Which Agile Learning Methodology is Right for Your Training Team?

Learning and development teams have really begun to sit up and take notice of the benefits of Agile. But admiring from afar and actually implementing Agile methodologies and practices are two different things.

If you’ve been thinking about adopting Agile for your training team, this guide is here to help. You’ll learn the ins and outs of popular Agile frameworks, including those specifically built for learning design and training project teams.

So, whether you’re looking for changes to existing processes for a more Agile approach, or a complete overhaul to a brand new way of working, you’ll find the right framework for you and your team. 

This article is an excerpt from the ebook: Demystifying Agile Learning: Find the Right Framework for Your Training Team.
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Successive Approximation Model (SAM)

Why it Works:

The Successive Approximation Model, developed by Allen Interactions, provides an Agile version of traditional models like ADDIE. It emphasizes repetition, collaboration, and efficiency to help overcome common pain points for training teams.

SAM takes the ADDIE process and attempts to reframe the same instructional design processes in a cyclical, iterative manner in the spirit of Agile.

The Process:


This more basic version of the two models is ideal for smaller courses or quick course updates. The process incorporates steps that you’re already familiar with but organizes the cycle of your work more iteratively.

The simple, three-step process should be used iteratively so the full team is satisfied at each step of the project that the best solution has been found. 


However, we all know that this approach is a little simplistic for some of the more significant training projects that come along. But, for those more complicated situations, SAM2 rises to the occasion.

With SAM2, there are eight steps across three phases of the project. The steps retain the iterative flavour of SAM1 while providing more structure around the overall project. 

SAM2 is comprised of eight iterative steps in three main project phases:


  • Information Gathering
  • Savvy Start

The preparation phase is intended to be quick as change can be incorporated along the way as and when it is needed.

2. Iterative Design

  • Project Planning
  • Additional Design

3. Iterative Development

  • Design Proof
  • Alpha

This is the first version of the fully completed course. 

  • Beta

This is the final version of the course with modifications based on feedback and review of the Alpha phase.

  • Gold

The course is now ready for full-fledged release..

Within each of these phases is repeated testing, feedback, and iteration to ensure the best ideas, concepts, and designs are surfaced and developed from the very beginning. 

Pros of SAMCons of SAM
Constant opportunity for feedbackLittle focus on project risk in comparison to other models
Flexibility for swift changeThe input of all team members can become overwhelming and potentially unproductive
Highly collaborative and flat structuredConstantly repetitive nature may desensitize the team to errors
Less linear and restrictive than ADDIE
Usable prototypes are quickly developed
SAM1 is ideal for short courses or existing course updates

Rapid Content Development (RCD)

Why it Works:

Also known as rapid e-learning, this model consists of a preparation phase, iterative design, reusable templates, and tools to support quick execution.

The Process:

There are some generally accepted characteristics of Rapid Content Development, including:

  • Course design projects that last 2-3 weeks
  • The use of rapid authoring tools  
  • Subject Matter Experts lead the charge and write the source content
  • A library of standard templates for creating courses

Rapid e-learning is becoming a hugely popular method with L&D teams who need a “just-in-time” approach to learning design, who rely heavily on SMEs to create content, and who need to standardize course design in the organization.

Pros of RCDCons of RCD
Lower project costsMay not be suitable as a singular approach for more complex training projects
Fast turnaround timesSMEs limited instructional design knowledge may result in weaker course performance
Respond to training requests with just-in-time learning designCourse template library only provides narrow design possibilities
Subject matter experts are leveraged for their maximum value
Better control over ongoing course updates to existing courses

AGILE Learning Design

Why it Works:

AGILE is an instructional design model that incorporates many characteristics of the Agile Manifesto and applies them directly to the instructional design process.

The Process:

Unlike Agile Learning, AGILE is an acronym for a step-by-step process designed by Conrad Gottfredson, a learning strategist and industry leader. The five steps of the AGILE instructional design model are:

  • Align
  • Get set
  • Iterate and implement
  • Leverage
  • Evaluate
  1. Align

During the “Align” phase, the focus is on scoping and evaluating business needs to ensure the final product meets them. You will estimate the resources necessary to complete the project and establish your philosophy of strategy as a “moving target.”

  1. Get set

Continuing with the decision-making process that should occur before course design begins, the “Get set” phase involves:

  • Analyzing your audience
  • Conducting a rapid task analysis
  • Defining tasks and roles
  1. Iterate and implement

Iteration is at the core of all things Agile. It means increased efficiency for your team and a better product for your end-users. During the “Iterate and implement” phase, course design begins in earnest. 

Critical tasks and structures in this phase include managing cognitive load, scoping iterations and staging implementations. Also, developing a workflow map and developing cascading levels for support for your team. 

  1. Leverage

The “Leverage” phase is all about optimizing all the resources at your disposal, including tools, people, and research. So it’s vital to analyze the needs of your team and optimize your resources to meet them.

  1. Evaluate

In order to gauge the success of your completed course design, it’s vital to put a measurement strategy in place. Include summative and formative assessments and carefully consider the assessment phase of your course design. 

AGILE is one of the more complex approaches to Agile Learning. But it is also one of the most developed and structured.

Pros of AGILECons of AGILE
Expands the reach of learning experiences beyond the individual course outcomes to business impactComplex model and processes that would require extensive change management
Identifies moments of “learning need” where L&D can provide the most valueExtremely rigid and specific
Accepts “real world” realities and helps training teams to embrace themNot suitable for courses that need to deployed quickly
Provides processes designed to be adaptive to change

LLAMA (Lot Like Agile Management Approach)

Why it Works:

Megan Torrance developed this approach in her learning solutions company, TorranceLearning. Like all Agile methodologies, LLAMA focuses on quick iterations to increase speed to market and quality of the end product. 

Agile project management is a core focus of LLAMA. So, it’s not just about your course design process; it’s about managing all the other aspects of your training project, from requirements gathering to collaboration with SMEs. 

The Process:

With the LLAMA approach, learning professionals will recognize the best pieces of some old familiar favourites, including ADDIE and CAthy Moore’s Action Mapping approach. But Torrance has pulled the whole process back to focus  on the training project as a whole, the information training project teams need in order to successfully create valuable learning experiences, and how the team should work together to accomplish their goals.

Pros of LLAMACons of LLAMA
Changes to all aspects of the project are more easily managed and incorporatedMay require significant culture shift amongst the L&D team 
A workable course is released early and improved upon quicklyMay be difficult to implement without an overall organizational commitment to Agile
Processes and output are constantly improving based on learning and real-world feedback
Errors in assumptions are identified faster and rectified 
Better project cost and timeline estimates helps to head off big problems early on in project planning

Choosing your approach

No matter which one of these approaches you take to Agile Learning, each provides it’s own benefits and drawbacks depending on your team, training demand, and organizational culture.

So, we recommend delving deeper into each one to decide on the best fit for you. And if it doesn’t work out? Don’t be discouraged. Agile Learning has great potential to benefit all training teams. You just need to find the methodologies that work best for you and your team.

Need more of an introduction to Agile Learning? Download the Beginner’s Guide to Agile Learning!

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Which Agile Learning Methodology is Right for Your Training Team?