Applying Agile to Curriculum Development

Agile in a university setting can sometimes be an oxymoron. However, it can successfully occur within university administration, as I have personally experienced. Specifically in the context of the online education team, agile tools were bastardised to give curriculum designers increased productivity and improved motivation. This allowed the designers to provide better quality and cutting edge courses in less time. The online educational team implemented and shared a personal kanban, dropped job descriptions, and saw massive improvements throughout. Scrum was then studied, dissected, and reassembled for our needs. Writers are now asking regularly to write for us, while designers have more free time for adding new dimensions to the curriculum in addition to normal expectations.

The increased effectiveness of this department has spread an agile mentality and tools adjusted for their needs now to Post Secondary Education Options (PSEO), Human Resources, and other departments that depend on multi-departmental and multi-location input. Given the cloak and dagger perspective of academia, the new focus on transparency has produced a huge cultural improvement. However, besides cultural improvement there are some quantitative facts that point to the success of agile utilization, at least in my particular department.

Supplier Satisfaction
The increased writer satisfaction has been extremely obvious with their new ability to focus on their expert content instead of fitting their content to logistics and expectations. The process developed is based on Scrum and the positive feedback has been tremendous, including one that stated they had not experienced any process so clear and concise. Also, it has allowed designers to provide better quality feedback to the writer as a result of the process reducing the time on logistics, also pleasing the writer. I remember when juggling the design of two or three 3-credit hour courses could be challenging, but now it is not difficult to balance ten of these courses and have a better relationship with all of the writers. Also, the number of questions from writers has dropped to almost zero, preventing 3-5 hours of failure demand per course due to the changed process.

Time Savings
There has been two levels of time savings for individual course development. First, the time invested across weeks has been slashed over 30% down to 8 weeks for a start to finish product. Second, the time invested for total development hours has dropped 40% to 8-12 hours. This allowed us to introduce social media and other dimensions to the development without impacting the writers’ time and producing a far superior product.

Internal Communication
Kanban has had a huge impact on saved internal communication time. The dreaded monthly report of doom that cost several hours, communicating with each team member across several emails, and all round stress has been reduced to a few clicks of a button for less than 5 minutes to get results. Setting the kanban board up correctly allows full use of the analytics function for virtual management. Also, the team is always on the same page in real time for development purposes, doing away with the weekly or twice weekly phone calls. Now twice monthly phone calls are available for new initiatives and strategies. Finally, and certainly not least, another example improved communication is the flow between clerical and design effort now requires no emails or phone calls.

A series of blog posts could go into how these fantastic time savings, improved customer relations, and better workflow have occurred. However, suffice it to say for the moment, I am thrilled with these improvements, and do not expect it to stop with these examples.

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About Marian

My passion is centered around ensuring effective learning experiences that improve people's lives. Developing a learning mindset is my ultimate goal whether working with academic programs or corporate training; formal or informal learning practices. It is my belief that our potential for agility is limited only by our capacity for learning.