Analyzing Scope Creep

under-construction-clipart-Under-construction

The assignment this week is to describe a project that experienced issues related to scope creep.

The project that I will be looking at involved the building of a new house. The client’s son, an architect, had designed the house and a qualified building contractor, who was working for the municipality, was hired to manage and oversee the entire building project. He agreed to the budget as well as the end date for the project. He would subcontract all work and would visit the building site on a daily basis to ensure that everything was being done to specification and of the highest quality. The client’s son would visit the building site once a week to ensure the builder was working according to the design specifications.The client, himself, expected high quality work and therefore visited the building site on a regular basis to ensure that the construction was of a high standard.

The foundation was laid and building started. A while later the client noticed cracks in one area of the foundation. The contractor assured him that it was not a problem, but then more cracks in other areas started to appear. After much debate and arguing with the builder, the client decided to get the building inspectors to come and check as he was unhappy with the answers he had received. It was found that the builder had used clay to lay the foundation on as it was cheaper. The inspectors gave instructions that the foundation be ripped up and the proper soil be put down. After much negotiation the contractor agreed to rip up the foundation and redo it at his own cost. This naturally impacted negatively on the time line that had been agreed upon. Construction of the house continued. Then the architect found that the sizes of rooms were incorrect and a wall in the sitting room had been built skew. It was later discovered that the building contractor was working on multiple jobs and was not on site on a daily basis. The construction was also of an inferior quality and when the builder was asked to break down and redo the work, he walked off the job. The subcontractors still had to be paid, so the client and his son took over the management of the project until a new building contractor could be found. It was fortunate that they were able to find somebody within a fairly short time period to take over on the building site and oversee construction. The new contractor was unhappy with the quality of work of some of the subcontractors and hired new people to continue the work. The client now visited the site on a daily basis to meet with the contractor and any issues that arose were dealt with as soon as they arose. There were problems with building materials that the previous contractor had been paid for, but had not bought, and this resulted in the project not only going over-budget but led to the end date being three months later than it should have been.

What could the client have done differently to avoid this problem? The client should have done the homework and asked the building contractor for references instead of assuming that because he worked for the municipality he was reliable and trustworthy. When undertaking a project that you have a major stake in, it is important to ensure that you hire the right people for the job. The first building contractor was not really committed to the job as he had multiple jobs he was working on and when he ran into problems he didn’t want to deal with he walked off. The second building contractor hired was recommended by one of the building inspectors and supplied the client with names and telephone numbers of previous employers. Doing a little background research at the beginning would have saved the client both time and money.

Estimating Costs and Allocating Resources

“Being able to accurately estimate costs” and “identifying and planning for the resources needed to perform is a critical task for project managers” (Portny, S.E., et al, 2008, pp. 118 & 202).

Our task this week was to conduct a web search and locate at least two resources that would be useful in estimating the costs, effort, and/or activity duration associated with instructional design projects.

The first website that I found to be useful was Project Management Guru retrieved from http://www.projectmanagementguru.com/estimating.html

This website really answers all the questions that may crop up when dealing with anything to do with project management. There is general information about project management as well as tutorials on selected project management tools and techniques. Reviews on books and tools relating to project management is also available. Of particular interest is the page on Project Management Estimating Tools & Techniques as this deals with estimating the budget and resources needed for a project (http://www.projectmanagementguru.com/estimating.html). Ray Sheen discusses the three types of activities, namely: stable, dependent and uncertain activities and what type of estimating approach should be used with each of them. He then goes on to explain the different techniques used for estimating activities and then looks at the strengths and weaknesses of each. I found Ray Sheen’s latest blog on his blog spot (http://ray-sheen.blogspot.ae/), which can be accessed on the side bar, particularly useful as he discusses 10 steps for project estimating (Monday, September 28, 2015). In my opinion, this website is a great resource for guiding a person through the process of estimating the costs associated with a project.

