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Project: Developing and Intervention Team
Let me begin this post by first making it very clear that I am not a professional project manager nor am I a professional instructional designer (yet). In this post, I will be reflecting on a professional project that I was once involved with and, based on what I have learned, what changes I would have made as the project manager to better control the scope of the project.
Scenario: The administrative team of a high school I once worked for charged the entire team of sophomore level teachers to develop and intervention team. We were tasked with developing a plan to help at-risk sophomores become successful. With this charge, the team of sophomore teachers met and began brainstorming. Immediately, this team of 20+ teachers had dozens of ideas and was ready to put their plans into action. The problem was the range of ideas spanned from classroom-based interventions to mandatory lunch tutoring to small group books studies. So, the plan was to move forward with these ideas; somehow incorporating them all into one unified plan. The consensus was to have some common classroom rules that would be consistent across all sophomore classes then; the at-risk students would be required to attend lunch tutoring where they would participate in a small group book study.
What I would have done differently as the project manager: (Insert long sigh) I would first start with clarifying the goals/deliverables of the project by writing SMART goals. The task, as it was presented to the team, is not measurable. I would also get clarification of the descriptives used by the administrative team (the clients in this case). For example, what is meant by “at-risk students” and what would be defined as “successful.” In week one of my course learning videos, Troy Anchong in the video Practitioners Voices: Barriers to project success, explains the importance of clearly defining key terms of a goal. She discussed how ambiguous terms could mean different thing to different stakeholders (Laureate Education, n.d.).
Once the goals and deliverables are clearly defined, the team can focus on interventions that are conducive to producing the goals at hand. Where there were dozens of ideas, to begin with, we can now narrow them down based on empirical and research-based evidence of what works to achieve the needed results. From here, the Statement of Work can be formulated, and that will guide the project forward. As new ideas are presented, we would have a framework to either extend the scope of the project to turn down ideas that do not fit within the scope of this project. As the project was initially set up, there were no grounds for turning down ideas from the various teachers and to not “hurt people’s feelings” there was an attempt to incorporate all ideas that were presented.
Laureate Education, Inc. (Executive Producer). (n.d.). Practitioner voices: Barriers to project success [Video file]. Retrieved from https://class.waldenu.edu
For a novice instructional designer, preparing budget analysis and timelines for projects may be overwhelming tasks. Where do you begin, how do know how long or how much it will cost?
The good news is, there is help available. I have am highlighting two websites that have helpful resources for planning and budgeting instructional design projects. I hope you find them as helpful as I did.
This site has a collection of resources that will help you estimate time and budgets. It covers estimating time for one hour of training, estimating time for developing e-learning, etc. This site also has a link to another site that I found that addresses budget planning.
This site has the following templates: -note: the training estimator will allow you to estimate the cost of developing a learning experience.
- Analysis Templates
- Course Evaluation
- Training Estimator
- Lesson Plan Template
- Presentation Template
- Using PowerPoint
- ISD Sandwich
- ISD Guidelines
- Learning Objectives
- Using the Templates
Ineffective communication causes one-half of all unsuccessful projects (Foong, 2014). Because of this, project managers need to develop communication plans at the onset of their projects. This plan is designed to ensure all stakeholders are engaged and informed at the appropriate level and through the most efficient means of communication. Foong (2014) suggests using a “Power vs. Interest” matrix to guide the development of your communication plan. This matrix (figure 1) will help determine at what level each stakeholder should be engaged and informed.
Figure 1: Power/Interest grid from https://www.projecttimes.com/articles/effective-communication-a-challenge-to-project-managers.html
Foong’s matrix strategy complies with Charvat’s suggested communication channels (2002). Charvat’s channels of communication outline how and to what level communication should occur with all levels of stakeholders, see figure 2.
Figure 2: Communication Channels from http://www.techrepublic.com/article/project-communications-a-plan-for-getting-your-message-across/
Colorado State University’s “Tips for Developing your Communication Skills” highlights the importance of knowing your audience – find out what modality works best for all parties involved (Learn Effective Communication Strategies in the Workplace, 2015). The modality of communication can greatly impact the success of your project in multiple ways. The intentions of written communication can be misinterpreted. For example, a message conveyed in writing may not be perceived as urgent as the same message conveyed face-to-face. You may also find that some recipient will not respond as quickly via email as they will with a short informal meeting.
