Analyzing Scope Creep

I am currently involved in a project that is at the beginning stages of scope creep. At the current school I work at, our leadership team consists of teacher leaders and administrators. Our teacher leaders three summers ago started creating a collaborative team manual to help drive the mission of our school, which is to increase student achievement by working in collaborative teams. For the most part the administrators are not involved in the process except by only providing a framework of what they would like us to work during the summer months. The project was supposed to be a three stage project that would be fully implemented in three years.

In the first year, the goal of the project was to create the language for the manual and start setting guidelines on how to accomplish the mission and goals of our school. During the second year of work on the manual, the project goal was to hone in on the Response to intervention (RTI) section of our manual and revise the manual to provide more detailed insight on how our teams are to work together using RTI to achieve our school mission. That brings us to this summer coming up, the last year of the project. As during past summers, the administration provided us with the framework of what they want us to work on for this summer: Collaborative teaming accountability, specifically with grading practice and RTI. Once the project manager that runs the summer work got the objective, they began to start working on an agenda of what we need to do during the summer and soliciting new teacher leaders to the project team to work on the this summer objectives.

Last week I went to the project manager to talk about some ideas I came up with referring to grading practices, and I was told that some things has changed. The project manager said that the administration team is now looking to change the mission of the school because they felt it needed updating. On top of that, she said that five veteran team members who were supposed to work on the project during the summer had to back out because of other obligations. Then to top it off she said that we was going to have to change some days we work during the summer because summer school was going to be held in our school and the rooms we need will be in use on the days we had originally planned. When she told me this, the only thing that went through my mind is “SCOPE CREEP.”

What specific scope creep issues occurred?

There are two major reason scope creep began to set in:

  1. The primary stakeholder wanting to change the mission two-thirds of the way into the project
  2. The Project manager non-communication to all stakeholders involved in the project.

How did you or other stakeholders deal with those issues at the time?

Because of these major changes, you had some project team members who have backed out of the summer work for this year. One team member who was working on a survey to administer to all teachers before the summer break came was now confused as to what the motive of the survey should be about. The project manager of this project began to worry because she had already planned an agenda for the summer work, but now that agenda needed to be revised almost entirely.

What could be done to better manage these issues and control the scope of the project?

If I was the project manager of this project, I would of tried to convince the primary stakeholder that a change in the mission at this point of a project would make us have to go back and change many of the resources that had already been created, thereby increasing the cost and duration of this project. If I could get the primary stakeholder to not change the mission that would help keep the project within the original project scope and hopefully help make the project a success. Lynch and Roecker (2007) explained that project manager must “try to contain changes to the project scope when that is possible and manage changes when they must occur” (p.96).

If the primary stakeholder had said the mission change must occur then my first action to manage this change would have been to formally document the changes to the scope of project and make sure to communicate these changes to all stakeholders (Greer, 2010). There was no “change control system” (Portny et. al., 2008, p.346) in place for this project. If I could start this project over, I would have made it a priority to create a formalized plan to help with any changes that might have occurred during the duration of the project. Then if changes had occur it would have been a lot less stressful in communicating these changes to all stakeholders and would of help decrease the likelihood of scope creep.

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.

Lynch, M. M., & Roecker, J. (2007). Project managing e-learning: A handbook for successful design, delivery, and management. London: Routledge. Copyright by Taylor & Francis Group, LLC.

Communicating Effectively

Communication may be the number one factor that influences the success of a project. Therefore, it is important to consider how to “choose the appropriate type of communication for sharing different messages” (Portny et.al., 2008, p.357). If the wrong mode of communication is used when communicating information, the individual on the receiving end may misinterpret the meaning of that message (Holland & Holland, 2013). The responses below are my thoughts on how I interpreted the different modes of communication used in “The Art of Effective Communication” multimedia program I watch this week.

Email

Jane’s email came off a little vague because it did not really tell Mark what specific report was missing. EmailsWhen communicating by e-mail if a clear and concise agenda is not outlined, the receiver of that email may not know what you are talking about (Laureate Education, n.d.). It was also hard to decipher if Jane trying to really show empathy or trying to be sarcastic when she expressed concern over Mark’s busy schedule.

Voicemail

The phone messages helped verify that Jane was trying to bevoicemail empathetic when expressing her concerns over Mark’s busy schedule. The tone in her voice made me think that she was pressed for time and that she may even be a little annoyed that he had not sent the report. The voicemail made me feel as if a response was needed from Mark.

