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.

 

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.

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 

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.

First project Management course

My own Work

I spent two days last week taking the Project Planning and Scheduling class offered by The Career & Professional Development at CCE .  I was interested in this class. Reading the course description made me even more interested.  The course will cover project plan development, project initiation, as well as scope planning, project execution, verification and change control. I felt that it would give me a good skill set that would be very helpful when organizing my projects at work as well as in my personal life. I have to admit that some of the terminologies used in the course were new to me, but I managed to understand the main points and concepts by the second day.

The main takeaways for me were the following:

1- A project life-cycle consists of 6 steps; pre-project phase, project initiation, planning, implementation, close-out, and post-project evaluation/reflection.

My own work using Snagit

2. In the pre-project phase, we need to identify the project scope that can be expressed as the shopping list of things that the project must deliver or the project objectives.

3. I also learned about the project charter, which is a high-level summary of project scope, objectives, desired-end state, constraints, and assumptions. It’s usually important to have pre-approved financial resources dedicated to a project prior to the development of a project charter.

We used an example project, titled ‘A picnic at the beach,’ in class to simplify the concept of a project charter.  The project assumed two friends, “Rania” and “Nataly,”  who decided to go to the beach and have a picnic and a walk, watch the sunset, and make it back home in time to watch their favourite TV show “The Desperate Housewives.”  Both friends agreed to limit spending on that project to less than $100.00.  In such an example, project objectives and tasks will be the following:

My own work using Canva

The constraints of the projects are to drive to the beach, enjoy it and come back home by the time to watch the TV show.  The assumptions are: the weather will be permissible, nothing will hinder having fun at the beach,  the drive to the beach and back home will go smooth with no road accidents/ constructions. A major assumption is that the total cost for the project is less than $100.00.

All steps of the project life-cycle are important, however, I would say the first 3 steps are very critical in any project’s life-cycle because in these steps you would identify the project goals, problems and whether the timeline you planned for the implementation phase is feasible. The more time you give yourself in the first 3 steps the better because you need to ensure that you have covered all the important aspects of your project; the negatives and the positives. In my next post, I will discuss the scheduling aspect of project management. I hope you enjoyed this snapshot of project management. Can you think of any simple examples from your life where you apply some of the concepts of project planning?

 

Learning project

Coming up with a learning project idea was a bit of a challenge for me. I want to learn many things, and I always don’t have enough time to start. I started by thinking of applying Marie Kondo‘s method to declutter my house. It would be a good idea to commit to such a thing, especially that I have been thinking about it a lot lately. However, I kept thinking about other projects such as learning how to type faster, scrapbooking, develop a mobile app and many other things that I wish to learn.

By DEPARTMENT OF VETERANS AFFAIRS Office of Information and Technology – Project Management Guide, Public Domain,

I ended up choosing to learn Project Management. It was one of the top things I would like to learn since the beginning, but I thought it might need more time. Also, I wasn’t sure if I will be able to show my progress in such a project. There is no before and after kind of things to show. 

I am specifically interested in learning project management (PM) as it is one of the top required skills for Instructional Designers to have. According to Bill Brandon’s article, “One of the big challenges in e-Learning management is bridging the gap between instructional design and project management.” PM will help me identify requirements and establish clear and achievable objectives for a project as well as initiate, plan, execute, evaluate project progress. I would like to learn more about the fundamental tools and skills required for effective project management.  Also, I would like to be able to apply a structured process for planning projects as well as tools for carrying out project work effectively.

I don’t think I will have any problems finding online resources on PM. I already saw many videos and books explaining and teaching PM. Besides, Lynda has many courses that cover the topic, and we have free access to it through the Regina Public Library (Amazing, eh!).

I think the difficulty will come from finding resources that tie and connect the worlds of Instructional Design & Project Management. It would be great to find such resources tailored specifically for instructional designers. I will start with Twitter to connect with people from the Instructional Design field and develop my personal learning network. Do you know of any open educational resources that tie both field together?

Furthermore, the Center for Continuing Education at the University of Regina is offering a project management certificate for those who are planning to get their PMP designation. I am planning to take a couple of courses from this certificate to give myself a good jumpstart.

I am looking forward to starting my learning journey! I know that the scope of my project will change over the coming weeks as I dig deep and learn more about this topic.