Managing E-Learning Project Timelines

Project Management forms a key job description when it comes to instructional design (ID). Not only we need to develop a training that is at par with the learners’/ clients’ expectations, we often don the cap of a time-keeper and need to handle the resource allocation efficiently. Over past few years I have had awesome opportunity to hone my skills in this field, and I think that it is time to note it down before it gets buried under new experiences and ideas.

Although this is a vast domain in itself, I will concise my views within the scope of basic steps, which when adhered to forms a strong foundation of a better managed e-learning project. So without further ado, let’s jump in right away!

1. Learning from the past:

The first step of any project management begins at the end of the previous one. We can only plan for the future by gaining experience from the past. I usually keep tabs and notes on every curve ball I faced on my previous projects. These range from resource allocation conflicts, deviations in cost estimations and so on and so forth.

The underlying idea is to dissect the project that has just completed, to answer the following questions:

  • What went well at each stage of the project?
  • Can we repeat it again?
  • What went unexpected at each stage of project?
  • What efforts can we put in to cut the unexpected risks?

Remember, a dedicated Project Manager may go into a little detail and isolate various parameters thread by thread. But since we are sticking to the basics, these questions may suffice the risk mitigation in future projects.

2. Communicating effectively:

A good project management always thrives on a transparent and effective communication. Every day we have to communicate project related updates to various stakeholders such as developers, reporting and functional managers, subject matter experts, client point of contact and so on.

It is always a good idea to communicate the relevant information as and when it happens. I generally categorize these information into reporting and requesting.

  • A reporting information generally gives a status message on various milestones of the project. These messages are periodic, such as the end of day status report on the development.
  • A requesting information requests the recipient to act on the communication. These requests may range from issue resolution for the resource conflict, to content explanation from the subject matter expert. I generally treat such information as critical and relay them as soon as possible.

3. Estimating costs and allocating resources:

Finally, it all boils down to numbers. To estimate the costs I first create a bucket list of all the tasks and resources. Arranging the tasks together in their order of occurrence helps in estimating the resource requirements. I also count in all the review and rework iterations at each stage. It is always a good idea to add a buffer to all the critical tasks. This cushions any more requests or run time issues that we may (will) encounter during the development phase. It is also important to remember to take into account the iterations and review time that a task will need before its finalization.

You can also take help of various project management tools for the scheduling and resource allocation. This helps in minimizing task over-allocation and resource conflicts. MS Project is the leading tool in this area. I work on freeware GanttProject. You can also use Zoho projects free subscription.

4. Analyzing the scope creeps:

Scope Creep is the uncontrolled change in the project’s required output as the project progresses (Lynch, & Roecker, 2007). Since it is very difficult to analyze a scope creep before a project starts, a person who has earlier worked in similar projects/ work minimizes the risk of the deviation. For a person who is new to a project type may have a higher deviation. The best way to mitigate this risk is by:

  • Adding more resources to an activity
  • Starting independent activities earlier
  • Approving overtime for people (only as a last resort)
  • Adding an experienced overseer or consultant who has had extensive experience in similar projects

Finally, the most important factor that will help you throughout any project is a committed team. Sharing the status updates and bouncing off the issue related queries may sometimes yield an amazing and innovative approach to tackle the difficult matters.

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