Getting Your Ducks in a Row: Project Scheduling & Resource Allocation

projectPlanningPlanning a project, anticipating what resources are needed and then budgeting for the entire process requires an ability to plan for the known, but also take consider the unknown. An excellent tool to use for keeping track of resources and time was the RASCI chart that Dr. Stolovitch (Laureate Education, n.d.), recommends. This chart helps a project manager ensure that he/she has the right people, the right tasks at the right time. This chart is a great tool for resource planning, but how should a PM plan for the budget? I researched how instructional designers calculate the cost of planning for training and found some excellent advice and tools for instructional designers to employ when creating a project schedule and resource allocation plan. The following are some of the best options I found:

Big Dog & Little Dog’s Performance Juxtaposition

http://www.nwlink.com/~donclark/hrd/costs.html

As I researched, Don Clark’s name came up again and again. His budget webpage was extremely helpful. He covered all kinds of budgeting scenarios: training, development hours, eLearning, interactive media and much more. He gives a breakdown of each type of training and suggestions for how to approach putting together a budget. One of the best features on this website was an Excel spreadsheet template for estimating costs for a training endeavor you might have. You simply save it to your computer and voilà you have an estimator you can start with. This website concluded with a case study, so you can put into practice some of his suggestions. No wonder everyone kept referencing Don Clark!

ASTD

http://www.astd.org/Publications/Newsletters/Learning-Circuits/Learning-Circuits-Archives/2009/08/Time-to-Develop-One-Hour-of-Training

I found “Time to Develop One Hour of Training”, again, through the many references others made to this article. Kapp and Defelice, (2009) put together a survey so they could devise a realistic method of determining an estimate of what an hour of training would cost. When I reviewed the chart, I recognized it from the one Dr. Pastore shared with us in Week 4. (Another endorsement). The chart breaks down the tasks for training and eLearning with a template and without a template. The information is very useful. However, another feature I learned from this site was the additional factors that add to the scope of work. What was helpful was the authors listed the factors, but they also listed how to respond or how to avoid the issues altogether. This site was helpful because it provided some excellent tools for estimating, but the bigger picture the authors describes was worth the visit.

Chapman Alliance

http://www.chapmanalliance.com/howlong/

This site lists a breakdown of instructional design work into ratios, the number of hours of development to create an hour of learning. Chapman, (2010) divides the ID work into instructor lead and eLearning categories. I especially liked how he broke the eLearning into basic, intermediate and advanced levels, recognizing the additional amount of work adding more interactive material into a course creates. The best feature to check out on this site is the SlideShare created to break various tasks down in great detail. The slides show the development process and the average amount of time spent throughout the project as well as slides which break the work down into cost. The slides continue with a breakdown for the different levels of eLearning as well. This site provides a good deal of information and resources for instructional designers, but I also read a blog by Christy Tucker (Tucker, 2014) who refers her clients to this site because it give reliable information in an understandable format.

Learning Solutions Magazine

http://www.learningsolutionsmag.com/articles/406/how-to-determine-the-real-cost-of-e-learning-programs

This article begins by describing that costing e-Learning is like peeling an onion—many layers, some of which stink. (Caught my attention!) Actually, even though I looked at other articles that did very good jobs at breaking down eLearning costs, this article was tailored to this task. While this article did seem a little complicated to follow, the costing check sheets were worth looking at. The check sheets worked through various options you would need to consider with the client and I thought the options were very helpful. The site also offered tables breaking down interactivity levels and graphic/multimedia considerations. This site was very helpful for anyone specifically working in elearning.

Doing research on what tools are out there for Instructional Designers who need resources for estimating project costs demonstrated how many possibilities are “out there”. However, I also found the best resources were referenced again and again so finding reliable material was possible.


References:

Chapman, B. (2010). How long does it take to create leaning? Chapman Alliance. [Webpage]. Retrieved from http://www.chapmanalliance.com/howlong/

Clark, D. (2010, June 23). Estimating costs and time in instructional design. Big Dog & Little Dog’s Performance Juxtaposition. [Webpage]. Retrieved from http://www.nwlink.com/~donclark/hrd/costs.html

Kapp, K. M., & Defelice, R. A. (2009). Time to develop one hour of training. ASTD. Retrieved from http://www.astd.org/Publications/Newsletters/Learning-Circuits/Learning-Circuits-Archives/2009/08/Time-to-Develop-One-Hour-of-Training

Moore, K., & Harmeyer, G. (2002). How to determine the real cost of e-learning programs. Learning Solutions Magazine. Retrieved from http://www.learningsolutionsmag.com/articles/406/how-to-determine-the-real-cost-of-e-learning-programs

Laureate Education (Producer). (n.d.). Project management concerns: Locating Resources. Retrieved from https://class.waldenu.edu

