Estimating Costs and Allocating Resources: Helpful Resources

In this blog post, I will look into few resources that could help in estimating activity duration in projects, resource cost and effort associated with instructional design projects. The first resource is a blog post by Donald Clark about “Estimating Costs and Time in Instructional Design” the post is available through this link http://www.nwlink.com/~donclark/hrd/costs.html

This blog post starts with a general description about budgeting for training programs Clark (2010) explained that the budget of training programs will not be complete from the beginning, and it evolves through the ID process as we are evaluating and adjusting the design.  Clark (2010) then provides guidelines of costs associated with ID projects; in addition, he lists average estimated times and associated costs for developing e-learning components. These components include, instructor preparation time, seat time and multimedia development time (Clark, 2010).  Finally, he provides an excel sheet listing the various tasks in the ID project and cost of each resource through two worksheets and worksheet with notes. I believe that this sheet along with the data provided in the blog post could help any instructional designer in understanding budgeting for training programs.

A character juggling schedule, cost and perforamnce

The second resource is an article on “Labor Burden & Profits – Employees Real Cost and How Much you Should Charge” by Diane Gilson. The article is available here http://www.sleeter.com/supplemental/articles/
Labor_Burden_Gilson.pdf

In this article, Gilson (n.d.) explained in details the many aspects that constitute the employees’ salary; when developing a project budget, the instructional designer should carefully calculate the real cost of the hourly rate for resources. The hourly rate includes the normal hourly rate of an employee and the labor burden costs, which is the costs that the employee incur above the hourly rate (Gilson, n.d.). These burden costs could be transportation to/from any location, travel, vacation time during the project, health insurance and other benefits (Gilson, n.d.). The article provides examples and lists many aspects that contribute to the employee’s true hourly rate.

Another resource that I found very helpful is MS Project software that could be used to easily enter each task, its duration and the associated resources. This webpage http://www.microsoft.com/project/en-us/tips-tricks.aspx provides tips and tricks that could help when creating a project schedule. While MS project comes with the fee, I looked into free tools which could be used to estimate costs and durations; this article http://www.makeuseof.com/tag/excel-project-management-tracking-templates/ provides free alternatives to MS project like using Excel sheets to develop cost estimates. The author suggests the use of the templates in Excel which is available through MS Office and is commonly used on various computers. I went to Excel, selected “New” from the menu and then typed project management in the search area; the search resulted in many templates for risk management, communication plans and template for a project cost summery. Additional, I found a template for event management project tracker with ready worksheet to calculate durations and costs; this template could help in calculating time and cost for events associated with trainings. Below is an image form this template.

Event Management Tracker fro MS Excel

Event Management Tracker from MS Excel

References:

Clark, D. (2010). Estimating costs and time in instructional design. Retrieved from http://www.nwlink.com/~donclark/hrd/costs.html

Gilson, D. (n.d). Labor burden & profits – Employees real cost and how much you should charge. Retrieved from

http://www.sleeter.com/supplemental/articles/Labor_Burden_Gilson.pdf

[Untitled image of a character juggling cost, schedule and performance]. Retrieved November 29, 2012 from http://www.platinum-cpd.com/pmforhr.html

Communicating Effectively: Look, Listen, Read

In this blog I will be analyzing information received through three different environments; an email, a voice message and face-to-face message. The message is about the need for a missing report; you could view the module here http://mym.cdn.laureate-media.com/2dett4d/Walden/EDUC/6145/03/mm/aoc/index.html

Two characters communicating through a string

Communication planning is one of the important aspects of an effective project management process (Portny, Mantel, Meredith, Shafer, & Sutton, 2008). There are three forms of communication, verbal, non-verbal and written; the message conveyed face-to-face relies greatly on the non-verbal cues associated with the message, like the tone, the body language and gestures (Verma, 1996). These non verbal cues are not available through written messages; therefore, written message should be clear, concise and focused (Laureate Education Inc., n.d.).

Interpretation

I had similar understanding of the message for email and voice mail message; through both I understood that Jane requires a late report from Mark so she could use it to finish her report on time. My understanding was that Mark is late in submitting his report to Jane. Through the face-to-face message, my understanding shifted to realize that Mark was not late, and Jane just wanted to make sure that she gets the data or report early so she could finish her task on time (Laureate Education Inc., n.d.).

