Sunday, December 9, 2012

Scope Creep

Scope creep is a term that refers to 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 et. al, 2008). This is a problem that happens frequently in project management, but it’s also common in other areas of life.

As a teacher, scope creep is something that happens frequently.  As an example, a teacher prepares a lesson that covers a specific objective – it’s a great lesson, with interactive multimedia components and lots of classroom collaboration.  (In this scenario, we are thinking of the students in the role of the client.) The lesson begins smoothly, but soon the students find they are very interested in finding out more about the background of the topic, something the teacher didn’t include in the original lesson.

In this scenario, does the teacher redirect students to stick to the original plan, or does the teacher adjust the lesson to account for this scope creep? Most teachers would agree that addressing students’ curiosity and interest in a topic is very important, but what’s the tradeoff? Perhaps the lesson won’t get finished in the allotted time span, lengthening the unit and pushing back the unit exam. If the timeline isn’t negotiable, perhaps the teacher will have to cut out another part of the instruction, or move more quickly over other material in order to make up for the time spent on unplanned activities.

Another recent example of the problem of scope creep has occurred in my current position. I was given a group of students who did not pass the language arts portion of the state standardized test last year, and asked to work with these students on targeted interventions to help them master key content. However, as the class got started and I began working with students, I also found that students lacked basic foundation skills as well, like reading comprehension, how to take notes, and test-taking strategies.  These are important skills that will also help students perform better on standardized test, so we needed to come up with a way to expand the scope of the course to accommodate the extra instructional goals. We are still working this out, but the short-term plan is to spend more instructional time with the students than previously planned.

Teachers are often both instructional designers and project managers as they lead their classes. It’s important to keep the concept of scope creep in mind, so that teachers can appropriately manage the risks involved.

Portney, 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.

Sunday, December 2, 2012

Estimating Costs and Allocating Resources

This week’s course focus is on budgeting; specifically, estimating costs and allocating resources as it relates to project management. This has been one of the most difficult aspects for me to tackle, because I haven’t had any prior experience in project management. The only budgeting experience I have is in my personal life.  However, once again the internet comes to the rescue, with a wide range of resources that are helpful in estimating cost, effort, and time involved in various instructional design projects.  Here are two of the most helpful resources I came across:

Dr. Karl Kapp and Robyn A Defelice published an article on estimating time for ID projects. The authors conducted a survey of ID professionals, and compiled the results in a table that gives low and high estimates for the time needed to develop one hour of instruction with several variables. The study was repeated in 2009, and the above link contains results from both surveys.  I also found this article useful because the authors discuss in detail some of the factors that affect development time.

The e-Learning Guild conducted a time ratio survey in 2002, and the above link is a compilation of the results. While my first thought is that the estimates are outdated, I actually found similarities between this study and the one conducted by Kapp and Defelice. I thought this resource was particularly useful because rather than estimating by the hour, it focuses on per-minute student learning objects. My course project focuses on small digital learning objects, so the per-hour estimates were proving to be difficult for me to use when working on my project.

Sunday, November 18, 2012

Communicating Effectively

In this week’s assignment, we were asked to consider the same piece of communication in three different forms: email, voicemail, and face-to-face. While the content was the same, the tone and my own interpretation of the message varied due to the different modalities.  According to our Dr. Stolovitch in this week’s course resources, effective communication is influenced by the communicator’s attitude, tone, and body language; the timing of the communication; and the recipient’s personality (Laureate Education, Inc., 2010).

First, I viewed the email message. It starts out with Jane communicating empathy for Mark’s situation – he’s been busy, maybe he was stuck in a meeting all day. Then the email explains exactly why Jane needs the information right away, and it outlines specific steps Mark can take to fix the problem.  My first impression is that this is a great way for Jane to communicate with Mark about the missing report.

Next, I listened to Jane’s voicemail. It’s worded exactly the same as the email – she sounds very polite and makes connection with the listener. Her tone of voice is very understanding. I felt like in this case she should have asked for a return call or email with a specific deadline: “Please get back to me today – you can reach me in my office until 5, or send me an email anytime.”  

Finally, I watched the video of the face-to-face message. I was unimpressed with this one. First of all, there wasn’t a conversation at all – it was completely one-sided. One of the benefits of face-to-face conversation is that it allows back-and-forth communication, and this clip totally left out that part. Jane’s tone in this clip sounds too apologetic. The tone of this message was not as direct as the voicemail message, and her body language seems like she’s almost hiding from the confrontation (behind the cube wall). Another problem with this one was that Jane seemed to be too formal in her language – usually face-to-face interaction is somewhat less formal than written communication.

I think this activity suggests the importance of taking into account several factors when deciding what type of communication modality to use.  Budrovich and Achong explain that It’s important to tailor communication strategies to the needs of each stakeholder, and I think this is very true – without knowing Mark’s communication style or personality, it’s hard to decide which communication method would be most effective (Laureate Education, Inc.).


Laureate Education, Inc. (2010). Communicating with Stakeholders. [DVD], Dr. Harold Stolovich
Laureate Education, Inc. (n.d.). Strategies for Working with Stakeholders. [DVD], Budrovich and

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.

Project Post-Mortem

This week's assignment asked us to think about a recent project with which we were involved that did not have a successful outcome, and then perform a "project post-mortem" to see what went wrong. Greer (2010) suggests conducting a “post mortem review” of a project in order for all team members to reflect on the project and make sure they don’t repeat mistakes in future projects.

