Scope Creep

In my job, I work on a team that develops training for the management team to make their teams more effective. We do not deliver the training, we only develop it for the managers to deliver. Each year we propose a training plan which will focus on topics that have been suggested by the management team. Our team of three Instructional Designer/Project Managers has only been in place for two and a half years and in the first year we learned a great deal about scope creep (though we wouldn’t know to call it that).

The first year we proposed a plan for developing training which involved each level of management. However, when we presented the plan we presented it only to the senior management who would sign off on the overall concept. We then took what was approved by the Senior leadership and began implementing our well thought out concept. The major issue was that we did not present to the other manager who would be a great influence on the success or failure of the project.

As the implementation of the project began, we started getting a lot of push back from managers on the amount of time it was requiring of them and their people. They didn’t like the classroom format of the training and wanted it to be more computer based to keep them from having to spend so much time training and not enough time coaching their people. This first bit of scope creep involved our team conducting trainings to alleviate the manager’s time. However, the feedback continued that the live session were taking up too much of their employees time. Thus we took the training and developed an e-learning course which took a good deal of time and effort and changed the projects scope completely for the rest of the year.

In the end, the scope creep from this first major project taught us that communication across the organization and with all those who will be involved in the project from top to bottom must be included from the beginning. Because we only included the senior leaders, those who were at the floor level were immediately frustrated and saw issues that senior leaders wouldn’t see because they are not in the midst of the action on a day to day basis. It is communication that will make or break a project. When communication is done well, scope creep can be minimizes. However, with little communication comes a major amount of scope creep which will break a project down quickly if not managed.

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Effective Communication

Have you ever received an email or IM from someone that started with “No, I…”? What did you hear when you read this? Was it positive? Did you think the person typing the message was being friendly or encouraging? In all likelihood after receiving that message you probably felt as if someone has scolded you simply because of the way the message began. The fact that you couldn’t the tone of the message can change the delivery 100%. Dr. Stolovitch (Laureate Education, Inc.) clearly stated that “communication is not just words.” I have given the advice more than once to colleagues who were frustrated with a written communication that they shouldn’t read tone into an email or text. It is always best to speak with the person face to face before interpreting a written message with a certain tone.

I just completed an activity where the same message was given in three different mediums – first by email, second by voicemail and then finally face-to-face. In the message Jane is asking Mark for a report she needs in order to complete her own work and have it in on time. When I read the email from Jane it came across as being annoyed or frustrated with Mark and the situation. She starts by saying that she knows he is busy and she ends with saying she appreciates his help, but the message between these two things makes it seem as though these sentiments are simply her way of trying to get what she wants. The voicemail didn’t seem much different to me. Jane sounded annoyed and somewhat demanding and put off that her own work could be late because she is waiting on Mark. In fact, what she said in the voicemail was exactly the tone I read from the email. The finally message was face-to-face and the body language, facial expressions and tone used helped the message to come across as more of a friendly reminder than of an annoyed colleague. It was a completely different message in my observation.

I think the take away from this activity is that when things are due and there is something that needs to get done or an important message that needs to be communicated it is best to do it in person when necessary. However, sometimes it is not possible and when messages must be conveyed from a distance it is best by phone using an appropriate tone or if absolutely necessary through a written message avoiding the use of certain phrases or words that may come across as negative and demanding like the first example I gave. Portny, Mantel, Meredith, Shafer, Sutton, & Kramer (2008) tell us that “whatever form communications take…project managers should plan and prepare so their messages are received and correctly interpreted” (p. 367). Communication is key to a successful project and how the communication is delivered can make all the difference as to whether it is effective or destructive.

References:

Laureate Education, Inc. (Producer). Communicating with Stakeholders. (Media Resources). Boston, MA: Stolovitch.

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.

Learning from a Project “Post-Mortem”

DSC_0309-2 (104x150) In my professional life I work as an instructional designer and often am required to manage projects which I am a part of as well. When I work as a project manager I typically am pretty successful. However, when I set out to plan my partner’s, Phyllis, and my first baby shower I should have approached the task more as a project manager and less like only a member of the project team.

As a first time parent, there were a number of people who had volunteered to be a part of the planning and throwing of the baby shower. The decision was originally made that my sister-in-law, my best friend and Phyllis’s best friend would work together to plan and throw the shower. We communicated with each of them and shared their contact information among them. We were told that we should step back and allow them to plan the party and just show up and enjoy the fun and festivities. But, when it came to less than a month before the shower should happen we began to get nervous and started asking some questions. It seemed that no one had communicated among the three of them. Two of them, separately had been looking into locations for the shower at completely different locations and types of facilities. Though the idea of being able to step back and let the team do the work seems wonderful, in this case, it was a disaster!

