The agile college

Posted on behalf of Andrew McFadyen, senior consultant for Further Education, Jisc
You may have heard of agile working, although many of us may not use it in our working day. In this new guide, Andrew shows how Jisc’s digital elevation tool can help your college work in an agile manner.

Agile methodologies and scrum processes

Emanating from processes to improve car manufacturing, agile methodologies evolved into a way of working on software releases, and ‘scrum’ processes were popularized by Jeff Sutherland and his colleagues via the ‘Agile Manifesto’. It prioritises collaboration and interactions in addition to responding to change flexibly rather than sticking to existent plans.

Using agile approaches with the digital elevation tool

This approach lends itself well to Jisc’s digital elevation tool, where different teams of staff can work on differing targets at the same time, releasing successes as and when they happen. The elevation tool focuses on five key themes:

  1. Leadership
  2. Governance and culture
  3. Learner experience
  4. Staff experience
  5. Curriculum development and underpinning technologies

Each of these has further sub-themes so a college can efficiently focus on exactly the key goals they determine as priorities. However, by utilizing an agile methodology, colleges can achieve disparate goals at appropriate times.

Scrums and Kanbans

Using Scrum techniques, a college can set up time-based sprints focusing on one of the above themes or sub-themes with different staff completing different goals, these will have regular meetings where progress is discussed and blockages to success dealt with by the team.

If you want to use a Kanban approach, this would mean setting up a visual board of things to do, things in progress and completed tasks and places importance on capacity limits so as not to take on too much.

Comparable language

The language used in the digital elevation tool is comparable (for example, ‘not started’, ‘in progress’, ‘completed’), establishing greater connections between use of the tool and agile methodologies. Also, as goals are generated from the self-assessment section, you know that you are only focusing on what is really important to you and your college at any given time, and that is where agile methods can step in to provide a frameworks for achieving these goals.

Achieving complex aims in complex environments

This flexible, fluid way of working can be vital in achieving the complex aims of complex environments as seen in further education, especially, because colleges have to, as stated by Kayleigh Hunt, senior tutor PDPC and edtech coordinator of National Star, “strive to adapt to a rapidly evolving digital landscape and meet the needs of students and staff”.

Read the full guide: The agile college

By Clare Killen

Senior consultant, Jisc data analytics

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