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Expanding educational horizons with the web

Knowledge Management

montage of hundreds of portraits

During the H5N1 Bird Flu outbreak in 2014 a truck wash in rural Minnesota became the sanitizing station for a major poultry and egg distributer located close by. Before entering the poultry warehouse every truck was required to be sanitized and inspected at the truck wash.

Originally, the employees tracked each truck manually but they soon decided to hire a programmer to write a program allowing the distributor to view the inspection outcomes online from the truck wash website. Trucks were not allowed in the distributor's docks until their inspection showed "pass" on the website.

The system was developed and worked well. Then, the programmer moved on to another job and was replaced with a web-marketing agency. The system continued, working fine for over a year, until it didn't...

Suddenly, with several semi-trucks lined up waiting for inspections, the system no longer responded. The new team that had replaced the programmer knew marketing and web development but didn't have programming experience. Anxiously, they got in touch with the original programmer who surveyed the situation and came up with a solution.

It turned out that there was a small archive program that the office manager was supposed to run at the end of each month. With a change in office personnel this task was forgotten, and the database filled up with thousands of inspection records, crashing the system. As soon as the archive program was run the problem resolved itself.

Without knowledge management, scenarios similar to this can happen at your organization.

What is Knowledge Management?

Knowledge management is a process for identifying knowledge that is critical for an organization's continuing operation.

It is an on-going process summarized as:

  1. Identifying and prioritizing potential knowledge gaps.
  2. Analyzing how the loss of this knowledge will affect the overall performance of the organization.
  3. Capturing, retaining, and revising critical knowledge in an accessible, searchable format.

The ROI of Knowledge Management

Knowledge management is similar to the data backup systems that your IT department has put in place. You don't need those backups... until you do. When a system crashes, or you've accidently overwritten a file you've worked on all week, that's when you find the value of your system backups. The same thing with knowledge management. You don't need mission critical information until a key employee is suddenly no longer available.

Organizations invest a lot of time and money in order to retain their employees. Training, a good benefit package, conferences, and up-to-date technology are all ways to maintain employee retention.

But sometimes employees leave. Imagine the following scenarios:

  1. Retirement - Several employees, in different departments, have retired. Each person had years of experience and were the go-to people for the newer employees in their departments. Although they had their quirks, you discover, too late, that they also had a lot of valuable knowledge and experience. As a result, your company has lost several large clients and one of the departments is in complete chaos.
  2. Poaching - Your key employee(s) are lured away by a competitor after being offered a salary of $200,000. What if this is your key programmer? The single employee that understands how your systems work together smoothly?
  3. Promotions - The senior purchasing agent, who has been with the company for 15 years, has been promoted and transferred to the new division in China. Even though his replacement has the highest credentials, manufacturing is complaining about serious inventory shortages. You discover this is due to the loss of the senior purchasing agent's established network of contacts and relationships. The new agent is just beginning to develop a strong personal network.

For each of these scenarios imagine how much money in time, sales, and materials is lost. This is the value of knowledge management.

Knowledge Capture at MnDOT

The MASK Model showing 6 points of view

The Minnesota Department of Transportation (MnDOT) had the foresight to capture critical information from their experienced employees. They used a technique called MASK (Method for Analyzing and Structuring Knowledge) creating knowledge books for bituminous, concrete repair, and the engineering of bridges.

The end result of MASK is a PowerPoint organizing the text, images, and videos in a single, very large file. Historically MASK has been used for very proprietary information such as the French Atomic Energy Commission and the formulas and processes for KRAFT Foods. So, the size of the file was not as critical.

However, the MnDOT wanted to make their knowledge available to the inspectors and local engineers out in the field as well as on the MnDOT website. Each Knowledge Book averaged 300 slides and took up almost one gig of space. The PowerPoint files couldn’t be conveniently viewed on a phone or tablet and they weren’t accessible to people with disabilities.

We decided to convert the PowerPoint slides into a web-based presentation using Articulate Storyline 360. This not only met MnDOT’s requirements but added features such as interactivity and basic animations.

Here is a screen shot from the original Concrete Repair Knowledge Book:
page from knowledge book showing impact of base and subgrade

Here is the same information using Articulate 360.
Articulate Storyline screenshot showing impact of base and subgrade

Click here to see the demo

Notice how the dense PowerPoint text was converted by chunking the content into two hot tabs, focusing the reader’s attention. Information common to both hot tabs is continually displayed as well.

