Friday, December 5, 2014

Analyzing Scope Creep

Scope creep is an interesting concept to measure how easy it can be to get distracted and off focus from your project schedule. Isn't it interesting how easy it can be to feel that you have endless amount of time, as you are discussing new ideas and additions to an existing project, in a matter of a few weeks before a deliverable date? Well, I would like to say that I am always trying to keep scope creep far far away from my weekends and day offs. I have been in situations where I will plan a vacation day to get caught up on some cleaning and errands, but then before I know it, I would have dived into cooking some meals, searching for a new knitting project, and then start to do some cleaning, whilst leaving out the most important part of my day, which was to get the errands done, and that I would realize once 5'o clock comes around and I am too tired to bother.

After having my son, I must say that I have been making use of every spare minute I can get, as I cannot afford to get scope creep. The mentality has shifted to, 'now or never', based off of what I have scheduled for the day. Therefore, I always start with the most time consuming and time sensitive tasks, and then moving down the list of must-dos, leaving behind the nice-to-dos, to any leftover time and energy I have before I go to bed. I have found making a task list and then allocating the deadline and time slot onto a calendar onto my phone really helps. This way, I can set reminders and alarms to alert me to move on to the next task. This method also helps me see how much time things really take, and see if I realistically have time to do the extra things I would like to on the list as well. Furthermore, if I am on a tight budget for that day, it is a good way for me to see which tasks will cost me money and be able to plan the costs more effectively, such as taking care of all errands on the same day of an upcoming appointment or grocery errand. This is the way I like to monitor my project tasks. When there are "clearly define[d] activities and events, [it] helps the project manager understand where a project stands, when a milestone is achieved, or missed, and when an activity is or isn't performed" (Portney et all, 2008, pg. 338). This is a great way to reflect and go back to see your progress and be able to make improvements where needed.


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.

Image from

Thursday, November 13, 2014

Communicating Effectively

As we all know that communication is one of the most important areas that affect all part of our lives, essentially when we are forming any type of relationship with people. How we communicate and what we communicate can go a long way as to how our message is received. When looking at project management, "effective communication--sharing the right messages with the right people in a timely manner" (Portney et all, 2008, pg. 357) is the basis of having a successful project. As we look at the different forms of communications, it is important to note that each form is different and requires a thoughtful process in how to approach and deliver. When reflecting upon the different modalities in "The Art of Effective Communication" program, I noticed a difference between how each message was delivered and how I felt. 
When writing an email, proper netiquette always has to be considered, in order to make up for the facial expressions, voice and tone that is not heard or seen. I found the email message to come across more formal and urgent then the voice mail and face to face messages. The email almost sounded accusatory about what Mark has been involved in, such as "I know you have been busy and possibly in that all day meeting today" (Laureate Education, n.d.). When reading the message, I felt the stress and a bit of blame if she did not get the data she needed right away.


The voicemail was a little better at expressing Janes' state of mind, and I could hear the stress and urgency in her voice. I could also hear the worry of her not being able to complete her report on time, versus the stronger tone heard in the email. 
The face-to-face approach came across as friendly, but still expressing that she needed information to get her job done. With this form of communication, it is less confusing, as you can hear and see the person as they are giving you the message. Jane sounded a lot more relaxed and it came across not extremely stressful. Her body language was quite casual and not intimidating.
Overall, I think all forms of communication can work, it just depends on how you do it. According to this scenario, the face-to-face approach seemed like it was the most effective way to remain in a friendly manner, but serious enough to get the message across. It is so easy to give someone the wrong impression and message, which can lead to miscommunication, ill feelings, increased stress and put strain on a relationship. When considering stakeholders and key employees for an important project, it is vital that we ensure that our message is being conveyed the way we want. At times it helps to write things out to process our thoughts, especially if we are going to be using email to communicate. These days I find that it is so easy to be misunderstood, whether it is in our personal or professional relationships. All it takes, is use of one wrong word or a misunderstood tone, to set the wheels turning for the person receiving the message. So, lets ensure that we practice proper forms of communications as often as we can, as this is our way to build stronger relationships in all means of our lives.

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.
Laureate Education. (n.d.). The Art of Effective Communication. Retrieved from

Thursday, November 6, 2014

Learning from a Project "Post-mortem"

As the avid knitter I am, who would have thought I would have literally NOT enjoyed knitting 24/7. Boy, when I committed to becoming a test knitter, I was in for quite a surprise. I had signed up for three test knitting projects that were all due within a two week time frame. Little did I know, that each project would take me at least three to four days of straight knitting. That is almost two weeks without doing anything else. So, when would I sleep, eat, take care of my son, do homework, and take care of everything else in between to care for my family and basic needs. 
The good news was, with the help of my husband taking care of my son and other obligations and getting an extension, I was able to meet all of the deadlines. One of the designers was generous enough to offer an extension, after I had reached out to her letting her know that I need an extra few days, take it that I was working on the largest size for her cowl design. The downside was, that I was extremely stressed and could not enjoy the process, as much as I wanted to. By the end of the two weeks, I was extremely burned out. 

