaptive approach to education in a range of settings.

The emergence of the digital classroom, accelerated by the Covid-19 global pandemic, makes the benefits of agile learning more attainable to educators and learners alike, which gives publishers an opportunity to respond with similarly adaptive and modular content development and delivery. By blending content delivery with assessment, educators can rapidly check on the progress of individual learners. Such adaptive learning platforms provide scaffolding and targeted interventions to ensure that everyone reaches his or her potential, quickly and efficiently.

At the system level, publishers and educators can co-create content in more agile and responsive workflows, releasing materials to digital platforms term-by-term or even lesson-by-lesson. This gives further opportunities for content development workflows to be more responsive to curriculum development and to the progress of, and feedback from, learners at the cohort level.

Newgen KnowledgeWorks’ education content development teams have supported the build of curriculum-wide learning platforms targeted at specific, remote-learning markets. With the ability to release content term-by-term, teachers can influence authoring and enhancement of in-flight content with real-time feedback from the classroom.

While the adoption of agile methods in education is driven largely by digital delivery, print still has a role to play. With digital printing opening the door to ultra-short print runs, publishers are now equipping learners and educators with products that cater to specific needs in the intervention and revision markets — content precisely targeted to attainment level. This blended approach suits the consumer trends towards more multimodal and bite-size consumption of content. Content can be adapted for specific geographies or even for individual institutions or corporate groups, with culturally sensitive adaptations being made for the target market.

Adaptation of existing content gives publishers the opportunity to respond rapidly to educator need in an agile way. Be it creating bespoke resources for corporate or institutional learning, or upgrading existing content for a more bite-size delivery, this digital approach, making use of the huge back catalogue of valuable content, is a vital tool in the quest for a more responsive approach. By partnering with a range of content providers, publishers now offer educators content in a range of media, supporting adaptation to different learning styles, and making content more accessible.

For many, the thought of adopting an agile approach to learning and content development may be daunting. This highlights the importance of collaboration and partnership in product and course development — with the right team of authors, developers and vendors — educators and publishers can quickly adopt a more agile approach.

At Newgen KnowledgeWorks, we use the latest technologies and along with project managers trained in, and familiar with, the benefits of the agile methodology, we offer a more flexible, adaptive approach to content development.

Agile learning and agile content development will not replace traditional methods of delivery, but it’s clear that there is a growing need for educators to respond more rapidly to the changing needs of learners and other education stakeholders. By adopting the agile methodology, the publishing industry can support educators and learners with more accessible, multi-modal material that caters more closely to the individual learners’ needs.

Jo Bottrill, managing director of Newgen KnowledgeWorks (U.K. and U.S.)


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