Thursday, June 7, 2012

Scope Creep

Scope creep can turn what sounds like a relatively simple project into a never-ending assignment without clear directions from the outset. It was to be a pretty straightforward task; develop an interactive website in which the client would be able to input daily data changes along with the ability to edit basic content. The plan was to develop a website in which the client would be able to manage upon completion. The client was a friend and the rate was a flat fee. Two big mistakes if return on investment is your primary objective.

Portny, Mantel, Meredith,  Shafer, Sutton, and Kramer (2008) define scope creep as “The natural tendency of the client, as well as project team members, to try to improve the project’s output as the project progresses” (p.350). After presenting the client with a general look and navigation structure, we met for a brainstorming session. He liked the initial design but he had some very specific ideas as well. The brainstorming session turned into a redesign marathon. After several hours of executing his ideas we had established a virtually complete design and structure. We concluded the meeting feeling comfortable with our progress. In the following days, I finished up some technical issues and essentially handed the project over, or so I thought.

As a friend, the client knew that I would be available for additional help, particularly with any technical issues, and he began managing the site smoothly. However, the more that he interacted with the site, the more ideas he developed. Hitt states to “communicate clearly what the plan entails” (2009, p.499) and Stolovich (Laureate Education, Inc., n.d.) insists to make clear, “This is where it begins. This is where it ends”. New graphics were creeping in along with more animation and interactivity. I liked the ideas and accepted the request. A little at a time, I would continue to add additional levels of interactivity. These changes were purely cosmetic so there was no clear deadline. Eventually the requests ended and the project was ultimately a success.

This project was certainly more of a personal nature than a professional one and the scope creep in this project came as a result of wanting to assist a friend. This can easily occur in a professional arena as well when the project manager accepts additional tasks with the desire of pleasing the client. Stolovich (Laureate Education, Inc., n.d.) states “Saying ‘no’ is one of a PM’s essential tools for controlling scope creep”. Had the scenario not been personally related, considering the impact of the request is a must. Learning to say “no” can virtually make or break a project with a strict timeline and budget.


Hitt, M. A., Miller, C. C., & Collela, A. (2009). Organizational Behavior: A strategic approach. (2nd ed.). Hoboken, NJ: John Wiley & Sons, Inc.

Laureate Education, Inc. (Producer). (n.d.). Defining the Scope of an ID Project . [Video webcast]. Retrieved from

Laureate Education, Inc. (Producer). (n.d.). Practitioner Voices: Overcoming Scope Creep. [Video webcast]. Retrieved from

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.

Thursday, May 31, 2012

Project Estimating

Estimating a project’s budget involves a number of variable including the project size and scope. At times a project may simply last a few days or weeks, or, other times, they can extend for years. Using available resources can greatly aide in the process of developing and estimating an accurate budget. Below are two resources that can be useful in preparing a project budget.

The Project Management Guru website describes several estimating techniques and procedures.  Additionally, a number of analysis techniques are defined, providing useful information for gauging the most appropriate method for estimating a project’s cost. Most helpful is simply the wide range of techniques used for estimating along with simple scenarios in which the method is most appropriate.

The website is a site related to small business activities. Within the site is a number of useful articles related to project management. The related article contains a variety of techniques useful for estimating project times and cost. The article suggests common sense approaches and offers simple examples to illustrate the techniques. Perhaps the most beneficial aspect of the site is the number of related articles linked immediately atop the article. Here you will find additional techniques for effective project estimating.  

Thursday, May 17, 2012

Communication Breakdown

For this week’s assignment in my project management course, we were asked to view the multimedia program "The Art of Effective Communication." In the program, the same piece of information is delivered from Jane to Mark by three different types of communication: email, voicemail, and face-to-face. Each of these forms of communication has strengths and weaknesses.

The email was written rather casually but it conveyed its intended message well and with diplomacy. The message is “clear, concise, and focused” which Stolovich (Laureate Education, Inc., n.d.) says is important to get things done. Jane began the email with an understanding tone and wrapped up the email very considerately even though she was the person that potentially had a reason to be frustrated as her deadline could be affected. I get a sense that the two parties have a good, casual, effective business relationship. The email also contained a necessary sense of urgency. The email is effective in that it documents her attempt at communicating with Mark and places accountability on him. I would have liked for Jane to have included more specific information on the deadline date as well as adding that she would like for Mark to contact her to confirm that the message has been received. Another weakness of email communication is that it does not allow the sender to be certain that there message is being received.

The voicemail essentially echoes the strengths and weakness that the email provides. They are both documented forms of communication that deliver a diplomatic message without being certain that the recipient receives the message. The voicemail, however, adds a more personal touch and more clearly conveys her urgency.

