Thursday, April 9, 2015

EDUC 6145 - Week 6 - Analyzing Scope Creep

My scope creep project happened pretty recently, and has not completely been resolved, so I’m interested to stick it out and see what happens. There is one training course I’m currently working on, and there is no PM designated. Where I work, we have a designer and a SME on a team. Other people will only be brought in if necessary. Luckily, for this course I have a few other designers working with me.

This course is one that has already been created and is in a revision process so that we can pinpoint what is needed and what exactly to train students on. The students in the class come from all over the world to be trained on giving background investigations, as well as perform other duties. Because the course is already being taught and I have access to the lesson plans and previous ADDIE paperwork that had been filled out, I can see what is being taught. I was beginning to re-paper the course (which just means to update the paperwork and make any necessary changes) and had gotten to the design phase when the SME made it known she wanted to add three days to the course.

Here are a few reasons why this is bad: each day costs money, per student. The amount that a student’s organization will pay for them to attend class only covers a percentage of the training facility’s cost. Adding the days to the course would not only cost more, but the papering process would need to be restarted, meaning we’d lose money from the delays. When the SME and I finally reached a consensus, she mentioned that the three added days would not be taking place at our facility. This led to bringing more people on board to coordinate, spending more money in paying for rental cars and hotel rooms for students, and having to redo the paperwork once again. (I also should note that the only reason the team conceded to the SME was because there was not enough data to back up the idea that these last three days are unnecessary.)

This project began in November, and the course is not until June. However, the original course date was April, so we’ve already lost money on having to delay the class. Another designer and I are the leads on this project, and at this point it’s difficult to see what else could come up to get us off track; it actually looks like we may make our June date.

If I was a PM, I would have gone back to the analysis phase once the extra three days were requested and conducted a needs analysis to see if the extra time is something that is really necessary. Chances are this analysis would have taken less time to put together than all the paperwork and coordination for an extended course. I also would have kept the lines of communication open along the way so that this news didn’t take us by surprise halfway through the project. Our curriculum manager also has working knowledge of each course, and had I been in control, I would have brought him in much sooner to get his take on the changes. 

Thursday, April 2, 2015

EDUC 6145 - Week 5 - Estimating Costs and Allocating Resources

Cover Art
This is a book that has been published online, and it includes resources such as step-by-step instructions, videos, and charts to help a project manager get started on a project. For this week’s topic, I found that chapters 8 and 9 are the most relevant because they focus on time management and budgets, respectively. The online book is set up the same way our textbook is, with an objective at the beginning of each chapter and key takeaways at the end. There is also the option of listening to someone read the chapters aloud through an audio player at the top of each page.

This is a UK-based website that “helps managers at all levels improve their performance.” Under the Methods & Tools tab I found an article written by Duncan Haughey that focuses on estimating project costs. It includes a list of assumptions to make about a project, a list of common mistakes, and a three-point estimation formula. On the sidebar there are links to other helpful articles, such as 12 Tips for Accurate Project Estimating and Creating a Project Budget: What You Need to Know. There are also links embedded in the article for a PM to use for extra help.


This site is not necessarily meant for project managers, but there are some helpful tools that could easily be used by a PM or an instructional designer. The homepage offers links to downloadable software – some of which have free trials. The software that would be most helpful to a PM or an ID is the time tracking, the cash flow forecasting, and the bar chart schedule. Some of the software is based on the site, so information is easily plugged in. This is definitely something I would use if in a position of having to create a schedule and plan a budget for a project; I could plug in the information I have and receive a chart that I could show other team members. It’s a great tool to stay organized. 

Thursday, March 19, 2015

EDUC 6145 - Week 3 - Communicating Effectively


Written Text:
Reading any type of communication in text makes it difficult to assess the tone of the “speaker” unless you know that person well. Jane’s email seems important, and her tone almost sounds frantic, but in such a way that she’s trying to cover up how frantic she is. It’s difficult to tell if the tone is a bit bossy, or if it’s completely professional, and even friendly. However, I did notice that she was very clear about what she needed, and almost wrote as though she is a manager, so I wonder if she could be the lead on a project they are completing together.

