AGILE in Instructional Design

This post will discuss the use of the popular AGILE strategy (notice I say strategy) in instructional design. First before I start I will note – AGILE does NOT replace ADDIE. In fact, AGILE is just another way to do the ADDIE process – and there are 1000s. There is not one correct way to perform the steps of ADDIE. Each author, expert, company, organization, etc has a different way to do ADDIE. Thus ADDIE changes by entity and should be modified for each project to suite client needs and expectations. AGILE is just one way of many ways to do ADDIE (and really AGILE should only be applied to the design/development stages of ADDIE as you will see below). As a result we are always doing ADDIE, you cannot replace it. Now that I have said that…

AGILE was first created for software development to replace what is known as the waterfall method but has since been applied to many other industries.

So what is AGILE?

AGILE is a strategy that promotes iterative and incremental design and development in order to get out parts of a project to the client instead of the whole at one time (to save time). This is actually very similar to the rapid development strategies – they are for the most part exactly the same.

When can I use AGILE

You should use AGILE when you meet some of the same requirements that you have to meet to do rapid instructional design. It is not something that should be used on every project. Certain conditions should be met first.

1. Analysis is completed – without a proper analysis the project will fail. 70% of projects fail and poor analysis and management are usually the cause. This doesn’t mean analysis needed to be completed for this part of the project. You might know these clients and have done other projects with them so you can take some/all of that original analysis and use it.
2. Constant access to SMEs, Developers, and Graphic Artists (and person who signs off – i.e., client)
3. Project can be rolled out in sections – for instance 1 module can be rolled out by itself without the other 10 modules
4. Already have learning objects from other projects (optional and very helpful – cuts time) – this is not required though but will save a significant amount of time

How do I use AGILE

Once your task analysis is completed in the ADDIE process (as in you have done analysis and design), you can really start the AGILE strategy. Development should look something like this:

1. Design – minimum skills required are taught (think job aid type training). Limited graphics, interactions, etc are used. (it should be understood that these will be modified at a later time. This is more of a rapid instructional design strategy but will cut time with AGILE as well). The more interactions that are taught, the more time it will take. Thus if you are using complex software and have a lot of interactions you will not get the time savings advantages associated with AGILE.
1a. Feedback and test
2. Iterate – Develop the prototype
2a. Feedback and test
3. Review – meet with clients to get feedback and approval
*This process is a cycle that can technically repeat indefinitely until its right. Most organizations go through it 2-3 times before implementation.
4. Implement

What does AGILE look like?

Here are two strategy maps showing how AGILE can be used in Instructional Design (and note how they fit into ADDIE). First note that they are both slightly different as there is not one ‘right’ way to implement these strategies. As I said earlier, these need to change by client and project so they should not look the same. Here is the first from

Here is another from


Do you notice anything familiar about these? You should. They are just defining how to do steps in the ADDIE process. The first chart is starting at Design after your learning objectives are created and showing us how to Develop. Thus that would be a way to use AGILE for development. The second chart also shows us how AGILE can fit into the ADDIE process.

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