Benefits of the Converted Knowledge Books

Here is a list of some of the benefits we’ve gained using Articulate Storyline:

Workflow Bonus

As each knowledge book was being converted we used Review 360 (part of the Storyline suite) to communicate any changes or modifications to each page. Content experts at MnDOT could view the current version of the knowledge book, using a hidden URL. Review 360 automatically made a screenshot of the page they were viewing. Even people who aren’t comfortable using new software found Review 360 easy to use.

There are two main screens in Review 360. Here is the main Review view:

Screenshot showing Articulate Storyline review tool.

This is the Feedback view showing the discussion thread for each edit. Notice how Articulate included a screenshot of each page the reviewer was working with.

Screenshot showing feedback using the Articulate Storyline review tool.

Review 360 made the editing process smooth and efficient for both the content experts and the developer.

The MnDOT Newsline February 2019 includes an article describing the knowledge books at MnDOT.

HTML & CSS Courses Now on Thinkific

logos for HTML and CSS

Two free courses, Build Web Pages Using HTML and Style Your Web Pages Using CSS, are now available on the Thinkific platform.

These modules have been used by high school and college students as part of my Web For Business courses.

Each module utilizes the power of Articulate Storyline and demonstrates many of the interactive features that are available.

You can access the courses here: Thinkific.com.

Hunkering Down

illustration showing birds perched on bare branches

I noticed the birds huddled against the minus 40-degree weather and decided to capture the day using Affinity Designer.

The Raisin Meditation

hand holding a raisin

This is a great way to introduce mindfulness and meditation techniques to a small group.

This activity takes only five minutes. The presentation walks the group through a step at a time. There are five reflection questions at the end.

Here is a link to the presentation.

Mindful In Janesville

Sunset over lake Elysian

The announcement read, “Winter Retreat – A New Year with a New Beginning with Life”. In the past, committing three days to meditation my mind would tell me it just didn’t “fit in my schedule”. However, this retreat caught my attention and I thought it might be a great way to start the New Year. I also invited my son to fly in from Tennessee to join me.

I wasn’t sure what to expect. I attend meditation classes most Monday nights and have been practicing meditation off and on for many years but this would be my first retreat experience.

The retreat was held at the Metta Meditation Center, twenty minutes from Mankato, in Janesville, Minnesota. The Center was originally run by Catholic nuns and was purchased in 2017 by Buddhist comunity. It faces west, looking across Lake Elysian, showcasing some amazing sunsets. Sunset taken at Metta Meditation Center

After picking my son up at the airport, we arrived at the Center on Thursday night. My first surprise was the solar-powered Christmas lights blinking around the round stone entrance sign off of East Elysian Road. I might have missed the turn-off otherwise. Approaching the parking area a huge concrete cross glowed against the night sky. When I asked the residence they mentioned that people from all faiths still use the Center, and they keep the cross as a welcoming symbol.

Leaving our shoes at the door, a Buddhist custom, we quickly registered and hauled our stuff up to our rooms. The Center has several meeting rooms, a kitchen, a large dining area on one end and sleeping rooms on the other. Instead of room numbers, each room has a name. I stayed in Patience and my son stayed in Self-Esteem. The women in the group stayed in the rooms on the ground floor and the men upstairs.
View of Metta Meditation Center from the ice on Lake Elysian

That evening Sathi, one of the teachers who maintain the Center, outlined what we would be doing. The retreat focused on three main activities; sitting meditation, walking meditation, and mindful eating. In between were teachings and guided discussions. Sathi asked us to observe silence as much as possible and emphasized how the retreat was designed to give us a chance to explore and improve ourselves and learn how our mind works.

Afterward, we moved to the large meditation room and began the retreat with a 45-minute breathing meditation. Most of us used the large cushions, while others used the chairs. Then, off to bed at the early hour of 9:30 pm.

I woke hearing the sound of a Tibetan Singing Bowl. A quick glance at my phone told me it was 5:45am! I hadn’t seen that time of day in a long time. A bit groggy, I headed for the meditation room wondering how the day would fare.

