Getting it Done Yesterday: Rapid Development for Shocking Deadlines

Concurrent Session 8
Streamed Session

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Session Materials

Brief Abstract

What does a development team do when they discover that endorsement changes mean creating 17 new courses in less than three months to ensure all graduates can receive teaching licenses? How did this challenge become a growth opportunity for the team at WGU to create an effective rapid development process?


Leslie is an instructional designer with 8 years of instructional design and online learning experience in K-12 and higher education. Currently working for Western Governors University, she has previously taught in higher education, provided design services for educational companies and institutions, provided professional development for K-12 teachers, and taught elementary school. Leslie has a Bachelor’s degree in Elementary Education, a Master’s degree in Instructional Technology, and is currently a doctoral student in an EdD of Curriculum and Instruction program.

Additional Authors

Lesley Reilly is an experienced online course facilitator and instructional designer at Western Governor’s University. For twelve years prior to joining WGU, she worked for EdTech Leaders Online (ETLO) helping clients understand and meet their educational needs by drawing from her experience as a classroom teacher to design and develop meaningful learning experiences online. She has a M.Ed from the Harvard Graduate School of Education and a B.Ed from the University of Michigan.
Samantha Coen is a Program Architect at Western Governors University. She has 11 years of experience in online course design and development as an instructional designer in both higher education and corporate settings. Samantha has proven experience in designing online programs, creating interactive learning environments, and implementing adaptive learning solutions. She holds an MS in instructional design and is presently a doctoral candidate specializing in instructional design for online learning.

Extended Abstract

An instructional design challenge faced in EdTech is implementing a process that allows for innovation, quality, and collaboration, while meeting strict deadlines.  Throw in remote cross-functional teams, and we are faced with the additional challenge of collaborating effectively to stay on schedule, stay within scope, and to deliver quality courses.

In spring of 2017, the Teacher’s College at Western Governors University, a competency based institution, learned that multiple programs would require new courses in order to ensure graduates in every state could receive their teaching licenses. With a seemingly impossible deadline only three months away, the team needed to find a way to implement a rapid development process that would result in the creation of 17 new, quality courses so that all students could complete their programs and receive certification. In order to meet the challenge, teams comprised of instructional designers, curriculum program managers, SMEs, and vendors utilized collaborative tools and strategies to implement an AGILE design process to develop courses in math, literacy, and science that adhered to our quality standards. The instructional designers used several different platforms to deliver the content to students.  Despite the various platforms, the AGILE and collaborative process was consistent across the development of the many courses that covered various disciplines.

The cross-functional design and development team consisted of project managers, instructional designers, program managers, subject matter experts, and assessment. To help keep everyone on track and cognizant of looming deadlines, project managers utilized Google Sheets to develop a collaborative timeline spreadsheet. Each week, in AGILE style check-in meetings, team members were able to quickly update and see the “big picture” of timelines using the shared sheet.

At WGU, our courses are designed around the key competencies that our students need in order to be successful in the classroom. Since WGU is a competency-based university, our  design process is somewhat unique.  We begin with the collaborative development of competencies and the learning objectives that scaffold up to each of those competencies.  Collaborative tools like Google Sheets allow subject matter experts, program managers and instructional designers the opportunity to collaborate synchronously and asynchronously on the development of the competencies and the objectives that serve as the building blocks to the course development.  During our session, we will model how the instructional designers at WGU run competency workshops, allowing you the opportunity to attempt to design and frame high level competencies that can serve as the backbone for new course development.  Sharing on a web-based collaborative bulletin board like Padlet will allow you the chance to see each other’s ideas as they are generated and shared in real time.

During our presentation we will discuss our “master verb list’ which helps to guide the instructional designers as we write meaningful learning objectives.  You can also take a stab at the WGU approach of aligning learning objectives to competencies.  We will share a course planning document that we designed as a result of this rapid development project and we will solicit your feedback about your methods and experiences that can help us to improve our design process.   

Competency based courses allow students to progress through course content asynchronously but this can sometimes make it hard to ensure that students are engaged in the course content and mastering the key knowledge and skills.  The tight timeline made it even more challenging to develop course elements that allow for deep interaction, reflection,  and formative assessment.  One solution was to utilize the formative assessment tools within the platform to incorporate brief knowledge checks throughout the content.  In addition to sharing our efforts to ensure student engagement, we will also take the opportunity to learn from you about the methods and strategies that you use to engage students in online environments.  

You are likely to wonder how we were able to ensure quality when developing so many courses in such a short period of time, but we can explain our iterative quality assurance process that ensured that all of the courses met our high standards.  

We did it. Have you? WGU took this challenge as a growth opportunity to identify gaps in current processes and where improvements could be made for a more efficient and effective rapid development process to use as a standard. Now that we have implemented this rapid process, we are in the process of reflecting on the successes, failures, and how to improve future course design processes. We want to provide you with tips and tricks of what worked for us, and get your professional perspectives on what you have done and where improvements can be made. The ultimate goal is that our learners have the highest quality learning experience, so what can we do as professionals to get from point A to point B in the most efficient and effective way possible, without stifling innovation and quality.

Instructional designers, product developers, curriculum directors, faculty members, and anyone involved developing courses in higher education environments will benefit from hearing about the successes and lessons learned from this rapid development challenge. In this session, semi-structured questions will be posed to the group to facilitate discussion. We will openly discuss how:

  • Applying the AGILE method of development makes eLearning design more efficient and effective.

  • To maximize the potential of collaborative tools to effectively work with a variety of stakeholders and minimize the need for multiple long meetings.

  • Iterative editing and quality assurance practices ensure course quality when developing courses in a short time frame.

  • Rapid development can be successful in a variety of course management systems or within different third-party platforms across disciplines.

In this session, you will take away:

  • Lessons learned from our experience,

  • A high-level outline of the process,

  • Templates to use, and

  • Discussion points from a group discussion.