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Analyzing Scope Creep

 Resources are the lifeblood of a project (Stolovitch, 2010). A project manager must be able to manage time and resources and identify the trade-offs when necessary. In my personal job experience, we were tasked by another division within the company to take on a project that they were contracted to complete. The budget they had comprised of rewriting a face-to-face course and making more instructionally sound for instructors to present using PowerPoint. To their success, they were able to complete the learning content for PowerPoint presentation. The client then presented this division with an opportunity to build this very same course as an online course. The students would have to take the course and receive credit at the end. We built the course and presented the alpha version to the client for review. To our surprise, the client stated that we were contracted to deliver an online course that allows the student to be assessed in each Module/Lesson using “knowledge checks”. We were shocked to here such news. This capability would truly delay the course from its initial deliver date to at least four additional months. In order for this change in scope to take place, we would have to schedule a time with all course SME’s, any schoolhouse POC’s that have been designated during the entire efforts to create valid, measureable test questions. Once the content is developed, the programmer must generate a randomize test question bank and ensure it functionality with various combinations of wrong answers to pass. We were totally unaware of this when we took over the contract from the other division. The client we under the impression that this feature was ideally part of any online course that is delivered. As I look back on this experience, this truly could have been avoided. If I were the PM on this project, I would:

 • Implement Change Order forms and educate the project sponsor on the new processes. This will allow me to perform a cost-benefit analysis before scheduling changes requested by the project sponsor.

• Schedule another meeting to thoroughly understand the project vision. Meet with the project sponsor, all SME’s, and POC’s and deliver a change of scope document of the project as a whole for their review and comments (Stolovitch, 2010).

• Establish communication with all stakeholders that is clear, concise, and focused; help everyone stay on target (Stolovitch, 2010).

• Understand the priorities of the add-ons to the project scope, timeline, and budget. Make an ordered list for review throughout the project duration. Items should include budget, deadline, feature delivery, and customer satisfaction. I’ll use this list to justify scheduling decisions once the project has commenced.

• Define deliverables and have them approved by the project sponsor.

In conclusion, projects will undergo changes relating to scope creep. Project managers must be will to communicate will all stakeholders of changes that will impact the timeline, budget, and delivery.

Stolovitch, N. (2010). Project Management: Scope Creep [Motion Picture].

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Blog Assignment: Estimating Costs and Allocating Resource

Project managers must develop budgets in order to obtain the resources needed to accomplish project objectives (Portney, 2008). Allocating the resources and estimating the costs associated with an ID project is a very important aspect of budgeting that requires investigation and allocation of all resources. In my experience over the past two weeks, there were unexpected challenges dealing with the cost estimating of project activities. I have managed my personal, freelance, and small budget allocations using a cost per unit approach. Never have I managed a multitude of tasks, subtasks, and labor cost for a wide range of professionals. This week I was able to implement the project budget that covers all the necessary project activities using a Gantt Chart (Project Schedule).

The web has a lot of useful resources to help manage the activities for planning, estimating and controlling costs so that the project can be delivered under the approved and allocated budget. Consider this resource to help you accomplish your project goals.

http://www.tomsplanner.com/

Project Planning Software

Tom’s Planner is Gantt chart software that allows anyone to create, collaborate and share Gantt Charts online with drag and drop simplicity. It is web based, extremely intuitive and easy-to-use. I took the quick tour and interface is very well designed with colorful Gantt charts graphics. You are able to share, collaborate, print, and download your charts at various stages.

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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Communicating Effectively

Understanding the different ways that we effectively communicate, interact with, and process information among all project team members, can help us observe the way we interpret the message to mean. We need to find a balance between the different modalities and which conveys the true meaning and intent of the message.

Sample piece of communication in three different modalities

I know you have been busy and possible in that all day meeting today, but I really need an ETA on the missing report. Because your report contains data I need to finish my report, I might miss my own deadline if I don’t get your report soon. Please let me know when you think you can get your report sent over to me, or even if you can send the data I need in a separate email.

I really appreciate your help.

Jane

I will reflect on the three different modalities: as written text, as audio, and as video.

Email (Written Text)

As I reflect on the written text through email, I could only process a visual depiction of what was being said by the writer while writing her thoughts. It appears that Jane confronted this individual more than once without actually upsetting him. Moreover, I believe her first mode of communication was actually face to face. Though not intimidated by this individual, see uses an approach that blends thought, emotion and action to express her feelings through an email.

Voicemail (Phone)

As I reflect on communication through voicemail, Jane’s tone appears to have a sense of urgency, power and strength. With clear communication, it was understood that it is imperative that this individual respond immediately to this matter. Her use of expression was communicated by the use of expressive words such as, “I really need an ETA on the missing report,” and “I might miss my own deadline if I don’t get your report soon.” Recognizing these expressions, really prompt an individual to respond sooner than later.

Face to Face

As I reflect on communication through face to face, it appears to be the most effective approach. She is able to capture the interest of this individual interest and immediate action. Follow-up is not as hard or challenging and involves persistence. This project illustrates a collaborative teamwork and effort on the part of each individual. Being able to express oneness in the same environment promotes effective communication and the eagerness to meet the deadline.