The outcome of the way this project was managed was that one shower became two and my sister-in-law ended up not only not planning the shower but not even attending. The two showers were planned and thrown by two people who were not one of the three original contributors and those who were original chosen became attendees who provided some of the food and/or decorations. The locations of the showers ended up being at the houses of the friends who threw the showers which had a good deal to do with the decision to have two showers due to the amount of space available at the houses. And the friends who volunteered to let us use their houses really took over most of the responsibility of the planning and throwing of the shower. Phyllis and I chose the dates and sent out the invitations as well as purchased the decorations and game prizes ourselves.

If I would have come at the planning of the shower as a project manager, still working as only a manager of the team, but allowing the team to do the work of the overall project I believe it could have been much more effective and would have avoided the drama and stress that resulted from the lack of communication and organization. Portny, Mantel, Meredith, Shafer, Sutton, & Kramer (2008) explain that successfully launching a project requires that “everyone associated with the project must understand the roles and responsibilities of project teams and stakeholders (p. 76). This just simply was not true with this project.

Greer (2010) says that “you need to meet with all of your stakeholders and conduct a brainstorming session in order to document, in “high resolution,” everything you are going to be building” (p. 13). We should have taken the time to meet with everyone at the beginning of the project and discussed what each person would be responsible for completing and how they would communicate with each other and with us. Also, timeframes should have been made much clearer from the beginning. The reason Phyllis and I took the reins and ended up doing a lot of the work is because we didn’t feel things were happening in an appropriate timeframe. Since we did not communicate our expectation of timeframe from the beginning no one had a deadline to hold them to and thus things did not get done.

Communicating expectations from the beginning both the role and responsibilities and timeframe would have made all the difference with this baby shower being planned more quickly and effectively. In the end we had two wonderful showers. However, not only was there a lot of stress, but relationships were strained from the lack of management of the project. This was a project that needed to be managed but unfortunately I didn’t approach it in that way. I will definitely look at it differently if ever I am faced with a “project” such as this one again in the future.

References:

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.

Reflection on Distance Learning

“Distance education provides the opportunity to widen intellectual horizons, as well as the chance to improve and update professional knowledge. Further, it stresses individuality of learning and flexibility in both the time and place of study” (Simonson, Smaldino, Albright, & Zvacek, 2012, p. 39). The benefits of distance education are clear. However, there are still varying perceptions of distance education which exist within our society today. How will these perceptions change over the next 5-10 years? How can instructional designers be proponents for improving these perceptions? How can we, in the field of instructional design, be a positive force for the continuous improvement of distance learning? The following reflection on distance learning will attempt to address each of these questions.

It seems we are in a transition time where technology is growing to be so commonplace that it would be almost ridiculous to consider an educational model that would not include some form of distance education. George Siemens (2010), in speaking on the future of distance education, spoke of bridging the gap of comfort and explaining that as learners have more experience with technologies they will be more comfortable with using them in an educational format. Of all of the differing definitions of distance education, they all include the separation of the student from the teacher and other students. However, with the use of programs such as SkypeTM , FaceTime on an iPhone, and free video conferencing tools such as AnyMeetingTM the distance is being bridged. It seems that as these types of tools become more and more common, as even the personal computer has become, that distance education will not have the same negative perceptions to overcome. I believe that in the next 5-10 years distance education will be expected in both the higher education and corporate settings. What the perception of distance learning will be depends on the instructional designers and especially those who conduct these courses.

Instructional designers must become proponents of distance learning, because it is part of the landscape of education and will only continue to grow in its popularity. The current perceptions of distance education tend to be negative because of the lack of training for both the designers and the educators. Valentine (2002) reiterates this when he said, “As in any educational situation, the instructor can set the tone for learning in the educational environment. That instructor must be properly trained and motivated to be effective.  An instructor must have technological skills and confidence to use all of the various electronic devices in order to be truly effective in the electronic classroom.” Instructional designers must learn to design instruction to be effective in this format of distance learning. It is not the same as face-to-face, though some similarities may exist. As the Equivalency Theory explains we must design instruction that is equivalent to classroom but not identical. (Simonson et. al., 2012) It is the learning activities that will look different though the outcomes will be the same. When instructional designers begin to think in this context when designing for distance learning there will be a shift in the outcomes and thus the perceptions of the learners.

