Analyzing Scope Creep

family reunion

 When family members are scattered all over the country and even the world, family reunions are playing an important role in bringing everyone together in one place. Family reunion give families a chance to reconnect and make new memories. In most families as in mine, individual members need to fly or drive long distances to be together, and planning a gathering like this can be a challenge. With that said I was tasked with planning our very first family reunion for about 30 of my nearest and dearest relatives.  I went head first into the project with no knowledge of the logistical challenges I was about to face.

I have learned quickly that coordinating a reunion is a daunting task, but there are several things I could done differently. I began with emails and Facebook notifications to each family members, asking them to reserve the date.  I later followed up with some choices of beaches closest to my hometown. I thought it would make sense to stay close to home since I was in charge of planning the reunion. Then everything changed, when suggestions stated pouring in.  Everyone had a unique idea for activities, destination, food, accommodation, and even date changes.  I ended spending more time than I planned making changes to accommodate everyone. Some people couldn’t afford the hotel choices, some wanted to rent houses so that we could be together, and others couldn’t stay for the duration.  We ended up two houses at the beach, but with that came more challenges since most people were from out of town. So now I was task with securing all the necessities needed to for the beach, such as beach chairs, towels, food, and transportations if we wanted to leave the house.  The project kept getting bigger and bigger and more expensive for me.  I believe I ended up spending more money than any other member just to pull it off.

As the coordinator, I should have stayed in charge and coordinated all the dates and venues. The project needed extensive planning that include all stakeholders input. I should have allowed at least six months to a year to plan the reunion. Planning task should include researching a destination, booking accommodations, collecting and managing fund, keeping the group informed and planning activities.  A planning committee should have been in place to split the duties. We needed to survey the whole family to help make a few basic decisions, such as how far is everyone willing to ravel, and how much will they be able to spend. Overall, what I would do differently is plan and delegate responsibilities.

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Estimating Costs and Allocating Resources: Helpful Resources

estimating cost

One resource that I found very helpful is the MS Project software that could be used to easily enter each task, its duration and the associated resources for any project. This Project management software enables Project Team Members to manage tasks, collaborate, and submit time sheets, and flag issues and risks. It makes project management easy and engaging for Project Managers, by enabling them to analyze resources, budgets and timelines. Also, Project managers can easily measure progress and anticipate resource needs with detailed and easily customizable out-of-the box reports (project pro).

The MS project program has many helpful website such as the one found an http://www.microsoft.com/project/en-us/tips-tricks.aspx. This site provides tips and tricks that could help when creating a project schedule. If I can use it, then that says it all. The fact is MS project comes with a hefty fee, but there are many free tools out there that could be used to estimate costs and durations; this article found at http://www.makeuseof.com/tag/excel-project management-tracking-templates/ provides information on 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 also found a good project management website called Bright Hub. It outlines the project management process and defines the 8 steps in the project management process to include diagrams and charts. The site explains the critical path method and Gantt charts. They really do a good job breaking down the various charting methods used a project process. The Bright Hub website offers a wealth of knowledge and links for a budget template. The site host full project page, a monthly page, and a task project budget page. The templates appear to be basic and easy to use. They also give a link that discusses the goal of a project budget, what should be included, and an example of a project management budget.  This information gives a very good overview and a baseline of where to get started which I think will benefit any newcomer to project management (Bright Hub)

Resources:

Project Pro for Office 365. Retrieved from https://products.office.com/en-us/Project/project-pro-for-office-365

Brighthub PM. Retrieved from http://www.brighthubpm.com/

Brown, S. (2011). Examples of a project management budget. Retrieved February 3, 2011, from http://www.brighthub.com/office/project-management/articles/61658.aspx

Levine, R. (2010). Use our excel project template to simplify your life. Retrieved February 2, 2011, from http://www.brighthub.com/office/project-management/articles/75727.aspx

Rosenhead, R. (2010). Project Management. Retrieved February 3, 2011, from http://www.businessballs.com/project.htm

 

 

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The Art of Effective Communication

communication

“The Art of Effective Communication,” observing a piece of communication in three different modalities. We are constantly sending  messages, to include the ones we to intend to send, the ones we actually send, the message as the receiver  interprets it; the response of the receiver based on what he or she heard; and our reaction to the exchange of words, meaning and interpretation” (Franck & McCastskill, n.d., p. 1). After observing three communication examples, my reaction and interpretations of the messages are as followed:

Email

The email was clear and relayed Jane’s message precisely. Jane needed Mark’s data to complete her report by a certain deadline. Her email began with a clear purpose that stated the situation (Dr. Stolovitch (Laureate Education, Inc., n.d.).  Jane showed concern and understanding when she addressed Marks busy work schedule. The email created more cognitive load, because it was hard to read and time-consuming.  I did not make any connection to the writer and felt like this could have one of many request Mark receives on a daily basis. The lack of voice and tone made it difficult to form an emotional connection or concern for what the words were saying.

