Concept Note: The GO-GN Sprint

One of the things we are always keen to explore in GO-GN is the ways in which we can leverage the power of the network to make a difference for its members. Building on some of our experiences with collaborative authorship in the last phase and a more general sense of informal support for each other’s activities, we wanted in this phase to experiment with ways of cordinating network activity.

The purpose of this concept note is to propose the utilization of the “sprint” concept in a research context for the Global OER Graduate Network. Inspired by agile methodologies and popularized by the design thinking framework, sprints offer a structured approach to accelerate research progress, enhance collaboration, and promote iterative development. This concept note outlines the key elements of incorporating sprints into the research process and highlights their potential benefits for researchers and research teams as a form of open educational practice.

What we aren’t trying to do is introduce a kind of tech-bro slave driver culture (which I don’t think would work anyway). So we don’t anticipate using the kind of formalised scrum method with its own jargon and assumptions. But we do want to take the idea of timebound, co-ordinated activity and see if we can refine the way we do it and make it more effective.

Sprinting for Researchers

The primary objective of implementing the sprint concept in research is to streamline and optimize the research process, allowing for rapid progress, increased efficiency, and improved outcomes. By adopting a sprint-based approach, researchers can overcome challenges associated with traditional linear research methods and embrace a more dynamic and flexible workflow.  The following use cases are anticipated:

  • Helping doctoral students overcome a specific obstacle to progress in their research
  • Drawing on collective approaches to progress individual or group research projects
  • Rapid response feedback for time sensitive activities
  • Strategies for research or advocacy

Here’s a description of how the elements of a sprint/scrum could be adapted for research:

‘Scrum master’: Whoever is leading the research sprint sets the agenda, time frame and desired contributions from other members of the network.  Through this it is possible for researchers to get experience of leading research beyond their own doctoral study. The idea we have here is that anyone in the network can lead a sprint, setting the timeframe, desired outputs, collaboration environments, etc. and then interested people in the network can help them to achieve their goals.

Time-Bound Iterations: Sprints consist of short, time-boxed iterations, typically ranging from two to six weeks. During each sprint, researchers focus on accomplishing specific goals, such as collecting data, conducting experiments, analyzing results, developing prototypes, and writing manuscripts. It is keeping these periods of activity short and focused that is destinctive of the approach.

Clear Objectives: At the beginning of each sprint, well-defined objectives are established, outlining the tasks and outcomes to be achieved. These objectives should align with the overall research goals, allowing for focused and purposeful work.

Cross-Disciplinary Collaboration: Sprints encourage collaborative teamwork among researchers with diverse expertise. By fostering multidisciplinary collaboration, different perspectives can be integrated, leading to more comprehensive research outcomes.

Rapid Prototyping and Testing: Sprints promote the development of prototypes, models, or early-stage versions of research outputs. These prototypes can be tested and evaluated within the sprint timeframe, enabling researchers to gather feedback and make necessary adjustments promptly. (This could apply to research instruments such as survey questions or interview schedules.)

Feedback and Iteration: Regular feedback loops are crucial in sprint-based research. By seeking input from stakeholders, peers, or potential end-users, researchers can refine their work iteratively, enhancing the quality and relevance of their findings.

Anticipated Benefits

The GO-GN research sprints build on a history of successful collaboration and collective writing.  GO-GN members are typically committed to exploring open and innovative approaches and should be able to adapt well to the proposed approach.  At one level you can see this as a practical way to get things done but it can also be an exploration of how an open network can function.

Exploring Open Practice: The envisaged research sprints are collaborative and transparent, providing a route to novel forms of open practice in research

Strengthening the network: Our previous publications (consolidated in the Open Research Handbook) suggest that collaborative activities are a good way to foster links in the network

Accelerated Research Progress: Sprints promote a focused and time-bound approach, resulting in accelerated progress and timely completion of research milestones. The iterative nature of sprints allows for frequent course corrections and adjustments, ensuring that research stays on track.

Enhanced Collaboration: Sprints foster collaboration and communication among team members. By working together in short bursts, researchers can share knowledge, exchange ideas, and leverage each other’s expertise effectively.

Increased Agility and Adaptability: Traditional research methods often struggle to adapt to changing circumstances or unforeseen challenges. Sprints enable researchers to be more agile, as they can quickly pivot or reorient their work based on emerging insights or external factors.

Improved Research Quality: The iterative nature of sprints, coupled with continuous feedback loops, enhances the overall quality of research outputs. By incorporating feedback from stakeholders, researchers can refine their methodologies, address potential biases, and ensure the robustness of their findings.

Heightened Innovation and Creativity: Sprints encourage researchers to think creatively, develop prototypes, and explore new approaches. This emphasis on innovation can lead to breakthroughs, novel discoveries, and the development of inventive solutions to research problems.

How does it work in practice?

This is kind of up for debate, but we anticipate the following as a starting point. Would-be sprint leaders complete a short proforma which describes the goal, timeframe and activities of their sprint. (We’ll share this form in due course.) This undergoes a brief process of review by the GO-GN team who may provide feedback or suggestions. Once approved, the sprint gets planned into the annual calendar. Sprints are prompted through regular GO-GN communications.

Most sprints would probably last 2-4 weeks and involve coordinated activity across the blog, social media, online documents or other collaborative spaces, etc. But it really depends on what someone is trying to achieve and the way they go about it. We expect that members in the network would try to support them in achieving their goals.

What kind of use cases are envisaged? We are only restricted by our imagination, but we anticipate the following:

  • Quick focus on a research paper for comments and suggestions
  • Refining methodology for a study
  • Exploring a new area, theme or application of open
  • Networking sprints
  • Generating and developing bid ideas
  • Spreading the word about a new project or research output
  • Validating results
  • Crowdsourcing ideas, suggestions and leads relating to research
  • Creating thematic bibliographies
  • Rapid assessments of evidence

The theme for the first sprint, which will take place later in 2023, will be open educational practices for AI in education. The main goal here will be twofold: to describe and explore an emerging area of open education research and practice; and also to see how the sprint approach unfolds in reality so we can refine the concept. Look out for more announcements on this! If you have any ideas you’d like to explore in the context of a sprint, get in touch with the coordination team…

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