Influential Factors

The main problems that affected my understanding of the email were the use of an acronym and the many words which are not related to the main request. Without non verbal cues and with no written words, the message over the phone could be interpreted as an angry request. I believe that the tone of the message contributed to this understanding. With the face-to-face conversation, I was able to gain much more understanding than the written and verbal messages. From looking at the setting and seeing Jane, it appears to me that she requesting this data from a colleague in an amicable way. Tone and body language are important factors that could affect the message (Laureate Education Inc., n.d.).

The True Message?

I believe that the message was clearly delivered through the face-to-face interaction. There were no barriers; in addition, the non verbal cues like eye contact, face expression and body language (Nayab, 2011) helped in recognizing the intent of the message, and gave more friendly tone than the other two messages.

Implications

Communication among project teams is crucial to the success of the project. Project managers should not rely on the The Messagedocumented information only; they should follow-up with their teams through regular meetings and progress reports (Portny, 2008) to make sure that the information is transmitted and received accurately. There are many factors that could affect a message transmitted between a sender and a receiver; these factors are the context and the environment in which the message is delivered through (Verma, 1996). Furthermore, culture, personalities and judgment are all factors that could affect the message (Verma, 1996). Project Managers should utilize the various forms of communication to deliver relevant and appropriate messages (Tyson, 2010).  In this module, the most effective message for me was the one delivered face-to-face, but this is not always the case in projects. Teams could be located in different locations and even in the same office there is a need to send informal messages via written communications or emails. Written communication should include a clear purpose with a friendly and respectful tone (Laureate Education Inc., n.d.).

Finally, it is recommended that project managers document conversations, verbal agreements and informal massage (Laureate Education Inc., n.d.) to be able to provide any supporting information related to the project.

References

Laureate Education Inc., (Producer). (n.d.). Communicating with stakeholders [Video webcast]. Retrieved from https://class.waldenu.edu/webapps/portal/frameset.jsp?tab_tab_group_id=_2_1&url=%2Fwebapps%2Fblackboard%2Fexecute%2Flauncher%3Ftype%3DCourse%26id%3D_1957702_1%26url%3D

Nayab, N. (2011). Comparing various forms of communication. Retrieved from http://www.brighthubpm.com/methods-strategies/79297-comparing-various-forms-of-communication/

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.

Tyson, B. (2010). How important is communication in project planning. Retrieved from http://www.brighthubpm.com/project-planning/84935-how-important-is-communication-in-project-planning/?cid=parsely_rec

Verma, V. K. (1996). The Human Aspects of Project Management: Human Resources Skills for the Project Manager, Volume Two. Newtown Square, PA: Project Management institute Inc.

[Untitled image of two characters communicating through a string]. Retrieved from http://www.boscoanthony.com/tag/communications/

Learning from a Project “ Post-mortem”

In my work, we plan for numerous events; two years ago I was assigned to plan for an international conference which we anticipated will attract around 700 delegates. I started planning for the project a year before the actual event. This project fills under long-term project definition; it had many details, an initial plan and many modifications and revisions to the plans (Portny, Mantel, Meredith, Shafer, & Sutton, 2008). I created a planning sheet with responsibilities and roles, schedule and anticipated cost. The event at the end was successful, and I have to say that I was so proud with work done. On the other hand, there were some pitfalls that could have been avoided to make the event even more successful with less stress on me and others involved with the project. The project involved planning, budgeting, booking venues, dealing with many suppliers, dealing with functional departments, like financial and procurement offices, and communicating with many stakeholders. There were many successful outcomes and some challenges that could have been avoided by applying project management processes.

Successes

Many elements contributed to the success of the project; first, I created a responsibility matrix and a schedule. To develop these documents, we started with a kickoff meeting, brainstormed ideas, and provided an orientation to the members about their roles, all described by Greer (2010) as best practices in starting and building project teams. Then we identified the project’s needs and described the objectives (Portny, 2008).

