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Kan’t ban

March 21, 2015

Injecting Agile into Group Projects (part 4)

"Kanban Yoda", by G.Dugas, is a derivative of "Do or do not... there is no try" by Christopher Michel, both licensed under CC BY.

“Kanban Yoda”, by G.Dugas, is a derivative of “Do or do not… there is no try” by Christopher Michel. Both works licensed under CC BY.

The Kanban board can be a terrific Agile tool for managing group tasks. Unfortunately, many student projects are ill suited to group work. Sometimes they cannot be easily broken down into discrete tasks or, when they are, take more effort to complete than if done by a single person. Or dependencies are so strong that one task can hold up everything else until it has been completed, causing backlogs. In such cases, even a Kanban board can’t help.

I believe that an assignment must include a balance of the following key elements to be considered a legitimate group project:

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March 21, 2015

Injecting Agile into Group Projects (part 3)

photo credit: <a href="">Shunting</a> via <a href="">photopin</a> <a href="">(license)</a>

cropped photo: Shunting via photopin (license)

Collaboration can be a powerful catalyst:

Two heads are better than one.”
Many hands make light work.”
No manager ever won no ballgames.”

But optimum group performance is a function of how adaptable its members are in the face of unforeseen challenges, how smoothly they can adapt to change. So we move to the fourth pillar of our Group Project Agile Manifesto: responding to change over following a plan.  Read More →


March 13, 2015

Injecting Agile into Group Projects (part 2)

image of Leaning Tower of PisaToyota logoWith its roots in lean thinking as pioneered by Toyota, the Agile Manifesto expresses a project management philosophy and values that have underpinned software development for the last 30+ years. In my opinion, a few simple changes to that canon make it just as applicable to a wide variety of other group endeavours, from e-Learning development to, as in my case, students in a group project environment:

Group Project Agile Manifesto

  • Individuals and interactions over processes and tools
  • Working software Application over comprehensive documentation
  • Customer collaboration Clear expectations over contract grade negotiations
  • Responding to change over following a plan

That is, while we do value the items on the right, we value the items on the left more.

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Opting for Brain Candy

March 12, 2015

Injecting Agile into Group Projects (part 1)

Image by touchstone What is it about group work that drives so many students batty? Let me share some of my thoughts on the subject by way of a case study. I teach an Intro to Business course whose mandatory project component requires that teams of 4-5 students work together to submit weekly assignments. We started with the whole group charter thing, defining norms, expectations, etc. But by week # 6, one week before mid-term exams, four of the five groups were almost at blows. Some members were not participating (or even showing up). The quality of submissions was, to be kind, spotty. The stronger students were upset with the group marking, feeling they were (as usual) doing most of the work. Weaker students were by and large disengaged. In short, nobody was happy (myself included). That’s when I hit the brakes, vented a bit, and told everybody that group work was suspended until after exams. Something had to change. Read More →

“Agile” Instructional Design

March 9, 2015

Scrum Diagram

By Mountain Goat Software (Mountain Goat Software) [CC BY 2.5 (], via Wikimedia Commons

There is a growing interest in all things “Agile”, including in the learning design space. Purists reserve the Agile label for a set of lean project management methodologies and tools (e.g. scrum), while the instructional design community often expresses agility in other terms. Courses and workshops that apply Agile principles to instructional design are still scarce, but the discussion in eLearning circles is vibrant and should result in a broader suite of offerings over the next couple of years. One good example is the Masie Learning Consortium’s  On-the-Job Learning (OJL) LAB & Seminar led by Bob Mosher & Conrad Gottfredson. Though by no means mutually exclusive, they are nonetheless different perspectives on agility, nicely summarized by Megan Torrence in her post, All Around Agility, which I expand upon below.

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