Project Management for Instructional Designers – Part III

Project Plan

The project plan is the document that outlines the parameters of the project. Throughout its multiple pages, budget, timelines, resources, communications, risk, changes, and scope are detailed, and a plan for managing them is explained. While you might be inclined to call the plan the project’s bible, there is one key aspect of the plan that differs: the project plan can change over time. Budgets get changed or voted down. Vendors raise or cut prices, or go out of business. Organizational culture shifts in a different direction – or digs in its heels to oppose the project at every turn. The project plan includes a change management plan – the person responsible for signing off on changes to the project. By having this [dynamic] document in place before executing and implementing the project, the PM can save the innumerable headaches that come with creating more project documentation while the project is underway.

Rita Mulcahy, featured in this video, makes a great analogy. The project plan is like an athlete visualizing their performance – after planning in your head, the actual execution becomes faster and easier.

I don’t think we, as teachers, recognize how often we behave like project managers. Each time we teach a new lesson, each time a surprise schedule change forces us to alter our plans, we think about what needs to get done, why, and by when. We then make a plan to get to that goal. Like Rita mentions in the video, we don’t need to have a multi-page document, we do, however, need to think it through.


As cliche as is sounds, communication really is key to a project’s success. Effective communication not only keeps everyone (vendors, sponsors, more senior executives/management, team members, etc.) “in the loop,” but can actually increase buy-in and support for the project (Charvat, 2002). In order to have effective communication throughout a project, you need to plan for it. A communication plan includes three main categories: who receives the communications, what type of information they receive, and how the content will be delivered (channel) (Cox, 2010). Included in any good communication plan will also be a schedule – how often communications will be sent to each stakeholder group. (Image courtesy of

As part of this course, I’m wrestling with the issue of communicating with parents, not only to convey information, but to get their buy-in on a project. Teachers and administrators – what have you found to be the best ways of reaching out to parents for this purpose?

Charvat, J. (2002). Project communications: A plan for getting your project going. Retrieved from

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

Project Management for Instructional Designers – Part II

Welcome back. Over the past two weeks, we’ve focused on the beginning steps of project management: project initiation and the first step of Cox’s (2010) Four-Step Combo – analysis.

Project Initiation

…is exactly what it sounds like – the steps and processes to get the project off the ground. High-level planning defines the scope of the project and the stakeholders. This phase results in the creation of a project charter – a document that outlines the problem and proposed solution (purpose), scope (timeline, budget, desired performance), deliverables, environmental factors and assets related to the project, and the project organization (sponsor, team, and stakeholders) (Post University, n.d.). Once the document is signed-off, the first step of the Four-Step Combo begins.

Around 6:00 the narrator dives into business-speak, which doesn’t help me as a teacher, but the overall sentiment should be taken to heart: any project undertaken in a school must serve the school’s vision or mission.

Needs Analysis

Image courtesy of

Ah, my old friend 🙂 A blast from the not-too-distant past. One of the lessons I remember well from EDU 623, which was echoed in this unit’s readings, was that training may not be the answer to an organization’s problem. The only way to find that out is through analysis. By studying the gap between the organization’s desired state and current performance, a designer or project manager can determine whether or not training is appropriate.

Task Differentiation and Sequencing

Another aspect of this first step of the Four-Step Combo we focused on is task differentiation. Similar to the task analysis an instructional designer would complete, this is the step when the project team’s work is broken down into its component pieces. Tasks are ordered and sequenced into primary tasks (the project’s objectives) as well as the main and supporting tasks that must be accomplished to complete the primary tasks. In project management, this is called the Work Breakdown Structure (WBS).

This image shows how tasks are usually organized in the WBS. The primary task is given a number (1. IT Installation Project). It’s main tasks are numbered 1.1, 1.2, and 1.3. The supporting tasks are listed under their main tasks, and numbered accordingly (ex., 1.1.1, 1.1.2).

The Take Home…

Much of the work in this course has aligned well with what I learned about ADDIE and instructional design in general. However, I struggled with the differences in task analysis between instructional design and project management. My professor explained it best when she said that designers focus on the skills and tasks trainees will need to complete, but project managers focus on the work the team needs to accomplish to complete the project. (Thank you Dr. Milhauser! 🙂 ).

In our discussion boards we’ve been sharing our experiences (or lack of) with PM in our work environments. There seems to be a general consensus that teachers could benefit from some training in PM, as I’m sure we’ve all been part of a project that was unwieldy and unfocused. I would extend this sentiment to administration. Schools have projects all the time, but having someone to guide and manage the work and the people would make our jobs that much less stressful.

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

Post University. (n.d.). EDU 627 Managing instruction & technology: Unit 2 – Initiating the project. Retrieved from