As I have taken this course, my own perception of distance learning has changed. From the content that was covered to the actual practice of being a distance learning instructor by Ronald Paige, I saw how distance learning can be conducted in a way that you do not compare it to a face-to-face course, but you simply learn from the activity of the distance learning platform.  So, how do I now continue this perception and spread it past own beliefs? I believe it will start with developing all distance learning coursework with the theory that guides it in mind. Simonson et. al. (2012) tell us that Holmberg suggested that “distance education has been characterized by a trial-and-error approach with little consideration being given to a theoretical basis for decision making” (p. 42). If we begin to base our decisions for design on sound theory then we are working from a strong foundation and this is where we should begin.

This course has also inspired me to consider online teaching as a possible future endeavor. I have such a strong passion for teaching and have always aspired to one day be a professor at the college level. I can now see myself doing this not only in a classroom but also in an online format. With the knowledge gained from this course and the experience of thinking through developing an online class with our activity I feel I could be successful. Being a positive factor in the continuous improvement of distance education starts with being a part of great distance education! I hope to be part of this exciting change in the field of education in the coming years.

References:

Laureate Education, Inc. (Producer). (n.d.). The future of distance education. [Video podcast]. Retrieved from https://class.waldenu.edu/webapps/portal/frameset.jsp?tab_tab_group_id=_2_1&url=%2Fwebapps%2Fblackboard%2Fexecute%2Flauncher%3Ftype%3DCourse%26id%3D_3396926_1%26url%3D

Simonson, M., Smaldino, S., Albright, M., & Zvacek, S. (2012). Teaching and learning at a distance: Foundations of distance education (5th ed.) Boston, MA: Pearson.

Valentine, D. (2002).  Distance learning:  Problems, promises, and possibilities.  Online Journal of Distance Learning Administration, V(III).  Retrieved August 20, 2013 from http://www.westga.edu/~distance/ojdla/fall53/valentine53.html

Aside

As an Instructional Designer in a corporate setting, the question of how to best deliver instruction is one that will always be asked with every project. In an organization where employees are located in different locations stretched across multiple time zones, the answer to this question will most often require the use of distance education technologies. Simonson, Smaldino, Albright, & Zvacek tell us that when the correct media is selected it will “maximize efficiency and make available more resources for other learning experiences.” (2012) In the scenario given for consideration this week a new system is being implemented throughout a corporation that has six regional offices. The staff cannot meet at the same time or the same location for the training of the new system. As the instructional designer, it is my job to find the most effective and efficient way to deliver the training.

The use of distance learning technologies is the immediate solution to the scenario produced. In fact, the use of distance learning technologies has become somewhat commonplace in the corporate setting. Moller, Foshay, & Huett tell us that the reason for this is the “reduction in training delivery costs.” (2008) They also attribute this to the fact that e-learning is “instantly available, providing timely and on-demand learning…[and] scalable” (2008) No doubt, for corporations, especially those such as the one described in this scenario, distance learning technologies are the way of the future for corporate training and development.

So, now the question is which distance learning technologies will most maximize efficiency for training the employees in six locations on a new system. Simonson et. al. describes desktop two-way audio/video technologies which could be used in this scenario. There are many different programs available today that could be used to make this possible and most organizations have these in place for not only training purposes but also for meetings and brainstorming among coworkers. For the sake of this scenario, we will assume this organization has Adobe Connect in place for these purposes. This program allows for audio and video connection among participants as well as the sharing of documents and screenshots. A schedule would be generated that would allow for all employees to attend a session that best fits with their schedule. Depending on the number of employees required to attend pre-registration may be necessary. Otherwise, a link to the session could be attached to the announcement of the different sessions. However, for those who are not able to attend any of the scheduled sessions, the ability to record the sessions for later viewing is available through Adobe Connect (Adobe Systems, San Jose, Calif). At the end of the session, for continued sharing and ongoing collaboration a group wiki would be shared for participants to use after the synchronous session has ended.

Adobe Connect (Adobe Systems, San Jose, Calif) has been successfully used by many educators and organizations for the purposes of distance education. It is especially useful because it allows not only for the use of sharing screens and presentations, but also the use of video of the actual instructor for those attending the session. This is so effective, that it can even be used in the medical field as described by Galvin, Frazier, & Franks when teaching about radiology and histology. They refer to the benefits of using a web-conferencing software as having “improved efficiency and enabled collaborative consultation
between individuals at distant institutions.” (2010) Galvin et. al. go on to say that “the sessions have provided an excellent platform for teaching both radiology and pathology residents, who can log on remotely to observe the diagnostic process.” (2010) It is also used in higher education, as in the case of Purdue University North Central (PNC) in its MBA program. Chuang describes the use of the program as being able to “combine existing learning content with real-time interactivity between presenters and students for engaging collaborative teaching and learning experiences.” (2009) In a corporate setting, I have used this tool successfully many times to implement distance learning and have found it allows for the instruction and interactivity that this scenario requires.