Face-to-Face

Jane did a good job in controlling her non-verbal cues. TALK-2jwi2ilWhen talking face-to-face non-verbal cues play an important role in relying the message correctly (Laureate Education, n.d.) because you can make the receiver of the information upset if you present the wrong body language. The conversation seemed more formal and it definitely made me feel as if a response was of need immediately.

Which modality is best?

Holland and Holland (2013) explained that communication can be either active or passive and both methods of communication are needed when completing a project because they can complement each other. Although, considering the urgent request of Jane, I would think that the face-to-face response would have been the most effective in this situation. When communicating face-to-face you can use body language to help rely the importance of the message more effectively, which encourages the recipient to respond immediately. Conversely, phone and e-mail communication are more effective when there is a need for ongoing conversation (Laureate Education, n.d.). Therefore, when using these two modes to communicate you may not receive the immediate response you need when the conversation is of an urgent concern.

The mode you choose to use to communicate is an important factor to consider when working on a project, and it may be of benefit to create a communication plan during the planning stages of the project.

References

Holland & Holland. (2013). Project Management Communication –Perfection eludes us… Retrieved from http://www.successful-project-management.com/project-management-communication.html

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

 

Learning from a Project “ Post-mortem”

As an intervention specialist and chemistry teacher, I am often involved in many different projects at the same time. The project I will reflect on today was a recent intervention project I worked on with my Chemistry team to help with struggling chemistry students. The scope of the project was to have chemistry boot camp two-days during Spring Break and three Saturdays in the month of May. During the boot camp, we wanted to do different remediation activities to prepare struggling students for their end of the year standards of learning test in chemistry. The stakeholders in the project were six chemistry teachers, assistant principal, the principal, and the assistant director of student activities. The person that assumed the project manager role during this project was the lead chemistry teacher. To examine the successful and unsuccessful moments of this intervention project, I will analyze the three phases of a successful project.

Phase I: Project Planning

Greer (2010) stated that during this phase of the project the project manager should “determine project scope and organize the project.” The project manager did a decent job with this phase of a project, he made sure to involve all stakeholders involved in the project, and he worked with the primary stakeholders (chemistry teachers) in organizing the boot camps. 7976844179_7d39808a98_hThe main problem that came about during this stage was that the project manager did not make a detail written plan, but instead opted for making a detailed verbal plan with only a vague written plan. Portny et. al. (2008) stressed how important it is for all projects to have a well-written plan that is “clear and accurate” (p.79). Without a written plan, I should have known that we would eventually run into many different problems during execution of this plan. Even with the vague written plan, we gain the approval of the project by the stakeholders that needed to approve the budget and resources needed to accomplish our project.

Phase II Instructional Development

During this stage of the project, Greer (2010) asserts that the project team needs to “gather information, develop the blueprint, create draft materials, test draft materials, and produce materials.” At this stage during our project, everything began to go wrong, and the problems that occurred were directly interconnected to the fact that we did not have a well-written plan. The main issue during this phase was we did not make instructional materials for each intervention session in advance and we did not plan for what activities we would do during each intervention session. Hence, as IMAG2227-1we got close to the Boot camp days, the team members were confused as to what we would be doing during the intervention sessions and had to come up with ideas at the last minute, leading to ineffective interventions being implemented. Morreale (2012) pointed out that two main reasons for an unsuccessful project is that the project is run without project members agreeing upon a development process and there is no proper schedule for the deliverables. We lack both of these processes in our project and it showed during the delivery of the instruction.

Phase III Follow Up

In the last phase of a project, it is time for the project team to “reproduce, distribute, and evaluate” (Greer, 2010). Therefore, this is the stage of the project where you implement and then closeout the project. During this phase we ran into a major problem, the project manager changed parts of the project that we verbal agreed on and decided to let additional students sign up for the boot camp past the sign-up deadline dates. There were three major issues with the project manager deciding to change the scope of the project and allow the late sign-ups. The first issue was the principal had already approved a budget based off the numbers we provided him with in the vague written project plan. With the project manager allowing new students to sign up after the deadline, we ran the risk of going over that budget. Morreale (2012) explained that a project manager who cannot properly control changes during a project or properly control the cost associated with the project, run the risk of having an unsuccessful project.

The next major issue that came about because of the project manager last minute concessions was a loss of commitment by some of the team members. One team member decided that because the project now was growing into numbers that we could not5582186621_4c114c24d4_o adequately serve within the constraints of the budget, they would no longer participate in the project. I also decided to back out of the project solely based off the risk that came with the last minute changes made in the project without the approval of all members, greatly increase the chances of the project failing (Portny et. al., 2008).

