Learning project journey

I chose to learn some aspects of Project Management as my learning project this term. In my opinion, the topic was a bit dull and abstract, but I tried to take advantage of the time allocated for this project to learn something I wanted to learn for a long time, as I explained in detail in my first post. Also, I tried to learn different tools along the journey to show my learning progress, as follows:

  • How to identify the critical path and the process of scheduling a project. I created a video explaining the process and steps of how to draw project “network diagram” and find its critical path. I used my Ipad pro and Zoom to record the video

Despite the knowledge I gained leaning the topic, I feel I am more aware of the resources around me that I can use to learn anything I want.

  • Blogging with my classmates and their recommendations and inspirations through breakout rooms or comments were a huge help.   I think we form a very nice community.  Twitter lists of previous students of the course are also an excellent resource to build a bigger community sharing the same interests.
  • The massive amount of open resources on the internet; Journals, articles, books and videos
  • Twitter was another great resource when I looked for #projectmanagement. I was able to identify a few of the “influencers” on the topic such as ProjectManger.com who  has a list of videos on project management that are very helpful
  • Youtube was my go-to resource when I am stuck with understanding a new concept or tool
  • Different hashtags (such as #projectmanagement ) on different platforms (Twitter and Youtube)  were an excellent resource for finding out links, videos, presentations and media that described the topic.
  • The Career & Professional Development workshops at CCE  were an eye-opening experience that I learned a lot from and enabled me to connect with many project managers and experts in Regina.
  • Lynda.com and the Regina public library were my way to go if I wanted to dig deeper into a specific concept or borrowing books

The only thing I failed to do is getting responses to my request for a recommendation on Twitter, but I know this is due to the small number of followers I have and the fact of being an introvert who still panick every time I use social media.

I used Wakelet as per Dean’s recommendation. Take a look at my first Wakelet.

I feel it was a time very well spent in learning something I will continue to use in my professional and personal life. I plan to learn other aspects of Project Management to connect the dots in my head.

 

Summary of Learning

Here we come again to the end of another great course with Alec Couros! I learned life-time skills in this course. I learned  how to become a life-long learner, how to use social media to my benefits, and how to filter information and search for good resources. I also learned project management skills and how to ensure the quality of my work.

My main takeaway from this course is how to build my Personal Learning Network. I believe for a person to become a life-long learner (LLL), he/ she needs to build their own personal learning network (PLN). One creates a PLN through the use of social media tools and websites.  In a PLN, each member is a producer and/or a consumer of knowledge. A PLN relies on the collaboration, transparency, innovation and creativity of its  members.

A PLN allows a person to learn the skills and competencies required to become a LLL. Participation in a PLN requires members to have: a)  Critical thinking abilities to filter, analyze and synthesize Information and knowledge, b) Creativity to produce new information and knowledge.

The PLN helps its members find, filter, modify Open Educational Resources (OER). A PLN relies on its  members to produce and/ or  consume  knowledge (for example, in the form of OER). Examples of OER include Online Workshops, Moocs, Local Seminars, Course Module, Video clips.  Examples of OER portals include eCampus Ontario and BCcampus. The openness of such materials allows users to (Retain, Revise, Reuse, Remix, and Redistribute).  However, this requires  uses of OER to have a very good knowledge of copyright and copyleft rules.

I used Videoscribe again to build this summary with an attempt to dig deeper into its many advanced features. There were an update since the last time I used it. The update has wider selection of images, more fonts, and faster render time.

 

Political Activism and Social Media

Can you imagine the Canadian government disabling, on purpose, Internet access all across the country? This is what happened in Iran last week. Yes. That is true. Dictator governments disable the Internet for the whole country!!