Tucker, C. (2014, March 18). Time estimates for e-learning development. Experiencing E-Learning. [Web Log]. Retrieved from https://christytucker.wordpress.com/category/instructional-design/

Effective Communication is an Art

09-communication-skills-AOC

After viewing the “Art of Effective Communication” activity (Laureate Education, n.d.), I discovered not all forms of communication are equal and the situation determines the appropriate form of communication. In this scenario’s first example of communication, an email, Jane informs Mark that she needs his work in order to complete her project on time. Her request comes across as polite and notes her desperation for the material. She concludes with a request that he reply and attach the file at his earliest convenience. While this message had the earmarks of successful interaction with a teammate noted in a blog by Brounstein, (n.d.), she’s respectful, recognizes Mark has a busy schedule, and states what she needs him to do; she has no guarantee that he will open the email in a timely fashion. In other words, the very nature of email allows the receiver to respond on their terms. As Portny, Mantel, Meredith, Shafer, Sutton, and Kramer (2008) note that the sender never knows if the intended audience ever read the email. This option still leaves Jane in a vulnerable position.

The second scenario, a phone message, communicated the situation more effectively. Jane’s voice for the message adds her tone, (something I indicate to my husband often, “It was your tone-of-voice”). While she is still respectful, her tone communicates her concern more effectively than the email. Dr. Stolovitch (Laureate Education (n.d.) notes that communication is not just words, but tone, attitude, and other non-verbal cues. The fact that Jane’s voice is recorded captures her urgency more than the email could and perhaps that will motivate Mark to respond in a timely fashion. However, Jane is still in a vulnerable position with this scenario because she still has no idea if Mark will listen to his messages and will respond.

The third scenario, a face-to-face meeting, seemed very similar to the voice recording. Jane is polite, states what she needs, and requests a response from Mark. The face-to-face meeting includes one extra point that the other two don’t have: Mark’s presence. A face-to-face meeting would require Mark to provide an answer, a commitment to Jane’s request. From Jane’s perspective, she gets an answer and won’t have to check emails and voice messages to see if she ever contacted Mark and if he will respond. Now she is looking him in the face and he can’t get off the hook. He has to respond and commit and Jane will know where she stands.

I believe the point of this exercise is not to indicate that a face-to-face communication is the only way to go; we’d never get anything done if that were the case. I think the point is to understand when to use each form to its most valuable effect. Our text sums up good communication by stating, “The key to successful project management is effective communication—sharing the right messages with the right people in a timely manner” (Portny et al., 2008, p. 357), and I would add the right form of communication. There are times when email is exactly what is required, for example minutes to a meeting, progress reports, etc. Dr. Stolovitch (Laureate Education (n.d.) comments for effective written information, that every written communication has a purpose stated up front. That way the receiver knows what is needed from them, and you have a paper trail for your communication. Voicemail and face-to-face meetings enable a broader form of communication as it includes the non-written form of communication. Face-to-face communication adds the feature that both parties can question, respond, and refine the information in real time.

Concluding this exercise, I learned that knowing what you need and when is important to consider when choosing the most effective method of getting the message across. As being an effective team member requires good communication, the skill of choosing the best form of communication for the situation is a high priority.

References:

Brounstein, M. (n.d.). Ten qualities of an effective team member. For Dummies. Retrieved from http://www.dummies.com/how-to/content/ten-qualities-of-an-effective-team-player.html

Laureate Education (Producer). (n.d.). Communicating with stakeholders. Retrieved from https://class.waldenu.edu

Laureate Education (Producer). (n.d.). The art of effective communication. [Flash Media] Retrieved from http://mym.cdn.laureate-media.com/2dett4d/Walden/EDUC/6145/03/mm/aoc/index.html

Portny, S. E., Mantel, S. J., Meredith, J. R., Shafer, S. M., Sutton, M. M., & Kramer, B. E. (2008). Communicating and documenting project progress. In Project Management: Planning, Scheduling, and Controlling Projects (pp. 356–375). Hoboken, NJ: John Wiley & Sons, Inc.

 

If I Only Knew. . .

Introducing the “Project”

Campus safety is a high priority for all schools, my high school is no different. We were fortunate to have two staff members, our assistant principal and our school health technician, who were highly certified in FEMA emergency response and management. We have had numerous drills for a variety of possible emergency events. One category, however, needed extra training and development because of the unique problems that surrounded it: the intruder alert/lockdown drill.Lockdown

Our staff had been well-trained on how to respond to the alarm that initiates the lockdown, but as we progressed to more complicated scenarios, it became evident we needed more tools. One of the situations we practiced was a lockdown during a passing period, lunch period, before or after school. The problem that arose was that teachers needed to take attendance on students who were not on their roll. We used an electronic system which only supplied each teacher’s class list, and there was no way to enter a roll for students who were pulled into a classroom willy-nilly.