For me, I had mostly the same impression from the audio that I did from the written text. I wondered if Jane could be Mark’s boss, but after hearing the way she spoke to him it sounded as if they are simply teammates and that she needs something from him. Tone, obviously, is not difficult to interpret in a voicemail. Jane’s voicemail sounded less formal than her email.

The video again made me wonder if Jane could be a PM or boss. She only smiled at the very beginning of her request, and then was professional and formal in her facial expressions. Had I watched the video first, it’s likely I would have assumed she is definitely a manager of some sort, but after reading and listening to the other two first I still can’t be sure.


Portny et al. (2008) describe that there are two types of communication: formal and informal (p. 357). Based on the way they define these types, it’s clear to me that the first example of the message (the email) could be taken either way, depending on the context surrounding the message. It could be formal because it was “preplanned and conducted in a standard format in accordance with an established schedule” or it could be informal because it occurred as Jane thought of information to share (Portny et al., 2008, p. 357). The voicemail was definitely more informal because of the inflection of Jane’s voice, and because it sounded as if it was something not that imperative that she just happened to think of and wanted to let Mark know about. As for the video, my opinion is that it was formal communication. Jane did not laugh or make light of any parts of what she had to say, and she was straightforward with her request.

I think that a combination of the face-to-face request and an email would be the most effective; the email would reiterate what had been said, and there would be a paper-trail to document everything. What I realized from my own reactions is that if the person making the request makes light of what they’re asking for or jokes around, it’s possible that the person being asked will assume it’s not a big deal. I learned that it’s vital to be concise and clear about what you want, and to communicate it in such a way that will come across as professional. I’ve always been a supporter of the follow-up email, and it’s definitely something I will continue to do.


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.

Thursday, March 12, 2015

EDUC 6145 - Week 2 - Project "Post-mortem"

I have always considered myself to be an organized person. I write everything down and rarely let things slip through the crack. However, there are times when even the most put-together people make mistakes. My first job out of college was as a recruiter. I started off slowly, only contacting people who had been pre-screened by management, but after a while the workload for the company became so much that I got to find my own recruits. The contracts I was staffing were as large as 500 people, and I’m sure you can imagine the workload that goes into something like that (even with a team of three of us it took months to feel like we were making progress). None of that may seem relevant, but what’s important to remember about recruiting – especially when you’re doing it on your own with few guidelines – is that you have to keep track of everything. There should be a plan in place so you know exactly what you’re looking for.

There was one specific contract that came our way, and I was the acting lead recruiter, and my “team” was me and three other people. Had I known what I know now about managing any kind of project, I would have done things quite differently. There was no plan created from the beginning. I did not sit down with anybody to talk about what we were looking for, what keywords we should use, there were no tracking spreadsheets, and it was all-around disorganized. It turned out that a few of us had been contacting the same people (I’m sure they felt as though they were getting bombarded). Planning, organizing, and controlling are three main components of a project manager’s job (Portney et al., 2008, pp. 3-4). On my own, I felt like I had those three things under control, but with no experience in leading any kind of project, I severely slacked on the planning and organizing portions when it came to my team. I wanted everybody to jump in head first because I didn’t want us to fall behind on such a large task, but looking back, that was not the way to go.

There were some aspects that turned out to be successful, such as the fact that a few weeks into the recruiting process we finally were on the same page, had come up with position descriptions to send to candidates, and came up with a plan for which members of the team would recruit for certain positions (instead of us all trying to do everything). While everything turned out okay in the end (although I should add – it’s been over two years since I left that job and last I heard that contract still isn’t fully staffed), I learned so much from my mistakes. Although I felt like we got a head start by jumping in, in reality we lost time due to everyone’s confusion – which was my fault. We should have spent a day making the plan. Defining the scope of the task and assigning roles and responsibilities would have started us off on track, and instead of losing time later trying to figure it all out, we could have hit the ground running.


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.

Monday, March 9, 2015

EDUC 6145 - Welcome


This is the blog that I've used for my courses since starting the Instructional Design & Technology program at Walden. I've loved following along with my classmates, and I hope you all enjoy my posts throughout this course.

Here's a little about me:

+ I'm an instructional systems designer working for the Department of State, and I absolutely love my job.

+ I'm getting married on April 25th.