By Ramy Raoof – Egypt – Timeline of Communication Shutdown during the RevolutionUploaded by The Egyptian Liberal, CC BY 2.0,

This happened many times during the last decade. I will take Egypt, for example, where a video was shared in Fall 2010 on YouTube exposing police corruption distributing drugs was so widespread that they beat the person who posted it to death. As the news of his death spread, a Facebook page entitled “We are all Khaled Said” was set up, and in a few days, had more than 400,000 followers sharing images of a beaten up corpse. The page organized an event to protest on January 25, 2011, at Tahrir Square in Cairo. Momentum started building up, and people got held. On the morning of the 25th, It was surprising to the enormous and brutal police forces that many well-organized people showed up and were able to occupy the central square of Cairo and to kick the police out. Social Media was used heavily to invite and organize thousands of protesters. The government decided to block internet access for the whole FIVE days. “Activists resorted to calling friends from overseas via telephone to post tweets on their behalf.” Twitter reacted and created Speak2tweet service where people would call a landline, dictate their tweet, and this gets the tweet posted to Twitter with the hashtag #Egypt. This quickly gained momentum. The protesters kept on using social media. One protester summed their strategy well by saying, “We use Facebook to schedule the protests, Twitter to coordinate, and YouTube to tell the world.” The Egyptian government has not had a good relationship with social media and its activists since then.

The Internet and especially social media are so powerful as a communications medium. It is so widespread that it is used by many many people to communicate and share ideas, including ideas of freedom, democracy, social justice, global warming. Later, the admin Wael Ghonim of that Facebook page was chosen to be among the Time Magazine 2011 most influential 100

I think Loreli and I agree that Social media allow individuals with no political power to share their ideas and this allowed novel models of activism. Let me explain. The 2005 movie “V for Vendetta” ( if you have not, I think you should spend the two hours watching it), tried to send the message that those if those individuals gather themselves can make profound changes in their political system. In this clip

By Jan Egil Kristiansen , CC BY 2.0,

The movie explains how V used the media to unite people and define their cause and how to tackle the issues. However, V had to take control of the main TV station to broadcast his message. (A classic first move of protesters is to take TV/ Radio buildings). Fast forward 14 years, with social media available and pervasive, there is no need to make buildings and fight police forces. Take, for example, this Egyptian contractor-turned-activist, Mohamed Ali, who sent a very similar message (to that of V) via Facebook/ Youtube in Sept 2019. People believed him and went to the streets of Egypt, protesting against the military regime. Mohamed is now trying to establish a unity opposition front outside Egypt to resist the dictatorship. Social media allowed the Egyptian people to unite on the same issues. Whether he will succeed is something we will know in the coming few months. Social media “creates community, and community is based on togetherness”(castell, 2010).

Could it be that social media is actually uniting people across the globe? In this Fall of 2019, we see people protesting in Hong Kong, Chile, Bolivia, Nicaragua, Honduras, Togo, Iran, Egypt, Algeria and many other countries across the globe (teachers in Oklahoma last year, and teachers in Virginia this year, the Black lives matter, and the #MeToo as well) . Social media plays a fundamental role in these protests. Protesters across the globe are sharing techniques to circumvent face recognition technology used by the Chinese government. They use masks, and laser pointers. Also, an idea was shared on social media to use air blowers to diver tear gas back in the direction of the police! NIFTY! I bet Hong Kong stores are sold out. If this is not global citizenship, then what can be?

This affects us as educators. We should consider global issues in our curriculum. I am afraid if we don’t, we are not serving our students the best. Mainly, that many of these problems are, if not replicated in different countries, linked to each other and will affect the student’s future. Social media make these issues universal, and our students are subject to discuss them be affected by them at any moment. Daisy summed it up beautifully when she said ” I think my responsibility as a teacher really lies with fostering discussions, promoting good social media practice, and teaching strong media literacy skills. There’s no better way to create active digital citizens than providing others with the ability to think and speak for themselves.”

Project Quality Improvement

Last week, I thought much about how to continuously improve quality of online courses.  I tried to apply the concepts I learned in the Project quality Management workshop I took this term. The objective is to understand how to keep an online course up-to-date.

This generally involves tasks such as:

•  Help develop/modify a time plan for courses to help achieve course objectives.

•  Provide instructors with more educational resources (web resources, images, questions/answers) that help achieve the learning outcome.

•  Develop and maintain learning resources, including user manuals/guides, online tutorials, and other resources for instructors, students and staff

  • Troubleshoot/ track issues and develop instructional materials to address problems

•  Ensure conformity to laws, best practices and standards including copyright laws

  • Reconfigure formatting as necessary and flag dead links, broken elements and out-of-date material and discuss this with the instructor, ID and GM.

The below video was so helpful for me to understand the concept and be able to connect the dots.

