Analyzing Scope Creep

In a former life, I was a scenic and lighting designer for theatrical productions.  While nothing I worked on was on Broadway, the egos of the producers, directors, and the choreographers were big enough to be in a traveling circus.  As the stage and lighting designer, it was my role to take the hopes and dreams of the technical team and make it come to life, visually.  All of the stakeholders had different ideas of what the design should look like and no one ever wanted to step on anyone’s toes (this is community theatre).  One such project was for a little play called “A Christmas Story.”  For those familiar with the famous line, “You’ll shoot your eye out,” that is exactly what I wanted to do by the end of the project.  It is actually the one that ended my stint as a scenic designer.  It took years of turning down projects afterwards for them to take a hint that I was out of the business.

According to Portny, Mantel, Meredith, Shafer, Sutton, and Kramer (2008), the scope of a project should be clearly laid out to ensure everyone is in agreement and understands what would be covered under the project build.  During our initial meeting, everyone was given a budget and a venue that the show would be held in.  The entire creative team sat down and sketched out exactly what they wanted and how they wanted to accomplish it.  The team originally understood the budget constraints and kept the thoughts and ideas about the set, minimal.  As we left the meeting, everyone had their expectations set and I began to work on my concept designs, knowing what was in the prop shop and the money I had.  I wanted to exceed their expectations and amaze them with something truly immersive and exciting.  So what went wrong?

In our follow up meeting, it was my duty to deliver my concept art and present the design and cost to build.  They became excited at the concept and couldn’t wait to see it built.  The only problem was the director than announced that we were changing venues due to scheduling issues.  Where did we wind up?  In an old vacant strip mall store.  Not exactly ideal to build my stage.  Now, all the people would be on a level floor so I would have to elevate my stage.  There was nowhere to hang lights, so we would have to build scaffolding.  I was given a smaller area to build in, shattering the concept I had originally built.  The only problem was…I had already shown them the design.  Everything that I engineered would have to be rebuilt and changed to accommodate the space without getting additional funding.  How did everyone react to my warning?

The stakeholders insisted that it wouldn’t be that hard to build a couple platforms and didn’t understand why I was fluster.  I made the mistake of over-promising and never left enough buffer for disasters such as this one.  Had I known to hide 20% of my budget, I may have been able to avoid a problem (Laureate Education, n.d.a).  I should have under-promised and over-delivered (Laureate Education, n.d.a).  As I tried to pull back the design concept to match the budget, only certain stakeholders were satisfied with my plans, but I went with them anyway.  The original scope was now abandoned as they expected me to still build the stage, add in new scaffolding pieces, and vary stag levels as if we had a full theatre space.  

As I built out the set, actors (supporters), stakeholders (drivers), and parents (observers), all critiqued the lack of scenery (Portny, et. al., 2008).  Of course no one cared that we lost the venue that could accommodate the proper set.  I was constantly requested to build more out of thin air and people start donating supplies and money to accomplish the vision later in the project timeline.  Scope creep continued to be an issue throughout the project as the set continued to be constructed.  As I tried to accommodate as best I could, I was left with little time to finish the set by Showtime.  Surprisingly everything worked out, but the stress and aggravation made the experience very unenjoyable.  How could this have been prevented?

Communication was the biggest issue in this scenario.  I believe the director should have contacted everyone before the meeting to let us know the venue was changed (Laureate Education, n.d.b).  My design could have been altered appropriately and expectations could have been adjusted.  The change produced risks that were not identified early enough to fix the situation.  As the project manager, there should never be nasty surprises (Laureate Education, n.d.b).  I was blind-sided with the alteration and many of the drivers of the project figured I’d find a way to deliver my original proposal anyway.  They had distributed my drawings to everyone, setting unreasonable expectations.  It was a tough pill to swallow.  If I could have designed less and budgeted for a disaster, I would not have been in the position I was in.  Better communication and more buy-in from the start, would have made all the difference.

All I can say is, if life is a stage…then I want better lighting!

