Developing an Agile-based toolkit at The Open University to support the production of online learning content

Bridgman, Sarah (2020). Developing an Agile-based toolkit at The Open University to support the production of online learning content. EdD thesis The Open University.



Higher Education (HE) in the United Kingdom (UK) is changing, prompting universities to reconsider their position in a complex and uncertain sector. This thesis argues that university business models have not evolved to become responsive to change - unlike new providers who do not have years of history, culture and process to unravel and reform. This research informed the development of an Agile toolkit, based on the Agile philosophy, to support the production of online learning content. To be used to stimulate change, the toolkit enables practitioners to reflect on their practice and offers an approach to increasing agility.

Agile is an approach underpinned by a common set of values and principles derived from the numerous software development methods that sit under the “Agile” umbrella. Outside of academia, there has been a rise in the use of Agile methods to respond to the need to speed up efficiency and innovation. A review of the literature identified a need for research that offers a multi-dimensional perspective on the implementation of the Agile philosophy in HE and in the UK, where it is still an emerging phenomenon.

To address this gap, the research used Activity Theory to explore how Agile could be implemented within an academic context to realise benefits like those gained from its implementation in the software development world. Focusing on practice within The Open University (UK), this research sought to understand:

• Which current online production practices align with the Agile principles.
• How learning organisations can implement Agile principles and practices within the production of online learning content.

Using a flexible methodological framework to collaborate with practitioners for practitioners, the research compared a variety of existing production practices with Agile. It also surfaced a desired future way of working based on what practitioners value, providing a positive foundation for change.

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