First activity: Mindful Yoga. Sathi walked us through several basic exercises that residents use to keep their body fit for long hours of sitting meditation. With each pose we would take in a deep breath, hold it as we struck the pose, and then, let go (often with a strong ‘humpppfff’) as we released our breath. This was immediately followed by taking in another deep breath, holding it as we repeated the stretch. It was a great way to start the day; not too strenuous, just great stretches and lots of lung expansion. After this physical warmup, we began one of several sitting meditations for the day focusing on our breath.
Meditation cushions laid out in the meditation area of the Center

Breathing meditation is simple. All you have to do is focus on your breath. Breath in. (Notice the pause.) Breath out (Notice the pause). Sounds easy, right? The problem is our mind is a trickster. It sets up a constant chatter, distracting us with thoughts, emotions, and stories. After only a few breaths I catch my mind talking about something, making me completely lose the attention to my breathing. I wander off into the story my mind is telling, mesmerized. Suddenly, I become aware of my drifting and like a tightrope walker losing balance, a catch myself and start again. Breathe in. (Notice the pause.) Breathe out (Notice the pause). Breathe in. (Notice the pause.) Breathe out (Notice the pause).

When I first started meditating, I would be good for 2-3 breaths before I got distracted. Now, after much practice, I have a much better attention span (maybe… 10-15 breaths?). This directly translates into my daily life, keeping me much more focused and less distracted no matter what I am doing.

Sixty minutes later, with the soft ringing of the singing bowl, I open my eyes (mindfully), stretch my legs, and carefully stand. It is time for breakfast! We serve ourselves and sit at the table in silence waiting patiently as each person dishes up their plate.

Normally our teachers chants an ancient prayer in Pali (the language that Buddha used for his teachings) before they eat.

However, for the retreat, we read an English translation of this prayer as a group, and then dove head first into our first meal. Well, dove isn’t really the right word. it was more of easing into the first meal, and being greeted by vibrant flavors. Following Sathi’s breakfast introduction, we ate our meal mindfully, in silence, focusing on each bite. As my mother will tell you, I am a very fast eater. I had to teach myself to eat one bite at a time, not taking another bite until I had completely finished the first. I found it helped to set my fork down in between bites and close my eyes while chewing. Breakfast was vegan and absolutely delicious, probably more so because I was eating mindfully.

This is an amazing exercise, especially when eating with a dozen other people. We weren’t focused on each other, or conversation; only our food, one bite at a time. If people ate this mindfully when I cooked a meal I can only imagine how much better my meals would taste. Walking path at Metta Meditation Center

After breakfast, we learned about walking meditation. The key is to walk slowly, focusing on each step. This can be done inside or out and is a great calming exercise. My feet wanted to race ahead until I noticed the other, more experienced participants, walking in slow motion. I reminded ‘myself’ (my mind) that I didn’t have anywhere to go, to just to focus on the walking.
footsteps in the snow across Lake Elysian

Walking mindfully really makes me aware of my surroundings. When I drive 70 mph on a freeway, I hardly notice the countryside flashing past. This is great when I need to get somewhere fast. But, I’ve found that if I later cover some of those miles on a bicycle I notice a lot more details. Hiking that same route I notice even more. And, when I do walking meditation, even though I do not cover much distance, I not only discover details of my surroundings but have time to observe my mind and can patiently work to calm its endless chatter.
Maple seeds in winter

When I was ready, I mindfully walked toward the meditation room and sat down on the soft cushions for yet another quiet, peaceful breathing meditation session. Oh wait, I forgot to mention the roofers. A few months earlier a tornado had torn through the Center, bringing down 100-year-old trees. One of those trees collapsed the roof over one of the meeting rooms. With the warmer temperatures, the contractor was anxious to finish the roofing and they were making quite a bit of noise. But, I reasoned, this was a great opportunity to practice my focus despite real-life distractions. As I began my meditation the hammering began to have sort of a rhythm. Nice. That is until they dropped another bundle of shingles, seemingly right over the top of my head. My whole body would jump in alarm. “Okay,” I’d tell my mind, “let’s start again”. That was the longest but most interesting meditation of the entire retreat! It’s like the workmen knew when my mind began to wander, dropping a block of shingles at just the right instant giving me focus.

After a delicious vegan lunch with lots of variety and options, Sathi led a discussion on mindful eating, asking for our personal observations and adding commentary based on Buddha’s teachings.

That afternoon, with the sun streaming into the windows, Gina Gafford led us through an attention-getting yoga session. As we stretched and did our downward-dogs the sun began setting. By the end of the session, the room was dim and quiet in the twilight. With the group paying attention in silence, it was magical.

For the last meditation of the day, we did a Metta Meditation. Instead of a breathing meditation as we had been doing, Sathi guided us with the following intentions “May all living beings be well, be happy, be skillful, and peaceful.” Metta in Pali means loving-kindness, friendliness, goodwill, and active interest in others. This is where the Metta Meditation Center gets its name.