Steve

References

Laureate Education (Producer). (n.d.a). Creating a resource allocation plan [Video file]. Retrieved from https://class.waldenu.edu.

Laureate Education (Producer). (n.d.b). Monitoring projects [Video file]. Retrieved from https://class.waldenu.edu.

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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Estimating Costs and Allocating Resources

RESOURCE 1

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Barnes, S. (2009, Jun. 11). Effective strategy to estimate time for your design projects [Blog Post]. Retrieved from https://www.smashingmagazine.com/2009/06/effective-strategy-to-estimate-time-for-your-design-projects/.

This website provides a great overview of providing a decent estimate for time and money on a project.  As discussed in our resources this week, projects are plagued with tasks that are not planned for (Laureate Education, n.d.).  As I look at the scenario I am working on, I am aware of a lot of little items that might get overlooked.  This site reviews the different phases from research and planning to the go-live stage.  Portny, Mantel, Meredith, Shafer, Sutton, and Kramer (2008) laid out plans for Gantt charts and tables that help build the foundation of your project timeline.  This website takes those plans a step further by showing percentages needed for all steps.


RESOURCE 2

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Astuteo. (n.d.). Web development project estimator. Retrieved from http://astuteo.com/estimator/.

My scenario is concerned with designing interactive training modules.  By default, this website provides an amazing calculator for deciding hour many hours and the cost rate per hour.  This is great for managing time and resources on a broad scale.  The chart allows for additional tasks to be added and ones to be removed from the table.  This chart helps provide a top-down budgeting approaching to understand overall budget costs and view of the hours associated with the project (Portny et al., 2008).  I think this is a great tool as there are some standard procedures every project will undergo.


 

RESOURCE 3

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Ferriman (2015, Jun. 22). Estimating elearning development time [Blog Post]. Retrieved from http://www.learndash.com/estimating-elearning-development-time/.

This site was a great find!  It includes a five-minute guide labeling all the steps needed to complete an education project.  I love the use of the charts included in the site and may even print them out for work.  Portny et al. (2008) addressed the significance of identifying the cost per unit.  Three sections of great interest are the odd projects, scope creep, and dependency calculator.  It was also nice to see the author include the triple constraint ideas, mentioned by Dr. Van Rekom (Laureate Education, n.d.).  I look forward to using the tips, provided by this author, to ensure that I am truly capturing all the proper parts of the process.

 

Steve

References

 

Laureate Education (Producer). (n.d.). Practitioner voices: Planning for contingencies [Video file]. Retrieved from https://class.waldenu.edu.

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

According to Clampitt (2001), personal convenience is the biggest reason that an individual chooses to converse through a certain channel of communication.  As I observed the three samples presented, I could not help but ponder why the person chose to communicate through that medium.  Was there a sense of urgency or avoidance?  Stolovitch (Laureate Education, n.d.) addressed that effective communication was a combination of attitude, timing, and body language.  But what happens when certain attributes become hard to decipher through the communication channel?

Let’s first turn to the email version of the communication.  By sending an email, I believe Jane wanted to get a demand across without being confrontational.  While Jane could have notified the Mark through more direct approaches, she chose an indirect form which I believe shows disrupt and impatience.  Email should never be used for persuasive, time-sensitive matters (Clampitt, 2001).  As stated by Portny, Mantel, Meredith, Shafer, Sutton, and Kramer (2008), verbal communication should always be followed up by written documentation.  This email could have been tailored slightly and used more as a follow-up to a phone call or a face-to-face meeting.  I always like to follow up phone calls with an email addressing the key points.  What happens if we add voice?

I have to state that the phone call message seemed better than the email, but still felt a little forced.  Jane used inflection in her voice which can help improve the mood and tone of her message (Trenholm & Jensen, 2000).  Because Mark can hear the tone, I believe he can have more sympathy for Jane’s dilemma.  While you cannot see Jane, it becomes easier to picture what mood she is in on while leaving the voicemail.  I would prefer the voicemail over the phone as it helps address the form in which Jane is asking for Mark’s report.  Even with the addition of voice, I believe this communication could have been more effective in a face-to-face scenario.