Another successful element was the development of a risk management plan; few months after starting the project, we were told that there is another event sponsored by the government (G20 Summit); and the main venue booked for the conference was taken from us as it was strategic to the government event.  At that time, we had to find another space; luckily we were able to find another venue. For this reason, we had to create a comprehensive risk management plan as we anticipated that this summit will affect our event. Surely, it was helpful to have the risk management plan with strategies to avoid or mitigate these risks, and we prepared a contingency plan to deal with the unknown unknowns (Porteny, 2008).

Challenges

While I started to plan for the event with project management in mind, the team functioned throughout the planning process as a committee. Vijay (1997) explained that teams working as committees may lack the strong leadership and could deliberate more than doing the assigned work. Many of the committee members were familiar with event planning, and there was an assumption that, since it has been done before then we can just do this one again (Portny, 2008). The main difference about this event was the size, thus increased complexity of the tasks. To avoid this problem, there should have been a formal start for the project with authorization from the stakeholders; the project was missing a very important element which is the charter (PMBOK®, 2008). While we had separate sheets and plans, it could have helped to have everything documented in one resource and approved by authorized stakeholders. The project becomes officially authorized when the charter is approved and signed (PMBOK®, 2008).

components of a charterAnother pitfall was failing to involve a key project stakeholder from the beginning of the project (Portny, 2008). Two days before  opening online registration for the conference, after building a registration site through a vendor, I needed to use a bank account to use for the credit card payments. I contacted a financial advisor, and he mentioned that we should have contacted Finance before setting up the account with the vendor as my institution has another vendor for these kinds of transactions. At that time, I realized that we should have involved a financial advisor from the beginning; while what he said sound now like common sense, at that time with the many details and me wearing many hats, I totally overlooked this part. After some discussions with management, we were able to set up the account. Not only that I missed a stakeholder, I believe that this would have been caught in the work break down structure (WBS). WBS are organizational charts to help mapping all activities related to the project (Russell, 2000). In addition, WBS help to divide the project tasks into smaller and manageable deliverables (PMBOK®, 2008).

Over all, the event was successful and attracted the many delegates that we anticipated; the project was done according to schedule, within budget and with high quality. The challenges were all lessons learned for future and similar projects.

References:

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

PMBOK ®Guide (2008).  A guide to the project management body of knowledge. Newtown Square, PA: Project Management Institute Inc.

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.

Russell, L. (2000). Project management for trainers. Alexandria, VA: ASTD Press.

Vijay, V. (1997). The human aspects of project management (Vol. 3): Managing the project team. Newtown Square, PA: Project Management institute Inc.

[Untitled image of the components of the charter]. Retrieved November 8, 2012 http://pmpartnergroup.com/?p=227

[Untitled image of risk planning]. Retrieved November from http://www.ileviathan.com/solutions/website-marketing-plan/risk-management

Project Management in Education

The focus of my posts in the coming few weeks will be on project management in education and training. I look forward to reading your comments.

Reflection: Perceptions of Distance Education and the Instructunal Designer Role

IntroductionThe horizon

Simonson (1999) explained “if distance education to be widely accepted and routinely available it must be high quality, easily obtained, and familiar to those in need” (p. 7-8). As there is constant change in economics, technology, society, politics, and theories of learning, we will need to continuously examine the practice of distance education, the definitions, and the theories (Simonson, et al., 2012). In this blog, I will examine: what will the perception of distance learning be in the future, what is my role as an instructional designer in improving societal perceptions of distance learning, and how this role would improve the societal perceptions of distance learning.

The Perception of Distance Education

Globe on a laptopThe demand for distance learning is growing in almost all regions, nationally and internationally (Moller, Foshay, & Huett, 2008b). Dr. Siemens in his video about the future in distance education explained that there is a growing acceptance of distance education; this growth is stimulated by the increase in online communication tools and the ability to communicate globally with diverse groups (Laureate Education Inc., 2010).  Furthermore, there is more acceptance for distance education from the people who explored online learning (Laureate Education Inc., 2010). Many factors are going to affect the way distance education is going; in particular, the development of new technology and communication tools, the contributions from experts around the world, and the increased use of multimedia and simulations (Laureate Education Inc., 2010).