What did I gain from these three days? A lot. The first full day was tough. During the hour of free time, I called my wife who asked me if I had any “aha” moments. “No nothing,” I responded, “I don’t know what I’m doing here.” But, by Sunday, when it was time to leave, things had come together, and I wasn’t really ready to leave.

This was not a religious retreat. Although Sathi referred to Buddha’s teachings, the lessons were life lessons and fit well with most religions that I am familiar with. These lessons gave me a new way to think about things such as developing my own self-confidence, having compassion for others, and understanding how my mind works to gain greater attention and focus. Oh yes, and on mindful eating.

The retreat really helped calm the racing chatter in my mind. I find I focus better on whatever I am doing. I am more observant before I speak, and I feel calmer and more relaxed. After returning home I took my dog out for our customary walk. Instead of just walking the dog I now make a point to walk mindfully. It is a whole new and delightful experience for both me and my dog.

In the past, my meditation sittings never went longer than 25 minutes. I’ve now shown myself that I can sit, focusing on my breath, for much longer. I’ve also started practicing meditation each morning which is really a great way to start the day.

Right now as I write this I’m in a busy waiting room with the background music playing over the top of a loud daytime TV show. Before attending the retreat, these things would have distracted me beyond irritation. But, since attending the retreat, I can now observe these things and just let them go, focusing on my writing. This is very cool.

How did my son do? As I took him to the airport we made up for our few days of near silence, reflecting on our weekend together and how this experience translates into our own day to day routines. Since his return home I notice that his approach to himself, his family, and his business has shifted slightly. I see him using the tools we learned approaching problems and issues with a clear mind, not getting caught up in the emotions of the moment. We are both very glad that we took advantage of this opportunity together.

This article was published in The Edge – April 2019 – The magazine for holistic living and the Mankato Magazine - May 2019

Using a Parson Problem for Interactive Assessment

Example of a Parson Problem

In his blog, Mark Guzdial highlights Parson’s Problems offer the same learning gains as writing or fixing code. Mark highlights how useful Parson’s Problems can be for interactive learning modules.

Not Just Computer Science

The article emphasizes how useful Parson Problems can be for computer science. Many other fields use this same type of learning instruction. For example, a healthcare module might use this technique to ensure students learn specific steps for procedures like taking a person’s blood pressure or drawing blood.

Increasing the Challenge with Distractors

To increase the challenge to students, add distractors. Instead of one-to-one answers, add extra items not critical to the process.

Try a Parson Problem Yourself!

Here is a sample Parson Puzzle. Students can check their learning after finishing the tutorial on using CSS Flexbox. The tutorial shows the code with examples. This puzzle summarizes the content midway through the tutorial. Notice the distractors.

You may not be familiar with Flexbox coding, so here is a screenshot of the correct order 😉

Flexbox answer to Parson Problem
Flexbox answer to this Parson Problem

For more details, read the original study, Parson’s Programming Puzzles: A Fun and Effective Learning Tool for First Programming Courses by Dale Parsons and Patricia Haden.

Articulate Accessibility Power Tips

Accessibility Checklist

I recently worked on a large Storyline project for a government agency. After the first version was finished the client ran accessibility tests and found several items that did not meet the Web Content Accessibility Guidelines (WCAG).

Here are some things that I discovered as I re-worked the project, meeting the WCAG guidelines. Following these tips will save you lots of project rework.

Use the Storyline WCAG Checklist

Articulate publishes an Accessibility Conformance Report for Storyline 360. You can find it here . Use this to make sure your project meets all of the guidelines.

I have a tendency to look at a list like this and mentally dismiss each item, "Oh yeah, that's covered." To counteract this tendency, I used the PDF version of the report, adding my own notations, explaining how each item in the report applied to the project. This forces me to think about and evaluate each item. I include this annotated copy with the revised version of the project sent to my client.

JAWS vs. NVDA

JAWS from Freedom Scientific is the gold-standard for screen readers. I originally tested the project using NVDA, a free, open-source screen reader. But, NVDA did not give me an accurate rendering of the objects on the slide. Using JAWS for testing each slide is the most accurate way to understand how the slide will be presented auditorily.

JAWS logo

Think Accessibility at the Beginning

The original version of my project looked really great with lots of gradients, different colored textboxes, fancy shadowed buttons, and nice-looking headings. However, this lowered the text contrast on every slide. This particular project had 234 slides, so I had to do a lot of rework to do on the revision.

Keep accessibility in mind before you dive into the content by utilizing themes, color schemes, and a good font choice.

