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General Card #3336
Tiered Educational Scrum Model: Learning Agility in an Agile way - Introduction
Updated: 5/22/2023 8:05 PM by Xiaoguang Ma
Reviewed: 6/12/2023 10:20 AM by Devina Jaiswal
A tiered approach of introducing Scrum methodology to students from the first-year courses to the senior design as an incubator of the EM.



A Tiered Approach of Educational Scrum Process




 A Tiered Approach of Educational Scrum Process” integrates a tiered approach of introducing Scrum methodology to students and helping them to practice the Scrum process through their course design projects from first-year intro courses to the senior design, as the incubator of the Entrepreneurial Mindset (EM).  Scrum, an Agile methodology, is an activity framework that enables a group of people to use their collective intelligence, experiment, learn, adjust, and deliver incremental solutions of the most value.  Scrum is widely adopted by many companies globally in recent years. Due to its entrepreneurial developing environment, the Scrum process is a natural 3C (Curiosity, Connections, Creating Value) mindset incubator.



This project answers two common questions in EM learning with four additional benefits:

How to introduce the EM to first-year engineering students?

How to effectively help students master complicated project management skills, like the Scrum process?

The project promotes active learning, helps students improve their communication skills, identify their future career paths and establish effective learning teams.  


The mindset training needs a real-world platform. A platform of the same value with the mindset doubles the training effect. Scrum embodies all EM values. Scrum, along with Kanban and Extreme Programming (XP) are three major product development frameworks with the principles in the Agile Manifesto.


Although we utilized the Scrum process in this project, this card is not trying to discuss how to use the Scrum process in teaching, but rather teaching students to practice the Scrum process to help complete their course projects or implement their innovative ideas, cultivating students EM mindset, and preparing students’ transition to jobs with the popular Scrum methodology.


Brief Introduction to Scrum


With the Scrum methodology of the Agile manifesto, instead of being designed, implemented, and tested in a complete waterfall process, a product is split into a function list (product backlog) in the form of user stories (each user story defines a function) during the initial planning. The Scrum Team designs, implements, and tests a selection of the user stories (sprint backlog) into a deliverable product with an increment of value within a short period (namely a Sprint, lasting 2 weeks to a month). The Scrum Team demos the deliverable product to its stakeholders and adjusts for the next Sprint. The Scrum team repeats sprints until the full ordered function list of the product (product backlog) is completed. To help discussion, three major Scrum Artifacts and four Scrum Ceremonies are introduced below:


The Scrum process has three major Artifacts [2]:

Product Backlog:

The product backlog is an ordered list of functions (in form of user stories) that is known to be needed in a product based on the product goal. It is constantly evolving before the product is finally delivered.

Sprint Backlog:

The sprint backlog is a list of functions (in form of user stories) that the team prioritizes with the product owner and commits to complete in a given sprint. Unlike the product backlog, once agreed, the sprint backlog is locked and owned by the team.

Product Increment:

A fully tested, agreed-to-released new version of the product with new functions implemented in a sprint.


Besides the development activities, there are four Scrum Ceremonies:

Sprint Planning

During sprint planning, the scrum team works with the product owner to set a product goal in the form of a collection of prioritized user stories, and acceptance criteria. It takes about 2 hours meeting time for each week’s work.

Daily Scrum

Every morning, the development team spend 15 minutes (or less) together, to exchange their work status, including accomplishment yesterday, helps needed, and work planned for today.

Sprint Review

The team demonstrates the deliverable product with planned increment created during the sprint to the product owner and the invited senior managers, affected departments, stakeholders, users, and customers for diversified feedback. It takes about one hour for each week’s work.

Sprint Retrospective

Sprint retrospectives focus on improving the development process. The Scrum team discusses feasible improvements, including the development process, tools needed, external help necessary, and internal/external relationships. Normally it takes 45 minutes for each week of sprint length with a total maximum of 3 hours.


Scrum embraces curiosity by evolving the product along with learning and discovering. Scrum encourages team internal connection with a series of daily, weekly, and monthly Scrum meetings. It focuses on fast and high-quality value creation by delivering solid incremental developments and enhances connections with customers with interactive demonstrations and feedback. According to a study, the Agile manifesto is adopted by more than 71% of US companies, most of which are using the Scrum process.