A website that looks specifically at estimating activity duration is http://project-management-knowledge.com/definitions/a/activity-duration-estimating/. The different techniques and processes are clearly explained and imbedded links add additional information on all. There is also project software that can be used for a free trial period of 30 days.

The last website I found of interest was one that focuses on estimating costs and time in instructional design (http://www.nwlink.com/~donclark/hrd/costs.html). This site was of particular interest to me because it covers vital estimating information for the instructional designer as project manager. It provides an Excel Spreadsheet Cost Estimator to assist with estimating training costs as well as analysis templates such as a job selection example and a task inventory example among others. I would definitely recommend this site to all soon to be instructional designers.

References

Big Dog and Little Dog’s Performance Juxtaposition retrieved from http://www.nwlink.com/~donclark/hrd/costs.html

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.

Project Management Guru retrieved from http://www.projectmanagementguru.com/estimating.html

Project Management Knowledge retrieved from http://project-management-knowledge.com/definitions/a/activity-duration-estimating/

Communicating Effectively

Being able to communicate effectively is a necessity for any project manager if a project is to be completed successfully. Dr. Stolovich states that the project manager must be a diplomat when communicating with meeting-clipartall stakeholders involved in a project. He states that “communication is not just words, but is influenced by four factors:

  • Spirit and attitude
  • Tonality and body language
  • Timeliness
  • Personality of the recipient”

All these factors need to be taken into account when engaging in any form of communication.

My task this week is to observe a piece of communication in three different modalities, namely, email (written text), voicemail (audio) and video (visual) and provide my interpretation of the message in each modality. Jane is communicating to a colleague, Mark, requesting a missing report that she requires or she may miss the deadline she has been given to complete her report. She is requesting an ETA as to when he will send it.

Email

To me, any email does not suggest that this is really urgent as the response from the recipient may not even be immediate. The email has not been red flagged to indicate urgency and Jane asks for a possible ETA and asks when Mark thinks he can send it over, but there is no date to indicate how anxious she may be. It is good to have documentation of any communication, but this email doesn’t portray any urgency to me.

Voicemail

The voicemail does provide the intonation of Jane’s voice. She emphasizes the word ‘really’ when she says she really needs his ETA. This is a slight indication that she is worried about it. But, on the whole, the voicemail is courteous with little  indication that this matter is urgent and is providing anxiety for Jane. When somebody leaves me a voicemail and doesn’t try and ring me back soon, I infer that it isn’t that important. Perhaps Mark ‘reads’  this the same way I do.

Face to face

The face to face communication is the most effective in my opinion. Not only could one see that she is concerned by the use of her hand gesture, but her facial expressions and tone of voice are an indication that she is concerned about not meeting her deadline. Her tone of voice indicates clearly that Mark’s data is the reason for her being unable to complete her report and that she really needs it. The fact that she has taken the time to come and speak to him face to face also speaks volumes. Communicating face to face puts pressure on Mark to respond to the request in real time, which the other two modalities do not provide.

In conclusion

If the project manager is to communicate effectively with all members of the project team it is best to meet face to face with all members and to document everything even if the meeting is informal. Meeting face to face enables one not only to see the reaction of the members, but also provides the opportunity to identify those members who are trusted and respected. By getting to know the team members face to face one is able to tailor future communication to fit the needs of all stakeholders.

Project “Postmortem”

A project postmortem allows one to identify what worked or what was done right, to highlight those things that could have been done differently, and to take note of what went wrong. This information is a great way of identifying both successes and failures, and serves as a learning tool for future projects. Not only do we learn from our mistakes, but we also learn from our successes. This is all part and parcel of the learning process

The project chosen to do a postmortem on was made up of an”assignment project team” (Portny, S. 2008) and this entailed the members being assigned an additional responsibility on top of their primary job.