Establishing the Project Color Theme

As you begin a new project, establish the color scheme including the text/background combinations. Test these using a contrast checker. WebAim offers a free contrast checking service

You need to have a contrast ratio of at least 4.5:1. (For comparison white text on white is 1:1 and black text on white has a ratio of 21:1.)

Once you have a satisfactory ratio, add these colors to your project using the Design tab/Colors/Create New Theme Colors. The top two items allow you to customize the text/background for the light background and the second two items are for a dark text/background pair. Custom2 is the default color of buttons. This page has more information on customizing theme colors.

Setting up a Default Button Style

Style buttons using the same color scheme. Once the appearance is the way you want it, right-mouse click on the button and select "Use as default". Each time you create a new button it will have this same styling, ensuring all your buttons meet the color contrast guidelines.

You can install browser extensions to check the contrast of your slides. In order to use this you'll have to publish the slide, scene, or project to HTML and then view the story.html in your browser, clicking on the Contrast Checker icon in the top bar of the browser.

Google Chrome: WCAG Color Contrast Checker
Firefox: Contrast Checker

The W C A G Color Contrast checker being used showing which text does not have high enough contrast

It is better to have the color scheme and your basic slide layouts established and tested before you start developing the course. It is easier to fix a single slide than every slide in the finished project.

Using a Storyline Template?

If you are using a template and modify it for your project, verify that it still meets the accessibility guidelines. For my original project I used the Serenity Main Menu template but modified it quite a bit, breaking the tab order and triggers. Always test a slide with JAWS to ensure functionality has not been lost. Also, some of the body text was a lighter shade of black, making the contrast too low to be acceptable.

Work Incrementally - One Slide at a Time

If you set up a slide, and it is not fully accessible, when you duplicate it, you will greatly expand the number of errors that have to be fixed later.

As an example, in my project I copied and pasted a particular button many times. The original button had the alternative text, "Hit enter to hear more about using the brass pencil test." It was quite a surprise, and a lot of rework later, to hear JAWS read this line over and over again for all those other buttons.

Tab Order Panel Workflow Checklist

Once you finish a slide, test it using the following checklist. Do this as part of your normal workflow.

Use the Tab Order panel located on the Home ribbon. This feature allows you to set a custom tab order, hide non-essential objects, as well as quickly write alternative text for any control on the slide.

screen shot showing Storyline ribbon where tab order link is located on left side Screenshot of the tab order panel
  1. Remove all the non-essential elements. This includes arrows, lines, shapes. Check for red items such as a text box describing an image that duplicates the images alternative text. The items shown on this list are for screen readers. It does not affect the visual presentation of objects on the slide.
  2. Customize the tab order. The original tab order is determined by how the objects are listed on the timeline. You can easily change the order in the Tab Order panel by selected the "Create custom tab order" at the top of the page and then clicking and dragging each item shown in the order desired. This does not change the order on the timeline.
  3. Test the slide using JAWS. Open the slide or scene using Page Review. Use the TAB key, down arrow, and ENTER to navigate through the slide objects.
  4. Verify and update what JAWS reads using the Alternative Text Column. A text box does not need alternative text. JAWS will read through the text by default. However, you may want to add more descriptive text to a button such as "Hit enter to hear more about..." and list the topic.
  5. Describe images - does the alternative text describe the image adequately?
  6. Check all the tables - Is the tab order logical. Normally the user needs to know the title of the table and each of the headings. After that, the reader should be able to tab through the columns on each row. It all depends on how the table data is laid out.
  7. Test the slide again using JAWS.

You can set the alternative text for any individual element on a slide by right-mouse clicking on it and selecting "Accessibility". However, the Tab Order panel allows you to quickly edit the alternative text for all the objects on a slide.

Checking the Slide Master

If an item is not responding or cannot be removed from the Tab Order list, it may be on the slide master. Use these steps to remove it from the Tab Order:

  1. Use the View/Slide Master to access the current master being used. It will be highlighted with a light blue background.
  2. Right click on the object and select "Accessibility"
  3. Uncheck "Object is visible to accessibility tools"

Videos

Videos pose several challenges. Here are a few techniques that will help you meet the accessibility standards.

Transcriptions

Transcribe any video using the free service, oTranscribe . It is browser-based so save your work to a text editor every few paragraphs in case the browser closes unexpectedly.

Here are the shortcut keys I use with oTranscribe open as well as your favorite text editor:
CTRL A (select All)
CTRL S (Save)
ALT TAB (switch to text editor)
CTRL A (select all currently showing in editor)
CTRL V (Paste the new text)
CTRL S (Save the document)
ALT TAB return to oTranscribe and continue transcribing

Copy and paste this transcription text into the "Notes" section of the slide holding the video.