The above tasks are generally part of course delivery and redelivery checklists developed by departments over the years for quality assurance purposes.  In my case,  the checklists were created by the instructional design team who have experiences with hundreds of courses being offered every year for many years. These checklists gather experiences, best practices and lessons learned over the years.

Next comes implementing revisions/additions to a course to ensure the course continues to meet the standards as set out by the department.  Editorial examples of things I look for in my check include:

  • Links are descriptive and labels are consistent with the destination headings and content.
  • Course materials are free of typos and grammatical errors.
  • Online readings and resources are properly linked.
  • Links to external readings and online resources open in new windows.
  • Fonts (style, colour, and size): content fonts are consistent throughout the course; headings are consistent, and heading fonts identify the level of heading appropriately and include no underlining.
“7 Measures of Quality in Online Learning” Flickr photo by giulia.forsythe shared into the public domain using (CC0)

 

The continuous improvement process is very important to any project including design and develops online courses. It is everyone’s responsibility; instructional design team, instructors, department, students, and institution.

Project Quality Management

Time for another update on my learning project. Last week, I attended the second workshop at the CCE (Centre for Continuing Education). I learned about Quality Management. The word “quality” defined in the dictionary as, “the degree of excellence of something.

 

The essence of quality management is to ensure that a project is efficient and effective and that it meets it’s intended objectives and overall planned performance. At the workshop, we discussed some examples of why a project could fail. Besides not meeting its objectives, a project could fail due to the following reasons ( can you think of other reasons?):

  • If the project scope is not clearly defined
  • The design standards were not followed properly
  • Team miscommunication
  • Unclear rules and responsibilities
  • Not allocating enough time or resources
  • Not monitoring the project progress
  • Lack of team experience and knowledge
  • Having too many cooks in the kitchen. (and the list can keep going)

Quality Management is not only feedback that is collected and analyzed after the completion of a project, but also it is an integral part of project management that starts and continues at every stage of a project. Quality management focuses on excellence by exceeding expectations and keeping the project on track.

Quality management consists of 4 processes (and they all start with the word quality!):

  • Quality definition: In order to define project quality, all project stakeholders should come to an agreement on how they all define “quality” in terms of the overall characteristics of the project, its objectives, and its outcomes
  • Quality assurance: provides confirmation to stakeholders on project efficiency and standards. It is a kind of audit on project progress and its phases that are usually planned at the beginning of a project. A common tool used in quality assurance is the PDCA cycle; Plan – Do – Check – Act, depicted in the graph below
  • Quality control provides early detection to prospective problems or issues in a project phase and is usually completed at the end of every phase
  • Quality improvement helps in eliminating waste and unnecessary project costs by considering current process or system strengths and identifies deficiencies for continued improvement. It

 

File:PDCA ZIRKEL ENGL.png
By FW8100 – Own work, CC BY-SA 3.0,

A good example discussed at the workshop regarding the importance of quality assurance and quality control is the NASA Space Shuttle Challenger disaster that occurred in 1986 that exploded 73 seconds after its flight. Report analysis completed after the tragedy discovered that it was due to certain flaws (o-rings and launch temperature) that may have been detected but were not addressed properly. The lack of quality control and quality assurance, in this case, caused more losses beyond just monetary costs.

We also identified  4 steps for improving the quality management process as follows:

  • identifying areas that could be improved in the process, and
  • analyzing the issue through further investigations, ‘
  • developing solutions or alternatives that could help solve the issue, and finally
  • testing and implementing the chosen alternative or solution to the problem.

I find quality management a really interesting topic, and the more I learn about it the more detailed all the items and processes get. In my next post, I plan to discuss more items and principles related to quality management.

OEP

This week we had Verena Roberts as a guest speaker. Verena’s presentation about OEP was fascinating and intriguing for me. I chose to talk about OEP because I feel it will be kind of a continued discussed from my last post on OER

According to WikipediaOpen educational practices (OEP) is the use of Open Educational Resources for teaching and learning in order to innovate the learning process (Ehlers 2010). They are represented in teaching techniques that draw upon open technologies and high-quality open educational resources (OER) in order to facilitate collaborative and flexible learning.[1][2] They may involve students participating in online, peer production communities [3] within activities intended to support learning [4] or more broadly, any context where access to educational opportunity through freely available online content and services is the norm.”

