It seems that just about every project that I have ever worked on has had some form of scope creep occur. There is always some type of unanticipated issue that comes up and changes the scope of the project in some way. Scope creep is known as “the natural tendency of the client, as well as project team members, to try to improve the project’s output as the project progresses” (Portny, Mantel, Meredith, Shafer & Sutton, 2008, p. 350) and these improvements can take in all shapes and sizes. I have experienced both good and bad scope changes within a project and regardless of the type of change it may be, it is really all about how the project manger deals with the changes in regards to the overall project. It is up to them to make sure that any changes to the scope will occur smoothly and effectively, while keeping the budget and schedule on track.

One project that comes to mind when I think of my past experiences with scope creep is when I was working as an instructional technologist on a government contractor with the EPA. I company that I was working for was contracted to build an online learning course in 6 months. We were hired to design and develop one course but that soon changed and we were then asked to create more than 50 courses and this all came about because they finally go the funding that they were waiting on. Having more money is always a good thing in a project because it provides a chance for more resources and work but on the negative side the project manager will need to change many parts of the project to reflex the changes.

Soon after the project plan reflected the new courses that were to be developed, EPA wanted to change the format that the training was going to be delivered and the technology that they wanted to use. This added an entirely new element to the project and many more changes to the project plan, because “when scope changes are unavoidable, the project manager should identify their impact on the project plan” (Lynch & Roecker, 2007). The problem was that the new delivery method and technology that they wanted to use was not something that we were able to do and it required much more resources then what our company was able to provide so we ended up sub-contracting out some of the work. While this was a good solution for that moment but the company that was sub-contacting did end up causing many more problems later on in the project but I will not get into that. To make a long story short, the 50 courses where not successfully completed because there was one change after another and the EPA pulled the project. It was a very stressful project that never seemed to have any structure because it was constantly in transition and the scoop was always creeping.

During that time I rolled with what the project manager and company decided to do with the project but I could tell that the project had issues and that it was not going to be successful unless someone turned things around and have more structure. Things were very unorganized and not very well documented. One issue that I had was that the project manager just gave the client anything that they wanted without really thinking of the team and what we could do. He was over promising and under delivering which is not good business practice. Looking back on the experience now, if I had been in the position of managing the project, I would been more realistic with what I could deliver and really be honest with the client and also my team. I also would have used many more documents to keep track of important project records for communication with the team and the client, this would have helped to better manage the issues and control the scope of the project more closely.

References:

Lynch, M. M., & Roecker, J. (2007). Project managing e-learning: A handbook for successful design, delivery, and management. London: Routledge. Copyright by Taylor & Francis Group, LLC. Reprinted by permission of Taylor & Francis Group, LLC via the Copyright Clearance Center.

Portny, S. E., Mantel, S. J., Meredith, J. R., Shafer, S. M., Sutton, M. M., & Kramer, B. E. (2008). Project management: planning, scheduling, and controlling projects. Hoboken, NJ: John Wiley & Sons, Inc.

 

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One of the most difficult tasks that a project manager has is estimating costs and allocating resources because “we live in a world of limited resources and not enough time.   There will always be more work to do than time and resources will allow” (Portny, Mantel, Meredith, Shafer & Sutton, 2008, p. 202).  It is not an easy to manage all the cost associated with the project or all of the different resources need to complete the project but with the right tools and strategies, a project manager (PM) can determine what is needed for a project to be successful.  One of the things that a PM might find challenging about estimating activity durations and resource costs is identifying them and putting the right numbers in for cost.  An instructional design (ID) project has a certain set of activities and tasks that need to be completed which are different then other projects, so it is helpful if the PM has an idea of what these different tasks are and what the cost is.   Luckily there are many resources that exist to help you with estimating a project cost and resources and the ID community is happy to share information on how to they handle a project’s schedule, budget, or tasks.  Here are several resources that share information on ID project.