VoiceMail

The voicemail improved my comprehension of the message compared to the email version. The message included a formal tone which created a sense of urgency to Jane’s request. (Laureate Education, Inc., n.d.). I focused more on how Jane felt about not having the data she needed to complete her work.  Jane seemed frustrated and wanted Mark to understand the importance of her receiving his data to complete her report, while trying to show her appreciation for the work he is doing. The voicemail lacks nonverbal cues, so I tended focus on every word being said and the tone of the voice that is being used.

Face to face

In this situation Jane’s face-to-face conversation with Mark was more informal and laid back. There was no sense of urgency to her request.  Her poise gave the impression that her and Mark were friends and that the deadline was not as urgent as in the other scenarios.

I believe the tone and the approach influenced my interpretation of each modality. I believe face-to-face communication could eliminate misinterpretation, because it allows the receiver to ask questions to clarify misunderstanding immediately. However, the face-to-face scenario portrayed is not ideal in a professional environment. Stolovitch states that 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, and the email accomplished that. “Effective communicators encode their messages with their intended audience in mind as well as the communication channel” (Skillsyouneed, 2014). “This involves an appropriate use of language, conveying the information simply and clearly, anticipating and eliminating likely causes of confusion and misunderstanding, and knowing the receivers’ experience in decoding other similar communications.  Successful encoding of messages is a vital skill in effective communication” (Skillsyouneed, 2014).

References:

ranck & 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%3DCo

What is Communication (2014).  Retrieved from SkillsYourNeed (blog post) http://www.skillsyouneed.com/general/what-is-communication.html

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Project Post-Mortem

 

project

A couple years ago, as a lead special education teacher, I was ask to develop training on the intervention process for the entire teaching staff. Our administrator and the special education team members realized that the general education teacher lacked an understanding of the intervention process and how it leads to eligibility and possibly special education services.  Teacher needed to understand that students that are under performing in the classroom and are referred for intervention are not guaranteed eligible for special education services.  Teacher did not understand that it was their responsibility to deliver differentiated tier one instruction with fidelity, while collecting data to show the lack of progress prior to referral. Once a referral was make they thought that meant automatic special education services.

I remember thinking this would easy and that the one week deadline was plenty of time complete the work. I considered myself an expert in the area and that I had all the information they needed to know. I began the project with a brief meeting with the special education team of three teachers, and decided that we would deliver the training together in one day during each grade level planning. We decided to use information from the intervention and special education manual. We also decided to use a projected PowerPoint to deliver the training.  I volunteered to put the PowerPoint together and we agreed to spit the slides evenly for delivery. I worked on the power-point on my personal computer at home and included a video to show an example of an ineffective intervention meeting. Graphics and charts, music and quotes were included.  Whew! I was pretty proud of the finished deliverable.  The night before training the PowerPoint was sent out to the team for final approval and all was well. We were confident.

Learner Objectives: teacher will learn…

  • The intervention and eligibility process from start to finish
  • How to complete forms
  • Who to contact for help
  • What is their responsibility through the process and in the classroom
  • What is the special education teachers’ responsibility throughout the process and in the classroom
  • What is the administrators responsibilities

Project Objectives: deliver training to…

  • Improve teachers’ understanding of the intervention and eligibility process
  • Help teacher understand their role and responsibilities before referral
  • Help teachers understand their role through the process
  • Help teacher learn the forms and navigate their way throughout the process

Training day

The conference room was setup with a projector. I arrived early and attached my laptop to the projector. Then the problems began.  The projector was not compatible with the laptop, so I scrambled to move the PowerPoint to another school computer, but lost some of the formatting and graphics. Apparently Windows 8 and 7 are not so compatible after all. The frustration could have been avoided with a test run before training day.  During the first two groups, things were a little shaky.  As we took turns to deliver our part of the the slides we realized that we needed to practice the presentation together, and we discovered how much more information the teachers needed based on their questions. Teachers needed more information than we anticipated.  We found that we were unprepared for some of the questions and needed some help from administration to answer them.