All these factors will support the growth of distance education for the coming 5 to 10 years; certainly, this growth will have a global impact. For example, massive online open courses (MOOCs), which are taught by many experts, are offered to learners from around the world for free.

After examining the answers to interview questions about how various people perceive distance education and why, it became apparent that people have conflicted perceptions about distance education. People who had distance teaching or learning experiences were more positive in their perceptions; they indicated that they could continue learning at a distance. On the other hand, people who had no experience with online learning were skeptical about it effectiveness and its future benefits. They had concerns about the role of the instructor, academic integrity and its competence (Moller, Foshay, & Huett 2008a). For the future, it is important to note the role of the institution in presenting distance education; institutions should focus on emphasizing the quality, curriculum and the role of faculty in their distance education programs (Gambescia & Paolucci, 2009). This could help reduce concerns about distance learning and I believe that the skeptical about distance learning will disappear in 10 to 20 years; many learners and instructors will experience distance learning and there will be more learning experiences through the distance learning environment. As indicated by Dr. Simonson, distance learning will not replace face-to-face learning (Luareate Education Inc., n.d.).

The Role of the Instructional Designer in Improving the Perception of Distance Learning

Laptop with on screen files and images

I believe that, as an instructional designer, I should have a role in improving the social perceptions of distance learning. Quality is a vital factor that I will consider when designing or recommending teaching strategies. Moller et al. (2008a) explained that, with the accelerated growth of online learning, many institutions will be rushing to implement distance learning programs. It is then my responsibility to ensure that the programs are built on reasonable quality standards, participate in the policy development of distance learning, and develop competences (Moller et al., 2008a). An example of a quality standard is the Quality Matter Program Rubric; the rubric includes 41 performance standards that could be used to assess the quality of online courses (MarylandOnline, 2011).

Equally important, as an instructional designer, I need to conduct a thorough needs assessment before planning, designing or recommending training solutions (Moller et al., 2008a). In higher education, some faculty members may have some concerns which could affect their perception on distance education. For example, they may be concerned about the effort needed to design and plan distance learning courses which they perceive as more workload than the traditional face-to-face classroom (Moller, Foshay, & Huett, 2008b). As an instructional designer, my role is to work closely with faculty members and “create a clear framework outlining the goals, delivery, and structure of the e-learning program with clear benchmarks for success” (Moller et al., 2008b, p. 69).

Students perceive distance education as a way to help them take more courses and reduce the overall workload (House, Weldon, & A women holding a baby and a laptop on her lapWysocki, 2007). Students who took online courses are more comfortable and have more understanding of the concerns associated with distance learning (Schmidt & Gallegos, 2001). Some of these concerns are about communicating with the instructor, integrity, and lack of organization (Schmidt & Gallegos, 2001). It is my role, as an instructional designer, to provide learning solutions that could enhance the students’ learning experience. This could be done by using research based perspectives on how learners learn (Huett, Moller, Foshay, & Coleman, 2008) and present the findings to administrators and subject matter experts. It is my role to help students to understand their role and responsibility in the learning process (Simonson et al., 2012) as well. For example, I could create tutorials to help them understand the various technology tool associated with the distance course; moreover, I could recommend and design online orientations on how to successfully communicate online and manage their time effectively (Simonson et al., 2012).

The Instructional Designer as a Positive Force for Continuous Improvement in the Field of Distance Education

 To continue improving the field of distance education, I need to keep informed with the best practices in the field through ongoing research.  In addition, I need to be a change agent and work closely with the subject matter experts to help them in recognizing the value of distance education (Laureate Education Inc., n.d.). I believe that I should continually work on enhancing the teaching and learning aspects of distance learning through supported assessment and evaluation; additionally, I should contribute to the global academic growth through the educational social networks and communities. Finally, continue being a learner in my professional work and taking part of the global and inclusive learning communities.

In conclusion, I believe that distance education will continue to thrive in the coming  years along with the traditional face-to-face education. This could be in the form of both synchronous and asynchronous learning environments. The more people get familiar with distance education the more they accept distance learning as an alternative way of learning.

