Designing and developing online educational content is my primary role and, since I am the only one doing it within my organization, I generally do not have to worry about coordinating among different teams. Until recently that is! I am now suffering from scope creep and feeling a bit bewildered by it!
The project is to create an orientation lesson for clinical preceptors. The course needs to be geared toward RNs and Emergency Department technicians who will precept EMT and Paramedic students. The content focuses on scope of practice, performance requirements, and paperwork needs for both the student and the preceptor. Objectives have been clearly outlined by management and a timeline has been established that gives me plenty of time to complete the project.
I just finished the initial version for approval and I feel like a complete amateur. The reason is my own need to “…improve the project’s output as the project progresses” (Portny, Mantel, Meredith, Shafer, Sutton, & Kramer, 2008). A project that started out as a simple narrated PowerPoint has become a multimedia festival with movies, animations, and a soundtrack! This additional content was added strictly based on my desire to make the project more interesting and engaging, an admirable goal but the time commitment has pulled me from other duties.
The interesting aspect of this project is the reaction from the stakeholders. I believe the design and content bar is set so low for online education that anything with some elements of thoughtful design is automatically considered “wonderful”. I know I am sounding cynical here, but the interaction of this course with my own work has been enlightening. I did not realize how changes to a project midcourse actually impact the timeline for deliverables. While I agree with Lynch and Roecker that some changes “…must occur due to a change in vision, a change in the needs of the customer, even a sudden change in budget” (2007), but recognizing the risk to the overall project from these changes is critical to meeting a schedule.
So what have I learned and what am I going to do about it? I have learned I am my own worst enemy! I need to establish what my deliverables will be within the content design and stick to them. New development with fancy software toys can wait until the next project unless absolutely necessary. Also, establishing a change control process, as discussed by Lynch and Roecker, will help me control changes and keep track of project variations.
Overall I believe my workflow has improved with better prototyping, but I need to work on managing my own expectations and limit the amount of scope creep that occurs.
Lynch, M., Roecker, J. (2007). Project management e-learning: A handbook for successful design, delivery, and management. London, UK: Routledge.
Portny, S., Mantel, S., Meredity, J., Shafer, S., Sutton, M., Kramer, B (2008). Project management: Planning, scheduling, and controlling projects. Danvers, MA: John C Wiley and Sons