In the last example, Jane is having a real-time conversation with Mark.  As stated by Clampitt (2001), face-to-face communication offers the best flexibility for communication among two people.  The nuances of facial expressions and body language help address the verbal message that Jane is relaying.  This channel of communication is the best out of all three, in my opinion, and has offered Jane the ability to plead for help in a non-threatening and relaxed manner.  She has been able to get her point across without leaving an ambiguous nature to her message.  Stolovitch (Laureate Education, n.d.) stated that important information should be addressed in person, highlighting the strengths of Jane’s method of choice.  If she needed to document what she has stated, she could follow up with an email thanking Mark for his time and reviewing what they went over.

The examples provided show how communication can get misconstrued, depending on the medium used to convey the message.  While email works for the follow-up to other forms of communication, I believe it should not be used as the initial form of engagement.  As a project manager, Stolovitch explained that it is vitally important to remove any ambiguity from your communication (Laureate Education, n.d.).  By using multiple forms of communication and clearly stating your thoughts, feelings, and expectations, you can achieve better results.  I must always be careful as to the messages leave.  I know that I always find email an easy form of talk, but it may not be the best or most effective way to handle situations.  Understanding what can be written down or spoken becomes extremely important, as an effective project manager.

Steve

References

Clampitt, P.G. (2001). Communicating for managerial effectiveness [Second Edition]. Thousand Oaks, California: Sage Publications Inc.

Laureate Education (Producer). (n.d.). Communicating with stakeholders [Video file]. Retrieved from https://class.waldenu.edu.

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.

Trenholm, S. & Jensen, A. (2000). Interpersonal communication. Belmont, California: Wadsworth Publishing Company.

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Learning from a Project “ Post-mortem”

No project ever goes as planned.  As stated by Petti Van Rekom, in Practitioner voices: Overcoming ‘scope creep,’ you should always build in extra time and money to account for unexpected situations (Laureate Education, n.d.).  My project was the rollout of a new learning management system at a company of over 45,000 employees.  I am very proud of the work I performed, and I was able to reach all of my objectives.  All tasks were completed on time, and I was able to achieve the general scope of the project.  Our project scope was to roll out the learning module of the LMS and transfer all learning objects and historical data from the existing systems.  Did we accomplish the task?  Of course!  But this story is not entirely about successes; it is also about concerns and missed opportunities.

The single most frustrating part of the project was getting buy-in from all the stakeholders.  Not only is it important to identify all your important persons on a project, but it is important to keep an open communication throughout the entire process (Portny, Mantel, Meredith, Shafer, Sutton, and Kramer, 2008).  Sometimes, you can try as much as you want but the people you need involved will not communicate with you.  Poor communication can result in a bad needs assessment and a less than optimal delivery.

If I had a chance to do this project over again, I think it would ultimately be important to get more senior leadership involved.  Beach (2006), addressed the importance of leveraging leaders to commit to culture change, which would have helped address the lack of cooperation.  But, as is with any situation, there is a positive and negative.

As the project manager in charge of the LMS implementation, I got the chance to work with various people throughout the company.  My company has a functionally organized structure which allowed me to manage and company-wide project from my education department (Portny et al., 2008).  This structure worked well as it afforded me the opportunity to manage from the viewpoint of an educator and determine how all the courses would fit into the system.  Before this role, I had acted as the quasi-LMS administrator to our old systems.  It was very helpful that I was aware of most of the stakeholders and the instructional designers whose content we were transferring.  How did I keep everything clear in my head?

When we began the process of defining the project, I held weekly meetings, with stakeholders, that addressed what we were trying to accomplish and what we needed from them.  I created an Access database that outlined a timeline and current learning objects that were in our systems.  We encouraged the different leaders to speak about what they wanted to accomplish and their requests (Portny et. al, 2008).  Once we identified everyone’s needs, we formalized a plan.  So what went wrong?