References:

Gambescia, S., & Paolucci, R. (2009). Academic fidelity and integrity as attributes of university online degree program offerings. Online Journal of Distance Learning Administration, 12(1). Retrieved from http://www.westga.edu/~distance/ojdla/spring121/gambescia121.html

House, L., Weldon, R., & Wysocki, A. (2007). Student perceptions of online distance education in undergraduate agricultural economic programs. Journal of Agricultural and Applied Economics, 39(2), 275-284.

Huett, J., Moller, L., Foshay, W., & Coleman, C. (2008). The evolution of distance education: Implications for instructional design on the potential of the web (Part 3: K12). TechTrends, 52(5), 63–6 7.

Laureate Education Inc. (Producer). (2010). The future of distance education [Video webcast]. Retrieved from https://class.waldenu.edu/webapps/portal/frameset.jsp?tab_tab_group_id=_2_1&url=%2Fwebapps%2Fblackboard%2Fexecute%2Flauncher%3Ftype%3DCourse%26id%3D_1373693_1%26url%3D

Laureate Education Inc. (Producer). (n.d.). Distance education: Higher Education, K–12, and the corporate world [Video webcast]. Retrieved from  https://class.waldenu.edu/webapps/portal/frameset.jsp?tab_tab_group_id=_2_1&url=%2Fwebapps%2Fblackboard%2Fexecute%2Flauncher%3Ftype%3DCourse%26id%3D_1373693_1%26url%3D

MarylandOnline (2011). Quality Matter Rubric. Retrieved from http://www.qmprogram.org/files/QM_Standards_2011-2013.pdf

Moller, L., Foshay, W., & Huett, J. (2008a). The evolution of distance education: Implications for instructional design on the potential of the web (Part 1: Training and development). TechTrends, 52(3), 70–75.

Moller, L., Foshay, W., & Huett, J. (2008b). The evolution of distance education: Implications for instructional design on the potential of the web (Part 2: Higher education). TechTrends, 52(4), 66-70.

Schmidt, E., & Gallegos, A. (2001). Distance learning: Issues and concerns of distance learners. Journal of Industrial Technology, 17(3). Retrieved from http://atmae.org/jit/Articles/schmidt041801.pdf

Simonson, M. (1999). Equivalency theory and distance education. TechTrends 43(5), 5-8.

[Untitled image of a globe on a laptop]. Retrieved October 28, 2012 from http://horizoninternationalschools.com/about/who-we-are/

[Untitled image of a woman holding a baby and a laptop on her lap]. Retrieved October 28, 2012 from http://www.gw.edu/academics/off/online/

[Untitled image of a laptop with images and files open in the screen]. Retrieved October 28, 2012 from http://www.gw.edu/academics/off/online/

[Untitled image of the horizon]. Retrieved October 28, 2012 from http://www.picassodreams.com/photos/sunsets/setting-sun-in-the-horizon.html

Best Practices Guide: Converting to a Distance Learning Format

This blog post provides best practices guide for trainers to help them in converting their face-to-face training to a hybrid model. The example given is based on the following scenario:

A training manager is planning to convert all current training modules to a blended learning environment. The trainer’s decisions is based the frustration with the quality of communication among trainees in his face-to-face training sessions. The trainer gets his supervisor’s approval and hopes that converting to the blended environment will enhance student engagement through active participation and interactions. The trainer would like to put the course content on the Web, so learners could access the content at all times.

The guide provides best practices in the following areas:

  • Facilitating communication and learning
  • Pre-planning strategies
  • Converting the content
  • The trainer’s new role

A successful online or hybrid course should incorporate teaching strategies that enhance learner-learner interactions, learner-content interactions and learner-instructor interactions (Dashew & Lee, 2011). This guide will help trainers in planning and preparing materials for electronic delivery. In addition, the guide will explain the role of a distance educator, and provide best practices in enhancing student engagement through the effective use of various communication strategies.

View The complete trainer guide (PDF Format).

References:

Dashaw, B., & Lee, R. (2011). Designed learner interactions in blended course delivery. Journal of Asynchronous Learning Networks. 15(1), 68-76.