Conclusion

The project did still go on, but the overall project was less effective than what it could have been, because the project did end up running into major funding issue. If I had been the project manager of this project, I would have taken different steps to ensure that this project was completed under the limitations, assumptions, and constraints of the original project scope and statement of work approved by all stakeholders. The main thing I would have done different is properly planned. I would have outlined the schedule for the whole project, during the initial planning phase and I think that would have made a big difference in the outcome of this intervention project.

 

References

Greer, M. (2010). The project management minimalist: Just enough PM to rock your projects! (Laureate custom ed.). Baltimore: Laureate Education, Inc.

Morreale, R. (2012, November 14). The Top Reasons Projects Are Unsuccessful. Retrieved from http://www.pmac-agpc.ca/node/570

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 is the Future

With most of civilization, trying to figure out ways to create a sustainable world, you would think that most people would be jumping on the distance learning bandwagon. Distance learning would create a world where we are no longer are separated by distance and time (Michael & Kearsley, 2011), allowing society to learn, work, and collaborate more efficiently, in order to create this sustainable society. Although, according to Simonson, Smaldino, Albright, and Zvacek (2012), despite the growth of distance learning, society is confused and divided in accepting distance learning as the preferred way to acquire new knowledge. Thus, what does that mean for the future of distance learning? How will the instructional designers of distance learning environments persuade those students who “say their first choice is not to learn at a distance” (Simonson, Smaldino, Albright, & Zvacek, 2012, p.5)? Lastly, as a future instructional designer, how can I make a positive impact to the distance learning community?

Distance Learning is the Future

There is a continuous need for businesses, governments, and educational institutions to become more globalized; therefore, the world is dependent upon new ways to break down the geographical and time barriers that exist because of this movement towards a globalized society. Thus, as distance learning continues to progress, the number of online courses will continue to grow at exponential rates in higher education (Allen & Seaman, 2006) and k-12 educational institutions. This global movement will eventually change the way corporations train and develop all their employees. Corporation will ultimately build their entire training and development department models around the use of distance learning formats such as e-learnings, blended course, and web-facilitated training (Moller, Foshay, & Huett, 2008). As distance learning continues to progress we will also find that most countries will be participating in, creating, or implementing distance education policies and improving their technological infrastructure, so that their distance programs reaches the most remote areas in their countries (Michael & Kearsley, 2011). Therefore, with continuous improvements in technology and in the knowledge of the instructional designers who use these technologies to design new distance learning environments, we will see a positive evolutionary change in the perception of those individuals who will use distance learning more commonly in the future. Distance learning is the future and will evolve into becoming an integral part of society, making it the preferred learning environment for all.

Instructional Designers, let’s Promote Distance Learning

The instructional design professionals must continue to listen to the concerns of people that have had bad distance learning experience and the societal interests of those who have not experienced a distance-learning environment, then begin building designs that meet their needs. Simonson et al. (2012) said that the learner satisfaction would be “determined by the attention they receive from the teacher and from the system they work in to meet their needs” (p.176). Hence, it is essential for instructional designers to consider more than just the instructional content, but also examine issues associated with the separation of the instructor-student and student-student (Simonson et al., 2012) in deeper details. As a result, we can then come up with creative ways to provide future distance learners with the equivalent experiences of interactions that occur in traditional learning environments. Therefore, instructional designers can eventually gain the full support of distance learning from the society we live in by designing “collection of learning experiences that will be most suitable for each student or group of students” (Schlosser & Simonson, 2009, as cited in Simonson et al., 2012, p.176).

In order for the design field to continue to promote distance learning, we must also consider the needs of the facilitators of the distance learning courses. The facilitators are on the front line of delivering the design we create, therefore, they will have a major influence in how society will view distance learning (Gambescia, & Paolucci, 2009). Thus, it is important for instructional designers to start advocating for facilitators of the distance-learning course by promoting the use of designs that utilize design theories that provide flexibility in adjusting the distance environment. For example using post-fordist strategies during the design allows the facilitator the “rapid ability to adjust the course curriculum and delivery to the changing needs of the students” (Simonson et al., 2012, p.55). We also need to make sure to involve facilitators in the design process (Laureate Education Inc., n.d), as they will be the ones that implement the course, having a major impact on the quality of the course delivered. The involvement of facilitators throughout the entire design process will help ensure that the designs we create are delivered with complete fidelity (Gambescia, & Paolucci, 2009), as a result, creating a better perception about the quality of distance learning course.