Time to Develop One Hour of Training

http://www.astd.org/LC/2009/0809_kapp.htm

The ASTD (American Society for Training and Development) site offers many different resources for their members and also the general public.   This article sums up the results from a survey that indicates how long it takes to develop one hour of instruction.  It also shows the comparison from 2009 to 2003 and the factors that affect development time.  More information can be found throughout the site.  If you are not a member, you can use the free resources in the learning circuit that includes lots of articles and dates back to 2000.  Members have lots of resources and are part of a large community that are dedicated to workplace learning and performance professionals.  Since this site is so large, I recommend using the search feature to locate any needed resources.

Estimating Cost and Time in Instructional Design

http://www.elearningspecialists.com/entry/elearning/1-estimating-cost-and-time-in-instructional-design

This article comes from a blog that is published by FirstCom which is a South African based technology and services company focused exclusively on communications and learning systems.  The article has lots of helpful tips and numbers for any beginner ID/PM.  Ti shows you some of the difference between the different types of ID projects and what type of time is needed for them.  I especially like they percentage breakdown of the development which include the different parts of an ID project and how much time should be spend on each task.

Estimating Instructional Design and Development Time

http://www.learncentrix.com/estimating-instructional-design

 This article outlines how to estimate an ID project more effectively along with also explaining the framework for expanding the traditional approach.  The site also has additional resources such as best practices, case studies, news feeds and links to other resources that include e-learning materials.  This site has a lot of external links that include a review of them and how they might be helpful.  There is a little bit of everything on this site and it requires some digging but it does offer a search function.  Even though this is a company site, they do provide some good information for other ID and PM.

 References:

Portny, S. E., Mantel, S. J., Meredith, J. R., Shafer, S. M., Sutton, M. M., & Kramer, B. E. (2008). Project management: planning, scheduling, and controlling projects. Hoboken, NJ: John Wiley & Sons, Inc.

Communication is an essential part of any project and must be done effectively or the message may not come across clearly and result in a misunderstanding.  There are so many different ways to communicate and while some are better than others, we must know the importance of what we say and how we say it regardless of the format of the delivery.  It is important that the message comes across to the receiver in a clear and professional way, so “project managers should plan and prepare so their messages are received and correctly interpreted by project audiences” (Portny, Mantel, Meredith, Shafer & Sutton, 2008, p. 367)  You never really know how a person receives your message but by paying close attention to  how you communicate, what you communicate, and how your message is interpreted are important when trying to communicating effectively.  After reviewing the same message but in three different formats (e-mail, voicemail, face-to-face), I was able to see how each one can really make a difference in the way that a message can be perceived.

E-mail

The e-mail message was clear and to the point and although it could have been shorter the way it was written was not threatening, mean or pushy.  With e-mails I usually look for the subject which helps me to quickly make a connection to the project.  I also look for who might have been copied on the e-mail which can sometime feel like you are being told on.  What I also like about this modality of communication is that the conversation is documented.  In our course video, Dr. Stolovitch noted that documenting communication is one of the two most important things to do when communicating with clients.  E-mails also help me to organize my work by putting them into folders and flagging important e-mails, this cannot be done with the other two formats.   Sometimes e-mails can be misread but if the tone is kept professional like in the example, then there should not be any miscommunication.

Voicemail

With the voicemail, I could hear the tone of her message and it seemed to be polite and professional.  I did sense a little attitude and sarcasm in her voice as she said “really appreciate it.”   One issue I have is that she did not leave her contact information and unlike the e-mail where I could just hit reply, I have no way of getting in touch with her.  Trying to reach someone by phone can be difficult and many times they are out of the office and may not get the message till they return.  The voicemail did make it easier to hear her need for the data a little more clearly but in my opinion, but this type of message, an e-mail does the trick and can be more easily documented in case he tries to say I never got your message.

Face-to-Face

This has to be the most effective way to communicate since most communication is non-verbal.  You can see her body language which helps to get a better sense of the message.  After viewing the view of the face-to-face message, I felt that she was a little aggressive and sarcastic.  It could have been bad acting but I saw her roller her eyes and give a fake smile at the end.  I would not prefer this modality because she interrupted what I was working on and took up my time coming and taking about it.  Another thing is that they are in cubicles so the conversation may disturb the other members of the office. With face-to-face, you usually have to have a conversation about the message which takes up time, where an e-mail can be read and addressed when the time was right.