I see OEP as a fascinating and an important approach that matches the current trend in education specifically, where all people have open access to voluminous content through  internet tools and social media.   I see more connection and interaction between  participants (learners and facilitators) that would lead to more engagement and sharing of knowledge, resources, and work experiences. ECI 831 is a perfect example of OEP where all the students are connected and are able to share resources openly and engage in fruitful discussions on various topics.

Starting with the benefits of OEP, as mentioned in the 7 Things you should know about… Open Education: Practices, “OEP help faculty develop more agency and autonomy by providing new tools and a broader framework to help them revise, remix, localize, and contextualize pedagogy and curricular re- sources. OEP also give agency to students by giving them more control over the structure, content, and outcomes of their learning and by creating opportunities for them to create learning materials.”

Providing all these capabilities to learners and educators would help achieve many of their objectives.    OEP participants would be able to draw on their professional experiences in discussions, therefore, keeping learners updated on new technologies, processes, techniques, topics, material, etc, in addition to allowing  learners to make more solid connections between theory and the practical world. OEP  also provide participants with networking opportunities with professionals in the field. I believe OEP help change an instructors’ way of thinking about their pedagogy and content. This explained in the following video.

OEP can be fundamental in specific situations. I asked an instructor to provide an example of how OEP can be best applied from his perspective, his answer was:  Let’s take for example developing a new course on “climate change for policy makers.”  Such courses would involve content that spans multiple disciplines such as environmental science, chemistry, engineering, economics and social sciences.   For example, to the transportation sector is known to be a major contributor to pollution. Although transportation is mostly an engineering discipline, it has a direct impact on economy and societal dynamics.   It would be difficult for a single instructor to have enough background in each of these various fields. OEP produced by a community of experts can be enabling in such examples.

However, there are some risks associated with OEP as mentioned in Wikipedia, such as the lack of certainty about its pedagogical value, which could be attributed due to the possible subjectivity of some of the participants. Another concern is related to the overuse of social media and the potential risk of learners using low-quality information sources (as covered in my previous post on OER.) OEP also requires more discussions and engagement from student, the overwhelming majority of whom have very limited time Student personalities may also play a factor, for example, introverted students or students with limited social media knowledge would be at a disadvantage with OEP. Loreli Thibault touched based on a very important risk when she said “Another issue that was voiced in our class group discussion, related to the primary school system, was lack of age-appropriate internet resources, especially for the younger students, such as in grade one. Additionally, teachers are not given adequate prep time to find appropriate resources.

I believe that integrating OEP into the classroom or into the educational system in general doesn’t have to start by completely revamping our way of teaching.   In some examples, OEP is almost a must as it enables covering the content of today’s complex topics (e.g. climate change for policy makers). OEP allows educators to cover multi-disciplinary topics efficiently, but this may have ramifications on students. I believe small starting steps can have a significant impact on our students, educators and open pedagogy. Further steps can be taken as the pros and cons are well understood by learners and educators.

 

 

Communication management update

It is time for another weekly update for my learning project.

Last week I blogged about some of the concepts/knowledge I learned about project communication methods.   I tried all of last week to apply these concepts in choosing the best ways to communicate with project stakeholders ( Instructors).   I used different means of communication based on the instructor’s location.  For example, if the instructor were at home, I would call his phone/ use zoom; while if the instructor was travelling, I would only use email to avoid any time difference issues.  Also, I tried to be more curious and ask as many questions as I can to get the information needed to carry out the task at hand.

This week I recorded the video to explain two parts of the communication management planning process: 1) communication  technology and  2)the output of the communication management planning process. After trial # 35 of recording the video, I decided to give up and let it go even with grammar mistakes or unclear pronunciation of words. I used the iPad pro with apple pencil, which is so handy when trying to annotated while talking. My son created the sketch note I used in the video all by himself with me  giving directions.