Most communication issues can be avoided if an effective communication plan is put into place. The communication plan will set the expectation for how communication will flow into and out of the project, how often communications will occur, and by what modality communication will take place. Charvat (2002) explains how too much or too little communication can hinder a project. A proper communication plan can circumvent this problem.
Charvat, J. (2002, November 13). Project communications: A plan for getting your message across – TechRepublic. Retrieved July 12, 2016, from http://www.techrepublic.com/article/project-communications-a-plan-for-getting-your-message-across/
Foong, M. Y. (2014, April 09). Effective Communication: A Challenge to Project Managers. Retrieved July 12, 2016, from https://www.projecttimes.com/articles/effective-communication-a-challenge-to-project-managers.html
Learn Effective Communication Strategies in the Workplace. (2015, February 12). Retrieved July 12, 2016, from https://csuglobal.edu/blog/make-indispensable-5-workplace-communication-strategies
Now that it’s all said and done, I would have done a few things differently. I recently worked with a great team to present a simulcast day conference event. This conference was a motivational day conference for women and we had an exciting day planned. Overall, this event was a huge success and the women had a great time but there were some missed opportunities and some things that could have been handled better.
We spent a lot of time and energy in the planning phase, ensuring we had all stakeholders involved and that every contributing team member knew their role and responsibility. We had a great technology team in place to ensure all conferencing equipment worked and we made plans for them to be available for any emergencies during the event (box checked). We had lunches planned for delivery with special needs meals available (check). We planned for breaks and had snacks available for the late afternoon break (check). All print materials and conference gift bags were put together and ready to present to the ladies (check). Ushers were in place to guide the ladies and help them find their assigned conference rooms (check). It seemed as though we had planned for everything and we were ready.
What we did not plan for, the overwhelming responses from the participants’ survey cards and how to follow through with needs or requests for services. The survey cards were hand written and this quickly became a nightmare to manage. Someone now needs to read through them all, capture all of the responses in an electronic format for further analysis and easy storage/access. This could have easily been resolved if we had planned an electronic survey to capture these results. The only other issue was conference employee participation in the conference event. Looking back, I would have held a short training on professional behavior expectations. There were times when the workers were “caught up” in the various lessons that they were not making themselves available to serve the participants’ needs. While this was not a major issue, this is something I would address if I had to do this over again.
In the next ten years, distance learning will have found its rightful place in all learning situations, from K-12 learning to higher education to corporate training. According to the Diffusion of Innovation Theory, new ideas (distance learning in this case) will need to be promoted until they become so important and widely accepted that they reach critical mass. They will no longer need to be promoted at this point, merely incorporated into our day-to-day. Dr. Simonson uses the use of personal computers to describe this theory (Laureate Education, n.d.). He also suggests that distance learning has reached its critical mass point and will continue to grow significantly in an evolutionary way, but not revolutionary (Laureate Education, n.d.). Meaning it will not replace traditional learning institutions but find its place alongside or intertwined with traditional education.
There are many factors that have contributed to the growing acceptance of distance education such as increased use of online communication, practical experience with new technology, and the ability to communicate with diverse and global groups (Laureate Education, n.d.). The increased use of online communication such as email, blogging, social media, and video conferencing has made our society more comfortable with these means of communication and their use in distance learning make it more acceptable. As people become more comfortable with various technology applications in their day-to-day lives, they are becoming more accepting of the use of these same technologies in the use of distance education. There is also the added benefit of saving time and money for both the learner and the institution that is adding to the acceptance of distance learning.
Empirical data from my course studies show that there are some negative perception of distance education, most around the quality and rigor of education provided through distance learning. As an instructional designer, we must ensure we are designing effective distance learning experiences that prove to be just as effective, if not more effective, than traditional learning solutions. We need to remember the equivalency theory as traditional courses are redesigned for distance learning (Simonson, Smaldino, Zvacek, 2015). It is important that the instructional design does not put the technology before the student and the content. And that the course material is restructured to be effective for distance learning.