+ I have a dog named Louie and a hedgehog named Henrietta.

+ I grew up in Southern Maryland, but currently live in Alexandria, VA.

I'm looking forward to working with all of you!

Sunday, March 1, 2015

EDUC 6135 - Week 8 - Reflection

I have always been an advocate for distance learning. I believe it’s partially because I grew up in a house where getting an education wasn’t a question, but rather, it was an expectation. However, my parents also believed that “a degree is a degree.” As long as I was studying, it didn’t matter if it was online or in a face-to-face setting. I chose to get my undergraduate degree at a traditional university, but when it came time to get a graduate degree, I knew right away I would want to study online. I have a full-time job, hobbies, and other obligations that make attending a class a few times a week nearly impossible for me, and I know that many other adult learners face similar situations. I am someone who encourages online learning because I have experienced first-hand how effective, yet convenient, it can be.

While studying instructional design, I have not only become familiar with the ins-and-outs of creating online instruction, but also the general attitudes towards distance learning. It’s possible I am slightly biased because I grew up in an era when technology was used for everything, and also because I have taken many online courses, but it has been interesting for me to hear other people’s thoughts on the subject of distance learning. It has already come so far, with accredited universities offering online programs, and even ivy league schools offering extension programs online, and so I feel as though this is a trend that will continue to grow.

I think that within the next few years, we will not only see an increase in popularity when it comes to online degree programs, but also within the training and professional development community. I think more companies will realize that they can save valuable time and money by providing training online, and there will be a shift from presenter-based training to online training. According to the ASAE website, “The shift to online education is growing not only in the formal education system, but also in professional development and continuing education required for certification” (para. 5). The same website also notes that, “more than 96 percent of the very largest institutions have some online offerings—more than double the rate observed for the smallest institutions” (para. 2). Given that online learning is making strides like this, I think it’s safe to say that the perception of online learning will become more favorable as the years pass. Supervisors who may not be fans of online degrees will see the value and possibly see the two types of degrees as equal.

George Siemens (n.d.) mentions that the growing popularity of online learning can be attributed to the “ability to communicate with diverse and global groups” (Laureate Education). I think this will allow for a more supportive outlook on online learning because companies will see that they can collaborate with their global counterparts, and students will gain insight into other cultures by studying with others from all over the world. I have had these experiences, both in the corporate world and as a student, and I plan to speak highly of both experiences when asked for my opinion about distance learning. As long as those who have had positive experiences in the area of online learning continue to advocate for its validity, I know we can collectively -- slowly but surely -- change the view to a completely positive one. Specifically as a designer, I can share my knowledge about the work that goes in on the backend to make people understand that the instructors are qualified and the content is built especially for it to be effective in an online setting.

Given my own experiences and beliefs about online learning, I sincerely hope that it continues to be an area of education that grows and gains popularity. I wouldn’t be surprised if in 20 years almost all courses are offered online, or if many universities become entirely distance-education-based. In the past decade or so, technology has come such a long way, and curriculum has become more focused. On top of that, curriculum is being developed entirely for online learning instead of being adapted. These facts allude to a promising future for distance learning, and I will always be an advocate for a continued positive outcome.


Growing popularity of online education relative to that of classroom-based courses. (n.d.).
Retrieved from ASAE website:

Laureate Education (Producer). (n.d.). The future of distance education [Video file]. Retrieved

Sunday, February 22, 2015

EDUC 6135 - Week 7 - Converting to a Distance Learning Format

For this week's assignment, I took my technical writer skills and had a little bit of fun creating a document. It's very simplistic, but also realistic. I decided to use a conversational tone, so as not to scare away anyone who may actually be interested in converting a course from classroom to hybrid.

I decided to focus mainly on the areas asked of us in the prompt:

  • What are some of the pre-planning strategies the trainer needs to consider before converting his program?
  • What aspects of his original training program could be enhanced in the distance learning format?
  • How will his role, as trainer, change in a distance learning environment?
  • What steps should the trainer take to encourage the trainees to communicate online?