Positives

  • Good documentation to illustrate responsibility of each team member
  • Clear description of work to be performed by each team member
  • Clear deadline dates for each task
  • Clear expectations for each task performed
  • Good communication from project manager

Negatives and Recommendations for future projects

  • There were three projects that would be undertaken throughout the year and all staff were given the option of deciding on which project they would be a part of. Many team members lost focus and deadlines were missed. A mistake made was not providing an incentive for the members to honor their commitments. It would have been a wise idea to reflect their performance on the project in their annual performance appraisal at the end of the year, as this would have assisted in keeping them on track and focused and keeping to the time schedule provided.
  • Quality of the work was not of the required standard. Focus was on the primary job rather than on the project and to counteract this an incentive should be provided.
  • Including the community in the project was a huge success, but the project manager underestimated the huge response and willingness to donate to the project. This resulted in receiving items not requested and the problem of what to do with it all. Information provided to the community must be very specific in what we are asking them to donate.
  • No budget meant relying on the community donating time and services and this kicked out the time schedule when it came to them completing the tasks agreed upon on the due date. Their primary job naturally comes first and flexibility needs to be built into the project plan to accommodate this. Planning and communicating with the community members required to take on certain tasks should be undertaken well in advance to address this problem.

Another project of a similar type will be undertaken again this academic year and I am looking forward to seeing if those in charge have learned from their mistakes.

References

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.

Distance Learning Reflection

Learning, in general, is moving away from teacher-oriented to student-oriented in order to prepare our students to function in a society that requires critical thinkers and problem-solvers. This is where distance learning comes to the fore as the learner is encouraged, even forced, to use technology (a dynamic and exciting learning platform) as the tool that will provide him with an individualized and personal learning experience. It is through doing that he will build on his knowledge rather than sitting passively and listening to what a lecturer has to say. Hopefully distance learning will encourage our students to become lifelong learners as opposed to passive onlookers.

At the present time the general perception of distance learning, according to Talent-Runnels et al, is that it is “less effective, less credible, and less important than traditional education” (Simonson et al, 2015, p.66). Dede (1996) and Harrison (2001) also found that a common perception amongst the public is that distance learning is not as effective as traditional face-to-face learning. However, as more and more individuals see the versatility, effectiveness, efficiency and usefulness of technology, so this perception will undergo a change.

Research tracked by annual surveys has indicated that distance learning is gaining momentum and growing in leaps and bounds. The reason behind this has been attributed to the economic downturn, an increasing adult student population and a growing belief among academic leaders that distance education is equal, or even surpasses, face-to-face learning. Research carried out by Van der Werf and Sabatier (2009) indicates that more and more students will not be able to afford to be full-time students and distance education will be able to provide a cheaper option. Distance learning has also opened a door to working professionals who want to study further to increase their skill set and be more marketable. This adult population is looking for a flexible learning environment to suit their needs and distance learning fits this bill. With advances in technology, people need to keep up with all the new practices and trends if they want to stay competitive, and distance learning provides them the platform to do just this. These working professionals no longer have to fear keeping abreast with the younger generation joining the work force and ousting them due to lack of knowledge and up-to-date skills.

Perceptions of distance learing do play a role in the growth thereof. Many who don’t understand the versatility of new technology will continue to deny its effectiveness and quality in comparison to traditional face-to-face learning. As we learned in our Foundations of Research course, people who have a certain perception will look for research to support their opinion rather than having an open mind and looking at what other research has to say. However, there is a new culture of learners, millennial learners, who have grown up with the internet and this distance learning environment is familiar and comfortable and suits their learning styles. Distance learning is a natural progression for them as they are used to communicating, collaborating and interacting with their peers and instructional content online. Simulations, gaming, YouTube,blogs, wikis and many other tools are currently being used in the classroom to enhance learning. With the advent of new web 3.0 technologies, students will become even more immersed in this online environment. They will not need to be in the physical location to interact and collaborate; this can be done online. They are comfortable using new technology and are not scared to experiment and make mistakes so new technology will not be a barrier that lends itself to a negative perception on their part. They are used to, and expect, to find challenges in the learning process. “The ever-evolving nature of technology will continue to push distance educators to use new tools to create learning environments that will indeed prepare students to be life-long learners, who can problem solve through collaboration with global partners” (Beldarrain, Y., 2006).