[Untitled image for a hand and a digital hand representing hybrid courses]. Retrieved October 20, 2012 from http://www.collegeonline.com/uncategorized/hybrid-and-online-classes-from-traditional-colleges/

The Impact of Open Source: Evaluating an Open Course

The purpose of this blog post is to explain the pre-planning and designing approaches for an open course. The post will evaluate the open course in terms of following recommended learning instruction and including learning activities which promote students’ active learning. The open course that I selected is through UDACITY, the course is Introduction to Computer Science (CS101): Building a Search Engine ( http://www.udacity.com/overview/Course/cs101/CourseRev/apr2012 ).

The Course is Carefully Pre-Planned and Designed Course Design Circle
Through the pre-planning phase of designing a course it is important to introduce a complete well designed syllabus that could serve as a road map to the learners and guide them through their learning journey (Laureate Education Inc., n.d.). Once you click on the course overview link you notice that there is a tremendous effort put into pre-planning and designing the course. The overview page lists clearly the objectives of the course, a complete syllabus with details about each unit, and small statement to encourage beginners to join the course, stating that there is no prior experience needed for the course (UDACITY, 2012). Instructors in online courses need to help learners to stay organized throughout the course; they need to list clear objectives for the course and provide a detailed syllabus to guide the learners (Simonson, Smaldino, Albright, & Zvacek, 2012).

Going through the course module, the content is presented in multiple ways; the instructors used videos, animation, and text. In addition, the content is designed within a well defined structure; each unit has topics and activities that support the predefined objectives. Dr. Piskurich (n.d.) indicated that the first step to develop a carefully planned course is to develop clear objectives and choose tasks that support these objectives (Laureate Education Inc., n.d.).

The instructors in this open course used the Unit-Module-Topic (UMT) approach in designing the course content, which is an organizational approach recommended by Simonson et al. (2012). In addition, the content is delivered in a variety of ways; the instructors used video, animation and many graphical representations (Simonson et al., 2012) which kept me engaged throughout each topic. However, I believe that there are many topics listed under each module, and the labels for each topic do not clearly explain the content of each topic; this could raise questions by the learners (Kelly, 2012) and could be distracting. In terms of assessment, the instructors used one questions for each topic; Simonson et al. (2012) explained that there should be “at least one learning outcome for each course topic” (p.181).

Online ActivtiesCourse Activities

Active learning means that the learners need to be involved in their own learning (Simonson et al., 2012). The course incorporate tracking progress indicator; once completed each topic is marked as finished; moreover the course has a page that displays a list of the progress made. The access to the course content and activities is non-leaner; as this is a self-paced course this design of the content supports the purpose of the course as an open and self-paced course. The course designer incorporated interactive quizzes with feedback available through audio and interactive modules. The designer included two different ways for collaboration, a discussion area and a wiki. The discussion is designed to engage the students through questions and answers; the wiki is a collaborative tool which enables students to build resources as supplementary resources to the course; this kind of collaboration promotes flexibility and creates a dynamic learning community (Simonson et al., 2012).

In conclusion, the open course incorporated many successful design concepts. The course is very well structured with various visual and interactive modules. In addition, it included many activities to engage the learners using various concepts and learning strategies.

References

Kelly, B. (2012, September 17). Simplifying online course design [Blog message]. Retrieved from http://www.magnapubs.com/blog/teaching-and-learning/simplifying-online-course-design/
Laureate Education Inc. (Producer). (n.d.). Planning and designing online courses [Video webcast]. Retrieved from https://class.waldenu.edu/webapps/portal/frameset.jsp?tab_tab_group_id=_2_1&url=%2Fwebapps%2Fblackboard%2Fexecute%2Flauncher%3Ftype%3DCourse%26id%3D_1373693_1%26url%3D
Simonson, M., Smaldino, S., Albright, M., & Zvacek, S. (2012). Teaching and learning at a distance: Foundations of distance education (5th ed.). Boston, MA: Pearson.
UDICITY. (2012). Introduction to computer science (CS101): Building a search engine. Retrieved from http://www.udacity.com/overview/Course/cs101/CourseRev/apr2012
[Untitled image of a course design circle]. Retrieved from http://microteachingsecaramakro.blogspot.ca/
[Untitled image of the globe with three online learners connected]. Retrieved from http://www.indiana.edu/~icy/resources/tutorial/activities.html