Effective Communication

“The key to successful project management is effective communication—sharing the right messages with the right people in a timely manner” (Portny, et al., 2008, p. 357). Effective communication is perhaps a subjective concept. What works well in one circumstance may not work well in another. This could also hold true from situation to situation.

The three messages this week left me with different interpretations when I progressed through them. My impressions changed further after listening to each message then replaying the previous messages and comparing them.

My impression of each message

Email – there was a muted sense of urgency. It was clear that the information was required, with haste. However, I did not feel as if the information was being demanded immediately. The wording was more formal than the face to face message and the words were chosen carefully in order to minimize misunderstanding (Portny, et al., 2008). Duthler (2006) posits that “electronic mail allows communicators more control over planning, composing, editing, and delivering messages than face-to-face communication” (p. 501). Duthler argues that this control might lead to communicators creating more polite speech. This explains why the content of the emails appears very polite. The precise and unambiguous nature of the message should further understanding (Laureate Education (Producer), n.d.).

Voicemail – vocalics and paralanguage communicate the urgency to provide the requested document. In my opinion, Jane sounds very mechanical on the recording. This is likely because when communicating via voicemail communicators can rehearse but cannot make changes to the message once recorded. This mechanical sound could be due to the dissonance between the plan and actual performance as well as the need to manage speech cues.

Face to face – Tone, pace and body language used in the face to face message gave me the impression that the message was not as urgent as the email and voicemail implied.

Which form of communication best conveyed the true meaning and intent of the message?

I had a hard time deciding which one method best conveyed the true meaning and intent of the message. I felt both the voicemail and email adequately conveyed the intended message. However, in actuality, I would perhaps first make contact via telephone or face to face then send an email to follow-up. Dr. Stolovitch suggests important communication is best delivered live (Laureate Education (Producer), n.d.). He further notes that these should be documented.

Lessons learn from this exercise

Communication is critical to the continued success of projects and other business activities. This activity highlighted how different media can be interpreted and misunderstood. The prevent misinterpretation of my communication I should utilize more than one medium. First I should always seek to communicate in person then use emails or other forms of formal written communication to document what was said and when (Laureate Education (Producer), n.d.).

References

Duthler, K. W. (2006). The politeness of requests made via email and voicemail: Support for the hyperpersonal model. Journal of Computer‐Mediated Communication, 11(2), 500-521.

Laureate Education (Producer). (n.d.). Communicating with stakeholders [Video file]. Retrieved from https://class.waldenu.edu

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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Project Post-Mortem: The Lessons Learned

As I thought through this assignment, I reached out to several colleagues, friends, and family and asked: “have you ever been on a project that failed”? Overwhelmingly the answer was “No”. This led me to clarify the definition of failure, then and only then did the responses start to differ. Given this experience, I will start by defining “project failure”. Mar (2012) defines project failure in five easy ways:

  1. Stakeholder’s views – did they believe the project failed?
  2. Delivery to plan – did the project meet time, budget and quality targets?
  3. On time delivery – was the project delivered on time?
  4. Financial results – did the project meet its projected results?
  5. Minimum return – did the project meet its ROI target?

If the answer to any of these five questions is yes, the project failed.

The project

Annually, as an investment in employee welfare the company plans a staff party or outing. The year in review the staff all decided they wanted an outing and so the social committee was gathered to make the plans. The team convened several meetings to get ideas together and issued a survey for the general staff to select locations from those the team identified. A significant number of the staff decided on a particular location, so the team started planning for that location. A date was identified, budget determined, action lists created, and tasks assigned. Planning went smoothly for the most part, but we had one major hick-up, the date for the outing was not widely communicated to the staff. As stakeholders in the project, they felt their needs were not considered, so several members of staff said they would boycott the outing. The social committee continued planning for the full staff complement which proved to be a good move. On the day of the outing majority of the team showed up and we were underway. From the committee’s standpoint, it was a great day. The buses arrived on time though our planned departure time was off by nearly 30 minutes, yet we got to the hotel on time. The hotel was well prepared for us. Food and beverage were served all day, and there were several activities in which the staff participated. We had an incident-free return to the office, and all staff members went home safely.

Post-mortem

A few days after the outing we issued a survey to the staff to get their feedback on the day and activities. During the post-mortem meeting, we discussed the survey and the highs and lows of the project. As expected majority of the staff felt communication was a problem, but what was the biggest surprise for the committee was that they all disliked the location and were disgruntled about the service received.

What went right?

The project was completed on time and under budget. Additionally, all necessary safety and risk precautions established by the company were observed

What went wrong?