The instructional designer (ID) can be an advocate for improving societal perceptions of distance learning. It is important to ensure that the student be placed at the center of the learning experience and to focus on “what attributes of the medium can contribute to a positive, equivalent learning experience” (Simonson et al, 2015, p.61). The ID must ensure that distance courses are of a comparable quality or even surpass the quality of traditional fact-to-face learning. He has the tools at his disposal to create a learning environment that promotes “active learning, collaboration, mastery of course material, and student control over the learning process” (Simonson et al, 2015, p.105). The ID must not use technology for the sake of using it, but must rather match the content to the technology to ensure a meaningful learning experience. The activities chosen must lead to the successful attainment of all learning objectives specified and should incorporate communication, collaboration and interaction. By focusing on the student and ensuring that her learning experience is positive and meaningful will help to improve societal perceptions of distance learning. As more students report positive distance learning experiences, so the perceptions of society will start to turn around and a greater respect will be awarded to online learning. “The quality of the instructor, system quality, and content quality were found to be related to student satisfaction” (Simonson et al, 2015, p. 66).

Being a force for continuous improvement in the field of distance education means taking care to put the student first, look at his/her needs, ensure the technology matches the content, and provide opportunities for communication, collaboration and interactivity. This requires careful planning and organization. Requesting feedback about the quality of the learning experience from students will help me grow as an ID and, in so doing, equip me with vital information that can be incorporated to enhance said course and future courses. The instructor also needs to be taken into account when designing a distance course as Selim (2007) stated that “instructor attitudes toward the technology, instructor teaching style, student computer competency, use of interactive collaboration, course content, and effectiveness of the technology system were critical success factors for distance education courses” (Simonson et al, 2015, p.66). This all needs to be taken into account during the planning and organization phases.

It is an exciting time for distance learning right now. People are becoming more technonogically savvy and are looking for accessible, flexible and cheaper options of furthering their knowledge and/or skills. It is making learning within and across countries accessbile for all, thereby making distance learning a “global phenomenon” that will continue to gain momentum and, hopefully, receive the recognition and respect that it deserves in the future (Beldarrain, 2006).

 

References

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

Dede, C. (2005). Planning for neomillennial learning styles. Educause Quarterly, November

Van Der Werf, M., & Sabatier, G., (2009). The College of 2020: Students. Chronicle Research  Services. (Review based on the Executive Summary accessed online at http://www.deanstalk.net/files/thecollegeof2020executivesummary-1.pdf.)

Simonson, M., Smaldino, S., & Zvacek, S. (2015). Teaching and learning at a distance: Foundations of distance education (6th Edition), IAP, Inc. Charlotte, North Carolina

Converting a course to a blended learning format

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.

The trainer in this scenario has identified a problem in his face-to-face training sessions and in an attempt to rectify this problem he has decided to use a blended learning format to create a more effective and interactive learning experience. He has made a good decision to use new technology, that we now have at our disposal, to solve a problem and at the same time enhance the learning experience. A blended learning format will allow the learners the opportunity to use different media to facilitate communication, but still leaves place for valuable face-to-face time as well. These are two of the key elements in distance learning that has been labeled “the best of both worlds” – a combination of face-to-face and online instruction (Schlosser & Burmeister, 1999).

When converting his face-to-face modules to a blended learning format, he has to take into account that his current training modules cannot just be transferred, as is, to an online learning format. Students have to interact with the learning content. Blended learning “involves creating online activities that engage students and complement the face-to-face activities” (University of Wisconsin Milwaukie, 2012). It is important to remember that this is one course and not 2 separate courses – one that is face-to-face and one that is web-based.

Planning is crucial when undertaking such a task. The trainer will need to take the components of a successful learning system into consideration (Dick et al., 2011). The instructional design model I would recommend he use is the ADDIE model as this incorporates the following five components: learners, content, method and materials, learning environment and technology, and assessment.

