No Prob-LLAMA!: Implementing Iterative Curriculum Development Process

Concurrent Session 7

Brief Abstract

No Prob-LLAMA! Those in higher education and the curriculum development industry know the obstacles that derail projects, i.e. missed deadlines, unclear expectations, and ever-changing priorities. This discovery session will benefit administrators, design thinkers, and training professionals who are considering adopting agile project management for curriculum projects.


Educational thought leader with extensive experience in instructional and curriculum design. My background includes delivery and design of effective curriculum and training methods for faculty development and to improve student outcomes performance in higher education, vocational, and K-12 environments. I am looking forward to meeting you at OLC!
Dr. Holly Rick is currently Core Faculty in the PhD Management program at Walden University. In her role she focuses on teaching, program development, and research. Her research focus has been on career studies, information literacy and assessment. Her doctorate is in Organization and Management minoring in Leadership studies from Capella University. Holly Rick was the Research and Assessment librarian for the University of Phoenix. She managed the document delivery service and interlibrary loan process, manages the process for electronic reading reserves, and supports the faculty research for the School of Advanced Studies. Prior to this role, she was the Campus College Chair for the School of Advanced Studies in Business. She has taught in higher education for the past 10 years, has mentored students through their graduate and doctoral research, and is the owner of an Arizona based company. She sits on the professional development committee for the Mountain Plains Library Association and publishes within library and business conferences around how libraries can partner with others to promote professional development, building portfolios around professional development, and around the use of anxiety for persistence for online education.

Extended Abstract

Goals/Learning Outcomes:

  • Participants for this workshop will walk away with tools to implement agile development methods for curriculum in their organizations.
  • Participants will learn the best practices for change management and how to scale innovations in process changes.

Extended Abstract:

No Prob-LLAMA! Those in higher education, K-12, and in the curriculum development industry are all too familiar with the obstacles and roadblocks that can derail a curriculum development project, i.e. missed deadlines, unmet and unclear stakeholder expectations, and ever-changing priorities, etc. This discovery session will benefit administrators, design thinkers, institutional support, and training professionals who are considering adopting an agile project management process for curriculum development projects. The aim of this discovery workshop is to share our contextualized experiences, add to the knowledge base of curriculum design and development processes, and to provide general recommendations.

This session begins with a definition and explanation of a LLAMA (Lot Like Agile Management Approach) curriculum development.  This will help establish a foundational knowledge of the LLAMA method used in the study while helping the participants understand why we selected this method was selected and lessons learned.


University of Phoenix needed a solution to combat project saboteurs and started strategic planning exploring various agile project management methods that technology industries commonly employ. For more than a decade, the University of Phoenix used the ADDIE method (Analysis, Design, Develop, Implement, and Evaluation) as a basis for course design.  While the origins of the ADDIE model are unclear, recent literature accepts the term as an umbrella term that is adapted and interpreted differently (Molenda, 2015). Traditionally, the ADDIE model is a linear waterfall method that emphasizes the progression through the five sequential phases (Minaya, 2016). Studies show that ADDIE is the most commonly used process for the design of online instruction because it provides a framework that shares a common language amongst team members and keeps the team focused on the same takes. (Soto, 2013). ADDIE provides a process as well as a model. However, studies show that designers report that due to time constraints, they are unable to complete all of the steps (Soto, 2013) The typical design process at University of Phoenix averages 13-19 weeks of design and development which does not include time from implementation to user experience. Frequently, the evaluation stage is rushed or missed. As a consequence, the expectation of students and faculty to see more rapid implementation of course improvements drove leadership to explore other development models. Additionally moving from an in-house learning management systems (New Classroom) to Blackboard Ultra provided the right opportunity and timing to pilot agile development models.

An additional criterion for adopting a curriculum design model was the ability to apply backwards design. Backward design is an approach to designing curriculum that begins with the end in mind (Wiggins, 1998). The stages of backward design include identifying desired results, determining acceptable evidence, and planning the learning experiences and instruction (Fox & Doherty, 2012). Backwards design has been popular in the tech industry as has agile and lean development models. 