The face-to-face interaction is effective for a number of reasons. The message deliver knows that the message is being received. Feedback can be gained immediately and, in this case, that is important. One of the most important aspects of the face-to-face communication is that it incorporates a social, personal, and interactive means of connecting. Kupritz and Cowell (2011) suggest that interactive conversation is superior to other computer-mediated methods of communicating, like email, due to their potential to de-humanize workplace interaction.

I believe it is crucial to deliver a piece of information in the most effective means available. In some cases an email may be the most effective, while a face-to-face conversation may be more appropriate at other times. Portny, Mantel, Meredith, Shafer, Sutton, and Kramer (2008) state that  “both written and verbal¬ communications-as well as formal and informal communications- are useful, meaningful ways to share and collect important project information” (Portny et al, 2008, p.357). I believe that face-to-face communication, however, best displays the true meaning and intent of the message given its personal, interactive nature. I believe that communicating with a project team includes a number of variants within each scenario. Written communication is documented and can provide easily accessed detailed information and face-to-face integrates a personal touch. The best approach requires an understanding of the given situation and acting accordingly and with diplomacy.


Kupritz, V. W., & Cowell, E. (2011). Productive Management Communication. Journal Of Business Communication, 48(1), 54-82. doi:10.1177/0021943610385656

Laureate Education, Inc. (Producer). (n.d.). Communicating with Stakeholders. [Video webcast]. Retrieved from

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.

Thursday, May 10, 2012

The Best Laid Plans

It is possible to apply project management techniques to virtual any scenario in which work is put forth to achieve an objective. Whether making a sandwich or developing a software application, a project is made up of a series of processes and when one of the steps in the process is negatively impacted, it can greatly affect the remainder of the project. This is exactly what happened to me last summer, making the move from Georgia to Florida. Using a project “post mortem” we can discover where the project went right and what things could have been done to make the project more successful.

Looking back, the plan was quite rudimentary with nothing in writing expect a couple of phone numbers and addresses. The objective was to move nearly 500 miles from Atlanta, Ga. to Orlando, Fla. into an apartment that had been secured over the phone from Ga. , offload the contents of the moving trailer into the new residence by 4 p.m. in order to make it to a at 5 p.m. birthday party. Five friends had volunteered to help at varying times between 9 a.m. and 1 p.m. and, with a summer of experience working for a moving company under my belt, I felt that was a good estimate of the amount of work needed to accomplish my task.

I set out on the journey just before midnight anticipating an eight to nine hour drive in order to be at the apartment complex with keys in hand by 9 a.m. All went well in the late night travel as I arrived before 8:30 when the office would actually open. I acquired my keys and headed toward my new life. The first look at the entrance into my new place was one of surprise and dismay. The project is about to hit a major bump in the road! I had visited the apartment complex during a housing search and liked the general area, grounds, layout, etc., but didn’t decide on it until I was a state away where I secured the residence over the phone. I was not aware that the apartment I had accepted was not on the ground floor so all of my contents would need to go up an extra flight of stairs. This was definitely the primary process of the project that most affected the success of my plan.

After a quick inspection of the residence I began what would become a day filled with frustrations but ultimately overall success. I began hauling box after box from the trailer to apartment. The staircase was tremendously slowing things but I knew that I still had quite a bit of time and just continued the routine. This unloading continued for well over an hour before hearing from anyone that had volunteered to help. At the end of the day, four friends helped; each between an hour and two hours which was less than I was hoping for.

Many aspects of the project went as I had planned in my head. The initial packing and travel time were accurate and the budget was kept within range. When it was all said and done, the trailer got unloaded and I even made it to the birthday party. Since my objective had varying degrees of success I was never got overly concerned. As long as the trailer was unloaded, boxes could be opened and the job of unpacking and setting up would just happen when they happened. That was a huge advantage, but I knew going in that there was a best-case scenario and worst-case scenario. I think I fell somewhere in between. The most obvious lesson learned in my situation was to never, ever get involved in a project without being absolutely certain that the basics of the project are as you had envisioned. Additionally, it is important to understand that any help is just that; help. If someone is not fully committed to a project in writing then any assumptions of work must be considered closely. Had I not overestimated the amount of work that I thought I would receive, I would have hired additional help. Although it would have potentially pushed me over-budget, the fact the apartment was not ground level was overlooked, and could not have been anticipated, affecting a number of other factors related to the project.

Monday, April 23, 2012

Distance Learning Reflection

Distance learning is defined in the course text as “institution-based, formal education where the learning group is separated, and where interactive telecommunications systems are used to connect learners, resources, and instructors” (Simonson, Smaldino, Albright, & Zvacek, 2012, p.32). It dates back to the early 1800’s in the form of correspondence studies, but with the rise of the internet and particularly that of web 2.0 tools, distance education has seen tremendous growth in recent years. As high-speed internet continues to grow in affordability and availability, as well as the development of new technology tools that provide a variety of options for communication and collaboration, the popularity and demand for distance education seems destined to continue to grow.