Being a test knitter, you are responsible for reporting errors in the pattern and offering suggestions to improve the way the pattern is written. So, here I was frantically knitting like a maniac, every spare moment I could get, and staying up until the wee hours of the night, barely eating, isolating myself from the world, taking a shower almost every two days and waking up before my son would to get these projects done. It turned out that, I made an error in one of the cowls and did not realize until I had already knitted quite a bit, where I did not have the time to undo and redo my work. Therefore, I made a note of it, and made a comment to the designer, that I had run into this error, and perhaps it is an area that needs to be more obvious, so that even a tired knitter can knit the pattern with ease. 
The most frustrating part was not being able to enjoy knitting these projects, it became a stress versus something I found relaxing. The problem was, I got too ambitious, as I saw the opportunities arise and over-committed to the number of projects I could handle in the time frame given. As I saw the projects go up for grabs, I stopped thinking and started clicking. If I was to do this differently, then I would not take on this much extra work. I would have to be realistic that a single day has only 24 hours, and make a schedule of how much time I really have per day, week, and month to commit to these extra projects. The key was to balance this projects' needs alongside the rest of my daily responsibilities and being communicative with the designers on my progress.

The most gratifying part of this project, was that I moved up in my knitting endeavors, where I could say that I officially test knit for three designers. Furthermore, one of the designers featured my work on her pattern page for her design that I knit. The good thing was that the designers were always available to answer questions and I would provide status updates, alongside show pictures of my progress along the way.  

The good thing was, that I was able to see that one of the projects was going to take me a lot longer than I had committed to, so knowing that the designer had offered me an extension if needed, I reached out to her early enough to get the extra few days. I quickly learned that it is best to ask for an extension earlier in the process, versus waiting until the last minute. The obvious constraints of this project was time.

Furthermore, there were other test knitters who were testing the same designs, but in different sizes, so it helped to read their feedback to get a heads up for any errors that I may have run into.

So, lessons learned for a very very long time, on how much I can really do in a 24 hour time frame. Therefore, when you make a commitment to any project, no matter how big or small, ensuring that you have the adequate resources to get the job done in a timely manner is always key. There is nothing like blazing through a project and having to juggle your life around it, especially to the extent of your sleep schedule and taking care of your family.

Sunday, November 2, 2014

Project Management in Education

Welcome everyone to my blog. You will notice that the next 8 weeks of posts will be around the topic of project management in the distance learning realm. I hope you will enjoy reading my posts, and will leave a comment or two :)

In my limited experience with project management, I can definitely say that it is not one to be slacked on. I can assure you, if done right, it can be a very rewarding feeling to know that your project has been successful. Project management can be conducted at different levels and can be anything from fixing a broken door in your home to managing an entire team to reach a common goal.


Image taken from

Sunday, October 26, 2014


Distance learning is getting more accepting as time goes on. With resources such as smart phones, tablets and practically any device that can access a wifi or internet connection makes distance learning that much more accessible. As the kinks of accessing the distance learning on those devices gets ironed out, more people are learning how to get equipped with technology as a resource and medium for communication. With social networking tools such as Facebook, Twitter and blogging, “more of us are having experiences communicating online” (Laureate Education, n.d., 0:35). Therefore, the perception of distance learning will be a positive outlook on the advantages and convenience of better learning at our fingertips.

As an instructional designer, I feel that one of the best ways to improve societal perceptions on distance learning, is to apply and use the tools that our current and future learners are using on a day to day basis. For example, if we take a look at the number of people that use FaceTime to stay in touch with loved ones, across the globe, it is a very similar communication model, that can be applied to a way to communicate with instructors or participate in a synchronous classroom session. Another great example, is the level of interaction that goes on between users on Facebook, gaming and blogs that reside in all parts of the world. With these applications, potential learners are already used to posting, searching, checking email, posting photos, and (hopefully) proper netiquette, to some degree, on a daily to weekly basis regardless of their timezone. This shows that “geographical separation isn’t a significant factor as we may have thought it was even if five years ago” (Laureate Education, n.d., 1:00). Therefore, it is important to see where the ease of transition can be applied, such as in discussion postings, attending lectures and checking in with classmates.

It is important to be aware of what is and is not working for current learners and to communicate that to the universities that provide online learning. The assessments that are conducted at the end of each course, hold a lot of value as in which areas need improvement. These need to be taken seriously by our industry, so that we can make the changes and hopefully come up with better ways for future learners. A difference can only be made if the areas that are not working start to get improved now, which can take upto five years for results to show. It is important to look at all of the industries that use distance learning, which is called the ‘triple helix model’, which concludes of government, educational and the corporate world.