However, learning scrum can be tedious, especially for the first-year students who may not have a strong curriculum skill set to implement and deliver products; and many SCRUM concepts/processes are hard to understand and follow unless a lot of guided activities are practiced. Facing those challenges, the tiered process scaffolds the learning and practicing of the Scrum process in an agile way: split the Scrum process into smaller deliverables, help students to master those deliverables with the growth of their curriculum skillset, and adjust the process with students’ feedback. We will refer to this “Tiered Approach of Educational Scrum Process” as EEScrum. (Easy Educational Scrum/Electrical Engineering Scrum).


EEScrum Mode


The EEScrum model consists of three incremental tiers to start the EM education from the first year of an engineering curriculum. The mapped deliverables of the Scrum process for each tier are shown in Table 1. For each tier, a separate card is created and linked.

Deliverable Tier-one
Connect with Value
Create Value
Continuous Delivery
Product Backlog (User Story) Yes Yes Yes
Sprint Backlog (User Story Mapping) No Yes Yes
Product Increment No Yes Yes
Sprint Planning
Yes Yes Yes
Daily Scrum
No No Yes
Sprint Review
No Yes Yes
Sprint Retrospective
No Yes Yes

With the EEScrum, students learn and practice the Scrum concept and process many times in different courses over the four-year curriculum; extend their Scrum experience and practice the EM with the growth of their curriculum skill set; more importantly, enjoy the joy of delivery and accomplishment continuously.


Tier-one EEScrum – Connect with Value


The Tier-one EEScrum is designed for the first-year engineering students. The complete engineering process includes discovery, design, implementation, testing, production, and maintenance.  Limited by the curriculum skill set, students may not have the full capability to carry through the whole process. Therefore, we will focus on the entrepreneurial mindset training in the first couple of steps of discovery and design.  The product backlog is the first Scrum artifact, it requires students to empathize, define, ideate.


Tier-one EEScrum is about connecting students with value. It can be introduced as early as in the first-year engineering courses as an independent module. It was with the EE1020 EE Project and Tools course in Fall 2021. This module contained two sections, each takes about 2 hours.


The main activities include:


Section 1:

  1.  Recognize designs and values: In the first section we introduce the concepts of design and value. Students were required to identify the design and values of a common simple electronic product. Students separate the product’s functionalities to separate features, and each feature may be further divided into independent functions.  The designs to solve each feature/function are identified as well.
  2. Be innovative and create values: Students generate innovative ideas (creating values) by designing new functions to solve some pain points from the reviews published online. We call this innovation method one-star inspiration.  One of the best ideas is to add adaptive volume control to a kitchen timer so that it won’t be too loud to disturb people or too low to be missed in a noisy environment.

Section 2

  1. Intro to Scrum and user stories: The Scrum model was introduced to students as a framework to implement their innovative ideas from the first section. The waterfall process is compared with the Scrum process to help students understand how to choose the proper methodologies for different types of problems.
  2. Draft and Refine User Stories Students learn how to convert their innovative ideas to user stories and prioritize those stories.

The user story, the fundamental element of the Scrum process, describes the accurate user’s needs with concise function definitions (with 3W model); plays as a token for various conversations, e.g. product backlog planning, sprint planning, task prioritization, product incremental value demonstration and assessment, etc.; and defines the criteria of function completeness.

The process of writing and refining user stories encourages conversation among the team members and the “customers”; helps students to develop empathize so they can dig down to the customer’s real needs and find the core values;  cultivate students’ ability to modularize a complex product to separate features and independent user stories; prioritize development with the stakeholders’ view, and ideate without providing detailed solutions (limited by their curriculum skillset).

As an initial debut of the Scrum process, the tier-one EEScrum activities help students to develop an entrepreneurial mindset including connection, curiosity, and creating values. They establish a customer-centric view, learn basic Scrum processes, learn the skills of defining the incremental improvement functions of an existing product by practicing writing user stories and estimating values, and improve communication with constructive conversation.


No implementation was required for the EEScrum Tier-one process, but students are encouraged to explore the solutions with future curriculum courses or with their own effort.


Tier-two EEScrum – Create Value


In addition to the Tier-one EEScrum “Connect with Value” process, the Tier-two EEScrum focuses on the implementation of incremental value. In their sophomore or junior years, students acquire an adequate curriculum skillset to implement simple products or incremental functions of existing products. The activities include creating, refining, implementing, and presenting the user stories in a sprint (about 2-3 weeks), which is a good time span for a final project of a EE course.  