 

Below is (kind of) the transcript I used in the video

Of utmost importance are the factors that affect/control Communication technology, these include:

    • The urgency of the information required:  This implies more frequent updates to project team members or stakeholders.
    • The availability of a specific technology for a limited time:  For example, if video conferencing is the chosen method at one point, the project manager has to book it in advance in the scheduled times.
    • Who is supporting the technology tool: Again, in  the  video conferring example, the staff hired to manage this kind of communication tool has to have the experience and knowledge needed to troubleshoot and work with this type of technology
    •  Communication environment of the project is a factor that determines if team members and the project manager should communicate face to face or virtually

The analysis of the above factors dictate methods of communication to be used to transfer information among project stakeholders.  These methods include:

  • Push communication: where information if forwarded/sent to specific stakeholders who need to receive it. (e.g., letters, memos, reports, emails, faxes, voice mails).
  • Pull communication: where stakeholders request/ try to access information on their own (e.g., intranet sites, e-learning module, information systems, or other databases).
  • Interactive communication: where multiple project stakeholders are engaged in a multi-directional exchange of information. This method is the most efficient way to ensure all participants understand the information (e.g., meetings, phone calls, instant messaging, and video conferencing).

The primary output to the project communications planning process is a “communications plan.”  This plan describes how to manage and monitor communications processes. Effective communication helps stakeholders have a better understanding of how the project is performing and whether any issues need to be resolved. With so many methods for communicating, the hard part is really deciding which ones to use.

Resources:

I used the same resources from last time; Lynda.com ,  “Professional Communication” book and a Series of Youtube videos.

 

 

Project Communication planning

This week I tried to focus on Project Management Communication. It is an interesting phase in the project planning life cycle. Projects tend to be full of details, changes, responsibilities, and many other forms of information that need to be exchanged between project team members. 

Sometimes people should really communicate more.  The following graph is a very popular motivational graph for project management communications and team collaboration activities in general. 

Source: The Project Cartoon

I tried my best to simplify the concept as per the advice I got from my group in the breakout room last week. I used SketchPad software to show the main ideas in communication planning, thanks to Daisy for the inspiration. The final product is not as sketchy as I wished but good enough for a first try. I was so happy when my son Yusuf (grade 7) offered to help because he liked the idea and wanted to try the Sketchpad.

I will divide communication planning into 5 main categories; Input, Communication requirements analysis, Communication planning control,  Communication technology and outputs. This week I will cover the input, Communication planning control and Communication requirements analysis. The remaining two items will be covered in next week’s blog. 

Takeaways
  1. Communication planning determines who needs what information and when
  2. Communication plans are designed at the  beginning of the project and is subject to changes  during the project’s different stages 
  3. Communication Planning requires the following:
    • Input information such as  1) project ecosystem factors such as location, time, budget. 2) Project charter document to understand all aspects of the project. 3) Project resources allocations and constraints that can affect the project.
    •  Communication Requirements  Analysis which determines answers to the who, whom, what,  when and how questions. This analysis also identifies methods and tools that will be used to communicate.
    • Communication control mechanisms to monitor and evaluate project communication progress and effectiveness and replan if need be. 
Own work
Challenges
  • My learning project is kind of boring lol. The topic is full of definitions, theories, mathematical processes, and so on.
  • Not enough time to be creative after trying to absorb the concepts to be discussed for each week. What makes things worse is that I don’t have an artistic sense.
Resources 

OER, endless of possibilities

Educators and Instructional Designer are both in a perpetual endeavour to create a successful learning experience for students and to meet their learning needs. One of the best options for them is to use Open Educational Resources (OER). According to oercommens “ …OER are teaching, learning, and research resources that reside in the public domain or have been released under an intellectual property license that permits their free use and re-purposing by others. OER include full courses, course materials, modules, textbooks, streaming videos, tests, software, and any other tools, materials, or techniques used to support access to knowledge.” 

ecampusNews

One should consider the following popular 5R framework (Retain, Reuse, Revise, Remix and Redistribute) for Open Course Design. These 5Rs are a set of guidelines and best practices for developing courses using open educational resources (OER). Under these guidelines, we can not only reuse OER, but we can also remix work, build upon the work already there to make it more relevant to our own context then share the new version back to the network!  This is where I think the “Everything is a Remix” theory is a major approach in the education life cycle. The video series makes us realize that everything around us is a remix. Check Curtis Bourassa blog, he describes in detail how he conducted a successful remix of content based on another teacher’s work.