How did your interpretation of the message change from one modality to the next?

Each message, going from auditory to visual became more pertinent and critical to individual responsibility. An email usually doesn’t express the true essence of time sensitive responses in same manner as the natural voice. Moreover, the natural voice as well as the emotion and physical gestures in face to face communication must convey the urgency necessary for the desired response.

What factors influenced how you perceived the message?

I am all too familiar with all three modalities in the workplace. What influenced my perception was the tone that appears to be cooperative but yet frustrated by noncommunitive stakeholders. It is obvious that this individual is a very busy person but in this situation lacked basic team player communication qualities.

Which form of communication best conveyed the true meaning and intent of the message?

Although it is not always possible to communicate through email on important matters, the value of face to face communication within your organization and with your clients should not go unrecognized. Email is instant and allows for an efficient exchange of information. But so does voicemail and face to face. Face to face communication also builds trust and minimizes the possibility of misunderstandings and misinterpretation. When using voicemail, we don’t have facial expressions or body language to help us express the message, so we must focus on every word being said, and the tone of voice that is being used. We compensate for the absence of nonverbal cues by adding more weigh to the words being said and the tone of voice being used.

Face to face communication still remains the best and most complete way of conveying the true meaning and intent of the message.

What are the implications of what you learned from this exercise for communicating effectively with members of a project team?

Depending on your relationship with individuals within your organization, at times your situational project needs may seem as little of no importance. Using various forms of communication may yield an immediate response from stakeholder. It is imperative that we identify with the various personalities and be able to choose which modality is effective for each.

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Learning from a Project “Post-mortem”

Eight month ago, my project manager accepted a tasking for Instructional design development for a government project. The project was given to use from North Division whose project manager abandoned the project to take a new job. Leaving the division and its team members frustrated about what steps to take next, they called upon our division (South) to take on the project. North Divisions responsibilities were to develop and deliver face-to-face course materials for six-hour training. They were also tasked to create a web based training using the same materials from the F2F.

My PM decided to hold a WebEx conference with the team from North Division to evaluate the RFP, tasking, project duration, technical information, resources remaining, etc. Over the next eight months, the project became my responsibility to develop, program, and deploy. I had been promoted a month prior and sought the guidance of senior ID’s to assist in various stages of applying the Evaluation process of ADDIE where the previous team lacked in consistent terminal and enabling objectives.

As I read through the ID portions of the tasking, the client wanted me to take a 6 hour face-to-face course and convert into 1-2 hour WBT.  I figured if I could get my wheels turning on a good evaluation plan of the project, the chances of minimizing the total course time, would be of great impact to the client.

To make a long story short, I was able to successfully finish all project deliverables but the project had to be reworked, leaving us over budget. I believe this could have been easily avoided if we were able to contribute to the analysis phase of the process. I would have been able to stress the importance of this stage and budgeted the funding to accommodate for a good plan. At that time, I would have discussed reopening and readjusting life/cycle. I would have also gotten all of the key players involved early on in the process. The SME’s, client management, and  training staff were busy teaching the F2F course, therefore, I didn’t have an extensive relationship with them until 2 months later into the project.

Having only the materials given to me from the North Division, the course suffered continuity in training terminology, content that correlated with the learning objectives, and assessment materials. I believe that if I were able to arrange a visit to actually sit in and recorded one of the F2F courses to gain knowledge of the course content as whole, the project would have been more successful.

In conclusion, the client realized that they lacked involvement in the projects success. I was able to get the client to extend the deadline for the delivery of the course. They recorded the F2F course for evaluation, scheduled two office visits, contributed to storyboard, media, and project management. Three months later, I delivered an Alpha review, received better feedback, and was able to post the Beta version on their test server for peer review.

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Reflection

What do you think the perceptions of distance learning will be in the future (in 5–10 years; 10–20 years)?

Within the past few courses that I have taken online through Walden University, as well as the full developmental experience of an online course, I now understand how to distinguish between appropriate uses of distance learning.  Universities, corporations, and business understand the significance and growth through online training and course offerings. Students, employees, and trainees are showing positive attitudes about online learning. This is largely due to having the experience communicating online. People who are use to the traditional face-to-face communication are starting to realize that they are able to have meaningful relationships to online mediums (Siemens 2010).

The future of distance learning in the next 5-10 years will continue to be the driving interest of emerging technologies coupled with new learning theories to assess learning achievements. I have learned that learning online is not related to achievement but is related to measureable learning outcomes. We will continue to see the development of courseware focus on real world problems and interaction through gaming and simulation. We will begin to see an increase and acceptances of the more intelligent F2F cultures that possess the characteristics begin to embrace this learning style. They will come to the conclusion that they are not generally different but have more similarities. Dr. Siemens (2010) recognized that the notion of distance-geographical location isn’t a significant factor as we thought it was even five years ago. This is probably tied into the new tools and the practical experience with these new tools.

How can you as an instructional designer be a proponent for improving societal perceptions of distance learning?

