Learning and development (L&D) has traditionally been associated with structured, linear, and time-bound educational paths. However, the modern workplace and the skills required are evolving unprecedentedly, demanding a new approach. Although a relatively new concept in the realm of L&D, agile learning has quickly gained recognition as a powerful and adaptive approach to skill development. 

In this blog post, we will explore how learner-centered educational strategy aligns with the rapidly changing market and employee demands, leading to improved cross-team cooperation.

What is agile learning?

Agile is a methodology commonly used in software development and project management. However, it can be successfully adapted, and often is, in educational settings as well.

It allows learners to develop skills and knowledge in a way that is responsive to real-world challenges and enables them to stay flexible and competitive in a constantly evolving business landscape.

Agile Manifesto applied to learning

The Agile Manifesto, which outlines key principles for agile software development, can be successfully applied to the context of learning and education. Here’s how:

  1. Individuals and interactions over processes and tools

In agile learning, the focus is on interpersonal interaction and collaboration. Learning environments should encourage learners to interact with their peers and instructors, fostering discussion, knowledge sharing, and teamwork. According to agile values, strict rules are the remnants of the past and hinder development. 

  1. Working software (here understood as solutions) over comprehensive documentation

Agile learning prioritizes tangible outcomes and practical skills over extensive theoretical knowledge. An agile learner should engage in hands-on projects, problem-solving, and real-world applications to develop working solutions instead of delving into theory. 

  1. Customer collaboration over contract negotiation

In the context of education, learners are the customers. Agile learning involves continuous collaboration with them to understand their needs, preferences, and progress. Courses and content can be adjusted based on their feedback. This approach is in contrast to traditional teaching, in which learners are subordinate to educators and have to follow their instructions. 

  1. Responding to change over following a plan

The Agile learning process acknowledges that change is a constant in the modern world. Curricula and learning paths should be adaptable and responsive to emerging knowledge and evolving industry demands. Learners should be able to adjust their learning goals as needed instead of following the path contracted at the beginning. 

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Getting started with agile learning for cross-team cooperation

Based on the agile values described above, consider these specific adaptations of your company learning process to foster cross-team collaboration:

Self-directed learning

Encourage learning paths where employees have (some) autonomy in selecting topics, materials, and the pace of their education. It will help them adjust their skills according to their team’s current needs.

Real-world projects

Instead of theoretical assignments, incorporate authentic projects into the learning curriculum. Make colleagues from different areas of expertise come together to pool their knowledge and skills to pursue common goals.

Knowledge sharing 

Encourage employees to share know-how and resources to leverage their combined capabilities effectively. For example, ask them to make presentations in their learning process.

Iterative progress

Agile learning methodology involves breaking down learning objectives into smaller, manageable components or sprints. Instead of lengthy, multi-month courses, divide your learning paths into 1- to 4-week chunks.

Regular retrospectives

Conduct regular feedback sessions where learners assess their progress and gather feedback from peers and mentors. Make sure you listen to their needs and make adjustments accordingly.

Data-driven decision-making

Agile learning is based on empirical evidence. Use data and analytics to make informed decisions about curriculum design, learning strategies, and continuous improvement of your teams. Make sure to involve your employees in the process. 

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A wrap-up on agile learning and development

Agile learning is a learner-centric approach that promotes flexibility, collaboration, and iterative progress. By applying agile principles to learning, educational institutions and companies can create more responsive, effective, and engaging learning experiences that better prepare learners for the dynamic demands of the modern world.