Agile Learning and MOOCs

This post comes to courtesy of Kevin Raney. He blogs at “PM Nerd” and formerly at “Old Fashioned Nerd.

The future of higher learning and more specifically Massive Online Open Content (MOOC) is being driven by software developers. Let’s take this moment to apply the principles of Agile software development and apply them to learning and education. At this point, I am calling it,  Agile Learning but just like software, I am sure it will be updated and improved upon.

Also, before we go any further, I want to recognize Degreed for stepping up to the plate and figuring out a way to accredit curiosity and the different ways people learn. It is that style of thinking that is going to help the new learning revolution thrive. The way students learn is going to change dramatically in the near future and Degreed provides a tool to quickly capture what you learn and create a beautiful learning portfolio.

Back in 2001, a group of software developers were fed up with the status quo of project management which had become stubbornly rigid, linear, and could not handle inevitable change. Many projects did not and still do not deliver the value customers are looking for.

So the Agile Alliance created the Agile Manifesto:

  • Individuals and interactions over processes and tools

  • Working software over comprehensive documentation

  • Customer collaboration over contract negotiation

  • Responding to change over following a plan

This does mean the Alliance didn’t value the items on the right, it just means they valued the items on the left more. The ultimate goal was to simplify the thinking and create self-organized teams that deliver value to the customer as quickly as possible.

Now let’s apply this to learning and education. Brick and mortar institutions have become so rigid they are unable to look past their own shadows. Today a diploma is a better representation of the debt a student is burdened with rather than the knowledge he/she hoped to learn. Instead of telling students how they should learn, why not give them access to the world’s wisdom and help them discover their passion. More and more MOOC resources are becoming available on a daily basis which is why we need a way to help students capture that knowledge in a way that makes sense for a new generation. The goal of Agile Learning is to help students discover their passion as quickly as possible so they can enjoy a lifetime of learning and make a living doing what they love sooner rather than later.

So in the spirit of the Agile Manifesto, I came up with an Agile Learning Manifesto to help us begin. Let me know what you think:

  • Authenticity over policy

  • Portfolio over diploma

  • Networking over GPA

  • Adapt to reality rather than accept someone else’s plan

The items on the right may still be needed but the items on the left are valued much more. Also, in the very near future students may earn an entire undergraduate degree using only MOOC content so we need a manifesto that captures this very real possibility.

For today’s students, authenticity means more than dusty old policy. Students are people not statistics and numbers. A beautiful portfolio that represents mastery of a subject or skill is more credible than a diploma. A strong network of friends and colleagues are the keys to a successful career rather than a 4.0 GPA. Lastly, the experience of learning should help students live in the real world rather than follow the blueprint of a plan conceived in an ivory tower.

Thanks to Degreed and all of the MOOCs available at our fingertips, we are finally beginning to create a learning environment where people are rewarded for who they are rather than what we think they should be.


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