Distance education is becoming a good way to acquire knowledge separate from traditional methods of attending the classroom (Schmidt, 2001). As an instructional designer my goal will be to promote the experience of the distance learner as complete, satisfying, and acceptable as that of the traditional learner.  The more I can advocate equivalent alternatives that provide various ways of learning, the better the learning experience. Helping new users become comfortable with the environment will decrease the conflicting pressures of students that are content with learning only through F2F. People who are use to the traditional face-to-face communication are starting to realize that they are able to have meaningful relationships to online mediums (Siemens 2010).

How will you be a positive force for continuous improvement in the field of distance education?

For over the past the past 15 years, I have been committed to the design and development of content for the distance learning experience. In 2009, I decided to further my career by pursuing a Masters Degree in Instructional Design at Walden University. I felt a true calling in the field of distance education for the company and college with whom I am currently employed. Through the application of technology, I am able to enable learners to receive instruction anytime, anywhere.

I will continue to stay educated on new forms of technology, research, and opportunities for further growth. I will continue to understand the importance of previous and future theories that impacts my practice in the field. Also, I will be able to develop theories of my own that will be of great benefit and ongoing work of instructional design for universities, corporations, and businesses.

In conclusion, I will continue to promote, develop, and design learning environments for individuals who require a different mix of learning experience.  Schmidt (2001) suggests that the goal of course development is to provide the student with the best possible scenario where learning outcomes will be maximized. The professors at Walden University have given me a solid foundation in which to build on. If nothing else, I will start with engaging learners with valid subject matter content and learning activities that support and activate the learning experience.

Reference

Schmidt, E., & Gallegos, A. (2001). Distance learning: Issues and concerns of distance learners. Journal of Industrial Technology, 17(3). Retrieved from http://atmae.org/jit/Articles/schmidt041801.pdf

Siemens, G. (2010). The future of distance education [Video podcast]. Laureate, Inc.

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Converting to a Distance Learning Format

In this week’s application assignment, we were given this scenario:

A training manager has been frustrated with the quality of communication among trainees in his face-to-face training sessions and wants to try something new. With his supervisor’s permission, the trainer plans to convert all current training modules to a blended learning format, which would provide trainees and trainers the opportunity to interact with each other and learn the material in both a face-to-face and online environment. In addition, he is considering putting all of his training materials on a server so that the trainees have access to resources and assignments at all times.

With respect to the scenario given, I formulated a best practices guide for this trainer to follow when converting his program to a distance learning format. This checklist could assist the trainer in facilitating communication and learning among his training managers, trainers, and trainees.

Having some kind of guide is very critical to ensure this form of teaching integrates well with existing practices.A7MorrisW

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The Impact of Open Source

It is essential that the instructor take the time to plan and organize the learning experience when engaged in teaching at a distance. The instructional design process provides the framework for planning. More often are we seeing traditional courses being redesigned and offered as distance learning. But often do not follow the instructional design process for a successful learning environment. As I reviewed this week Open Course resources, because they were entirely free, gave me the impression that they would be poorly designed. I have come to realize, that free doesn’t necessarily mean poor planning. As I reflect on this week’s Resources, an effective online course begins with planning. Being able to plan what you are going to teach through effective content guidelines allows for easy access of student use.

The Open Course that I examined was Massachusetts Institute of Technology Open Course: A free and open educational resource for educators, students, and self-learners around the world. http://ocw.mit.edu/index.html

The courses appeared to be carefully pre-planned and designed for a distance learning environment. The courses organization of content accessibility was like that of Walden University. Each instructor starts of by welcoming you to the course with course features, highlights, and a brief course description. Each course does a great job at deciding what knowledge, skills, and outcomes the student will gain after completing the course. Most institutions do not employ trained, professional instructional technology consultants whose functions are to assist faculty in online course development and the creation on learning objects (Simonson, 2010). One course in particular, Computational Camera and Photography, did not do a good job structuring the course activities to enable students to achieve the learning outcomes. I would go out on the limb to say that this was a shovelware course (p. 248). When instructors are able to do a thorough analysis, they will usually find out what the learner needs at each level as the course progress. Within the course description it states that, “students will learn hands-on projects”, but never explains anything about the equipment being issued or actually being demonstrated through online videos. This course does not follow the recommendations for online instruction as listed in your course textbook which states that:

• Training must be provided at the beginning of the course through online tutorials

• Stated the purpose of the assignments

• Identification of the intended audience

• Examples and non-example content

• Links to relevant resources

• Identification of the required components of the assignments

• Instructions for submitting assignments

Although Massachusetts Institute of Technology, stated that the development of their online open course resources were not intended for distance learning, their course are designed for independent learners who have few additional resources available to them. Because of this, the course designer implementation of course activities does not maximize active learning for the students. Some of the course have materials arranged in logical sequences and include some multimedia such as video and simulations but others simple state that video content is not available at this time. Because distance learning involves various forms of visual media such as text, handouts, videos, audio, and other graphical elements, content must be organize for student in a logical way (Simonson, 2010). Whether content is laid out in modules, units, or topics, you must decide the pace of instruction for the learner.

Massachusetts Institute of Technology Open Course: A free and open educational resource for educators, students, and self-learners around the world.
http://ocw.mit.edu/index.html

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