Going agile with ‘student-as-product’ development and ‘education-as-project’ management?

Being agile in an ever changing educational landscape is key to promoting creativity, innovation, self-directedness and preparedness.  The landscape is slowly moving from providing education in whatever iterations, forms and representations as a “product” and treating students as “consumers” to packaging education as a tool and means to producing student-as-products (see David White’s view on student-as-product). What type of students do we want to facilitate and produce? Key measures and targets? Employability? Better learners? Responsible researcher? Philanthropies? After all, producing “quality-guaranteed” students should be part of any educational institutions’ business targets as these students are the “products” delivered to the world of works carrying their very branding! What product functionalities and non-functionalities should we include in the product package? How do we define “quality”?

Though general views are that we should focus on enriching learning and less on developing employability, I believe there is value in exploring this “product” concept towards introducing agility in the learning process and how this process is modelled.

Inspired from the agile project management course (foundation) I have recently completed, a “fit-for-purpose” student-as-product could be “guaranteed” if the requirement list (containing desirable features) is baselined, prioritised and reviewed during the course of the ‘student-as-product’ development (see MoSCoW prioritisation approach that prioritises requirements based on Must haves, Should haves, Could haves and Won’t haves) aligning with the “business” driver. For instance, the “Business” driver could be employablity or responsible researcher or the type of learners.  Could this be an approach that will align with views on co-designing an educational plan? Students will have the role as stakeholders of “education-as-project” together with the educators amongst others (see proposed roles in an agile setup – can we map our institutions to this model? Can we adapt some roles?).

With the agile approach of time, cost and quality fixed and agreed at the outset (the “good enough” design based on the “Must have” requirements), the student-as-product’s “features” are variables that will be prioritised (MoSCoW-ed) and reviewed in an incremental and iterative approach (see agile principles). Incremental development could include features, such as soft/hard skill-based, knowledge, etc. into timelined and iterative development processes (test early and often), which could be “released” as measurable/ tangible/ deployable solutions (e.g. placed in real operational environment – internship/placement in a local business to realise early benefits). Performance of the ‘student-as-product’ will be reviewed and will inform the next incremental stage (e.g. what features (skills, knowledge, etc) should be added as part of the product functionalities).

The estimation of each increment and detail of the requirements will get more accurate as we iteratively “engineer” the student-as-product in phases (iterative process to include identify, plan, evolve and review). Such agility is important to address potential changes and external factors (e.g. industry change, market evolution, market disruption) that will influence/dictate priorities, which could consequently produce “fit-for-purpose products/solutions” that should meet current and imminent needs (e.g. in the world of works).

Could agility in education help us be more responsive and prepared for foreseen and unforeseen disruptions?


Random update– I’m currently adopting some elements (MoSCoW, modelling, develop iteratively, incremental development from foundations, etc…) of the agile project management in one of our projects (development of a pervasive gaming approach for language learning – see concept), where the development team has been more self-directed. Next- timeboxing! Great to have an intern working on this with us!

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