Let’s look at how these components fit in the ADDIE model.

ADDIE_3mbb31vb

During this planning process, the trainer must remember to “employ creative and innovative strategies” to ensure that the students are actively participating in the learning process. “The addition of technology as part of the learning process means that the learner actively communicates with the instructional setting” (Simonson et al, 2015). Simonson goes on to state that when instructional choices are being considered the “methods selected for a distance learning setting match the outcomes defined by the objectives and the assessments to be implemented” (Simonson et al,   2015, p. 175).

Although blended learning provides the trainer the opportunity to use different media to enhance learning, it is crucial to ensure that:

  • content is relevant to the students’ needs
  • clear guidelines are provided throughout the course
  • student has flexibility to work at own pace
  • student’s individual needs are addressed
  • students receive timely feedback on assignments and progress
  • materials are relevant, interactive and exciting

The satisfaction and interactivity of the students will only be positive if these needs of “what all distant learners want, and deserve” are met (Simonson et al, 2015, p.150).

What aspects of his original training program could be enhanced in the distance learning format?

The quality of communication is one area that can definitely be enhanced in the distance learning format. Asynchronous discussions are available at any time and can be accessed at the student’s convenience. All course materials are available where and whenever the student wants to access it. The students will now have the opportunity to use different media to communicate and will have more time to understand and reflect on the topic or question before answering. The use of a discussion forum, blogs and wikis will provide students with different platforms to express opinions, teach and learn from one another, and collaborate. In order for this to be successful, the trainer will need to provide an environment that is “open, supportive and respectful” (Durrington et al, 2006). It is important to give clear expectations and provide deadlines in advance. The training manager needs to take the role of facilitator and ask questions that encourage more than one student to respond and also involves students in reflecting on their responses and challenging them to look beyond what they already have. Having student-moderating discussions is another way of encouraging participation.

The role of the facilitator has changed from teacher-centered to student-centered with the move toward blended and distance education. In traditional classrooms, teachers usually delivered the content and students listened passively and took notes. In the blended learning platform it is the student who is responsible for his own learning and who is expected to take an active role in the learning process. This interactivity allows the student to take control of his learning. Dr. George Piskurich agrees that the facilitator’s role is the same in the classroom and in a blended learning environment when it comes to supporting the students. The main difference is that in an online environment the facilitator is unable to see what the student is doing. It is therefore important to keep in constant contact with the students in an online environment so that they don’t disassociate. As mentioned previously, the facilitator should be a part of all synchronous and asynchronous discussions to show support and to challenge the students. Dr. Piskurich also recommends the facilitator use PowerPoint presentations sparingly as it is not an engaging way to deliver content and students switch off. It is the activities and applications that bring content to life as they engage the students and, in so doing,  enhance the learning experience. (Laureate Education (Producer). (n.d.).

If the trainer keeps all the above in mind when converting his course to a blended learning format, I am sure it will be a success.

References

Dick, W., Carey, L., & Carey, J. O. (2011). The systematic design of instruction (8th ed.). New York, N.Y. Longman

Durrington, V., Berryhill, A., & Swafford, J. (2006). Strategies for enhancing student interactivity in an online environment. College Teaching, 54(1), 190–193. Retrieved from http://www.redorbit.com/news/technology/433631/strategies_for_enhancing_student_interactivity_in_an_online_environment/

Instructional Design: Using the ADDIE model. Retrieved from http://raleighway.com/addie/

Laureate Education (Producer). (n.d.). Facilitating online learning [Video file]. Retrieved from https://class.waldenu.edu

Schlosser, C. A., & Burmeister, M. (1999). The best of both worlds. Tech Trends, 43(5), pp.45-48

The Impact of Open Source

Open course site selection: Massachusetts Institute of Technology

Massachusetts Institute of Technology Open Course: A free and open educational resource for educators, students, and self-learners around the world.

