Instructional design Workplace training

9 minute read

What is an Agile Learning Culture & Why Do You Need One?

Sara Meij

Sara Meij

Learning agility is the most important skill this century for a sustainable career. In fact, with so much change happening around us all the time, research has shown that in order to get people to adapt to change quicker, it may help to focus on what stays the same

Implementing an agile learning methodology into your learning and development strategy can give your organization an advantage over its competitors through speed and flexibility. It also creates an agile learning culture that makes learning new skills much more accessible to your staff. Let’s get into it.

Agile Learning

What is agile learning?

Agile learning is an approach to training and development that focuses on flexibility, collaboration, and speed. 

Instructional design has two major approaches: ADDIE and agile. ADDIE is the traditional linear approach that stands for Analyze, Design, Develop, Implement, and Evaluate

It’s a great approach to use in many different situations, from academic research to other applications of instructional design such as designing courses. ADDIE’s major downside is lack of speed because of a more rigid master plan. 

Using the ADDIE approach, you would design your course’s modules all at once and only get the end-users involved for testing when everything is finished. If you need to change anything in your course that far into the development phase, it will take significantly longer to match everything back up again.

In adopting an agile approach, you would cut the course development in stages of building and testing. You gain valuable feedback after each short development period instead of all at once at the end. When applied to learning, agile prioritizes speed over anything else. 

Agile learning has many different applications, from project management to team collaboration, but it’s most useful during the development phase of training projects where the need to adjust is often higher than in other types of projects. It’s also great when applied to learning within your organization, as it allows for flexibility and speed while encouraging more collaboration and communication among your staff.

What are the benefits of agile learning?

The term agile comes from the software development industry, but is now being used in many different areas and industries. One of the most used features of agile learning is the sprint. This is where a development process is cut into smaller phases (sprints) to create a prototype, which is then tested by end-users for feedback. 

Based on the feedback, changes will be made to the prototype before another round of testing. The same applies to learning, where the course is cut into bite-sized pieces and a student receives feedback after finishing each block. Each round equals a sprint. 

The benefits of this approach in learning and development are:

Increased flexibility

No more waiting around until the end of a course has finished before you receive your feedback. You’ll likely see an increase in employee engagement and uptake of learning by encouraging shorter learning spurts with reflection time in-between. 

More valuable feedback

Let’s say you’ve just designed an elaborate course for your employees, and you’re asking their feedback on it now that it’s a finished product. In all likeliness, would you make the effort to change the course based on their feedback knowing it would be difficult to do, cost more money and push your deadline out even more? 

The same goes for your employees taking your course if they were to receive feedback at the end. How likely do you think it’ll be that they implement your feedback on modules they’ve done days or weeks ago, early on in the course? If you’re working with an agile learning approach, feedback would happen after or even during each module, when the newly learned information is still fresh in people’s minds.

Higher efficiency of learning

It may fill you with dread knowing that you have to sit through a day-long course. Your employees won’t have the attention span or endurance to fully focus for eight hours straight, and neither would you. If you break the learning up into shorter blocks or use microlearning, you can increase engagement by 50 percent and boost knowledge retention.

Increases communication and promotes collaboration

Frequent communication is key to the speed factor of agile learning. Because learning is cut into shorter blocks with feedback at the end, there’s an increased need for communication and collaboration. That, in turn, leads to fewer misunderstandings, less confusion, and better cohesion. 

How to create an agile learning culture

You can see how implementing agile learning into your organization can reap benefits well beyond the learning and development strategy. At the foundation, you’re putting down the building blocks for an agile business. If you want to create an agile learning culture in your organization, there are a few key steps to follow to make the best use of the methodology.

Create a vision

This is a key first step to not be overlooked. Without a clear vision, any project will invariably crumble at some stage, with or without an agile methodology.

Working out what your organization wants to achieve in terms of learning and development at the start of the project is a great way to ensure everyone is on the same page before you implement a new strategy and roll it out to staff.

Agile Learning

Identify your stakeholders

Who needs to be involved within your organization to have their say and be kept in the loop during the process of creating an agile learning culture?

Write down all the people and groups within your business that you think could benefit from being involved in the project. Start with key stakeholders such as H&R or the L&D team and work your way down to secondary stakeholders such as department managers and external resources.

Leverage peer learning

Peer to peer learning makes an organization more agile. It can break down communication barriers and silos within your organization and increase collaboration among your staff. It’s also a great, cost-effective way to increase learning among your employees, which can lead to eventually becoming a ‘learning organization’. 

Employees at a learning organization are encouraged and enabled to constantly learn new skills quickly which helps companies to stay competitive, relevant, and foster a culture of continuous learning.

Get team members to learn together

If your aim is to enable more peer to peer learning, you need to have space available within your office or remote work environment for people to do so. Create spaces that encourage social learning where employees can sit together and where they’re encouraged to have their meetings or catch-ups. 

Putting thought into the design and layout of other social areas within your building, such as your organization’s cafeteria, can increase more collaboration between your staff and may help to break down silos as well.

Use microlearning

Shorter moments of learning spread throughout a workday or week helps foster the idea that learning happens all the time and that it’s an integral part of your organization. You can use a rich LMS such as GoSkills to create bite-sized course material that’s accessible to your staff whenever they want. 

Plan in learning pauses

One of the key aspects of the agile methodology in learning and development is that it consists of short sprints, followed by reflection. Those pauses in learning are crucial in the success of the method as they allow for much-needed feedback rounds and conversations. This makes the whole process of learning much more efficient, as you’re not waiting until the end of a course to sit a test or receive feedback.

Use technology available

A rich LMS really shines in an agile work environment and as part of an L&D strategy. This is because of its changeability and learner-focused approach. 

Ask yourself if your team really needs to be in the same room for hours on end to acquire new skills, or if they can learn the same amount in shorter study blocks and more interactive online learning environments. Mobile learning is part of that online environment too and combined with microlearning, your employees can take in bite-sized bits of information whenever they want, wherever they want.

Wrapping it up

If you want your organization to stay relevant and competitive in your industry, you need to invest in your employees’ learning and development. 

Agile learning is a great approach that allows for more flexibility, speed, and collaboration than traditional instructional design such as ADDIE. It does this through short development sprints followed by feedback and improvements. 

Do you want to implement agile learning in your organization and get your staff to learn new skills in a fun and bite-sized way? Try GoSkills out today for free.

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Sara Meij

Sara Meij

Sara is a digital communications expert and former journalist with a passion for writing. In her spare time she loves Latin dancing and getting outdoors to run, hike or mountain bike.