As an instructional designer, I feel that by assessing the content design, through the eyes of a learner, is a good place to start. Asking myself, Does this make sense from a learners perspective? Do I feel welcome? Does the tone of the instruction sound cold and unwelcoming? We need to “bridge that gap of comfort, that’s the key challenge, learners need to be comfortable in the online environment” (Laureate Education, n.d., 3:58). We want to help them feel like its second nature to engage in their course with ease. Always keeping in mind, that we are designing for the learner, whilst taking into account that the platform still needs to be facilitated with an instructor presence. It is vital to stay up to date with what is happening in the online learning community and being open to experimenting with innovative ideas, but staying within the context of online learning. It would be useful to see what people are using to stay in touch with others and use technology as an advantage to opening up the horizons and endless possibilities of distance learning.


Simonson, M., Smaldino, S., Albright, M., & Zvacek, S. (2012). Teaching and Learning at a Distance: Foundations of Distance Education (5th ed.). Boston: Allyn & Bacon.

Laureate Education. (n.d.). The future of distance education. Retrieved

Sunday, October 19, 2014

Converting to a Distance Learning Format

Blended learning brings about many advantages for a learner who wants the best of both worlds, online and classroom learning. A good way to approach converting a face-to-face training session into a blended learning format, would be to evaluate what is working and what is not. It is also important to let the learners know that this change is going to be happening. View the PDF guide to help you through the process of converting the scenario based training below to a blended learning format. It concludes of pre-planning strategies, current content changes, facilitator role and tips to encourage trainees to stay engaged in the asynchronous learning environment.
Scenario:  A training manager has been frustrated with the quality of communication among trainees in his face-to-face training sessions and wants to try something new. With his supervisor’s permission, the trainer plans to convert all current training modules to a blended learning format, which would provide trainees and trainers the opportunity to interact with each other and learn the material in both a face-to-face and online environment. In addition, he is considering putting all of his training materials on a server so that the trainees have access to resources and assignments at all times.

Sunday, October 5, 2014

The Impact of Open Source

Open source courses are a wonderful way to learn about topics of interest, without worrying about a financial or restricted schedule commitments. Among the many open source courses available online today, I decided to have a look at the Introduction to Photography course available at MIT (Massachusetts Institute of Technology).

Right from the start, I really liked how they structured the search to find the course of interest, via topic, department or MIT course number. Once I clicked on the course topic, it broke it down further to subtopic, and then specialty. When I selected the course of interest, a course description was given, with the use of proper headings and a picture to depict the subject. 

Once arrived at the homepage of the course, it was quite an intuitive experience, in the way that everything was available via one-click links from the left hand menu, such as the syllabus and course project samples. As I browsed the syllabus and project page, it was nice to see charts and thumbnails to help organize the content. "Diagrams and charts often can make it easier to understand complex ideas" (Simonson et all, 2012, pg. 160). Furthermore, the instructor included past assignments from previous students, to help students ensure they are on the right track.

When considering the course for a distance learning environment, it seems as though the course was built with the distance learner in mind. Although there was not a lot of reference materials, resources, and homework assignments per say, it seemed that the content design was fit for the subject being taught. The syllabus and instructions were pretty clear and concise, as to what is expected from the student and the outcome of the project. "Detailed assignment requirements are imperative" (Simonson et all, 2012, pg. 134).

Having the option to take these types of courses, only expands the potential of what the online learning environment can bring to eager learners all over the world. Information sharing could not get any better than this. "The growth of virtual schools and college gives us a glimpse into a possible educational model of the future" (Simonson et all, 2012, pg. 137).

If we were to look at areas of improvement, I would suggest introducing modules to break up the 14 weeks of the course. Currently, most of the content is merged on the syllabus page. For example, there could be three modules, where the first one concludes of Weeks 1-4, the second Weeks 5-9, and the third for Weeks 10-14. "A module is a major subdivision of a unit [and] is a distinct and discreet component of a unit" (Simonson et all, 2012, pg. 181). Currently, the course is not structured poorly, but definitely could be broken down further. "Students need this kind of structure and detail to help them stay organized and on task. A detailed syllabus is a good starting point" (Simonson et all, 2012, pg. 134).

The course does follow a linear-directed instructional approach. This means that the "students move in the same path through the concepts, topics, and modules, and complete the same assessments and test" (Simonson et all, 2012, pg. 170).

An interesting feature was that the course is available in other languages, such as Spanish and Portuguese.
It is important to note the date this course was created, which was 2002. Therefore it is fair to say that you may not see some of the interactivity and resources that may be available today, in 2014. I was impressed to see that they have done a great job of integrating usability and incorporating proper course organization in the content management system.


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