The team operated based on the stakeholders’ choice. Because the majority of the staff decided on the location, the restrictions imposed by the hotel were ignored as the committee felt the staff ‘s choice should be honored. There was no site visit to the hotel because of budget constraints. Additionally, while there were persons assigned to various communication tasks, there was no clear communication plan. Updates were directed to the management team with brief discussions of the outing in staff meetings. A poster was placed on the noticeboard a week before the outing. However, the team planned the outing for the better part of 4 months.

The informal nature of this project led the team not to complete some of the traditional documentation found in a project, for example, a schedule of work and communication plan. Greer (2010) provides several templates that could be used by the team to address the shortcomings. Firstly a project communications planner (p. 34) could identify, the who, what, how, and when of communications and help the team to reach all stakeholders.  Additionally, the use of a responsibility matrix (p.12) would help the team to define who will be included in each activity. This would have helped to identify which tasks would be undertaken by who and all the players in the process.

Portny et al., (2008) explains that a project manager should determine why the organization selected the project (p. 13). In this particular case, the committee and committee head, acting in the capacity of project manager, should have identified why the staff selected the location they did.  In retrospect, we learned that they picked the hotel because it had a waterpark. However, the hotel had several excessive restrictions that prevented staff from really enjoying their stay. We could have accomplished the goal of getting the team to a waterpark with fewer restrictions by choosing another location. We did not take the time to investigate their choice and so had to plan other activities to make up for the failed trip.

References

Greer, M. (2010). The project management minimalist: Just enough PM to rock your projects! (Laureate custom ed.). Baltimore: Laureate Education, Inc. Retrieved from https://class.waldenu.edu/bbcswebdav/institution/USW1/201660_02/MS_INDT/EDUC_6145/Week%202/Resources/Week%202%20Resources/embedded/pm-minimalist-ver-3-laureate.pdf

Mar, A. (2012, November 14). 5 definitions of project failure. Retrieved from simplicable.com: http://management.simplicable.com/management/new/5-definitions-of-project-failure

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.

EDUC 6145: Project Management in Education & Training

construction-909975_1280The instructional design journey continues, and so we pause at construction zone EDUC 6145 to fill our ID briefcase with project management knowledge and skills. The journey has been eventful. We’ve traveled some distance. Learning our foundations through research. We’ve contemplated the organization, its innovation, and change. Using multimedia we’ve examined the theories and instructions. We continue to work hard, pushing to achieve the goal. At the end of this journey lies our ultimate reward: advanced instructional design skills.

Reflection: The Future of Distance Education

The future of distance education

A look at the University Council of Jamaica’s (UCJ) website, the local accrediting body, will attest to the growing acceptance of distance learning in Jamaica. There is a total of 16 universities accredited or recognized by the UCJ to provide undergraduate and graduate level programs to Jamaicans (University Council of Jamaica, 2016). Some are in collaboration with established local colleges and universities and yet others, like those offered by Walden, are delivered by the recognized or accredited institution. According to Siemens, increase use and comfort with technology is directly correlated with an acceptance of education at a distance (Laureate Education (Producer), n.d.). With a population of approximately 2.9 million, 2.9 million cell phones and 1.5 million internet users, approximately 50% of Jamaicans are users of information and communication technologies (CIA, 2016). Jamaica is pushing towards the inclusion of technology at the primary and secondary levels (Patterson, 2015), and we already have three local universities offering distance education programs. Also, noteworthy is the fact that the current Prime Minister supports this learning modality (Jamaica Observer, 2011). These factors auger well for a distance learning future in Jamaica. Here I only speak of our local universities and policies; I speak nothing of the hundreds of professionals who have already identified overseas universities offering distance programs. This says to me that our future will include increased use of distance learning programs. This approach is becoming more acceptable to students and employers.

There is a contradictory perspective, however, evidenced by my assignment for this week that demonstrates there are still Jamaicans who thinks the quality and rigor of an online degree is less than its face to face counterpart. Past and successive governments have lauded the importance of ICT in education. These praises are transformed into programs such as the Tablets in Schools projects and other programs planned in primary and secondary schools (Patterson, 2015). The government throwing its support behind ICT and distance learning does not seem to reassure some that there is sufficient rigor to make this option viable. Their lack of confidence in distance learning is perhaps as a result of their inexperience with this option (Simonson, Smaldino, & Zvacek, 2015). Simonson, Smaldino, and Zvacek (2015) suggests guiding inexperience distance learners to make them aware of course expectations. Following this train of thinking, I believe local universities, colleges and any institution (local or overseas) planning to enter or continue in the distance learning market in Jamaica should invite prospective students to an open house designed to share information and assuage their concerns.