Becoming a Positive Force for the ID field

In order for me as future instructional designer to have a direct impact on the instructional design field, I will be a continuous scholar of new and old research based theories of distance learning. Simonson et al. (2012) explained that is important for instructional designers to know a variety different distance learning theories in order to develop distance-learning environments based on research practices that will meet the need of the learner. Hence, it is important for me to stay up to date with the distance learning theories, so that I can continue to design or evaluate distance-learning courses efficiently. Dede (2005) explained that many education institutions are finding it hard to instruct the new generation of learners, because they tend to learn differently than the previous generation of learners. Nevertheless, with the continuous improvements in technology, I can design new authentic learning experiences for this new generation of learners who foster social interactions and constructivist approaches towards learning. Although as I choose the technology used in the design, I will always remember, that technology is “just a mere vehicle that delivers instruction” (Clark, 1983 as cited in Simonson et al., 2012, p.7). Thus, if I am going to make an impact in the field of design, I must take the distance learning theories and principles I have learned in this course and learn how to apply them throughout the entire design process.

 

References

Allen, I E, & Seaman, J. (2006). Making the grade: Online education in the United States. Needham, MA: Sloan Consortium. Retrieved from http://www.onlinelearningsurvey.com/reports/making-the-grade.pdf

Dede, C. (2005). Planning for neomillennial learning styles. Educause Quarterly, 28(1), 7–12.

Gambescia, S., & Paolucci, R. (2009). Academic fidelity and integrity as attributes of university online degree program offerings. Online Journal of Distance Learning Administration, 12(1). Retrieved from http://www.westga.edu/~distance/ojdla/spring121/gambescia121.html

Laureate Education, Inc. (Producer). (n.d.) Facilitating Online Learning [DVD]. Baltimore, MD: Author.

Michael, M., & Kearsley, G. (2011) Distance Education: A Systems View of Online Learning. Belmont, CA: Wadsworth & Cengage Learning

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), 70–75.

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

Converting to a Blended Distance Learning Format

With the rapid decreases in many businesses training budget, corporations are looking towards distance learning as a solution to deliver a more cost effective training to their employees. Because many of these corporations have face-to-face training currently available for their employees, they are looking to convert some, if not all of these trainings to blended formatted learning environments. The mix of traditional face-to-face instruction and 30 % or more of the instruction being delivering online (Bourne, 2010), is making blended learning very attractive to business, because of the savings in cost and time. Although these corporations are realizing to make the conversion from face-to-face training to blending formatted training effective, they need to do more than just dump the parts of the content they want taught online into a course management system (Simonson, Smaldino, Albright, & Zvacek, 2012).

Therefore, I created for you this best of practice guide to converting a traditional face-to-face classroom to a blended formatted distance-learning classroom. In this guide, you will find pre-planning strategies, ways to enhance the distance-learning environment, the role of the facilitator, and steps a facilitator should take to encourage online communication during a blended distance-learning course. It is my goal that you are able to create a blended distance learning course that will provide all learners with learning experiences of “equivalent value even though these experiences might be quite different” (Simonson et al., 2012, p.53) from the learners traditional face-to-face learning experiences. To view the best of practice guide, please click the following link provided below.

Converting to a Blended Distance Learning Format: Best Practices Guide

References

Bourne, J. (2010, October 11). Blended/Hybrid courses. [Discussion group comment]. Retrieved from the Sloan Consortium Commons discussion group: http://commons.sloanconsortium.org/discussion/blendedhybrid-courses

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

The Impact of Open Source

In 2012, Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT) and Harvard University worked collaboratively to create a massive open online course (MOOC) platform called “edX.” An MOOC is a course platform that built around Stephen Downes and George Siemens connectivism principles, which encourages the learner to learn through social interactions while completing instructional tasks (De Waard et al., 2012). MIT and Harvard created edX with the goal of offering free University leveled courses to the anyone globally that had access to the internet. Their MOOC utilizes an open-source course management system, which means this site uses free software and is maintained solely by the Universities that add courses to this platform (Simonson, Smaldino, Albright, & Zvacek, 2012). I recently registered for a course offered through MITx called “Introduction to Solid State Chemistry.” In order to review this course I will analysis the structure of this course, how the course felt from a learners perspective, and the overall effectiveness of the course.

