Estimating Costs and Allocating Resources

This week our assignment was to find two resources that would be beneficial in estimating the costs, effort and/or activity durations associated with ID projects. “Project managers must develop budgets in order to obtain the resources needed to accomplish project objectives. Often, project managers are required to prepare project budgets in order to receive the go-ahead from top management to proceed with projects” (Portny et al, 2008). In my search efforts, I found the following resources:

Bright Hub – Bright Hub is a great resource that was created to speed up the workflow. They have built in templates with calculations already set up to assist in the development of the project budget. The Excel templates have three different pages:

An Overall Project Budget Page that accounts for all income and expenses associated with the project.

A Monthly Project Budget Page that accounts for expenses and is broken down by months

A Task Project Budget Page that breaks down the budget by task and category

These templates are basic and seem very easy to use. Each template has information provided to give the user a brief overview of what items should and should not be included in the budget.

Project Management for Instruction Designers – This website is a great resource to refer to when first starting out. It is actually an online book that was tailored specifically for instructional designers. Chapter 8 talks about Project Time Management and Chapter 9 is a great resource for Project Costs and Budgeting. I like this resource because it basically takes you from the beginning of a project to the very end.

Amado, M., Ashton, K., Ashton, S., Bostwick, J., Clements, G., Drysdale, J., Francis, J., Harrison, B., Nan, V., Nisse, A., Randall, D., Rino, J., Robinson, J., Snyder, A., Wiley, D., & Anonymous. (DATE). Project Management for Instructional Designers. Retrieved from http://pm4id.org/. Licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution NonCommercial ShareAlike (BY-NC-SA) license.

Levine, R. (2011). Use our excel project budget template to simply your life. Retrieved from http://www.brighthub.com/office/project-management/articles/75727.aspx

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

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Communicating Effectively

“We send approximately 100 to 300 messages a day. These include messages we intend to send; the messages we actually send; and the message as the hearer interprets it; the response of the hearer based on what he or she heard; and our reaction to the exchange of words, meaning and interpretation” (Franck & McCastskill, n.d.). For this week’s blog, we were asked to interpret a message that a coworker received in three different modes: email, voicemail and face-to-face.

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Jane began her email to Mark just as Dr. Stolovitch stated, with a clear purpose that stated the situation (Laureate Education, Inc., n.d.). She needed some of the data that Mark had in his report to complete hers by the deadline. She asked him simply for the data that she needed and her email seemed to be fairly clear.

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The tone of Jane’s voice in the voicemail she left for Mark was formal and her language was simplistic (Laureate Education, Inc., n.d.).  Even though she showed her appreciation for the work he was doing, it seemed like she was frustrated in not having the information that she needed to meet her deadline.

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Jane’s face-to-face conversation with Mark was more informal and didn’t seem as urgent as both the email and the voicemail.

Influential Factor

In my office, I send and respond to emails the most in order to communicate with my co-workers. By doing so, sometimes the messages can be misinterpreted. By communicating face-to-face with someone, instantaneous response can be received and misinterpretation that often happens with written communication can often be eliminated. I interpret communication by someone’s tone. According to Stolovitch, written communication should include five things (Laureate Education, Inc., n.d.).:

  1. Begin with a clear purpose
  2. State the situation
  3. Include possible solutions
  4. Specify the form that the response is required to take
  5. Keep the tone of all communications business friendly and respectful

In this example, I would have to say that the email used the best communication approach. The email that Jane sent to Mark best conveyed her message and comprised all 5 of the elements in the above list. It is a written document that can be used later if needed.

Communication is a vital took when working with a team. Project managers should be able to effectively communicate with all of the members of their team. If communication is lacking and not constructive, the project will also be lacking.

References:

Franck & McCastskill, (n.d.). Effective communication. Retrieved from http://www.umext.maine.edu/onlinepubs/pdfpubs/6103.pdf

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_549170_1%26url%3D

Project Post Mortem

Several years ago I was asked to review several online professional development programs along with the Assistant Superintendent to determine which program would be most beneficial to the paraprofessionals in our school district. In Georgia, teachers and paraprofessionals have to complete 100 hours of training within a 5 year period of time to renew their certificates. The two of us reviewed several programs and picked the one we thought would be most beneficial to those that had to use it. These teachers and paraprofessionals were to use this program on designated staff development days or on their own time to get their needed training hours.

In my opinion, and now looking back at this project, I can see that we did not handle it the proper way. First, we should have analyzed the needs of the users. We should have sent out surveys or met with them to see how familiar they were with the technology required, what type of professional development classes they felt would help them the most on the job, and their preferred way of learning – online or lecture.

