A few years back, while working on the Pan-Canadian Online Learning Portal definition project, my colleague Grigori Melnik introduced me to Agile Programming. The Future of Software Development discusses some of the major differences between agile programming and the earlier, less flexible Waterfall Model. You see, at one time, software engineers assumed that they could design a program and then build it based on those specifications. However, the world changes and we never really have a clear picture of all the necessary factors at any given time. My read of the article had me asking if instructional design [or ISD or ADDIE] is also arrogant:
“The problem was that the Waterfall Model was arrogant. The arrogance came from the fact that we believed that we could always engineer the perfect system on the first try. The second problem with it was that in nature, dynamic systems are not engineered, they evolve. It is the evolutionary idea that led to the development of agile methods.”
Instead of factory-style production teams, agile programming uses far fewer, but better, programmers. The principles of communicating, focusing on simplicity, releasing often and testing often are all applicable to developing good instructional programs.
Software development has embraced the iterative and flexible Agile model, but not without a major re-education program. It is up to industry to educate customers so that requests for proposals don’t force vendors into using an older and outdated model. I still see educational and training RFP’s that leave little choice but a quick analysis (if any), little design time (and only at the front end) and then get into production based on a specification whose premises were never tested and cannot be questioned later.
It’s time that the training industry develop its own agile approach or risk becoming redundant.