URL: http://ocw.mit.edu/index.htm

Currently there is a trend to use Open Course websites in distance learning. Open Course websites allow anyone to take a course(s) to acquire new knowledge or just to experience what it means to engage in a different and unique learning experience online. I have chosen the Massachusetts Institute of Technology Open Course Ware site to analyze for my assignment. Being an educator I used Teacher and Education as my Topic when navigating through the courses offered.

An essential part of instructional design is to take the learners, the content, the method and materials, and the learning environment into consideration (Simonson et al, 2015) when planning. The effective interaction of these components will result in a quality learning experience.

The courses offered are not for credit or degree purposes and there will be no certificate when you complete it. It is really an online library where you can access a course syllabus that you find interests you and can add to your knowledge without any cost being involved.

“The idea is simple: to publish all of our course materials online and make them widely available to everyone.” Dick, K. P. Yue, Professor, MIT School of Engineering

This would be a great way to have employees complete a course as part of a professional development program as they can work in a group thereby sharing ideas and assisting one another. There is no facilitator from the MIT faculty, so if you take the course as an individual it will be your responsibility to go to OpenStudy.com to see if there are other learners that you can communicate with, should you want to share ideas and communicate. These courses would also suit those who like to work independently at their own pace or even those who would like to take only part of the course that interests them.

The opening page was eye catching and I wanted to delve in and see what they had to offer. Navigating the site was straightforward and their Get Started arrow immediately took me to the page that serves as an orientation as to what to expect when taking one of their courses. It provides comprehensive information without having to navigate away from the page. The menu on the right hand side answers questions such as technical requirements and technology know-how and provides directions on how to cite OCW materials to mention some.

I was provided an option when choosing a course. I could choose by Topic, Course Number or Department. What was interesting was the fact that they have translated courses in many different languages for an international body of learners who are not native English speakers. Upon clicking on my chosen course, a pop-up with a brief description appeared on the screen and I was able to decide if the course meets my needs. Once in the course itself, the menu selection on the left allowed me to view the syllabus that explains participation expectations, a grading scale and a calendar with due dates for assignments and/or projects should one want to work in a group. This will provide a time line as to how long it will take to complete the course. This can be changed to suit the pace of the learner or group of learners. This information is not really of interest to those just doing the course to simply gain knowledge, but will be helpful were the course being taken by employees toward PD hours. The facilitator of the PD will be able to use it to gauge the amount of material and activities to include every week.

The required and optional readings are well set-out in table form under the different sessions for easy access. Some required readings have to be bought, but most are downloadable in pdf format that I found very legible. There is a variety of media (visual, audio, video, simulations, games, blogs, etcetera) integrated throughout the course that, in combination with the activities, address the learning needs and preferences of all the learners. The media used throughout the courses is well matched to the content and will keep the learner engaged and motivated should they decide to take a course through MIT.

I found the activities varied and exciting. In the Technologies for Creative Learning Course the learner is required to design materials or activities for a creative learning technology as well as design a poster and a game. These activities encourage collaboration and are designed to have the learner(s) apply the skills they have been learning and putting it into practice. It is a stimulating and creative environment in which to learn and keep the learner well motivated. The learners know ahead of time what technology will be used in the course and can access and become more familiar with it before having to use it during the course. Should there be any challenges with the technology, there is a Help desk to assist the learner.

From my time navigating the MIT website, I have come to the conclusion that their courses have been well-planned and they have taken the learner, content, materials and learning environment into consideration. Those courses that I perused provide a quality learning experience.

References

Beldarrain., Y., (2006). Distance Education Trends: Integrating technologies to foster student interaction and    collaboration, Distance Education, 27(2) pp.139-153

Simonson, M., Smaldino, S., & Zvacek, S. (2015). Teaching and learning at a distance:  Foundations of distance education (6th Edition), IAP, Inc. Charlotte, North Carolina., Y., (2006). Distance Education Trends: Integrating technologies to foster student interaction and collaboration, Distance Education, 27(2) pp.139-153