With regards to distance education, Siemens (Laureate Education, Inc., n.d.) states that there is a “growing acceptance from society as a whole“.  This acceptance seems to be largely due to the fact that new internet technologies have increasingly made student-student and student-instructor interactions much easier and more effective.  The “notion of distance, or geographical separation, isn’t as significant a factor as we might have thought it was even five years ago” (Laureate Education, Inc., n.d.). New technologies have essentially removed these distances through the use of web 2.0 tools that allow real-time collaboration and communication among course instructors and students. It seems that the acceptance of distance education will only continue to grow in the coming years as its reputation as a valid educational option is confirmed.

As an instructional designer I think that it is important to develop courses that are based on established learning theories. As a result I believe that learning objectives will be met which will, in turn, continue to confirm the validity of distance education. Similarly, by developing courses that are proven to produce learning of the course objectives, I feel that it serves as a confirmation of the validity of distance education. As an instructional designer I believe that it is important to employ training that is as simple and intuitive as possible in an effort to make the user feel at ease using the technology tools. It is the ID’s duty to, as Siemens stated “bridge the gap of comfort” (Laureate Education, Inc., n.d.).

Distance education, in my opinion, will only continue to grow. It provides an excellent option for the adult learner that has commitments that do not allow them to attend a traditional school. It also provides an opportunity for the learner that simply appreciates the convenience and flexibility of learning from a remote location. As more and more people take online courses and as others become aware of their validity, I believe that it will encourage others to trust the method and give distance education a shot. As mentioned earlier, as new technologies emerge that continue to close the gap between learner and instructor, distance education seems destined to only gain further acceptance and grow. 

Laureate Education, Inc. (Producer). (n.d.). The Future of Distance Education. [Video webcast]. Retrieved from
Simonson, M., Smaldino, S., Albright, M., & Zvacek, S. (2012). Teaching and learning at a distance: Foundations of distance education (5th ed.) Boston, MA: Pearson.

Sunday, April 15, 2012

From Face-to-Face to Blended Learning

Converting a face-to-face (F2F) training course to a blended learning format requires the consideration of many factors. While F2F contact will be reduced, this certainly doesn’t translate to a reduction of work for the course instructor. With the initial conversion comes the task of deciding which aspects of the course are best suited for F2F and which will benefit from the transition to a distance learning environment. Beyond that, there are a number of technology-related concerns must be considered. These ideas will be discussed along with the following:
  • pre-planning considerations
  • aspects of training that can be enhanced through online instruction
  • the new roles of the trainer &
  • encouraging communication
 Click on the following link to view the Best Practices Guide

Friday, March 30, 2012

The Impact of Open Source

The Open Course Site that I reviewed came from the MIT Open Course website ( entitled SCUBA. While I browsed through several other courses, after discovering this course I was very interested and watched much of it since my son and I have recently registered to become certified in SCUBA. The course is very informative and extremely thorough and, while it is effective for supplying the content for which it is intended to teach, the course itself certainly was not pre-planned for a distance learning environment. The course lacks most aspects that combine to make up an effective distance education course.

The MIT SCUBA course does not follow any recommendations for online instruction as it is comprised solely of a series of video recordings of lectures and demonstrations. This echoes exactly what Simonson, Smaldino, Albright, and Zvacek describe as “the model of teaching employed during the instructional television era of distance education” (2012, p.123) in which the instructor simply mimicked the conventional classroom. When planning for instruction at a distance, Teaching and Learning at a Distance (Simonson et al., 2012) states that previously delivered classroom instruction often needs to be retooled, with a shift toward “visual presentations, engaged learners, and careful timing of presentation of information” (p.153). This, however, is not the case in regards to Taylor’s (Spring 2007) SCUBA course. Another key aspect related to distance instruction is that of learner interaction or group work and, in this case, this it simply is not an option since the course was delivered in the past.

While Teaching and Learning at a Distance (Simonson et al., 2012) concedes that there is no one best way to teach a distance education course, it does note that the lecture “has been repeatedly demonstrated through research” (p.159) to be the least effective means of delivering online instruction. The SCUBA course fails in nearly every facet of characteristics that make up an effective distance learning environment. There is no variety in the delivery of the course or the media selection. There is no availability for learner interaction so there is no option for reflection or feedback and the course readings and resources are listed but not available.

As mentioned before, the SCUBA course is extremely thorough in the content that it delivers and seems to be completely effective for the scenario in which it was delivered; a conventional classroom with hands-on activities. It is not, however, the most effective method for delivering instruction from a distance. While I greatly enjoyed the content of the course, the SCUBA course seems better suited for a face-to-face environment, especially considering that there is a tremendous amount of content and knowledge that can only truly be acquired through hands-on participation.  


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.

Taylor, H. (Spring 2007). PE.210 SCUBA. (Massachusetts Institute of Technology: MIT OpenCourseWare), License: Creative Commons BY-NC-SA Retrieved March 31, 2012 from