Rapid prototyping is beginning to be seen in instructional design more often. In essence rapid prototyping is the development of working samples of learning materials, especially eLearning materials, which are then evaluated and revised. In many ways, it is an approach that emphasizes the formative evaluation process that should be a core component of each instructional design project. Rapid prototyping involves getting a working prototype in front of stakeholders quickly which can help eliminate surprises and identify mistakes and clarify expectations early in the process.
Rapid prototyping can be particularly helpful when projects are more complex or for components of a project that stakeholders can’t seem to visualize. When an instructional designer is receiving feedback on storyboards and scripts but others can’t see what is being depicted it is a clear sign that a prototype is needed.
There is essentially a three-step process in rapid prototyping, create the prototype, have the prototype reviewed, and revise the prototype to match the needs of your stakeholders. Implied in this process is the imperfect nature of the prototypes, the room for failure, and the speed of the process. The prototypes should not be so “complete” that tossing them completely would cause undue stress or any stress at all.
Rapid prototyping fits nicely within the ADDIE, Dick and Carey, and other models of instructional design as a method to bridge the designing of instruction to the development of instructional materials. Including rapid prototyping can speed the process of gaining feedback and reduce the likelihood of needing to redevelop parts or whole instructional components.
The method is often discussed with the topic of Agile Development since Agile Development is a process of early delivery and continuous improvement. The Manifesto for Agile Software Development is based on twelve principles that can easily be applied to instructional design:
- Customer satisfaction by early and continuous delivery of valuable software
- Welcome changing requirements, even in late development
- Working software is delivered frequently (weeks rather than months)
- Close, daily cooperation between business people and developers
- Projects are built around motivated individuals, who should be trusted
- Face-to-face conversation is the best form of communication (co-location)
- Working software is the primary measure of progress
- Sustainable development, able to maintain a constant pace
- Continuous attention to technical excellence and good design
- Simplicity—the art of maximizing the amount of work not done—is essential
- Best architectures, requirements, and designs emerge from self-organizing teams
- Regularly, the team reflects on how to become more effective and adjusts accordingly
The agile principles primarily are a description of how people can work effectively together when developing complex products which instructional design products can indeed qualify as a complex product produced by a team of people who need to work effectively together. This is one reason why the agile principles are popular since they foster the very collaboration that instructional design requires.