Using Agile on Homework

I recently learned about using agile management in a typical work environment where team work is done in sprints even when it’s not software. If you don’t know what agile is, you can read up on it here.

I was thinking the other day that applying agile development to homework would provide for an interesting situation. I think one of the things agile development tries to eliminate is long-term procrastination. Instead of waiting for a long time for a project to be completed, where usually most of the work will occur closer to the deadline, agile sprints shorten the deadlines so useful “widgets” will be completed sooner. I think sprints make the workload look something like below:

Now the same sort of procrastination occurs in school, especially college. The professor assigns you a term paper that is due the last day of classes and you pull an all-nighter the night before despite the fact you had all semester to work on it. Now what if you applied agile to the term paper. I will show two different examples depending on the way you’d apply agile.

Example 1

In sprint 1 you’d be required to submit an outline of the paper which would just show the paragraphs you’d have. In sprint 2, you’d have to add bullets to those paragraphs in the outline. Sprint 3 would be making those bullets into sentences. Sprint 4 could be making the paragraphs into complete paragraphs. Finally, the last sprint would be the completed term paper.

Example 2

In sprint 1, you’d complete the intro paragraph. Sprint 2 complete 1st paragraph. Sprint 3 complete 2nd paragraph. Sprint 4 complete 3rd paragraph. Sprint 5 complete closing paragraph.

 

Some professors essentially already create two sprints: the outline and final paper, or three sprints: the outline, draft, and final paper. However, if this methodology was applied to all homework, imagine how different college would be. Let’s look at math homework due in 7 days with sprint durations of 1 day with 3 parts.

Sprint 1: Determine formulas to use  for all homework
Sprint 2: Complete part 1
Sprint 3: Complete part 2
Sprint 4: Complete part 3
Sprint 5: Review homework to check for errors (quality assurance)
Sprint 6: Visit office hours to check over completed homework
Sprint 7: Make changes and turn in completed homework

This is just a concept, but applying agile methodologies to complete homework might produce better “throughput” in terms of homework completion with fewer late nights at the conclusion of the semester.

Interesting article for reducing interruptions in agile sprints: http://www.agileadvice.com/2012/01/08/scrumxplean/seven-options-for-handling-interruptions-in-scrum-and-other-agile-methods/

The Importance of Framing

I’m not talking about the framing around that diploma on your wall. Framing in the business world is giving context in a situation.

What is framing?

Framing is the way you phrase a conflict. In the business world, if there is a problem in the company that needs to be resolved, the way the problem is presented is the “frame.” In the consulting world, where “Problem, Conflict, Resolution” is a methodology for solving a problem, the frame would be how the problem is set up and presented.

Why is framing important?

Often when you enter a meeting with a senior leader prepared to present a problem that has been uncovered, the leader will probably have limited if any context around the problem. Similar to how a picture frame focuses eyes on the painting, framing the problem focuses the conversation, informing meeting attendees about the reason for the meeting. Indeed, often how the problem is framed determines whether there will be consensus on the priority of the problem resolution.

How to frame?

Framing requires an understanding of the problem and background information that needs to be conveyed. Some simple tips to keep in mind when framing:

  1. Provide the problem: who, what, where, when, why
  2. Provide the how if known
  3. Provide next steps
  4. Provide any additional information if known
  5. Be prepared to reframe the problem if someone has trouble understanding in the current frame

For more information on framing, visit: http://www.colorado.edu/conflict/peace/treatment/frame-s.htm

Higher Gas Prices in Blacksburg Compared to Richmond

I find it interesting that gas prices are relatively cheaper where I live as compared to Blacksburg, home of the Hokies.  Since I live near Richmond, I would expect the prices to be higher due to proximity to the city. Then again, because Blacksburg is essentially in the middle of nowhere surrounded by a bunch of college students, it would make sense for gas prices to be higher due to high demand combined with limited supply due to the isolation of Blacksburg.

Thoughts?

Map from: http://gasbuddy.com/gb_gastemperaturemap.aspx