Course Name: 3.091X- Introduction to Solid State Chemistry
URL: https://courses.edx.org/courses/MITx/3.091X/2013_Fall/courseware/overview/edx_introduction/
Created By: MITx professor Michael Cima

Course management structure
The creators of edX designed the course management system (CMS) and it is very structured and has a clean design. With the integration of discussion boards, embedded media, digital handouts, and online assessments, the course features seem to be very similar to a mix of other open course management systems. The course is linear by designed, which means it is module based and requires you to complete task in a sequential manner (Simonson et al., 2012). In each module, you have a media lecture, required course readings, practice online problems, a discussion board area, and then a module assessment. You can tell that they thoroughly preplan before for each module because they add interactive components at specific areas in an attempt to keep the learner engaged. You can probably equate this effective pre-planning to the cooperative modeling that MIT used when designing and developing this course (Carson, 2009). Hirumi (2005) asserted that an online course that uses “team-based approach to distance education course development is generally regarded as more likely to result in high quality materials, experiences, and hence more satisfactory teaching and learner” (p.173), which is evidently seen in the structure of this course.

Learners’ Perspective
As a learner, I found this course to be phenomenal. Simonson et al. (2012) explained that learner “satisfaction is determined by the attention they receive from the teachers and from the system they work in to meet their needs” (p.176). The MITx course meets the needs for the learner by:

  • Offering a detailed introduction module to how to use the technologies in the course management system
  • Providing clear directions on how to proceed in the course (Simonson et al., 2012)
  • Allowing you to fast forward and slow down videos
  • Providing feedback whenever you answer online practice or assessment questions (Simonson et al., 2012)
  • The course content is built around real-world concepts
  • The course requires you to participate in the discussion post after key video lectures or important reading assignments.

Most of the technology used in this course supported Chickering and Ehrmann (1996) seven principles for implementing new technologies; therefore, all the technology will benefit the learner (as cited in Beldarrain, 2006). For example, the extensive multimedia introduction to the courseware technology provides the learner with detailed information on how to use the tools and locate resources they need to be successful during the course.

From the learners’ perspective, the only two flaws I found in this course are the lack of interaction between the learner and the instructor could lead the learner towards “feeling lost in cyberspace” (El Mansour & Mupinga, 2007, p.248).  The other flaw was that the feedback on problem sets does not “provide the students with guidelines for how to continue to improve their performance in the course” (Conrad & Donaldson, 2004 as cited in Simonson et al., 2012).  Overall, there are few flaws in this open courseware, and learners’ should ultimately appreciate this course because it provides you with enough resources that will allow you to have a successful learning experience.

Overall Effectiveness
In order to gauge the overall effectiveness of the course, I will utilize Simonson, et al. (2012) standards for designing a “perfect” online course for a three-semester credit course (p.191)

 

chart 1

chart 4

chart-5chart 6

Conclusion
Consider the factors I used to analysis the “Introduction to Solid State Chemistry” course, I would have to say this open course platform is an effective distance learner platform. While the massive open online course platforms are costly, at a “cost of about $10,000-$15,000 to make and double the amount if video is included” (Parry & Young, 2009, p.A18), the designer of MITx massive open online courses seems to have used their investments wisely.

 

References

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

Carson, S. (2009). The unwalled garden: growth of the OpenCourseWare Consortium, 2001-2008. Open Learning, 24(1), 23-29. doi:10.1080/02680510802627787

Cima, Michael. (2014, March 30). 3.091x Introduction to Solid State Chemistry, Fall 2013. (MITx edX MOOC CourseWare: Massachusetts Institute of Technology). retrieved from https://courses.edx.org/courses/MITx/3.091X/2013_Fall/courseware/overview/edx_introduction/

De Waard, I., Koutropoulos, A., Hogue, R. J., Abajian, S. C., Keskin, N. Ö., Rodriguez, C. O., & Gallagher, M. S. (2012). Merging MOOC and mLearning for Increased Learner Interactions. International Journal of Mobile and Blended Learning (IJMBL), 4(4), 34-46. doi:10.4018/jmbl.2012100103

El Mansour, B., & Mupinga, D. M. (2007). STUDENTS’ POSITIVE AND NEGATIVE EXPERIENCES IN HYBRID AND ONLINE CLASSES. College Student Journal, 41(1), 242-248.

Parry, M., & Young, J. R. (2009). Open Courses: Free, but Oh, So Costly. Chronicle Of Higher Education, 56(8), A1-A20.
Simonson, M., Smaldino, S., Albright, M., & Zvacek, S. (2012). Teaching and learning at a distance: Foundations of distance education (5th ed.) Boston, MA: Pearson.