In my current role as a high school teacher, I feel it is important that I expose my students to an integrated use of technology in the classroom. As my students move on to higher education, it is more likely now that they will be exposed to online course work. I want to help them develop the skills they will need to be successful in their future coursework. One of the things I have done is to design a web-facilitated course so that my students are familiar with receiving content and feedback online. Next school year I would like to incorporate discussion boards as this is a large component of most online learning environments.
Laureate Education (Producer). (n.d.). The future of distance education [Video file]. Retrieved from https://class.waldenu.edu
Laureate Education (Producer). (n.d.). Distance education: The next generation [Video file]. Retrieved from https://class.waldenu.edu
Simonson, M., Smaldino, S., & Zvacek, S. (2015). Teaching and learning at a distance: Foundations of distance education (6th ed.) Charlotte, NC: Information Age Publishing.
This is a summary of what I have learned about designing blended learning in my EDUC-6135: Distance Education Course. Blended Learning_A Guide for Design shares some best practices and practices to avoid when designing blended learning experiences. It will start with, what I found to be, typical steps for creating blended learning. It will also provide a list of Do’s and Don’ts, share some pedagogical strategies to consider, as well as some standard technologies used in blended learning course design. While I am not an expert yet, I hope you find this guide helpful and informative. It was my goal to create a good “starting point” for designing a blended learning experience.
Effective instructional design begins with an understanding of the learning process. Understanding the learning process means understanding the connections between learning theories, learning styles, educational technology, and motivation. Ertmer and Newby (1993) outlined three basic learning theories, behaviorism, cognitivism, and constructivism. All three instructional approaches are valuable. Each of the three theories results in different learner outcomes yet they all leads to “learning”.
Understanding the role of memory in the learning process is also important. Spenger(1999) speaks of learning and memory by discussing five different memory lanes by which we retrieve our learning. Some of these lanes are easier to access than others, and therefore retrieval of information is easier. Dr. Ormrod (Laureate Education, n.d.) suggest that if we learn or encode information in two different ways it becomes more memorable. She also discussed metacognition and how many adult learners are not astute in this skill, which would imply that adolescent learners are even less so. This skill must be modeled and taught during the phase of processing information so that it is stored and retrieved in an effective manner. As we design instruction for learners, we must keep in mind the way the information will need to be retrieved and how our learners will connect new knowledge with prior knowledge.
So what is the connection with learning styles? Gilbert and Swanier (2008) suggest that one person can have multiple learning styles. For this reason, instructional designers and teachers should not categorize students by a learning style. It is important to understand learning theories as well as learning styles to design effective instruction that allow multiple participants to be successful. The learning objectives should be the focus of instructional design not learning styles of the participants. Instructional design is more effective if it is based on learning theories and not learning styles. “Identifying each student’s learning style is an extremely difficult task. Furthermore, it becomes an impossible task to accommodate everyone’s learning style in a classroom or tutoring environment” (Gilbert & Han, 1999, p.4).
Technology has and will change the way we access information and will therefore have a huge impact on learning in general. Because of technology we see an increase in online or distance learning. Students have access to information on mobile devices which changes the dynamics in a traditional face to face classroom. Teachers are no longer the “owners” of the knowledge. Students are now connected to information in so many ways that their learning is now hindered only by their motivation. Realizing that both intrinsic and extrinsic motivation are factors, there are things that an instructional designer can do to minimize demotivation. According to John Keller’s ARCS Motivational Process, there are some stable and predictable elements of motivation. Studies show that motivation can be stimulated and sustained through Attention, Relevance, Confidence, and Satisfaction. (Keller, 1999)
Effective instruction will be designed using strategies that address the appropriate learning theories of the desired learning outcomes. It will consider the available technology to deliver the lesson as well as consider the many learning styles and motivations to keep all participants engaged.
Ertmer, P. A., & Newby, T. J. (1993). Behaviorism, cognitivism, constructivism: Comparing critical features from an instructional design perspective. Performance Improvement Quarterly, 6(4), 50-71.