Through this evaluation of the three different modalities of communication, I plan to continue to do most of my communication through e-mail and meet face-to-face if a topic needs special attention, is a sensitive subject or the receiver prefers face-to-face.  I think it very important to know who you are communication with and what their communication preference is.  Some people love to talk on the phone and have meetings while others would rather keep everything on e-mail.  I have also worked with people who like to use other technology tools to keep in touch, such as instant messaging and video conferencing. In my opinion, effective communication is a blend of all these different modalities with special consideration to the message and the preference of the receiver.

References:

Laureate Education. (Producer). (2010). Communicating with Stakeholders. [Online]. Retrieved from Walden University eCollege.

Portny, S. E., Mantel, S. J., Meredith, J. R., Shafer, S. M., Sutton, M. M., & Kramer, B. E. (2008). Project management: planning, scheduling, and controlling projects. Hoboken, NJ: John Wiley & Sons, Inc.

Once a project is complete it is always best to take a moment and look back on the project and determine what was done well and what can be improved on in the future.  An Instructional designer may call this a form of evaluation but a project manager calls it post-project review or “post mortems” (Greer, 2010) which Greer explains as taking stock at the end of a project and develop a list of lessons learned so that they don’t repeat the mistakes in the next project.   The post-mortem consists of a list of questions that the team members will independently answer about the project and later discuss with the team to determine the lessons learned. Below is a project that I worked on and my post-mortem analysis.

Project Background

The United States Department of Agriculture (USDA) awarded The Graduate School USA (GS) a contract to train 1,500 employees across the country on the new ethics policies which was to be provided live online and delivered within 3 months.  GS provided the instructional design support and the technology to distribute to the employees.  USDA provided GS with a subject matter expert, learning objectives, content from previous training which included lecture slides, learning  materials and assessment tools.  GS agreed to deliver updated training materials, course production outline, registration and learning management system support to monitor and provide content to the USDA employees, video conferencing (Adobe Connect), and help desk support.   The training was 2 days of 4 hour training each day and the different time zone had their own set times.  The goal of the project was to train all 1,500 employees on the new ethic policies at a distance to save on travel and other training expenses.

Success

  • Customer was satisfied with the overall work and would like to use GS distance education services again.
  • The project goal was achieved.
  • The GS instructional designers worked smoothly through the ADDIE process and completed an effective course production outline.
  • GS team was able to use the content provided by USDA and add improvements that will convert to online format.

Failure

  • Difficultly communicating with the SME.
  • Client did not sign-off documents in appropriate time frame.
  • Internal file version issues cause confusion and lose of work.
  • Not enough resources were available to effectively support all the employees.
  • Estimated cost of the project was over budget.
  • Registration processes could be more streamlined to avoid complications.

Conclusion

Overall the project was a success but there were many things that happened internally that could have been avoided.  Most of the failures need to be addressed by the project manager and solutions should be made before the next project, “if the project managers don’t take positive steps to determine and reflect lessons learned from a project in the performance of future ones, they are liable to make the same mistakes over and over again” (Portny, Mantel, Meredith, Shafer & Sutton, 2008, p. 105). The project manager has a lot to learn from this project and could use improvements on several different parts of the project management process and communication between the client and the team.  Even though the client was satisfied, I do not think that it was a successful project because there was so many issues that happened internally and we lost money.  Since that project, the project manager has improved on processes and communication which  has caused us to have  more successful projects from the client perspective and internal as well .

References:

Greer, M. (2010). The project management minimalist: just enough pm to rock your projects! (Laureate custom ed.). Baltimore: Laureate Education, Inc.

Portny, S. E., Mantel, S. J., Meredith, J. R., Shafer, S. M., Sutton, M. M., & Kramer, B. E. (2008). Project management: planning, scheduling, and controlling projects. Hoboken, NJ: John Wiley & Sons, Inc.

During the next 8 weeks I will be blogging about topics pertaining to project management in education and training.  There are many elements that are involved with managing a successful project which include time, cost, and scope, and much more. I will identify various project management tools, procedures, and methodologies and discover ways to apply them to real-world projects in education and/or training environments.  I look forward to sharing what I have learned about this subject and reading your comments.