References:

Beldarrain, Y. (2006). Distance education trends: Integrating new technologies to foster student interaction and collaboration. Distance Education, 27(2),139–153.

Chuang, K. (2009). Mobile technologies enhance the e-learning opportunity. American Journal of Business Education. 2(9), 49-54.

Galvin, J. R., Frazier, A. A., & Franks, T. J. (2010) Collaborative radiologic and histopathologic assessment of fibrotic lung disease. Radiology. 255(1), 692-706

Moller, L., Foshay, W., & Huett, J. (2008). The evolution of distance education: Implications for instructional design on the potential of the web (Part 1: Training and development). TechTrends, 52(3), 0–75.

Simonson, M., Smaldino, S., Albright, M., & Zvacek, S. (2012). Teaching and learning at a distance: Foundations of distance education (5th ed.) Boston, MA: Pearson.

My Learning Networks

“Connectivism is driven by the understanding that decisions are based on rapidly altering foundations. New information is continually being acquired. The ability to draw distinctions between important and unimportant information is vital. The ability to recognize when new information alters the landscape based on decisions made yesterday is also critical.” (Siemens, 2004)

In reading about connectivism I find myself fascinated with how it describes the clear process that so many people take now when there is something they want to learn. In every day conversations, when a question arises that no one knows the answer to, inevitably someone will say, “Google it!” This is the world we now live in.

The assignment this week in my Learning Theories and Instruction course at Walden University was to create a mind map of my network connections. Basically, break down how you learn and from what nodes I gain knowledge. I tackled this assignment from the same aspect that I typically attach writing my goals on an annual basis; I looked at the same areas of life as I set my goals: career, education, health, social, financial and emotional/spiritual. In looking at each of the areas I then started asking myself, how do I learn and grow in my ability to meet me goals in these areas. The resulting mind map can be seen in this post.

As I created the mind map, and thought about how technology has changed the way I learn, I see how even in the past few months through my courses at Walden University, I have become more equipped to learn in a vast, ever-changing world. I have been in the ID field for the past 5 years, and I have learned more in the past 4 months than in the rest of this time. Why? Because I have been introduced to the world of connectivism through blogs, online journals, and other technological resources, like mind maps, that have changed the way I look at how I learn. I would say that I have found the use of blogs and conversations with other ID professionals, even through the posts in my courses, the most beneficial. Learning from others and their experiences and having constructive conversation around the topics that are affecting my career and education has allowed me to grow in both my knowledge level and skills needed to be the best I can be at what I do.

As I look at my personal learning network through my mind map, I have to agree that connectivism is a part of the learning scene now and that cannot be denied. One of the principles of connectivism is that “learning and knowledge rest in diversity of opinions” (Davis, Edmunds, & Bateman, 2008). I can see this in my mind map as I notice that I learn so much from others. I believe that having my opinion is important but when I hear from others through a variety of resources, their opinions are able to affect my own and sometime change them completely. Another principle is that “learning is a process of connecting specialized nodes or information sources” (Davis, Edmunds, & Bateman, 2008). My mind map is pretty extensive and clearly shows this principle of many nodes or information sources being used to learn.

The clearest principle I am able to see by looking at my mind map of my personal learning network is that “nurturing and maintaining connections is needed to facilitate continual learning” (Davis, Edmunds, & Bateman, 2008). If I did not have the connections that I have, my learning would not be able to grow as effectively as it would with them.  The truth of the matter is that in this day and age, “the span of time between learning something new, being able to apply it, and finding that it is outdated and no longer useful continues to decrease” (Davis, Edmunds, & Bateman, 2008). So, not nurturing and maintaining connections would mean losing out on the new and improved ways of thinking and doing things. We must always be thinking and improving as instructional designers. Connectivism seems to give a clear picture of how we can do this.

References:

Davis, C., Edmunds, E., & Kelly-Bateman, V. (2008). Connectivism. In M. Orey (Ed.), Emerging perspectives on learning, teaching, and technology. Retrieved from http://projects.coe.uga.edu/epltt/index.php?title=Connectivism

Siemens, G. (2004, December) Connectivism: a learning theory for the digital age. Elearnspace, everything elearning. Retrieved from http://www.elearnspace.org/Articles/connectivism.htm