What went well

The teachers were unaware of the difficulties and glitches.  They seemed to enjoy the presentation and were engage throughout the whole process. The presentation sparked discussions and many questions.  The PowerPoint was uploaded to a shared file for later use and for on- going training. Administration was satisfied with the training and wanted to repeat yearly for new teacher. The projects was successful because the content was relevant, and information was generated from credible sources. There was no cost and the project was delivered on time.

Improving the Project

Although the turnaround time was limited, the project would have benefited from a needs analysis (project management phase 1). Interviews with the teachers and administration would have given us a better idea of additional information that might be needed and prepare us to address questions. A project plan (Phase 2) might have alerted us of problems that could occur and assist us in delineating and communicating team members’ roles and responsibilities clearly. Certainly phase 5, a test of the facilities and equipment would have assured the proper function of the laptop and the projector on training day. Lastly, project evaluation data would have been beneficial for improvement for future training (Greer, M. (2010).

References:

Greer, M. (2010). The Project Management Minimalist: Just Enough PM to Rock Your Projects!  Retrieved from https://class.waldenu.edu/bbcswebdav/institution/USW1/201520_04/MS_INDT/EDUC_6145/Week%202/Resources/Week%202%20Resources/embedded/pm-minimalist-ver-3-laureate.pdf

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Perceptions of distance learning in the future

Distance Learning perceptions in the future

Distance education is now a common component in most higher education institution today. It has changed from an anomaly to what is expected of all educational institutions.  Colleges and university are realizing the profitability of offering courses to students who otherwise would not have access to the programs offered traditionally. Experts in the past have predicted that students attending classes at prearranged times and locations will disappear (Blustain, Goldstein, and Lozier 1999 and Drucker 1997), and I believe this trend will continue in the future. According to George Seimens, online learning continues to gain acceptance because more people come to the online environment with the experience of communicating online, new tools are becoming available and learners are more comfortable with them. I believe the small sample of respondents from our discussion question this week represent an overall perception of online learning and a good predictor of where it is going in the future.

Most people believe that online learning is on the rise.  They have seen an increase in the amount online training offered in the workplace and are finding that more of their colleagues now have online master’s degrees.  George Seimens in our video resource this week, also stated that there is a growing acceptance for online learning, due to the improvements in technology and the increased contributions from experts around the world.  As technology improves, educational models will move in the same direction, and perceptions will continue to change along with it. However, I do agree that universities are not completely on board or are not making online learning a priority when promoting their programs.  George Siemen, believed that when Universities, Government and businesses begin working together the gap will be bridged for online learning. According to Simonson, Smaldino, Albright, & Zvacek, students of all ages are participating in distance education. Technology has evolved to allow a multitude of resources that are now available to learners (2012). These resources allow students to be actively involved in their own distance learning experiences.

Distance learning provides many opportunities for learners to gain knowledge in new and engaging ways. Instructional designers can design instruction with equivalent outcomes, through virtual distance learning experiences without losing the autonomy of the face-to-face course. Designers should use the tools available to them to create instruction that engages the learners and offer them the opportunity to gain knowledge in a meaningful way. When developing the instruction for the distance learners, designers must consider age, prior experience, and attitudes toward learning, abilities, prior knowledge, personal responsibilities and learning styles (Simonson, Smaldino, Albright, & Zvacek, 2012). The instructional design should be established on solid research, concrete learning theories and distance learning theories in order to design the best educational experiences. If instructional designers continue to develop effective instruction, then perceptions will continue to move in a positive direction.

As an instructional designer, I plan to change perception of online learning, by building effective instruction based on the foundation of the learning theories (Simonson, Smaldino, Albright, & Zvacek, 2012). I will seek out and use cutting edge tools to address the multitude of learning abilities (Beldarrain, 2006). My designs will incorporate simulations, interactivity and authentic learning applications to create positive learning experiences.  These activities will allow students to create connections with prior learning experiences, construct new knowledge, demonstrate mastery and show creative problem solving abilities (Beldarrain, 2006). I believe the knowledge I gained in this course have given me the foundation to achieve these goals.

References:

Beldarrain, Y. (2006 August). Distance education trends: Integrating new technologies to foster student interaction and collaboration. 27(2). p. 139-153. Retrieved from Academic Research Complete Database.

Blustain, Harvey, Philip Goldstein, and Gregory Lozier 1999. “Assessing the New Competitive Landscape,” in Dancing with the Devil, Editors: Richard N. Katz and Associates, Jossey-Bass Publishers, San Francisco.

