The William and Flora Hewlett Foundation funded OER Research Hub is an ambitious project which combines research collaboration with existing OER initiatives; an international fellowship program; and a global hub for research data and excellence in practice (McAndrew & Farrow, 2013). Managing and co-ordinating a project of this scope raised a number of challenges. The project team sought to blend a traditional and agile project management environment to create the most responsive, flexible and creative hybrid environment possible to accommodate the project’s ambitions, while maintaining the Institute of Educational Technology’s (IET) reputation for the delivery of high quality research.
Our traditional approach requires significant upfront planning with clearly defined tasks and activities undertaken to deliver individual products (PRINCE2, 2009). This method assumes that activities are predictable and well understood, and are linear in their delivery. Even though clear direction and requirements were specified in the project’s original proposal, the very nature of open research requires you to seek out and reveal unique insight and possibilities often in non-linear and unpredictable ways.
Agile project management methodologies prominent in software and IT development (Hoda et al, 2008) were co-opted into research and project management. The ‘scrum’ approach that we used consists of many rapid initiative planning and development cycles, allowing the project team to constantly evaluate the evolving product and obtain immediate feedback from users or stakeholders. When we looked at what our researchers were being tasked with and how they were being asked to undertake that work, a great deal of similarities were identified with the agile methodology. Our evolving product was our research data; our stakeholders were collaborations and the open education community; and we needed to know if our research was providing the answers that they required in order to inform their policy decisions. The adapted ‘agile’ methodology allowed us to focus on specific problem areas, to be flexible and to follow where the research led.
This presentation will discuss the blending of the planned and ‘agile’ approaches, how this was managed and what the blended approach gave us in terms of improved quality of research in open education.
Hoda, R., Noble, J. & Marshall, S. (2008) Agile Project Management, published in the proceedings of the New Zealand Computer Science Research Student Conference 2008, April 2008, Christchurch, New Zealand, pp. 218-221
Managing Successful Projects with PRINCE2: 2009 Edition, Office of Government Commerce (OGC), London
McAndrew, Patrick and Farrow, Robert (2013). The ecology of sharing: synthesizing OER research. In: OER 13: Creating a virtuous circle, 26-27 March 2013, Nottingham.