Life by Design

Archive for December 2010

 

Currently, on our web research project I have two responsibilities.  One is beginning to edit our BETA website with some new .jpgs to prepare it for viewing at the University of Connecticut, by January 4, 2010.  We will also be making some small revisions to some of the video tutorials that I will also need to re-embed before that date.  I have the .jpg stored and ready to go.  Once I got to the back-end of the website today and proceeded to upload the .jpg, a dialogue box popped up stating that my username and password didn’t match.  This is puzzling as I am  a Super Administrator for this site and can already reach the back-end of the site when I log on.  I now have to contact our IT person who is already very busy with a multitude of projects for the University about why this is happening.  Valuable time is lost this morning.

Secondly, I am also responsible for archiving all of our materials and data that we have collected on the SOAR/SAIL grant since its inception.  In trying to transfer the folder (which is 91.86 GB) to our large University server, I received an error message stating the file is too big to save on the server….so another email goes out to our IT fellow asking if it would be best to compress the file before it can be saved on the large server.  Again, more time lost.

My only recourse is to contact our resident IT person as much of what needs to be done to correct these issues lies in his domain.  I do not have the skill level.  Generally, this person has been very pleasant to deal with and responsive, so I do not expect any unduly time delays.  I will tell my boss (who is one of the Primary Stakeholders) about the issues and time delays.

If I were the PM on this project it goes back  to the beginning.  I would have had a launch meeting in which all parties expected to take part on the project are present (including IT), the full scope of the project is laid out, expectations for the final product, time frames, team member responsibilities, resources available and communication expectations are also clearly communicated.  I would have also set up a project monitoring system to get weekly status reports from all team members and check the project process flow daily.

I am a resource on this team and I dislike it when I am in the situation I am in today.  My time is not being fully utilized for the project and I do not have enough to do to justify my hours.  What I can do, is perhaps ask another team member if they need help with one of their projects.  That way the resource that I am can be repurposed.

 

Reference

Portny, S, Mantel, S.,Meredith, J, Shafer, S, Sutton, M. (2008)  Project Management.  Wiley Pathways.

 

One of the most challenging aspects of any project, including those of Instructional Design is that of estimating costs and allocating resources.  It is not a popular topic often fraught with politics, market pressures and personnel issues.

I am interested in creating online courses, so I searched for cost estimation tools that might be useful in creating an online course.  The Center for Learning Technologies at Old Dominion University has created the Asychronous Pricing Model (APM) which is an interactive costing model that provides the answer to the question:  How much will it cost to put my course online?  What I like about this model is that it allows the designer to input raw and loaded labor figures, separate pages for every type of multimedia and major production processes used to create online courses, and finally, summary pages for the total hours and final costs associated with the project.  The model allows for quality control costs to be built into each development section.  It is an interactive spreadsheet, which includes categories for the producer, designer, and technician.  This University developed this model to help them be more accurate in assessing costs.  It is a step-by-step guide to enable instructors to quickly build cost estimates.  They can enter raw numbers in categories and subcategories, based on preferences, needs and requirements.  I like this model because it is simple to use, straightforward and user-friendly for the instructor.  Because of this, it might help to reduce the reluctance to move toward more online models for instruction.

The link for this model is found at:

http://www.westga.edu/~distance/ojdla/fall123/gordon123.html

Another challenging part of planning a project is estimating the time it will take to use specific resources.  There is a difference between the time used on a task and the duration of that task.  I located a website sponsored by TT Systems  (a project management consulting firm) that provides Project Management training for the software, “Microsoft Project.”  Their website offers a variety of topics regarding project management.  I especially liked the article “Using Work (effort) to Calculate Duration”.

The authors state, “Many project managers have been taught to estimate the effort that a task requires instead of estimating the duration as is promoted by the views in Microsoft Project. As you recall work (which is the name used for effort in Project), along with duration and units are the components of the work equation that Project applies to resource assignments:

Duration * Units = Work

If the manager has estimated work and has decided not only which resources to assign but also how many units of each will be assigned, then Project can calculate the duration using this version of the formula:

Duration = Work / Units

The authors, assuming that one is using “Microsoft Project” offer the following tips for using the software:  “Traditional project management training often teaches managers to estimate effort (work) for tasks and to decide what resources will be assigned. The presumption is that the software will calculate the duration and distribute the work in proportion to the assigned units. You can do that in Project, but you need to use this method:

  1. Enter the work at the task level (using the Work field in a task table).
  2. Make sure that the task is Effort Driven (it’s the default anyway) and that it is not Fixed Duration.
  3. Assign just one of the resources, being sure to enter the units. Project will assign all the work to that resource and calculate a new duration.
  4. Add the other resources, being sure to enter their units also. Project will invoke the Effort Driven calculations and distribute work in proportion to the assigned units.
  5. If you later want to change the units for one of the resources, delete the resource and than add it back with the new units.

I like this system because it makes clear the definition of duration.  The system seems to simplify the calculations one might manually do to make these numerical estimates of time worked and the actual duration of time that has elapsed on the project.

The link for this specific article can be found at:


http://www.ttsystemsinc.com/PM/using_work_effortToCalcDuration.htm

References

Gordon, S., Wu, H., M’hammed Abdous, (2009)”Using a Web-based System to Estimate the Cost of Online Course Production”, Online Journal of Distance Learning Administration, Volume XII, Number III, Fall 2009.  University of West Georgia, Distance Education Center.  Extracted from:  http://www.westga.edu/~distance/ojdla/fall123/gordon123.html

T2TT Systems: “Project Management”.  Extracted from:  http://www.ttsystemsinc.com/PM/PM.htm