Gilbert, J.E., & Han, C.Y. (1999). Adapting instruction in search of a significant difference. Journal of Network and Computing Applications, 22(3), 149-160.
Gilbert, J., & Swanier, C. (2008). Learning styles: How do they fluctuate? Institute for Learning Styles Journal [Vol. l]. Retrieved from http://www.auburn.edu/~witteje/ilsrj/Journal%20Volumes/Fall%202008%20Volume%201%20PDFs/Learning%20Styles%20How%20do%20They%20Fluctuate.pdf
Keller, J. M. (1999). Using the ARCS motivational process in computer-based instruction and distance education. New Directions for Teaching and Learning (78).
Laureate Education (Producer). (n.d.). Information processing and the brain [Video file]. Retrieved from https://class.waldenu.edu
Laureate Education (Producer). (n.d.). Information processing and problem-solving [Video file]. Retrieved from https://class.waldenu.edu
Ormrod, J., Schunk, D., & Gredler, M. (2009). Learning theories and instruction (Laureate custom edition). New York: Pearson.
Sprenger, M. (1999). Learning and memory the brain in action. Alexandria, Va., USA: Association for Supervision and Curriculum Development.
When I began to explore learning theory, I immediately identified with behavioralism, cognitivism, and constructivism. I now realize that these theories are not they only way I learn. I would now include connectivism. I realize that my learning and understanding comes from everything around me. I am constantly taking in data and storing for later use. More often than not, this data comes from the multiple networks around me to include social networks and the unlimited access to information through mobile devices.
As an adult learner, I don’t feel I use behaviorist theories in my personal learning as much as the other theories. I am now at a point now where as I gain new knowledge I am making connections and relating it to things I already know. I am reframing my big ideas and constructing new understanding of concepts I thought I “knew”. As I have taken on the challenges and endeavors that come with online learning, I have reinforced my learning preferences, but at the same time I have opened my eyes to new ways of designing instruction. I have learned so much from the wealth of knowledge that comes from the diversity of the participants in an online classroom. It has afforded me the opportunity to meet and learn from people from all over the world. They bring their experiences and expertise to the learning environment. I say all of this with the realization that technology plays a huge role in my learning.
Through the use of technology, I have access to knowledge and information that I would not otherwise have. As an educator, I realize the importance of embracing what the use of technology can bring to the classroom. We can no longer close our doors and open the books and expect our students to be fully prepared for the life ahead of them.
Kerr, B. (2007, January 1). _isms as filter, not blinker. retrieved from http://billkerr2.blogspot.com/2007/01/isms-as-filter-not-blinker.html
Laureate Education (Producer). (n.d.). Behaviorism and instructional design [Video file]. Retrieved from https://class.waldenu.edu
Ormrod, J., Schunk, D., & Gredler, M. (2009). Learning theories and instruction (Laureate custom edition). New York: Pearson. Chapter 3-4, (pp. 48–145)
Siemens, G. (2005). Connectivism:A Learning Theory for the Digital Age. Retrieved August 3, 2015, from http://www.itdl.org/journal/jan_05/article01.htm
There are a lot of studies involving how the brain processes information. This past week I have studied about the many theories of learning. I research theories such as behavioralism, cognitivism, and constructivism. While it is good to understand these theories and how people learn, as Instructional Designers and teacher, it is our job to then take this understanding and design effective, application-based lessons. Southwest Educational Development Laboratory discusses different learning theories, left vs right brain, and multiple intelligences on their Classroom Compass post. What I found helpful in their post was that they align applicable strategies to research theories.
As I continued researching good e-learning design, I found the following website that points out six key components of good e-learning courses.
Having now studied some of the theories of learning, I see why these particular steps are effective. The first point says to grab the learner’s attention by making the learning relevant. This ties directly to the notion that emotional interest in a topic will enhance learning. It also mentions breaking content into chunks which addresses the aspects of attention span and how it will affect learning.
I am glad that I have stretched my knowledge by studying learning theories, but at the end of the day, I need to be able to put these theories to use and I feel that the above-mentioned sources are a great starting point.
Please leave your thoughts below. I would love to hear from you!