We decided on one program and then held a “train the trainer” session with one person from each school with the intentions of that person being able to redeliver to their co-workers and be able to support them when needed. The trainers went back to their schools and briefly went over the new program in a staff meeting. Employees had no idea how to sign on, how to sign up for specific classes or how to complete the process to get the credits. It would have been a good idea to have the employees from each school system in a computer lab and let them actually have some hands on experience with the program at the beginning. This would have alleviated many problems and questions during the process.

The program turned out to be a waste of time and money on our part. Very few employees took advantage of the online classes and many felt that we were forcing them to work on their off-time. I am in the process now of conducting surveys to see how I can serve their needs and make on-line classes more appealing to them. I plan to design a few courses on Blackboard that will offer specialized training with videos and interactive presentations. I am also planning to create either a step by step powerpoint or video that will explain how the program works so that it can be viewed as many times as needed.

Distance Learning Reflection

As I reflect back on this distance learning course and on all that I have learned over these past eight weeks, I realized that distance education is going to continue to grow and will be in higher demand as the technologies evolve. Simonson defines online learning 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). Almost every student now will have access to at least one online distance learning class during their school years. Businesses will also widely accept distance learning courses because it will save them money and resources and also allow them to interact with their different offices from anywhere in the world.

In the next 5-10 years, I believe that more and more learners will turn to distance learning instead of the traditional classroom setting. With the easy access of distance learning, especially to adults with families and jobs, working adults will take online classes to make themselves more desirable for career changes or job promotions. As the country faces many economic problems like reductions in the amount of money provided to K-12 education and outsourced jobs – distance learning provides some sort of relief to those problems. Traditional higher institutions are more expensive that online distance education. One important thing that I learned was that there are some free Open Source Courses available online in a variety of topics and subjects.

Simonson, Smaldino, Albright, and Zvacek (2012) contend distance learning will not replace face-to-face educational settings. I do have to agree with that statement, because there are some learners that need that face-to-face interaction in order to learn. In the coming years, I see distance learning being accepted in all facets of learning, from K-12 to higher education. Even today, for students in my school system that are not adapting and excelling in the traditional classroom setting, distance learning classes are an option for them to receive their high school diploma. I see distance learning also becoming more and more favorable to learners that live in countries outside of the US like Asia and Africa.

As an instructional designer, I will do my best to promote society’s perception of distance learning by advocating its benefits and also contributing to the field. By being involved in distance education classes, I have learned to analyze the learner’s unique needs before moving any traditional learning course into an online learning setting. My role as instructional designer would also involve creating effective ways to use the communication tools that are available to ensure that the learners maintain a high level of motivation and that student participation is ongoing. The designer will need to assure the high level of student involvement required for success (Simonson, Smaldino, Albright, Zvacek, 2012).

I will strive to be a positive force for the continuous improvement in the field of distance education by staying abreast of all the new advances in the technology and instructional field. I will make it a point to read professional magazines and articles that relate to the field and also keep in touch with other instructional designers that may be able to share their experiences and insight into the business. I already have some long term goals in mind to help train some of my co-workers in professional development classes.

References

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

The Impact of Open Source

In any distance learning education course, the planning process is crucial and requires a great deal of time and effort. Learners must be provided with the proper learning resources for the course as well as activities that create interaction among the students and challenge them. Because of the technological advances over the past several years, distance learning formats are now accessible online. Open Courseware is a term that consists of all supporting digital material for academic courses such as; syllabi, lecture notes, reading lists, presentation slides, case studies and software that is available for educational use and is shared via the internet at no cost (Baldi, Heier, Stanzick, 2002). These courses provide learners the opportunity to learn from college level classes but cannot be taken for college credit. These classes are most beneficial to students that want to see what a particular class is about before actually signing up or for those that just want to gain the additional knowledge.

The course I previewed was Abstract Algebra. URL http://www.extension.harvard.edu/open-learning-initiative/abstract-algebra

Instructor: Benedict Gross, PHD – Harvard Extension School

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I chose this particular course because I am terrible at Math. I was hoping this would help to enlighten me on some of the concepts of Algebra that I have had trouble with for many years. No such luck. When entering this course, I found a course syllabus, and some notes for each section – many were hand written though. Each course had recorded lectures that were available for download in Quicktime or MP3 formats or you could play the Flash version directly. Each week consisted of three lectures which were 50 minutes each.