The Tier-two EEscrum, composed of five sections, was implemented in one section of the EE 2780 Logic and Digital Design course in the Spring 2022 semester.  The first three sections of Tier-two EEScrum review the Tier-one EEScrum process.


Section 1: Connect with Value (one-hour section).

Students are required to identify a simple digital product and analyze the product’s functions. The functions should be modularized to epics/features and then into independent functions. Digital inputs, outputs, and the method of testing should be specified for each function.


Section 2: Curiosity leads to innovations (one-hour section)

  1. In addition to the one-star inspiration innovation method, the bisociation idea generation [5] method is introduced to inspire creativity. The bisociation method requires students to reveal stimuli (features/functions/characters) of two products, create the stimulus-list, and associate random stimuli from different products to create a new product.
  2. Students are required to create new functions with Bisociation and One-Star Inspiration methods and discuss them within the groups and improve the creations with feedbacks.


Section 3: Intro to Scrum Tools (two-hour section)

  1. Two Certified Scrum Master Trainers are invited to this section to introduce the Scrum process and Scrum applications in the industry.
  2. The invited speaker also interacted with students to assess their user stories and proposed implementations.
  3. The Trello board (integrated in Microsoft Teams) was introduced to students to organize the product backlog.


Section 4: Creating Values, Implement your innovation (3 weeks section)

  1. During the semester, students are encouraged to actively acquire digital design knowledge to implement their user stories. For example, before starting the lecture of digital decade counter design, I especially reminded the students who planned to design a digital clock, the decade counter will be the key function of their design. It naturally connected students’ curriculum knowledge with daily life applications and inspired active learning.
  2. At the end of the semester, students are required to groom the user stories in their product backlog into one sprint backlog with considerations of the priorities, the cost, the engineer’s skill-set, and the time constraints.


Section 5: Product demonstration and retrospective

  1. Each group was required to present its product and the incremental value to the class.
  2. In their final report, sprint retrospectives are required to summarize the process, tools, possible improvements, and especially, the entrepreneurial mindset acquired.


Optional Section 6. Real Products (After the end of the semester).

Students are encouraged to use the Pioneer Prototyping Services to prototype their innovations if they would like to make real products.


In Tier-two EEScrum, students reviewed the key concepts learned in Tier-one, connect the class contents with products in their daily life, extended their curiosity to create new functions, completed a full sprint to get familiar with the Scrum process, and created value with their acquired curriculum knowledge. Continuous delivering products in different courses will increase their confidence and make delivering value a habit after learning new knowledge.



Tier-three EEScrum – Continuous Delivery


Tier-three EEScrum promises continuous delivery. In their senior year capstone course, students may use the Scrum model to run multiple sprints to deliver and improve their senior design products with multiple sprints.




The EEScrum process will inspire students’ curiosity about the designs and values with a customer-centric perspective, exercise innovation and collaboration from their early years; instill in them the habit of connecting curriculum knowledge to real products and striving to create values, allowing them to explore different roles in a team for their best talents, and prepare them with the Scrum skillset to start their career.



In this project, Professor Ma developed a series of tiered Educational Project Based Scrum models, implementing them in two of his courses, sharing the results with other engineering faculty, and encouraging them to adopt the models in their own courses.


Note: The author Dr. Xiaoguang Ma is a Certified Scrum Master (CSM) with 5+ years of industrial scrum development experience.




[1] 16 AGILE STATISTICS [2022]: WHAT YOU NEED TO KNOW ABOUT AGILE PROJECT MANAGEMENT  https://www.zippia.com/advice/agile-statistics/


[2] The Three Scrum Artifacts and Their Commitments https://resources.scrumalliance.org/Article/scrum-artifacts


[3] Scrum, Agile and the Art of Active Listening https://resources.scrumalliance.org/Article/scrum-agile-art-active-listening


[4] Scrum Glossary https://www.scrum.org/resources/scrum-glossary

[5] Dr. Ken Bloemer, KEEN, Ideation Techniques: Introductory Videos https://engineeringunleashed.com/card/504

  • Demonstrate constant curiosity about our changing world
  • Explore a contrarian view of accepted solution
  • Integrate information from many sources to gain insight
Creating Value
  • Identify unexpected opportunities to create extraordinary value
  • Persist through and learn from failure
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