The stakeholders, (the administrators and safety team) wanted a system which would report and then eliminate all the students present or absent for the day, leaving only the students who were unaccounted for. An outside party, (an SME), created a pivot table spreadsheet that would do this calculation. The stakeholders then turned to me to help train the staff on how the spreadsheet worked, how it interfaced with the district’s data software, and how the reporting procedure would take place during the lockdown.

The result of the project was mixed. The training for the teachers and office staff was only partially what was needed. The teacher training went smoothly, and everyone seemed to understand what they needed to do, (it was complicated, but I had sent out digital instructions that they would have access to on their laptop to help them remember.) The office staff also needed to be informed of the process as they had to work the attendance data the teachers sent in. As I observed the primary trainer walk them through the process, I realized many of the office staff had no idea how to work on a spreadsheet, let alone a pivot table. The training was difficult because the knowledge gap hadn’t been identified. To help, I had created an illustrated Quick Reference Guides designed to help the staff navigate their way through the process of getting the daily attendance data from the software and integrating it into the pivot sheet.

If I Had My Druthers. . .

After the initial training, we had a passing period lockdown drill. The issues became apparent right away. Some teachers didn’t follow the instructions because they didn’t understand why they needed to enter the information in a particular order. The office staff was busy trying to re-enter the data and shuffling between the different worksheets for the calculation was confusing. Overall, the drill was successful, but the process was still very rough.

Working on this project was great experience in the long run. I learned that we could have avoided some of the problems and ultimately the anxiety the staff felt by planning it more thoroughly. No one had ever considered project management, as so much in education is more of a “git ‘er done” approach due to time, money and personnel constraints. If I had had my druthers, I would have done quite a bit differently. I would have asked to be included in the initial planning meeting with the administrators. Generally, the admin focuses on the big picture and only think to include the technology personnel at the last minute. If I had been included in the initial meetings, I would have been able to give input on what needed to be done with the technology elements and training. However, Portny, Mantel, Meredith, Shafer, Sutton, and Kramer (2008) comment that there are times when the project manager enters after the conceive phase and when the project begins. They stress how important it is to revisit the reasons for the project and gather the existing information. After the beginning phase of the project, creating a Work Breakdown Statement would have been helpful. As Greer, (2010) notes, “You can’t manage what you can’t see” (p. 13). As I have stated before, this project was never identified as a “project”, but if we had, we could have progressed much more smoothly.

If I Knew Then What I Know Now

As we had never heard of ADDIE, we left out what Lin (2006) observes is a crucial step; analysis, and therefore our project resulted in the very outcomes she describes: poorly designed training. While I was aware of the extent of training the staff needed, I have to admit I was just as surprised as the trainer that the office staff was inexperienced with spreadsheets. Good analysis would have indicated that if I had had the background I have now. The reference guides I created were very helpful during the drill and helped each person manage their part of the process. However, the training could have been designed to build more effectively rather than the buck-shot approach the learners actually received. We had no project manager, and this change in drill procedure truly was a project. It would have helped to begin with a meeting with the stakeholders, (district wide) to really flesh out what needed to be accomplished. Dr. Stolovitch (Laureate Education, n.d.) describes how to kick off a project and I think if we had had a clearly written Statement of Work and assumptions as well as constraints defined we could have avoided some of the headache. A project manager could assemble a team and based on a timeline develop a plan for how to approach this task. I worked through Greer’s (2010) “Project Post-Mortem” and found that even though this was a very ragged project, for not knowing what we were doing we did accomplish some good results, but because we didn’t know project management guidelines, we were flying blind and figuring it out as we went. This method made it more difficult to establish a clean line for what needed to be done. It made it difficult to see what the pitfalls might be, and it made it more stressful for the participants. Too bad I can’t turn back the clock. It would be interesting to do it again knowing what I know now.

 


 

References:

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

Laureate Education (Producer). (n.d.). Project kickoff. Retrieved from https://class.waldenu.edu

Lin, H. (2006). Instructional project management: An emerging professional practice for design and training programs. Workforce Education Forum, 33(2). Retrieved from https://class.waldenu.edu/bbcswebdav/institution/USW1/201460_04/MS_INDT/EDUC_6145/Week%201/Resources/Week%201%20Resources/embedded/Lin_W1_6145.pdf

Portny, S. E., Mantel, S. J., Meredith, J. R., Shafer, S. M., Sutton, M. M., & Kramer, B. E. (2008).

Planning projects. In Project Management: Planning, Scheduling, and Controlling Projects (pp. 75–116). Hoboken, NJ: John Wiley & Sons, Inc.