OER allows the teacher to focus on students’ needs and requirements as well as the design of the course rather than on the details of the content. When educators decide to use OER, it gives them power and control over how to design their content, which allows them to better connect with the students in the way they can meet the needs of every learner. OERs have become essential in the learning and teaching process, not only in Canada but all over the world, as clearly shown by the OER World Map below. Each dot on the map represents an OER repository.

OER World Map, (CC BY 4.0)

The number of educators accepting OER concepts is increasing continuously. OER help empowers educators to create their own content and does not want to charge others as it will ultimately be a cost for students. Everybody realizes it is better and more effective to learn from each other and share knowledge and get inspired by what others are sharing. Learning and sharing with other experts from all over the world enables educators to customize content, syllabus and activities to make content more engaging. This provides more sustainable resources that incorporate diversity of views and helps educators with creating content according to Universal design learning (UDL) concept and address more and more learners’ needs, including students with disabilities. 

While I was searching Twitter for resources, I was really inspired by many high-quality projects and ideas that made education accessible to everyone. For example, the open library from ecampus Ontario announced a fascinating and interactive “Professional Communication” book published as open-source by ecampus Ontario open library press book. The integration of the H5P technology (Interactive HTML 5 content) with the actual textbook takes OER to the level of open pedagogy.  The technology made this resource look like a complete and interactive course, not only a book to read. 

The use of OER in higher education institutions and online courses will continue to grow. However, this comes with some challenges. On the one hand, from an educator’s perspective, searching for specific open resources that meet the educators’ particular needs is very time-consuming. Also, using OER may pose a problem because educators are unfamiliar with the Attribution, open licensing process, and copyright rules. Sometimes it is easier to just use the textbook with all the added features on its companion website, for example, PowerPoint many presentations, question banks, etc. Also, to the best of my knowledge, there are very few or rare textbooks in a Canadian context. On the other hand, from a student perspective, the Internet isn’t available to students all around the world. And some younger students struggle to identify good quality information sources and don’t know who to seek for help. 

(Creative Commons Infographic from: Technology Enhanced Learning Blog)

 

Project Scheduling

WBS example, My own work

The second day of the Project Management workshop I attended was dedicated to project scheduling. It is an important step under the project planning phase.  To develop a project schedule, we must start with the Work Breakdown Structure (WBS), which organizes the work required and ensure no tasks are forgotten. In a WBS, we start with the most important project items that must be completed. Project items are broken down into detailed descriptions of cost and duration of completion. This breakdown chart is kind of a visual representation of the scope of the project. The experience and expertise field of a project team may influence the way items are broken down. For example, if a project team is not well versed in the field of IT, they would breakdown items related to software installation into several sub-items. Please find below an example of a WBS we worked on in class. In the example, the project we considered was making a smart toothbrush.  The main items in the WBS would be:

  • Research and development,
  • Product materials,
  • Software development,
  • Manufacturing,
  • Marketing and distribution.

These items are further broken down into product testing  (for item number 1), develop an app (for item number 3) and so forth…,

WBS is a great tool that can encourage the team to brainstorm and collaborate.

Critical path

There are several techniques used in project scheduling, such as network diagrams, PERT, critical path, and Gantt charts. The critical path method helps in determining the items that have no slack time in completion. This helps in focusing the project team’s attention on those items as they would be considered the most critical in the project. In order to identify these items,

Network diagram, my own work

we first need to identify 4 timelines for each activity: the earliest start time, earliest finish time, latest start time, and the latest finish time. Based on these identified timelines, we would be able to determine the critical path network for all the items. The critical path shows us which items do not have slack time or any extra days for completion, and therefore would be considered the most critical items. Some mathematical calculations are required to be able to identify these timelines for the items. I created a video explaining the process and steps of how to draw the network diagram and find the critical path.

Although I felt that learning about scheduling and the critical path method was interesting,  I wonder if project managers use this method in real projects especially that the examples we’ve used to understand the method were all simple examples. In a more complex project, the time to develop such a diagram would be even more lengthy and time-consuming.

I will try to cover the communication plan in my next blog. I found some interesting resources for this topic on Lynda.com. Also, I found another very good resource at the Taylor Institute for Learning Development, thank you very much, Nancy, for the recommendation.