My headers involved an introduction, first steps, technology, what you need to know, and student participation. I then focused on sub-headings dealing with each category. I used what we learned in this course about pre-planning and suggested storyboarding and outlining objectives as imperative planning strategies, and I took what we learned about technology and wrote a whole section about that. One of the most important pieces of this, to me, was the focus on the difference between instructor and facilitator, so I made sure to outline all major differences.

I hope to be able to put this guide to use one day, granted I will have to change some of the subject matter.

**For some reason, I don't think the embed tool is working for me, so here is the link to my document. 

Sunday, February 8, 2015

EDUC 6135 - Week 5 - Designing for Distance Learning: Part I

For this week’s assignment, I chose to analyze a course through a site called Coursera. Given the amount of courses offered through the site, and the range of topics, I thought it would be a good place to start in order to find a class that seemed interesting. I came across a free class that is offered by the University of Houston and is called Powerful Tools for Teaching and Learning: Web 2.0 Tools. According to the synopsis, students can “learn about innovative Web 2.0 tools in K-12 instruction and how to effectively integrate these technologies into classroom practices and to create engaging student activities.”

Without knowing much about Coursera, it is difficult to understand how this open course site is beneficial. Taken from the website, the general idea of Coursera is this: “Coursera provides universal access to the world’s best education, partnering with top universities and organizations to offer courses for anyone to take, for free” (2015). Basically, it offers courses from educational institutions around the world for any student to take in the comfort of their own home and on their own time; it is the essence of online, self-paced learning.

In researching the course I picked out, I noticed that there is an overview about the course, and the entire syllabus is laid out for students to look at. I find this especially beneficial because this means that a student can make an informed decision about whether or not to join the class based on what is stated in the syllabus. This is a five-week course, and each week is broken down by what is expected of the student and what will be learned during that week. Formal objectives are not stated, but each week poses a question for students to focus on. Even without the objectives, I feel as though the course was pre-planned and the way it is set up will allow students to stay organized and create a learning structure that works for them (Simonsen et al., 2012, p. 134).

Because there can be as many as 30,000 students from around the globe in one Coursera class at a time, things need to run smoothly. Each week has a series of videos from the instructors, and students are graded using peer-reviewed projects, discussion boards, and quizzes. Given that the instructors cannot take the time to perform a needs analysis for the courses they will teach, each class is still set up in such a way that the students get the most information they can by watching the videos and completing the projects.

Coursera offers programs that allow students to receive a certificate upon completion, but one of the best things about the company is that they also allow students to pick and choose what classes they’d like to take. While the course I chose for this week’s assignment is free, there are also paid courses. If a student decides to pay for a course, they will receive credit for the course; however, if they take the free version, they are doing it for their own benefit and knowledge. I think that’s what sets Coursera apart and makes them one of the institutions that really stands out in the world of online learning.

About. (2015). Retrieved from

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

Sunday, January 25, 2015

EDUC 6135 - Week 3 - Selecting Distance Learning Technologies

Example 1: 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.

Example one is actually very commonplace in the workforce. There are many companies that have multiple offices in different locations, so there is always a need to figure out how to stay consistent in training. When there are hundreds of employees (or even just a few in different places), it can be difficult to get everybody together at the same time to have a meeting. There are many things to consider, such as time zones, general work schedules, and holidays. While no solution will be perfect, there are a few options to make training in different locations easier to manage.

I would first suggest using a teleconference tool. Cisco’s WebEx is widely used, and while it’s not free, it may be good to invest in it so that the training can be repeated yearly, or for any new employees. In order to make the workshop most convenient for everyone involved, I would propose that a sign-up sheet be emailed to employees with multiple time slots for each location so that every employee can choose a time to be sure to receive the training. Once all the information is uploaded, the training can be repeated as many times as necessary. I have actually used this tool as a recruiter when I was onboarding new employees; I can say that it was an effective tool, and I definitely recommend it as a conferencing option.

Brecht (2012) states the following in his article:
Video conferencing is saving businesses time and money; it helps businesses hold meetings and conduct interviews without leaving the workplace. Also, it prevents time-consuming travel and high travel costs to meet others in different areas.  Simply said, videoconferences provide a cost-effective solution to connect people (using advanced technology, software and a network) and bring them together for face-to-face communication or online conferencing wherever they are. (para. 2)

In addition to being a useful tool in the workplace, WebEx is also used by schools for video conferencing in classrooms. Old Dominion University uses it and has created a user guide for the students (Web Conferencing Reference Guide, 2015).