Contributing to Jamaica’s Distance Education Future

My role in Jamaica’s distance education future began a year ago when I enrolled at Walden University. Admittedly just a first step, but it will pave the way for future contributions. I expect my future roles in this field to be that of instructional designer, instructor, and subject matter expert. As an instructional designer, Simonson et al. (2015) advises that I should “consider all aspects of the instructional environment, following a well-organized procedure that provides guidance to even the novice distance instructor” (p. 128). Simonson et al. propose the use of a systematic approach to design which allows the designer to factor the learner environment, learners, content, teaching strategies and media in the development and design of the learning environment and assets used in learning. However, perhaps my most important contribution is ensuring quality in the courses I designed for distance learning. Sun, Tsai, Finger, Chen and Yeh (2008, as cited in Simonson et al., 2015) identifies course quality as one of the most important factors that influence learners satisfaction with distance learning. It is then through the maintenance of quality that I will best improve the society’s perception of distance learning.

Simonson et al. (2015) identifies two questions an instructional designer or instructor must ask during formative evaluations: “is this approach going to work” and “what can I do to make it better” (p. 140). The first question suggests that the instructional designer’s role does not end at providing content and setting up the learning environment. By asking this question, the instructional designer critically looks at the expected outcomes of the instruction and determine if the material provided will allow users to achieve this outcome. Once the course is complete, the designer and or instructor should revisit the learning event to identify what worked well and what did not. It is through this evaluation process that we now identify “what can I do better” to make the course more successful in the next iteration. At this time, there is an in-depth look at each element of the course: learning resources, the technology used, learning tasks, and teaching strategies. Each is reviewed in this reflective process to determine how it contributed to any problems in the training and what can be done to address the problem. This reflection is crucial to the success of future endeavors, as Simonson et al. (2015) states “because so many different factors affect the interactive learning environment, reflective teaching practices play a vital role in developing effective teaching practices” (p. 140).

Conclusion

Experience with technology does influence the use of distance learning as these very technologies are employed in the learning environment. It is, however, imperative that steps be taken to inform prospective students of the quality and rigor of distance learning programs. Of course, if we tout the quality of distance learning programs to influence prospective users we must maintain that quality through systematic approaches to design and rigorous evaluations.

 

References

CIA. (2016, February 25). The World Factbook. Retrieved from CIA.Org: https://www.cia.gov/library/publications/the-world-factbook/geos/jm.html

Jamaica Observer. (2011, June 15). Holness praises distance learning. Retrieved from http://www.jamaicaobserver.com/news/Holness-praises-distance-learning_9011651

Laureate Education (Producer). (n.d.). The future of distance education [Video file]. Retrieved from https://class.waldenu.eduhttps://class.waldenu.edu

Patterson, C. (2015, March 4). Gov’t incorporating technology in education. Retrieved from JIS.gov: http://jis.gov.jm/govt-incorporating-technology-education/

Simonson, M., Smaldino, S., & Zvacek, S. (2015). Teaching and learning at a distance: Foundations of distance education (6th ed.). Information Age Publishing, Inc.

University Council of Jamaica. (2016, February). Accredited Programmes and UCJ-Approved Degrees. Retrieved from UCJ.Org: http://www.ucj.org.jm/sites/default/files/ACCREDITED-PROGRAM-ES-AS-AT-February-2016.pdf

 

Transitioning to Blended Learning

The prevalence of Information and Communication Technology (ICT) and learners needs have resulted in an increased demand for blended learning approached in all areas of education. With more organizations considering the inclusion of more technology in their traditional program, there is a need for a guide to aid that transition. This guide will provide useful resources and checklist to aid with the transition from face to face to blended learning. My guide will take the ADDIE approach to course design, download the guide for further information.

 

To get you started with blending technology in your course, here is a video from Otis College that explains how they blend technology in their classes.

 

Download my guideTransitioning to Blended Learning – Guide

 

Additional resources

Here are some more resources that can help you to transition from face to face to blended learning

The ADDIE Model

Transition from Tradition: 9 Tips for successfully moving your face-to-face course online

Resources for Instructors

Developing a communication plan

Task Analysis and Instructional Objectives

Planning for learning is an essential part of any teacher’s job. This planning is even more important when planning for online delivery. This stage should consider everything related to the delivery of instruction. That includes the learners, training material, the actual learning environment and the content to be taught. As such the planning phase will have these stages all geared towards identifying the learning
objective: Needs assessment, Learner analysis and Task analysis

Analysis

In this post, I will focus on the task analysis and why it is important.

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