At the recent DevLearn 2014 conference in Las Vegas, I attended a presentation on agile instructional design by Megan Torrance. During this presentation she discussed agile instructional design models such as SAM (Successive Approximation Model) and LLAMA (Lot Like Agile Methods Approach). I’m still new to the LLAMA model but Torrence describes it as:

“The lot like agile methods approach (LLAMA) marries the best practices of the IT world’s agile project management with instructional design best practices to deliver truly effective eLearning in an orderly-but-flexible way”.

AgilityIn his book, Leaving ADDIE for SAM, Michael Allen gives an overview of SAM:

“The successive approximation model (SAM) provides a clear pathway to success, measurable and obtainable milestones for marking completion, and targeted moments to reach agreement and consensus. The model is clearly defined and manageable, and yet encourages creativity and experimentation. It consistently reveals the design as it evolves, and it does so in ways that all stakeholders can see and evaluate. It helps all team members communicate with each other, contribute, and collaborate”

There are two types of SAM , SAM 1 for smaller projects and SAM 2 is a more elaborate and extended version of SAM 1 for larger projects. Here at B Online Learning, our design team follow an agile instructional design model loosely based on Michael Allen’s Successive Approximation Model. By using agile instructional design, our clients/stakeholders are aware up front how the course will look and feel and reduces scope creep during a project.

Traditional instructional design models such as ADDIE provide us with a step by step process for creating a learning intervention. However, ADDIE can be quite linear and fixed and sometimes doesn’t fit in with changes in our everyday work lives e.g. new policies and procedures, changes within the organisation. ADDIE provides a strong framework for creating a learning solution but this process usually only involved the client/stakeholders at the very beginning and at the very end of the project. So, instructional designers began looking at other fields such as IT project management to look at processes that would be more suitable to eLearning design. The solution was more iterative instructional processes. Agile instructional design allows you to create training solutions by working incrementally, iteratively and collaboratively with the client/stakeholders throughout the whole project.

It allows you to:

  • Build training that is more learner-centred
  • Allows your stakeholders to be involved from the beginning and during every major step in the project
  • Allows for flexibility and can cater for change easily

Guesswork, developing prototypes, iterative development, and frequent client/stakeholder communication are all key components of the agile process. One of the invaluable things we find about using an agile instructional design process, is that there are no surprises at the end of the project as the client/stakeholder are involved right from the beginning.

Ruth McElhone About Ruth McElhone
Ruth is the Learning Director, B Online Learning. She holds a MEd. and is an Articulate Certified Trainer. Ruth has a passion for new technologies, social collaboration strategies and the impact they have on learning. Her extensive role at B Online Learning includes managing and facilitating the Master eLearning Course. This course instructs learning professionals how to design, develop and deliver eLearning courses effectively and efficiently in the workplace, whilst engaging them in a social community of eLearning best practice. She manages the Certified Articulate training programs in the Asia-Pacific region and was recently awarded BEST ONLINE FACILITATOR at the LearnX 2013.