Good Practice from Red Tray – Project Managing Bespoke projects

by | Jul 11, 2008 | Articles

In Part 1 of this 2-part series we shared with you 10 key considerations for assessing the value of an e-learning project based on Good Practice findings from Mike Ditchburn @ Bourne Training (now part of Red Tray). 

In Part 2 we take a look at Project Managing the Bespoke e-learning Development Process. Supporting Good Practice (Part 2)Project Managing the Bespoke e-Learning development process. In an article originally published in e-learning Age in September 2006, Mike explored the increasing trend of developing e-learning in-house through Rapid Development tools and he rightly argued that to suggest that the outsourcing of e-Learning development will be completely replaced by in-house authoring represents a gross misunderstanding of why organisations use e-Learning. To polarise the two options is potentially dangerous in an environment where it’s essential they co-exist to serve very different requirements, so he emphasised Co-existence not Competition. The trend towards the use of Rapid Development Tools was also a recurring theme at the Online Educa Berlin conference in November 2007, as well as at Learning Technologies earlier this year. Based on his experience Mike has developed a checklist of 10 essential considerations for Project Managing the Bespoke e-Learning development process: 1. The project teamDecide who you need to deliver the project and how you can get them involved:

  • The business area; to ensure the product meets their needs and will be implemented effectively
  • Subject matter expert(s); responsible for the technical accuracy of the product in the context of your organisation
  • Information technology; responsible for selecting the development tools, agreeing the technical delivery specification and ensuring effective technical implementation
  • Human resources; to ensure the product is an effective learning solution and fits within the broader training and development strategy.

Other interested parties may include a legal representative (to agree contracts) and corporate marketing (to agree representation of the corporate brand) 2. Project responsibilitiesEnsure responsibilities are clear and focused on delivery within the project parameters (time, budget and quality). Responsibilities should be aligned to the professional disciplines of each team member and should be documented at the project kick-off meeting. 3. Service Level Agreement (SLA)You will be working to agreed project deadlines, within a defined development cost. The SLA for your project team should include:

  • Response times for turn-round of review/feedback comments
  • Responsibilities to contribute at regular project meetings
  • Response times for turn-round of queries raised by the developer
  • Responsibilities within the issue resolution process

 4. Project development timescalesYou will have the opportunity to agree development timescales at the start of the project. The most important considerations to factor into the project plan will include:

  • Adequate time for reviews of material by the project team (between 3-5 days for each tranche)
  • Contingency time – you will always need this
  • Time for prototyping and pilot activities
  • Time to evaluate the effectiveness of the product with the learners

 5. Project communicationEstablish formal and informal communication links:

  • Project communication mechanisms with the developer; weekly status reports, informal updates
  • Formal internal communication mechanisms; project team meetings linked to the developer’s updates (weekly status reports) and other internal development issues based on a standard agenda
  • Informal communication; working relationship links with the developer e.g. IT representatives, subject matter experts

 6. Issue resolutionIssues should be expected – it is important that systems are in place to identify them proactively at the earliest opportunity. Establish an issue resolution process with the internal project team and the product developer, and ensure that clear lines of responsibilities are identified and timescales for resolution are agreed. Find mechanisms within the normal project processes to address issues e.g. weekly status reporting. 7. Project evaluation measuresEvaluation of the project and the impact on the business are critical issues for the project team. Aspects of the project to evaluate should be documented and could include:

  • The effectiveness of the development process (and the developer and project team within this)
  • Acceptance of the product by the end users
  • Effectiveness of the product in meeting the business need it was developed for
  • Formal processes are likely to be implemented as part of the overall project plan

 8. Payment termsContract terms and conditions will be agreed prior to development, and these will include reference to the development specification and timescales. Payment for development work should be linked to specific project deliverables to reduce the risk of non-delivery. Examples of project deliverables can include; the detailed project specification, sign-off of scripts, product prototype, agreement of draft programmed outputs, sign-off of the final product and final project implementation sign-off. 9. Internal marketing and communicationsThe success of a project can only be measured after implementation. The project team should consider how the product can be marketed within the organisation and what communication is required to support launch. Think about how the developer can support marketing and what elements of the course can be used for marketing materials. 10. Post-project debriefComplete the Plan-Monitor-Review cycle by undertaking a post-project debrief meeting. Your agenda could include:

  • Project development successes
  • Development areas – what you would do differently next time?
  • Evaluation of the solution – against the measures defined at the outset
  • How success will be celebrated

 Mike is an active member of the Towards Maturity Virtual Advisory Network (VAN) and we thank him for his insight and thoughts. The complete articles are available through Bourne Training [email protected]. While on the theme of Top Ten’s you can find on the Towards Maturity website 10 Tips for Communicating with Learners, a recent Podcast with Gordon Bull on Top Tips for Building Learning Strategies and finally 50 Ideas for Free e-learning!  Nige HowarthTowards Maturity NB: Some content used with the kind permission of Bourne Training

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