One recent project I was involved in had to do with remodeling the upstairs portion of our home. We began the project soon after we bought the house. First, my husband and I consulted a few family members more knowledgeable about remodeling than ourselves; we outlined the needs and general objectives for the project (an extra bedroom for our oldest, dividing the existing very large bedroom into two separate spaces with a hallway between, expanding the existing tiny bathroom into a more usable space), and we discussed the time frame for the project and the allocated budget.  These consultants were quick to say “oh, that would be easy” and “no problem!” until we had come up with an expansive list of remodeling needs.  Unfortunately, when we were in the planning stages of the project, we didn’t account for the possibility of unexpected issues arising that would require our attention and our remodeling funds.  

(the house - note the curling shingles that led to the
                                                     downfall of the interior remodeling project)

What contributed to the project’s success or failure?

In general, the project failed because we failed to prioritize tasks. In planning for the remodeling project, we focused on the interior needs of the house without thinking about outside factors that might also influence our decisions. We had a project budget set, but when we had to unexpectedly pay for repairs to the roof, it cut significantly into the remodeling budget. In addition, we had lots of ideas about what we wanted done, but no prior knowledge or background as far as what exactly the remodeling would entail. “Putting up a few walls and wiring some outlets” sounded like a manageable task, until I started to think more about how little we actually know about drywall and wiring.

 What parts of the PM process, if included, would have made the project more successful?
I think if we had planned more realistically, the project would have been much more successful. Rather than thinking we could figure out a major remodeling project as we went along, budgeting for a contractor to complete the work makes much more sense (especially because my husband and I both have full-time jobs). In addition, we should have looked into other possible outside factors that would affect our remodeling budget, such as the condition of the roof.  In addition, we should have asked more detailed questions of our subject-matter experts.

We haven’t completely scrapped this project, but as a result of this project post-mortem, we are planning for a time when this project will fit more realistically into our budget and our lives.

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.

Wednesday, October 31, 2012

Welcome - Educ 6145

Project Management in Education and Training

Well, after a much-needed couple of months off, I'm now back to the routine of juggling work, kids, housework, and grad school. The next course in my Walden program is about project management, which is totally new material for me. I'm ready for some hard work, but I can see the light at the end of the tunnel! I'll be glad when I've finished this degree. Just don't ask me what I plan to do next! :)

If you're new to following my blog, here's a link to a Prezi I created with some info about me. Enjoy! :)

Sunday, August 19, 2012

Reflection on Distance Learning

Over the past eight weeks, I have delved into the theory and applications of distance learning. It’s been very interesting to learn the “why and how” of what I do every day as a virtual teacher, and I’ve really appreciated how relevant this class has been to my career. One interesting aspect has been to look at the perceptions of distance learning, especially as it pertains to k-12 education.

When I was interviewing for my current position as a middle school language arts teacher in a virtual charter school in Indiana, I remember asking the principal how virtual teachers were able to form relationships with students. I was fairly comfortable with the online environment, and I’d even taken a few college classes online, but those seemed to be set up with little interaction between students and instructors; I was concerned that I’d miss out on my favorite part of teaching – getting to know my students. The principal laughed a little and said she heard that question a lot. She told me that as a virtual teacher, I’d be spending much less of my time on classroom management and writing lesson plans, and more time interacting with my students one-on-one and in small groups – the difference would be that these meetings would be online or over the phone instead of face-to-face. She convinced me, I got the job, and she was absolutely right – virtual education is much different than teaching in a brick-and-mortar classroom, but I am amazed at how well I know my students, even if I have no idea what they look like. (Funny story: one of my students, after completing my class, added me as a Facebook friend. I had talked to this student for hours and hours over the course of the school year, and the picture I had in my head of him was a tall, lanky kid wearing jeans and glasses, but in reality he’s short, stocky, and practically the opposite of my mental picture!)

I use those stories to illustrate the fact that perception is really important, but it’s also very easy to come up with the wrong perceptions based on our prior experience. Distance learning is no different. People with little experience regarding distance learning often believe that it’s less valuable than education received via face-to-face methods, when research has continually shown that this is not true: Zacharis (2010), for example, found that there is no statistically significant difference in achievement between online learning and face-to-face learning.

However, even though the misperceptions are common today, more and more people are choosing distance learning. Both at the k-12 level and in higher education, numbers of online learners are growing dramatically. This growth indicates that in the future, even within the next five to ten years, the perceptions of distance learning will be much more positive than they are today. As we get students who are “digital natives” entering higher education with strong opinions about their educational needs and how to meet them, online education will be ready for them.

As an instructional designer and as a teacher in the virtual school environment, I think my job is to continue to pursue excellence. If I do my job well, my students and their parents will know the value of online education. If I design courses, units, or lessons that are instructionally sound, motivate my students to learn, and provide individualized attention, I will add to the body of positive experiences surrounding online education. I also believe that I can act as an advocate for online learning by sharing my own experiences as a teacher and instructional designer with those around me. My school’s motto this year is “Expecting Excellence Every Day.” In order for continuous improvement in distance education to happen, everyone involved needs to be committed to excellence.

Siemens, G. (n.d.). The Future of Distance Education [Video Program]. Laureate Education, Inc., 2012.

Zacharis, N. Z. (2010). The Impact of Learning Styles on Student Achievement In a Web-based Versus an Equivalent Face-to-Face Course.  College Student Journal, 44(3), 591-597.

Sunday, August 12, 2012

Converting to Blending Learning: A Best Practices Guide

For this week's application assignment, we were asked to think about a scenario where a training manager wanted to convert a face-to-face training program to a blended learning format in order to foster higher-quality communication. I used Prezi to create a "best practices' guide for the trainer.

In laying out this guide, I followed the ADDIE model of instructional design, hoping that the simple process would help outline each step. I used Prezi as the format for this guide because it lets me highlight the key points in a visual format without overwhelming the training manager.

Click below to view the Best Practices Guide on Prezi:

Converting to Blended Learning: A Best Practices Guide