The individuals identified as drivers and supporters were too busy to perform the tasks.  We started to fall behind in the project as assignments were not completed appropriately by certain groups.  Sloppy communication led to missed opportunities, and stakeholders began to sign off on documents that they never read.  Towards the end of the project, we had the painful realization that we were not meeting the initial expectations which frustrated the implementation team.  How could this have been fixed?

More time!  The single biggest mistake with the project was the short amount of time to implement the LMS.  We could have created phased rollouts which would have given everyone more time to complete their sections.  Lack of planning on certain people’s sides led to an expectation that we would delay the rollout until their piece was completed.  Sadly, we had budgets and system requirements that prohibited us from delaying the implementation.  We built in no room for error as we let our server certificates and licenses expire on the older systems.  We knew we were not ready, but we released the system anyway.

We attempted to stay in constant communication throughout the project.  Unfortunately, I was unable to make people listen as project managers usually have very little authority over the supporters (Portny et al., 2008).  I believe we waited too long to engage senior management in explaining the challenges and roadblocks we were experiencing.  By the time we notified the proper individuals, we were three months from the rollout.  A lot of finger pointing happened, and new statements of work had to be created.  Portny et al. (2008) addressed that projects may sometimes fail due to poor assumptions or inconsistent upper-management support.  I believe that if everyone was committed to the project and took the timeline and objectives seriously, things would have been better.  It is always hard to predict people’s reactions.  I am still not sure we could have done any better in the situation as many competing personalities led to issues and poor cooperation.  I am still very proud of my job and role in the project and would do it again in a heartbeat.

Steve

References

Beach, L. (2006).  Leadership and the art of change. Thousand Oaks, CA: Sage Publications, Inc.

Laureate Education (Producer). (n.d.b). Practitioner voices: Overcoming ‘scope creep’ [Video file]. Retrieved from https://class.waldenu.edu.

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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Time for 6145-3!

Welcome Classmates!  It’s time to get this party started for another class…

May the 4th be with you!DSC_0863

Steve

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Distance education in the future

What if you could learn a new trade in your spare time?  Would you be as comfortable completing the task on your own, versus getting that extra push from a teacher standing over you?  Distance learning is a concept that has been around for more than 150 years (Simonson, Smaldino, and Zvacek, 2015).  While the style and implementation of non-face-to-face education has evolved, the reasoning for its existence remains the same.  According to Börje Holmberg, distance education serves a population of individuals who do not have access to the information within a reasonable distance or need flexibility with time and workflow (Simonson et al., 2015).  Although the basis for this style of education is honorable, the perception, by some, may not be positive or beneficial.  Nevertheless, George Siemens (Laureate Education, n.d.b) expressed that distance education is gaining acceptance due to stable technologies that provide communication and collaboration.  So where are we headed in the future?

As technology’s role in our everyday lives becomes seamless, the general population will become more comfortable with the idea of alternatives to face-to-face learning (Laureate Education, n.d.b).  Delivery, of distance learning, will continue to be dominated by the internet as we move further into the future which will increase its visibility (Shearer, 2015).  As more emphasis is placed on the comparison to brick and mortar schools, online universities will focus on quality and accreditation of their online programs (Shearer, 2015).  The quality of the program could encompass more than just the content, but also include the structure and design of the course.  What would be the point of a library full of books without a system to finding the book you need?  Online education, as pointed out by Huss and Eastep is a delicate balance of student ability, instructor feedback, and easily understood environment (2013).  For example, in a study performed on perceptions about online learning, individuals had negative reactions to the complexity of technology and the connectedness with a professor (Huss & Eastep, 2013).  How can these perceptions change?  According to Siemens (Laureate Education, n.d.b), as technology becomes more solid, educational techniques begin to leverage these sources of communication.  I believe that distance education will always be a mix of stable technology with newer offerings.  Will perceptions change about this style of learning?  Absolutely!  My caution is, with greater visibility comes increased scrutiny.  How can I improve the societal perceptions of distance learning?