For these reasons, University of Phoenix began to explore iterative, agile, approaches to curriculum development. Ultimately, the LLAMA was selected because of the flexibility of iteration sequencing was a better fit for team roles and external process factors that would influence the curriculum development process.

Research Questions:

  1. How does a LLAMA development process affect efficiency of the curriculum design process?
  2. How does a LLAMA development process affect the quality of course design and course materials?
  3. How does a LLAMA development process affect end-user satisfaction of course content, materials and design?

Agile development models are often adopted to react to the changing needs of the market to react quicker and provide more flexibility (Castro et al., 2012). University of Phoenix faces a hurdle in replacing the monolithic linear model with an agile method that is already scaled for a large university. Currently, than 2000 courses across schools and colleges are in the University’s portfolio for revision. The agile model will need to be immediately scalable for many types of projects including, full course revisions, focused revisions, and institutional design projects.

Further complications to consider is newly restructured design team with new senior and direct leadership which resulted in ongoing and prolonged change for many months.  Change managements and change fatigue are concerns for implementation.  The restructure and new leadership had already provided a significant change in the institutional culture. To maximize the collective benefits of the agile method and foster change sustainability and change management model is adopted concurrently. For this study, the curriculum leadership team adopted the ADKAR method (Awareness, Desire, Knowledge, Ability, Reinforcement). The ADKAR method develops a protective reaction to employees coping with change.  This method identifies barriers points at the various stages of the change process that may prevent the change from being successful (Castro et al., 2012).  By adopting the ADKAR change management method concurrently with the agile method, the curriculum team is ability to identify solutions at each stage of the change process.



To begin the pilot, leadership and researchers in a cross-institutional collaboration selected a curriculum development project the School of Advanced Studies in the University using the LLAMA development method. The pilot employed a modified agile method which utilizes the current roles and resources allocated to project development. The pilot employed the LLAMA and aspects of a modified SAM model (Successive Approximation Method) for a doctoral level information system technology course. The pilots determined if bite-sized, rapid, iterative development methods could achieve the desired outcomes for full course (top to bottom) and program revisions, focused revisions (revision of a course element) and integration of multimedia, and could be scaled for many University initiatives. The pilot leverages new innovative technology for project management and reinvents older technology for new purposes.


At this time, the study is in progress.  The project manager and owner identified 6 requirements for the course revision, which are prioritized based on “must have,” “should have,” and “could have.” The revision is in process. The course have been through a kickoff and a savvy start in the LLAMA model. Check-in and assessment meetings to evaluate the pilots are ongoing until the project completion, expected November 2018.  Data for the pilot will be triangulated with a time study from design to implementation for each of the projects compared to a traditional format, a questionnaire regarding the satisfaction of the team and leadership  regarding workload and efficiency of the process.  Feedback from stakeholders, including students, faculty, college approvers etc. on the quality of the product will be reviewed upon completion of the project.

Conclusions from the findings of the study will determine which method is most appropriate for various types of projects and inform the change management plan is used to proceed with scaling the process across the university curriculum.

Discussion and Implications

The aim of this educational workshop is to share our contextualized experiences, add to the knowledge base on curriculum design, and to provide general recommendations. We would like to open the workshop for discussion with the participants regarding their thoughts on the study and share their best practices.

Questions for Q&A:

  • What curriculum development methods are you using at your institution?
  • What is working? What is not?
  • What is your experience with agile methods?
  • What can we learn from each other about the best practices for curriculum development processes?


Best practices; LLAMA; change management; cross-institutional teams; evidence of practice; implementation; infrastructure; initiatives; innovate; institution; institutional change; institutional culture; institutional effectiveness; institutional strategies; instructional design; integration; leadership; management; organization; planning; platforms; quality assurance; resistance to change; scale; stakeholders; strategic change; strategic planning; strategy; technologies; workload


R. H., & Allen, M. W. (2012). Leaving ADDIE for SAM: An Agile Model for Developing the Best Learning Experiences. Association for Talent Development.

Hogle, P. (Sept. 30, 2016). Waterfalls or Whirlpools: Why Use an Instructional Development Model? Retrieved from

Hiatt, J. (2006). ADKAR: A model for change in business, government, and our community. Loveland, CO: Prosci Learning Center Publications.