E-learning, Agile and Growth Driven Design

Recently I came across an interesting online course called Growth Driven Design. Title was the one that draw my attention to look more into the topic and check the course itself.

Course is offered by Hubspot at academy.hubspot.com and is free of charge. Hubspot is a company that offers an inbound marketing software platform and other related services. Target audience is mostly agencies that offers web design services but I think anyone who deals with web design can find this interesting. After course completion you can take an exam and get the certificate.

What is Growth Driven Design?

Course talks about Growth Driven Design (GDD) in terms of web development projects and how this approach can boost the growth of the underlying business. In a nutshell it is an approach that lets you quickly build and deliver minimum viable product (MVP) in this case a web site with all of the business critical functionality and then updated over the time using continuous improvement approach.

If we look from the methodology point of view then the core of GDD is Agile iterative approach. So basically the best Agile practices are wrapped with inbound marketing layer which gives us the GDD package in the end. GDD focuses a lot on delivering the value by any means (features, content etc.). Most importantly solutions and features are built around the user.

So user centered iterative approach for value delivery sounds something that could produce nice outcomes. Now with this in mind if we think about e-learning projects and ask some questions then it all makes perfect sense:

Should e-learning be user centered? 

Yes, because the user (learner) is in the center of the learning process so everything should be built around the user (learner).

Should we use iterative approach?

Yes, because it offers real user feedback early in the project and is far flexible from change management perspective than any linear project management methods like ADDIE or Waterfall.

Should e-learning deliver the value?

Yes, because in the end of the day nobody will care about set of beautiful features if they are not able to deliver any value to the users (learners) or organisation.

 How can we apply GDD approach in e-learning?

In some cases we can use same GDD out of the box. For instance if we have a project where the web site serves as a platform where you sell your e-learning products or services. Then Agile + Inbound layer is perfect fit for this.

There will be projects where you will have to remove or replace the Inbound layer because it just won’t be relevant and adjust Agile to your specific needs when building e-learning products.

Building your own model.

Searching for e-learning and Agile related information online I came across a couple of cases where Agile has been used as a foundation for building a custom development models:

  1. The Lot Like Agile Methods Approach (LLAMA) introduced by torrancelearning. A Quick Guide to LLAMA – Agile Project Management for Learning a book by Megan Torrance. They have also an online course available on udemy.
  2. Successive Approximation Model (SAM). This model has been built by allen interactions and again has an Agile in its core.

By not going into detail about each of the models I can say that same things or concepts can have different names, but in the end it is the same idea and approach. In my opinion the most valuable things using agility in building e-learning products are:

  • Iterative approach that gives you an ability to collect real user (learner) feedback early in the project and continuous feedback throughout the project;
  • Continuous communication with the customer;
  • Iterations that allows you to be agile and flexible when it comes to implementing changes in the project.

It is of course over simplified list here but I think these things give us the main advantage over traditional methodologies. And it does not matter what you call it, really.

Should we adopt Agile approach?

Well some say Waterfall and ADDIE still works for them and they do not want to change anything. Cannot blame them if something works why do something differently.

As for the rest of us I would say we definitely should give it a try. I can give you at least one good reason for it and that is change. Linear project development methods maybe were good a while ago when the business requirements did not change so quickly. Today our client’s needs changes with the speed of light and we are required to keep up with that pace too. So we need a different approach to keep up with that and maybe this could be one of the solutions.


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