Making Learning Design Adaptable – SCRUM & Design Thinking

Agile e-learning production with SCRUM

SCRUM is an agile process that focuses on delivering the highest business value in the shortest time. It allows rapid and repeated inspection of actual working software (every two weeks to one month).

While the business sets the priorities, teams self-organise to determine the best way to deliver the highest priority features. Every two weeks to a month anyone can see real working software to decide release as is or continue to enhance it for iteration.

SCRUM is not an acronym but certain roles and processes have certain unique terms.


Product Backlog – the overall course level objectives/outcomes determined by the Product Owner

Sprint Backlog – A piece of work (module level objectives) provided to the design team

Backlog tasks – are expanded by the team – all phases of design, development and implementation are included

Daily SCRUM meeting – facilitated by the SCRUM Master to review progress, confirm what has been done, what is planned to be done.

Typically the SCRUM approach is supported by a thorough analysis of the “problem”, and a project kick-off meeting to determine roles and to set expectations. A main feature is the daily and monthly reviews on progress to ensure the early identification and resolution of problems. A final project review demonstrates accomplishment against the plan.


SCRUM roles (and corresponding roles in eLearning Development)

The Product Owner (Department head or similar)

  • Defines the parameters of the project, its success and definition of done (DoD)
  • Prioritises tasks from product backlog

The Scrum Master (Instructional designer)

  • Owns the overall process
  • Resolves conflicts and removes barriers
  • Part of the team

The Team (SMEs, Multimedia Developers, Editor)

  • Owns the production process
  • Cross functional, self-organizing


 Design Thinking

Design Thinking has been described by many people over the years, and there are a variety of models that depict it as a non-linear flexible process that uses the designer’s sensibility and methods to match people’s needs with what is technologically feasible and what a viable business strategy can convert into customer value and market opportunity.

Learning Cafe_Design2Design Thinking hold relevance for the Corporate/Enterprise Learning Designer because rather than asking designers to make an already developed idea more attractive to consumers or, in the case of internal functions, course participants, the role becomes one of asking the designers to create ideas that better meet the needs of the end user/consumer.  Value creation flows from what was a tactical response to a strategic response which can lead to dramatic new forms of value.

There are up to seven accepted “phases” but common to the models are three non-linear functions (or spaces) which can take place concurrently, and repeated as necessary.

  1. Inspiration – Understanding the challenge and obtaining deep user understanding.  Search for meaning and frame opportunities.
  2. Ideation – generate potential solutions and approaches to the “problem”.  Emphasis is on idea generation.
  3. Experiment – prototype, implement and evolve.

In essence, by looking at “analysis” from a broader perspective and “really” understanding the problem at hand, it could be that a training course is not the answer.  In fact there is a good chance you may uncover that the cause of the problem is much more complex than explained to you in the first instance.  The solution may also be every bit as complex, and it may or may not involve a learning intervention.

Here is a video explaining SCRUM