I was really disappointed in the overall structure of this course. The videos were informative, however a lot the notes that were provided by the instructor were just hand written and scanned and the assignments were also hand written. I didn’t find any place to review the assignments or compare answers to see if the questions were being answered correctly. According to Simonson, Smaldino, Albright & Zvacek (2012) some factors that are important in a course such as this are: student-instructor interaction and student-student interaction. An example of this would be a discussion group, wiki or blog where students could go and collaborate with each other and the instructor when needed. The material was presented in several different formats such as audio video and the hand written notes, however more resource links could have been posted as additional learning tools.

I found that the majority of this course was basically just a dumping ground for the information. Not many active learning strategies were implemented within this course.

References

Baldi, S., Heier, H., & Stanzick, F. (2002). Open courseware vs. open source software- A critical comparison.  Retrieved from http://csrc.lse.ac.uk/asp/aspecis/20020137.pdf

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

Yale University (2008). History 116: The American revolution. Retrieved from Yale Open courses website: http://oyc.yale.edu/history/hist-116

Harvard Extension School (2014) Abstract Algebra. Retrieved from Harvard Extension School website: http://www.extension.harvard.edu/open-learning-initiative/abstract-algebra

 

Selecting Distance Learning Technologies

Collaborative Training Environment

A new automated staff information system was recently purchased by a major corporation and needs to be implemented in six regional offices. Unfortunately, the staff is located throughout all the different offices and cannot meet at the same time or in the same location. As an instructional designer for the corporation, you have been charged with implementing a training workshop for these offices. As part of the training, you were advised how imperative it is that the staff members share information, in the form of screen captures and documents, and participate in ongoing collaboration.

The required training requires that staff members that are located throughout six different locations participate and share information. To effectively deliver the instruction, it is very important to research and make wise decisions when selecting the learning tools. With the growth of technology over the past several years, there are many different learning tools available for use. “The growth of online distance learning is explosive in almost all sectors and in many developed and developing countries” (Moller, Wellesley, Foshay, & Huett, 2008, p. 70).

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Training sessions will be held in an asynchronous learning environment since the staff member are not at the same location and are unable to meet at the same time. Simonson, Smaldino, Albright, & Zvack state “online activities for students should have specific pedagogical or course management purposes” (p. 248) and “learning experiences should be provided to each learner whether local or distant, and the expectation should be that the equivalent outcomes, rather than identical, should be expected of each learner” (2012, p. 52). The job of the Instructional Designer will be to implement the workshops in each of the six offices therefore it would be beneficial to conduct a needs assessment to determine the types of technology that each location has available to them and also to try to determine the types of learners that will be involved. It will be important for the staff members at each location to collaborate and share information with each other.

There are many Web 2.0 tools available that can be used to allow learners from all sites to participate in group activities, share documents/screen captures and also interact with each other at different times. Learning modules with clear descriptions and procedures should be designed that will allow the learners to have some hands on learning experiences. To ensure that every learner is benefitting from the training, the presentation should include both auditory/verbal and visual/pictorial aspects.

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The use of Wiki’s would be an appropriate technology tool for this type of collaborative learning environment. Wikis give students the ability to add a contribution to a collaborative project, or communicate with other students at any time which leads to more access to education (Beldarrain, 2006). With the use of Wiki’s, learners are able to have ongoing conversations in discussion threads, and edit pages. Within a wiki, learners are in control of their own learning and are able to work at their own pace (Simonson, Smaldino, Albright, & Zvack, 2012). By allowing them to do this, it makes it gives them the flexibility to work in an environment that is more effective and productive for them. Working collaboratively, a wiki allows a group so share documents and screen captures and also brings them together to review information and organize ideas. Group work helps to build communication skills and lets the employees feel that they have made a contribution to the company. In a corporate setting all staff must be competent on the new information system, a wiki keeps a record or history of all interaction and changes made that can be viewed by the trainer to help determine the competency of each learner (Laureate Education, Inc., 2014).

Instructional YouTube videos can also be used to enhance the learning experience. Step by step sequences can be demonstrated and incorporated into the training using movie or picture files. Videos help make the classroom more engaging and also appeal to the various learning styles of the students because when used effectively it enhances visual memory.

Traditional classrooms have drastically changed over the past 20 years. There are many Web 2.0 tools available that can be used in this type of asynchronous learning environment, however I believe that the use of Wiki’s and Videos will help to maximize the effectiveness of the training needed.

References

Beldarrain, Y. (2006). Distance education trends: Integrating new technologies to foster student interaction and collaboration. Distance Education, 27(2),139–153.

Laureate Education, Inc. (2014). 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_4775279_1%26url%3D

Moller, L., Foshay, W., & Huett, J. (2008). 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.

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