Distance Learning has come a long way and  it will continue to grow and become an interracial part of the education system but at this point in time there are still some people that are skeptical to the idea of learning at a distance.  It goes by many other names such as e-learning, virtual education, but the most commonly used is distance education and no matter what you call it, the learning is occurring at a distance.  Our course text defines distance education as “institution-based, formal education where the learning groups are separated, and where interactive telecommunications systems are used to connect learners, resources, and instructors” (Simonson, Smaldino, Albright & Zvacek, 2009).  At this point many people are just starting to understand what distance education is and many schools and organizations are offer learning options in this format.  As more people are exposed to the distance learning, the more their perceptions will change overtime.

There will be more distance learning options becoming available over the next 10 to 20 years with the growing need and demand for more distance learning options and as the field continues to grow.  One large component to the growth and the perception of distance education is that technology is also changing which offers many more options and endless possibilities for distance learning. When new technology becomes available, there will be new types of learning environments, as well as for the different types of students.  In our course video, Dr. Simonson stated that “it is pretty obvious…..to look into the future and say that distance education is going to increase dramatically”  and he also goes on to say that “we can expect expediential growth of distance education to continue” (Piskurich, 2010).  As distance education continues to evolve and change, so will the perception that people have on distance learning and they will start to see it as the norm and will expect to have the option to take courses from a distance.

Improving Perceptions

As an instructional designer, I will be a strong proponent for improving societal perceptions of distance learning by creating effective learning experiences for all of the students that will come into contact with any of my courses.  I will make sure that they have a good learning experience, which in most cases will provide them the comfort to sign up for additional classes and share there experience with friends who will also sign up.   It is also important to make sure that they have everything they need to be successful distance learners and that the instructors has also be trained properly to teach the class.  I will make sure that the learning objectives are able to be met and that the students are engaged in the online learning environment.  Tools that are “highly participatory and promote collaboration, networking, sharing, and the widespread generation of content” (Simonson, et al) will be used along with other emerging technologies that will be applied to the learning environment and assist with meeting the objectives.  All of my courses will use innovative technologies to help create more interaction and collaboration among the students which will provide them an improved learning experience and hopefully give them a new and improved perceptive of distance learning.

Field of Distance Education

To be a positive force for continuous improvement in the field of distance education, I will do my part as an instructional designer and be an active member of the industry.  I will share my knowledge with others and interact with my colleagues using several different forms of communication such as blog, wiki, conferences, social networking, and more.  I will continue to learn things about the field and  always look for ways to improve my work.  In addition, I will join different associations such as ASTD to continue meet new people in the industry that share the same outlook on  being a positive force for continuous improvement in the field of distance education.  As I move forward in my career as an instructional designer, I will be sure to do whatever it takes to make a positive improvement to my own work and to the field of distance education.

References

Simonson, M., Smaldino, S., Albright, M., & Zvacek, S. (2009). Teaching and learning at a distance: Foundations of distance education (4th ed.) Boston, MA: Pearson.

Dr. George Piskurich, I. T. (n.d.). Video Program: “Distance Education: The Next Generation“. Retrieved from Walden University.

Have you considered converting your classroom training to distance education?  There are many benefits to converting courses to distance learning format including such things as providing the opportunity to interact with other and have access to the learning resources and assignments at anytime.  The transition can be a difficult task but very rewarding to the students if done properly.  If you are interested in making the conversion from the classroom to distance education, there are several ideas, tips, and best practices that will assist you in distance learning success.

The document below provides you some of the best practices and considerations that should be made when  converting to a to distance education.  Some of the best practices include information on the planning, converting course elements, and the role of the trainer which includes how to facilitate communication and learning among the students.  The document will be evolving overtime as new information in the field of distance learning becomes available.

If you have any questions or input for the best practices document, please do not hesitate to leave a comment and I will be sure to respond within an adequate amount of time. I wish you the best of luck in your quest to convert your classroom training to distance education, it will not be easy but we hope that this guide will be helpful.

Click here to view the Best Practices Guide and Considerations for Converting to Distance Learning