In the past, the production of learning materials, learning paths and training was always time-consuming and resource-intensive. In a process that lasted for months, the training was planned, the learning content was created from start to finish, and then made available to the learners. The effectiveness of the training could usually only be evaluated afterwards, and that again with very limited meaningful methods like "happy sheets". The answer to the dynamic working world of the 21st century is thus not rigid, traditional training programs, but agile learning.
Unlike traditional learning methods, where learning material is often static and presented in fixed courses or programs, agile learning allows for constant updating of learning material and learning paths to tailor them to learners' prior knowledge and needs. Learning content is presented in small, modularized units that allow learners to choose their own pace and set their own learning goals.
Agile learning also emphasizes the importance of feedback and collaboration. Learners receive regular feedback from their coaches, peers, and even themselves (e.g., self assessments) to review their progress and adjust their learning. Collaboration and sharing with other learners can also leverage different perspectives and experiences to improve and extend learning.
As described in the introduction, the effort required to create learning materials, learning paths, and trainings was enormous and took a very long time. This rigid, lengthy process from creation to implementation to evaluation provides little feedback. It takes a long time to adapt content to the constantly changing needs of learners. In other words, this form of corporate learning is inefficient.
The effort required to create learning content is high, and learners often need to be physically present for training sessions. As a result, traditional learning processes are not only costly, but can hardly keep up with the dynamic demands of the "new economy”.
Agile learning, in contrast, promises much shorter production cycles, where newly created learning content can be integrated directly into existing learning paths and skills without having to wait for an entire course to be completed. This enables rapid testing and adaptation of materials in the field. Continuous feedback cycles also enable learning to be tailored to the needs of learners and the organization as a whole.
By making learning content available digitally, training can be more easily integrated into employees' daily lives and made available for use "on demand." Learning success can be precisely tested, creating dynamic, demand oriented feedback cycles.
But let's take a step back to understand agile learning further.
Agility is a method used in project management, among other areas, to respond quickly to change and address customer needs. In concrete terms, agile means that teams work in short cycles consisting of planning, execution and feedback and can thus respond flexibly to constantly changing requirements.
Agile methods originated in the field of software development and were first developed in the 1990s by a group of programmers as a reaction to the rigid, sequential process models that prevailed at the time. The best-known agile concept is the so-called "Agile Manifesto", which was published in 2001 by representatives of the agile movement and is now considered the fundamental document for agile software development. Since then, the agile method has expanded to many other areas such as marketing, project management and, as in our case, L&D.
The application of Agile principles to corporate learning thus laid the foundation for agile learning. This forms a learning approach that focuses on flexibility, adaptability and continuous feedback to respond faster to the changing needs of learners and the organization.
Depending on individual needs, organizations can use agile principles to varying degrees. Some L&D teams, for example, work like agile product teams from software development with sprints and the associated planning, implementation and reflection phases.
But this is not a must, you can also start with smaller steps and still benefit from agile learning - especially if agile ways of working are still new to you. Three building blocks are crucial for this: shortening feedback cycles, regularly gathering feedback from your customers (i.e., learners), and adapting learning based on this feedback. The more structured, faster and customer-focused this is, the better.
Follow the 3 steps explained below to implement agile learning in your company.
The learning process follows several short, repetitive cycles consisting of planning, implementation and reflection. The findings from the previous reflection are incorporated into the planning of the next cycle together with newly designed requirements. In this way, irrelevant content can be quickly excluded, missing content can be added, and new, more purposeful learning paths can be taken. Precise iterations thus ensure continuous improvement of the respective learning programs.
Usually digital learning solutions offer the possibility to capture the feedback that accumulates during a sprint directly in the system. Thus, the various points can be used directly for improvement in the context of the next iteration.
Agile learning is demand-driven and is based on the current or future demand for skills in the company. Which knowledge and skills are needed, must be determined with relevant stakeholders and communicated transparently to the organization. Through constant feedback from learners and affected business units, learning paths can also be aligned so that employees can apply their (new) skills where they are needed.
This has two benefits: First, the highly adaptable nature of agile learning allows organizations to respond to changing internal or external requirements. For example, if a business unit wants to implement new software, you can flexibly train your employees in the project management skills required for this and, in a second step, in the use of the software itself.
Second, demand-driven agile learning increases employee engagement and retention. Agile learning methods enable a more engaging and interactive learning experience by allowing learners to set their own learning goals and thus grow in the direction they choose.
To find out which skills will be most important in the future, read our blog on the most in-demand skills in 2023.
Using feedback from participants to measure satisfaction with training is an important basis for continuous improvement. But to holistically measure the success of L&D measures, you should do more than simply collect feedback.
For example, activation rates (i.e., how many learners start the training) can capture the overall demand for the learning content well. In most digital learning programs, you can also measure at what points learners leave the learning path to gain insight into thematic breaks or irrelevant content. The number of completed quizzes (and the rate of correct answers) also provides important information about the success of learning units. By measuring metrics such as average learning time and the duration required to complete learning paths, you can further optimize the timing of learning units to ensure fluid integration into everyday work.
Using the different perspectives on learning that these and other metrics give, agile learning can be progressively tailored to the needs of the organization and learners.
Agile learning offers an excellent opportunity to make the learning experience more engaging for learners and better tailored to the individual. This increases engagement and sustainability of trainings. When learners have content curated just for them, it increases engagement and the chance to apply the newly learned skills in practice. But there are many other new trends and methods to apply in the L&D world to keep improving learning programs. Therefore, sign up for our newsletter with which you can discover new, exciting as well as educational content.
edyoucated is funded by leading research institutions such as the Federal Ministry of Education and Research (BMBF), the Federal Institute for Vocational Education and Training (BIBB), Federal Ministry for Economic Affairs and Climate Action (BMWK).