Even before the sprint begins, you will need to set up the right team, develop a goal, compile resource and questions, decide on the duration of the sprint, and set up the logistics (e.g., location).
Develop a goal
For a sprint to be effective, it is important to work together to determine a goal for the sprint. Having a clear goal early will help to create a shared understanding and set of expectations for the sprint. Developing goals for the sprint is something that requires considerable attention and detail, and this process can be informed by design thinking. (For more information, check out this An Introduction to Design Thinking Process Guide [PDF].) You may wish to consider hosting a design thinking session before the sprint to work together to develop common goals.
- What resource, book, or case study will you be developing?
- Are there other resources that already exist that might be adapted rather than creating a new resource?
- How will this resource be used?
- Who will this resource be written for?
- On what platform will this resource be developed and shared?
- What process will you use to continue the development after the sprint is completed?
Set the duration of the sprint
Determine a length for the sprint. Often open resource sprints are between two and five days, but this really depends on the resource that you need to create. A good rule of thumb is to plan for six-hour days, although this can be longer.
- How long will the sprint be?
- How much can be completed/achieved within this timeframe?
- How feasible is your overall goal?
- What process will be required to complete this resource after the sprint?
Determine your sprint team
Roles in a sprint vary depending on the context, as does the number of participants. In “How to Solve Big Problems and Test New Ideas in Just Five Days” the authors suggest that the ideal number of sprint participants is six in order to come to decisions about content relatively quickly. Running an effective sprint requires both a number of content creators and a support team that may include facilitators, technical support, a librarian, and students. For more information on the tasks and duties for each of these roles, see this documentation on sprint roles.
- How many people will be involved in the sprint?
- What roles will you include? (i.e., facilitators, instructional designers, content creators, students, technical support, graphic designers)
- Who will be the facilitator(s)? Having a strong facilitator is essential for a successful sprint.
- Who will be the content creators? How feasible is it to require three to six days of their time?
- Who needs to be in the room based on your goal?
Plan the logistics
For a sprint to be successful, you will need to plan out the location and the required resources.
When determining a space for the sprint, try and find a space that is large and has movable seating so that you can use multiple room configurations. The space should have windows, as participants will be there for a long period of time, and be an area where you can minimize distractions. Consider a unique or really interesting venue, as the venue itself can help increase sprint engagement. Also, try to find a space that is separate from the day-to-day workplace of the writers as this will help avoid distractions. A unique space away from the workplace can help engage participants in the sprint process.
Make a list of all the resources that you will need for the sprint. As a sprint facilitator, you will have very limited time to gather resources during the sprint. In Appendix 4: Set Up the Sprint, we list the key materials to bring into the session.
Determine a platform
Determining which platform or tool creators will use to write can be a decision made by the group or be suggested by the organizer/facilitator. In general, when selecting a tool, you will want to find a tool that is easy to create and collaborate with and if needed, provide support or training for sprint participants before and/or during the sprint.
You will also need to decide whether you will want content to be developed in the platform where you will be publishing it. Some of the challenges of having participants work directly in the platform that you will publish the resource in may include the time it takes participants to learn a publishing tool, the inability to collaboratively create and edit content, and the lack of space to provide feedback on each other’s work.
A second approach is to meet the participants where they are at by having them write the content in a platform that they are familiar with, such as Google Documents or Microsoft Word. Once the sprint is over, or even during the sprint, the sprint organizer can assign a learning designer to copy this into the publication platform. The challenge to this approach is that it can be difficult for participants to conceptualize what the resource will look like in its final form. This can impact how they set up and organize the resource. One way to mitigate this is to include a learning designer within your sprint team to create prototypes of the content that is being created live during the session.
Below are a couple of examples of different learning platforms that you may use in the sprint for both publication and collaboration.
Suggested platforms for open publishing
Pressbooks is a book content management system that exports in multiple formats: ebooks, webbooks, print-ready PDF, and various XML flavours. Pressbooks is an excellent platform for creating high quality, open, and multimodal publications. It has collaboration features including multiple users with varying permission levels, locked editing if another user is editing a page, and collaborative annotation capabilities using the Hypothesis plugin. If participants are familiar with WordPress, they will be able to apply this to Pressbooks, as Pressbooks has been developed using the WordPress platform. Pressbooks is available at pressbooks.com and faculty/staff at British Columbia post-secondary institutions can use Pressbooks by registering at pressbooks.bccampus.ca.
MediaWiki is a free, server-based software, licensed under the GNU General Public License (GPL). It is the platform that is used by Wikipedia and can be used if your institution or organization has installed it on their servers. MediaWiki can be easily edited and participants can use Wiki markup or the visual editor fairly easily. Once created, MediaWiki is easy to edit, and it saves all content revisions. MediaWiki content can be re-purposed and embedded in other sites.
Suggested platforms for co-creation
Etherpad is a customizable, open-source online editor providing collaborative editing in real-time. You will need to host Etherpad on your own server.
Google Docs is a platform that many participants are familiar with and one that has great features for up to fifty real-time collaborators, including collaborative document writing, commenting, suggested changes, and the ability to easily add users and share.
- Jake Knapp, John Zeratsky, and Braden Kowitz, Sprint: How to Solve Big Problems and Test New Ideas in Just Five Days (New York: Simon & Schuster, 2016). ↵