Selection in Agile Learning Design

The fourth concept of PODSI (Plan, Orientation, Design, Select, Iterate) is selecting and developing the learning objects that best promotes learning. However, the selection of the learning objects in Agile Learning Design is not really about SCORM or AICC standards, but rather about providing the best learning environment that supports the Agile ethos — “Solutions that promote and speed the development of learning processes over comprehensive documentation.”

While selection might seem rather mundane at first, it's more or less the heart of Agile Design.

This means chunking the contents into the most logical units that promote and speeds the learners' ability to learn and then packaging the content into various media that provide the best delivery methods. Thus, rather than breaking the material down into the smallest possible objects and tagging it for future reuse, it must be designed with the learners first in mind. A few examples:

Media in Instructional Design


Lecturing in the classroom is over and if it is not over in your organization, then you are wasting company resources. Now that does not mean lectures are finished because they can be quite an effective and efficient means to deliver information, ideas, stories, etc. (Pascarella, Terenzini, 1991).

And it does not mean putting them in a Captivate or Articulate elearning program that locks the learners to their desk. Rather it means putting them in an audio file, such as mp3, so that they can be uploaded to a smart phone, iPod, or similar device that allows them to be portable. The research is starting to show this as the best method for delivering them (Chris, 2008; Symonds, 2009), and that learners prefer this method (New Scientist, 2009).

Reading Material

Rather than putting a lot of text into an elearning program that requires the learners to click the next button 10 to 30 times, put it in a PDF that is more suited for this type of content. This gives the learners several options for viewing it on screen or printing it if they desire, in addition to being able to add notes. PDFs also allow the use of links, videos, and audio that greatly increase their versatility.

Yes, an elearning program allows you to ask questions as the learners proceed through the click screens but you can get just as good or better effects by asking the questions at the beginning of the PDF file (or where needed) so that you preframe or cue the learner before they read the material. In one study the learners had a 10 percent better recall when they first tried to retrieve the answer before it was shown to them (Roediger, Finn, 2009).

Question and Answers

A classroom environment allows the learners to ask questions; however, there are tools that allow you to compensate for this in dL (distributed Learning) environment, such as Twitter or Facebook. These tools allow learners, instructors, experts, etc. to exchange short questions, answers, observations, etc. Does this mean we are trying to do away with the classroom? No...


Classrooms allow the learners to gain skills in task that cannot be readily accomplished in a dL environment. So why not just perform all the training in the classroom? The two main reasons are learning variability and cost. People learn at different rates, thus they need to be able to train at their own pace in order to master the material. For example, this chart shows the learning variability of a classroom session that was transformed to a dL environment (Sitzmann, Ely, 2009):

Learning variability

In theory, a classroom has to be long enough for the slowest learner to learn if you want everyone to master the material. In reality, classrooms are normally designed for the average learner, which means a large percentage of learners are wasting their time and another large percentage are not given enough time to master the material. Thus, the best environment for most learning is not in a lockstep (classroom) environment, but rather in a self-paced environment.

Secondly, classrooms are normally one of the most expensive media for learning. ISD or ADDIE is often wrongly identified as a classroom creation tool, but as one who was formally trained in it, one of the first things hammered into us was to select a different delivery option if at all possible because of a classroom's lockstep nature and cost. The real reasons for the classroom's dominant position are the instructional designers — they fail to stretch themselves to create a self-paced learning environment.

Blended Learning

This does not mean the classroom is dead as there are many things that work better in a classroom type setting. In addition, classrooms actually enhance dL in that a blended learning environment composed of classrooms and dL increase learning by an average of 11% for both procedural and declarative knowledge (Sitzmann, Ely, 2009).

There seems to be something almost magical about blending the interactive and social nature of classrooms with the self-paced environment as each can deliver specific methodologies better than the other (Clark, 2001). In addition, dL can have a attrition or drop-out rate as high as 20% as it often treats the person as a lone learner. For example, in an informal learning episode a person will interact with an average of ten people (Tough, 1999). Adding blended learning and dL provides the social aspect that we need when it comes to learning so that it does not become a lone-learning environment.


By delivering the pre-learning to the learners, a classroom type environment or similar setting can now be used exclusively for not only the required social interaction, but perhaps more importantly for activities that allow the learners to perform (doing). In addition, as our online tools become more powerful, we are able to create activities that allow the doing in a dL environment. For example, although this multiplication game is made for schools, it has an interesting engine behind it:

It's the xml file that is the most interesting because rather than having to edit the flash file, a Learning Designer with a little or no training could edit the xml file to update it or rework it for a different learning environment. A few of these types of applications would make a good addition to an elearning development library that allow activities to be rapidly built.

Building objects such as these are faster and easier than trying to incorporate everything into one giant elearning package. In addition, they can be iterated faster and are easier to fix and update. But most importantly, they consider the learners first by targeting their learning needs.


This article was first posted on my blog, Selection in Agile Learning Design, but since blogs tend to push posts to the bottom as new posts are created, I thought I would post the series on my web site where they would stay more exposed and could be updated when needed. If you have any comments on this article please feel free to comment on the blog post or email me.

Next Steps


Clark, R. (2001). Learning from Media: Arguments, Analysis, and Evidence. Greenwich, Connecticut: Information Age Publishing.

Chris, E. (2008). The effectiveness of m-learning in the form of podcast revision lectures in higher education. Computers and Education, 50, 491–498. Uxbridge, Middlesex: Centre for Educational Multimedia, Brunel Business School, Brunel University. Note: may be found at:

New Scientist (2009). ‘iTunes University’ Better than the Real Thing. Retrieved from:

Roediger, H.L., Finn, B. (2009). Getting It Wrong: Surprising Tips on How to Learn. Retrieved from:

Sitzmann, T., Ely, K. (2009). Web-Based Instruction: Design and Technical Issues which Influence Training Effectiveness. Retrieved from:

Pascarella, E.T., Terenzini, P.T. (1991). How College Affects Students. San Francisco: Jossey Bass.

Symonds, M. (2009). Turn on your iPod and learn. Retrieved from

Tough, A. (1999). Reflections on the Study of Adult Learning. Paper presented at the 3rd New Approaches to Lifelong Learning (NALL) Conference, University of Toronto: Ontario Institute for Studies in Education, Toronto, Canada. Retrieved from