Setting up the Player for Video Transcripts

In the Player enable the Notes option. A new tab will display next to the menu tab. This Storyline discussion offers more details.

Utilize the built-in captioning controls by checking the "Captions" options for the Controls in the Player Properties. You can also change the player tab label from "Notes" to "Transcription" in the Player Properties page using the Custom group "Aa Text Labels" option.


Settings in the Articulate Player panel to show contents of the Notes panel

This Notes/Transcription tab is not available with the lightbox trigger option. Make sure you jump to the video using the "jump to slide" action trigger.

Our team originally used the Notes section for programming notes, especially for complex slides using lots of triggers and variables. However, now that we are using this for transcriptions, we won't be doing using the Notes section for our technical notes.


screen shot showing the transcript tab next to the menu tab in the Articulate player

Utilizing the Text Zoom Settings

While you are in the Player Setup double-check to make sure the project is using the Modern Player. This will be added to Storyline sometime in 2020 allowing users to enlarge/reduce text size using the built-in browser zoom settings: CTRL + and CTRL -.

Closed Captions

I use Camtasia to create an .srt file with closed captioning text and timings, importing it into the embedded video in Articulate Storyline. However, you can also use the closed captioning editor in Storyline itself. Here is a link showing how to use this built-in panel.


The video settings on the Storyline ribbon once a video object is selected

Summary

Step-by-step videos and sample pages on using the tab order panel and creating an accessible transcript for videos can be seen in this live preview.

Here is a copy of the demonstration Storyline file (accessibilityDemo.story - 472MB) that you can use to see the actual settings.

Two big take-aways:
Listening to your course, using a screen reader, gives a new perspective to your work. Following these tips will improve your product quality as well as greatly reduce project rework.

  1. Work incrementally by testing each slide and edits using JAWS.
  2. Make Tab Order your friend. Incorporate the Tab Order panel in your normal workflow.

The Articulate team has put together several resources on accessibility.

Articulate Storyline 360 - Highlights

Articulate Storyline Logo

I use Articulate Storyline 360 with Amanda Bell, another instructional designer. This is the newest version of Articulate. The software is now more cloud-based and it is very well designed. It allows fast development with a very professional look and feel. The learning modules created with Articulate are responsive, working on all devices.

I thought it would be helpful to others to see a list of the features that Amanda and I really appreciate and use on a regular basis.

Articulate Storyline Tools

There are three main software apps for different levels of development:

The interface between all these tools is very consistent and fluid.

Other Built In Development Tools

The Articulate Storyline Community

Articulate has a huge community of thousands of active eLearning developers. The ability for course developers (and stakeholders) to work together using the Articulate Review.

Use Articulate Storyline to Increase Student Interaction

Use Articulate Storyline to Assess Student Learning

The Articulate ecosystem allows the developer to focus on the content, not on the mechanizations.

If you have access to Storyline 360, check out the automated step-by-step tutorials that you can easily make from screen capture videos. Here is a three-part tutorial showing all the details.

Battleship: Waterfall Design vs. Agile

sailors playing Battleship

The classic game of Battleship has been repurposed to demonstrate the effectiveness of agile methods.

Mark Suurmond has created a simulation, available on GitHub, that allows programmers and students to experience the difference between the waterfall design process and the agile process.

When the simulation first displays it is set to 40 iterations. The player has to guess where on the board the ships are located, but doesn’t find out until the last attempt is finished.
Board play after 40 moves

There is some success, but also a lot of wasted effort, much like we often experience when developing a project using the waterfall method.

On the second trial, the programmer gets feedback after every attempt. This would be like having the client at your side each time you wrote a bit of code. The finished product is much more “on target”, much like we experience when using agile methods.

The third and fourth trial is run, getting feedback every 5 iterations, and then every 10. Running this simulation the programmer can gain an appreciation of constant feedback vs. getting regular feedback after multiple iterations. It isn’t always possible to meet after every programming decision is made.

the board after 1 move

Here is a lab guide you can use with your own students or programming team: Lab: Battleship Waterfall vs. Agile (PDF)


Photo courtesy of Wikipedia. US Navy 100530-N-2798F-011 Aviation Ordnanceman Airman Justin Stout and Aviation Electronics Technician Airman Anthony Bertolino spend their break playing the game Battleship aboard the Nimitz-class aircraft carrier USS Harry S.jpg