Gambescia, S., & Paolucci, R. (2009). Academic fidelity and integrity as attributes of university online degree program offerings. Online Journal of Distance Learning Administration,

George Siemens. The future of distance education [Video file]. Retrieved from              https://class.waldenu.e

Laureate Education, Inc. (Producer). (n.d.). The future of distance learning” [Video]. Retrieved from http://laureate.ecollege.com Laureatte Education, (n.d.)

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

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A facilitator’s Guide to converting a face-to-face course to blended course

Introduction

Converting a traditional face-to-face course to a blended learning environment may seem as simple as transferring the documents used in the original course to an online platform.  The truth is, distance learning instructional strategies and methods are quite different from the traditional face-to-face classroom environment. Traditional courses cannot just be copied and pasted into an online learning format, because the “focus of the instruction shifts to visual presentations to engage learners” (Simonson, Smaldino, Albright& Zvacek, 2012, p.153). Prior to shifting to a blended learning course, it is important to understand the definition of distance education and the details involved in developing instruction in an online environment.  Keegan’s Theory of Equivalency, warned that the learning experiences in distance learning should not be identical to the face-to-face classroom, but should be equivalent (Simonson, Smaldino, Albright, & Zvacek, 2012).  There are many definitions for distance learning that continue to evolve with the evolution of technology. However, a blended or hybrid course has been defined as a course that is typically between 30% – 79% of the content being facilitated online (Simonson, Smaldino, Albright, & Zvacek, 2012). In this environment, it is critical to maintain clear communication between the facilitator and students in a community where the learners are responsible for their own learning, based on their own experiences (Mergel, 1998). This guide was designed to facilitate the transition from a face-to-face course to an effective blended learning environment

click here to view Guide: Facilitator’s Guide

 

 

 

 

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The Impact of Open Source

Open Yale Courses: A free open website offering a number of introductory courses taught by Yale University professors.

 

I chose one of the open Yale course, titled, Africa American History; from emancipation to present.  Clearly the university did not utilize a learning management system for delivery, instead the course was designed on a webpage with no clear outline, except for four tabs at the top of the page; syllabus, sessions, survey, and buy books. Simonson 2012, proposed that distance delivered courses often do not utilize class sessions, and further suggest that the topic should be fundamental building blocks for instruction.  Topics should be organized in modules that are further organized into units. It was obvious that this course was not carefully pre-planned and designed for a distance learning environment. There were no clear directions as to where to go next, so I choose to look at the syllabus, which was limited with no defined expectation or requirements on a weekly bases. “Instructors of online courses must make the course organization, calendar, activities, and expectations as clear as possible” (Simonson, et al, 2012).

I had no idea why I would need to learn the information offered in this course except for an interest in the topic. Detailed assignment instructions are important and should include a grading scheme that can be easily located by the student.   As I continued through the course I realized that the course was a direct transfer of the face-to-face lectures to an online delivery. Simonson, 2012, suggested that one of the fundamentals of teaching online is to avoid dumping face-to-face courses onto the web. He further stated that, “The term shovel ware has evolved to describe this practice: shovel the course onto the web and say you are teaching online.” “Online activities for students should have specific pedagogical or course management purposes.” Simonson, et al, 2012.

Next I choose the sessions’ tab, which was merely a list of 25 lectures that were delivered in a classroom setting by the instructor. The designers did not implement course activities to maximize active learning. Each sessions were delivered in the same way, via prerecorded videos. However, the lecture pages did offer an overview with reading assignments. At the bottom of the page students could also choose html format or an mp3 audio versions of the lectures. Students are given a reading assignment for each lecture session and are allowed to move to next session or previous via links at the top of the page. There were no opportunities to interact with the instructor of other students in the class. Ross and Kemp (2004) suggest that learners need to understand the instructor’s intent when participating in any learning environment.  When they understand the intent or reason why they are participating in the instruction or activity they are better able to use that experience to explore their own learning.  Using a course management system would enable the instructor of this conventional face-to-face course to provide learning resources and conduct course-related activities, such as discussion and testing, outside of the classroom setting.

The designers or instructor for this course needed to take the time to conduct strategic planning and organize the learning experience to effectively deliver instruction is an online environment. They needed to move from the traditional approach to a more effective learning approach that is focused on student learning and less on delivery. Well-designed courses provide students with engaging learning experiences.

References:

Open Yale Courses: A free open website offering a number of introductory courses taught by Yale University professors. http://oyc.yale.edu/

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.

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