Project Management for Instructional Designers – Part I

Welcome back! After the last course I had a (very welcome but very brief) break, and now I’m back in the swing of things with a new class. EDU 627 focuses on project management – skills and knowledge in the field, and applying it to our own educational context. Today is the first in a series of four posts where I will share what we’re learning and offer my thoughts and reflections.

Image courtesy of raisingthestandards.org.za

What is a project? A project has three main characteristics:

  • It is temporary – there is a start and end date.
  • A project is undertaken to create a product or service.
  • Aspects of the project “develop incrementally over time” (Cox, 2010).

A note of clarification – there is a difference between projects and operations. While a project might be launched to create a new process or service, say a business developing a new employee directory, the daily functioning of the system falls under operations. The project ends when its objectives are met, then the process is turned over to operations (Cox, 2010).

What does a project manager do? The key word here is manager. The project manager is in charge of defining the problem that creates the need for a project, organizing and motivating a project team, keeping stakeholders up-to-date, assessing and mitigating risks to the project, and adapting to changes along the way (Haughey, 2011).

This video explains more about what happens in the phases of project management. He organizes the phases a little differently, and his language dives into business-speak quite a bit, but it is a good overview of what goes on for a manager during a project.

If you’ve been following this blog for a while, you probably have bells ringing in the back of your head. So much terminology in project management overlaps with instructional design (ID). See my ADDIE series posts for more on ID. The responsibilities of the project manager are very similar to those of an instructional designer. Even the steps of project management align with those of ID: definition of goals, objectives, success factors; initiation; planning; execution; monitoring and control; and closure (Haughey, 2011). Dorcas Cox (2010) combined the two processes of project management and ID into her Four Step Combo:

Image courtesy of knowbyart.com

This idea of the Combo was really helpful for me. Going into this course, I wasn’t quite sure why students of ID and educational technology would be studying a domain that frankly smacks of administration and business. I get it now. For public schools, the projects cold be anything from remodeling the building to the ubiquitous curriculum work. When curriculum needs to be revised, a team is assembled under a leader (the project manager), they are given a deadline, resources, and objectives to work towards. It is a perfect example of the union between ID and project management.

I have not had the opportunity to be a part of a project at work, either as a team member or manager. For a while I considered the organization, leveling, and upkeep of our intermediate book room as a project, but it fails to meet the first characteristic of a project: time. The book room is an ongoing process – no deadlines. Our big project for this class is to create a project for our educational context, one we could possibly implement in real life. I’m kicking around a few ideas: blended learning, BYOD, and a new 1:1 iPad pilot our school starts this year. Stay tuned for more!

Cox, D.M.T. (2010). Project management skills for instructional designers. New York, NY: iUniverse, Inc.

Haughey, D. (2011). Introduction to project management. Retrieved from https://www.projectsmart.co.uk/introduction-to-project-management.php

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