While many people do not consider SharePoint specifically a distance learning technology, I feel I must point out that it is a great tool for this purpose. I work for the Department of State where we train thousands of people a year, and I can say from experience that we use SharePoint on a daily basis for just about everything. In fact, we are the number one user of SharePoint outside of Microsoft itself. SharePoint is so common in today’s workplace that “one in two corporations are now using SharePoint Server and in 22% of the companies, every employee uses this popular Microsoft collaboration tool” (Kerr, 2011, para. 2). If used correctly, SharePoint can be a truly invaluable tool – especially when it comes to bridging location gaps.

Any kind of documents can be hosted on the site, so any and all employees in any location can look up the paperwork they need at any time. This saves the human resources department from fielding phone calls about important paperwork. SharePoint’s use and access does not end in the United States. In England, At the Cheltenham Ladies’ College, all documents are uploaded to a SharePoint site for the students to access, especially in the case that a student will be away for a “prolonged period of time” (Distance Learning, n.d.).


Brecht, D. (2012, March 2). Video conferencing: Benefits in the workplace. Retrieved from TMCnet website:

Distance learning. (n.d.). Retrieved from Cheltenham Ladies' College website:

Kerr, L. (2011). Fortune 500 companies using SharePoint. Retrieved January 25, 2015, from Top SharePoint website:

Web conferencing reference guide. (2015). Retrieved from Old Dominion University website:

Sunday, January 11, 2015

EDUC 6135 - Week 1 - Defining Distance Learning

I used to take distance learning at face value. I never thought about what goes into it in order to create a learning experience that’s available to people wherever convenient for them. I searched for a formal definition of distance learning, and this is what I found: “a method of studying in which lectures are broadcast or classes are conducted by correspondence or over the Internet, without the student's needing to attend a school or college. Also called distance education.” I agree with this very basic definition of the phrase, but what stuck out most to me is that the definition clearly states that it can also be called distance education.

After reading through this week’s discussion posts, Marina reminded me that in a previous class we talked about the difference between learning and education. After some reflection, I feel that distance learning cannot be called distance education. Learning can take place anywhere (reading a book, watching television, listening to a lecture, etc), but education is something that the learner wants. The learner must be invested in his or her own education; they usually take it upon themselves to facilitate knowledge.

I believe a person’s view on what distance learning is can be impacted by many different factors. As an undergraduate student I saw it as something that allowed me to complete classes without actually sitting in class (and, honestly, still see it that way on occasion). I had no technical knowledge of what distance learning was – to me, it involved a computer, a textbook, and an Internet connection. As I’ve matured (in general and because of work experience), I’ve grown to have a better understanding of what distance learning is. Or, maybe I should say I’ve grown to learn a new, expanded definition. Since beginning a job where I work with a team of distance learning professionals, I’ve come to appreciate the amount of work that happens before a student can access a module online.  

I did used to believe that distance learning was as simple as listening to lectures or completing assignments in the comfort of my own home (or dorm room), but after gaining more insight and studying this program, I realize it’s more than that. Distance learning is an instructor taking the time to put together a well informed lesson, it’s a student wanting to read the content so that they do well on the quiz, and it’s a new way of promoting topics to those who ordinarily may not have access to a classroom training.

Distance learning is constantly evolving. There will always be new, better ways to do something, and views will always change. Some people in the field might be of “old school” beliefs, which can lead to some pushback on revising delivery methods, while others in the field are fresh out of school with brand new ideas. These people are the innovators – without them, the field of instructional design and technology would never move forward. If we allow more of these types of people to come in and make improvements and try new things, the field can only improve. Some new ideas may fail, but we can learn from our mistakes and advance the field even more. When I imagine my future in instructional design and specifically distance learning, I see more use of technology, more of a sense of community, less laziness on the part of instructors, and a more effective way of delivering lessons to students who are actually interested in their education.

Moller, L., Foshay, W., & Huett, J. (2008). The evolution of distance education: Implications for instructional design on the potential of the web (Part 2: Higher education). TechTrends, 52(4), 66-70.