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


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