An Agile Hypothesis Sprint: what do we know about learner performance?

Team photo at hotel

OER Research Hub team away day (June 2013)

The structure for the research for OER Reserach Hub is built around 11 hypotheses that we are testing through our work with collaborating organisations, fellowships and background studies. We are now at a stage where the collaborations are well underway and surveys are producing data and we want to bring together the views from the team around the hypotheses and reflecting on our research.

On an away day at the beginning of June we took some lessons from Agile Programming to become Agile Researchers and carried out an Hypothesis Sprint, involving Sprint Boards, T-shirt sized tasks, burndown velocity and mini-scrums!

Rob's hand holding Smartie box

The all important Smartie box that says who talks in the Scrum

Guided by Martin we picked one of our hypotheses and focused in on achievable tasks, reporting quick progress and then getting a reasonable result all in one morning. The method appears to work well and if it does give us more of what we need then expect we will expand on that and how we manage to sustain it in future posts. (If you cannot wait then a search for Agile Programming or eXtreme Programming will generate plenty of starting points to look at the approach.)

The product is the true test of effectiveness. At the end of the morning we had a shared document with examples from half-a-dozen different areas plus a list of further sources to explore on our Sprint backlog. We have refined this a bit  as a team to develop a shared document that offers items that support (or question) the statement: OER improves student performance/satisfaction. This will be coming soon as the first entry in a new hypothesis section on the website. We then plan to sprint through the other hypotheses as a way to help meet our deliverable target of a report reflecting on our research findings for release in September.

In my view the Sprint was a great success for us as a team. We think it would also work as a way to bring in other voices so with a bit more practice we should be ready for some open-sprinting :-).

OER Research Hub – getting started

OER Research Pack

The OER Research Hub is now three months in but its start still seems such a short time ago so it is worth reflecting on some things that have happened and are happening:

  • the team is building. The research team is now recruited. The first Research Associate, Rob, was able to start straight away, and Leigh-Ann started at the beginning of December. Both Beck and Bea will join in the New Year. Our project coordinator Claire also stated in December. Interviews are planned for the Collaborations Manager, in the meantime Patrina Law has taken that on as an acting role alongside the oversight she gives in her core role in IET. The developer post will be appointed later.
  • planning and methodology. The hypotheses set out in the proposal have shown themselves to be a good set, though we may need to expand on what we mean in a couple of instances. The overall methodology of working with collaborators has been expanded and we are working through that as new people joining the team.
  • collaborations. All eight of the collaboration areas have been in contact and look like they *will* work in practice. This is good as I had thought we would end up finding that we needed to change one or two once we tried to firm up on the ideas in the proposal. We are also finding quite a few willing volunteers for fellowships from beyond the projects which will help keep results relevant.

In addition we were able to take advantage of a strong OU presence at OpenEd12 in Vancouver to kick things off and distribute invitations to connect with research beyond the boundaries.

And we have a logo!!

So plenty to do but we are on our way.