As an instructional designer, it is important that you provide as much attention to an online course as you would to a face-to-face offering.  Desmond Keegan suggested that you should design online instruction that can provide an equivalent experience to that of a student in a physical classroom (Simson et al., 2015).  For example, if I was building an online course on how to start and stop a printing press, I am already placing my students at a disadvantage if they cannot physically interact with the printing press.  A great way to provide an equivalent experience would be to simulate what a control panel for the printing press looked like and give them interactive examples at starting and stopping the machine.  While they cannot physically touch the real machine, providing them with a digital mockup experience can train the students equally.  Also, building in activities and experiences that create a social presence give the learner motivation to perform in an online environment (Simonson et. al., 2015).  If your activity was to explain what setting was best to maximize the printing press results, every student may have a different answer.  Allowing them to substantiate their ideas to other classmates allows them to interact and hear other viewpoints.  It is important to identify the gaps in the learner experience between the physical classroom and the online environment.  Piskurich (Laureature Education, n.d.a) noted that actual in-person training is the best experience, but by determining equivalent formats and all the factors, it is possible to create effective distance learning.  Knowing what can create great results in online education, what can I do to help continually improve online education?

Technology is constantly evolving.  As an instructional designer, it is my responsibility to understand how these different technologies can further distance learning.  Piskurich (Laureate Education, n.d.a), stated that it is our responsibility to care about the success of the facilitators who handle the classes.  This ultimately means that I need to be able to provide train the trainer sessions to ensure anyone who facilitates distance learning classes can do so with confidence.  If I use a newer technology that helps accomplish the learning objectives of the class, I need to make sure that they are simple to use and operable by the facilitator.  Also, as an instructional designer, I need to guarantee that the technological environment allows for open communication and positive productivity (Durrington, Berryhill, & Swafford, 2006).   Students look to the facilitator for support and direction. Developing a course that allows for interaction and discussion, distance learning may be a more welcoming environment.

Distance learning has seen dramatic shifts in style, based on the technology it leverages to achieve its results.  I believe distance education will continue to close the gap between the physical classroom and the online realm.  New technologies are introduced each day that can help an instructional designer communicate and build the courses of the future.  It is my job to learn about these new advancements and decide how best to use them for online education.

Here’s to the future!

Steve

 

References

Durrington, V., Berryhill, A., & Swafford, J. (2006). Strategies for enhancing student interactivity in an online environment. College Teaching, 54(1), 190-193.

Huss, John A. and Eastep, Shannon. (2013). The Perceptions of Students toward Online Learning at a Midwestern University: What are Students Telling Us and What Are We Doing About It?. i.e.: inquiry in education: Vol. 4: Iss. 2, Article 5.  Retrieved from: http://digitalcommons.nl.edu/ie/vol4/iss2/5.

Laureate Education (Producer). (n.d.a). Delivery analysis [Video file]. Retrieved from https://class.waldenu.edu

Laureate Education (Producer). (n.d.b). The future of distance education [Video file]. Retrieved from https://class.waldenu.edu.

Shearer, R. (2015, Jan. 12). Four evolving trends that may shape the future of distance learning.  Retrieved from http://evolllution.com/opinions/evolving-trends-shape-future-distance-education.

Simonson, M., Smaldino, S., & Zvacek, S. (2015). In Teaching and learning at a distance: Foundations of distance education. Charlotte, NC: Information Age Publishing, Inc.

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Converting your Face-To-Face Course to a Distance Education Experience

For this assignment, I have created a guide that walks you through the four steps, I believe, you need to successfully convert a face-to-face course to a digital format.  Deciding on a proper plan is crucial to the success of your online course (Laureate Education, n.d.).  The guide includes a worksheet that can be filled out to determine all decisions made through the conversion process.  To view the guide, download the pdf located at the bottom of this post by clicking the link.

Steps

References:

Laureate Education (Producer). (n.d.b). Planning and designing online courses [Video file]. Retrieved from https://class.waldenu.edu.

File Download:
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