Converting a project management scheduling course to the flipped classroom
This paper is about my journey in taking a Microsoft Project course I have taught, for over 15 years, from the traditional classroom to the Khan Academy world of the Flipped Classroom. In this paper I will present my experiences and observations in what was needed to not only create a class, but also to promote it in the social media age.
Whether you are a potential consumer/student or a potential author/producer, this paper hopefully will help you get an understanding of where the power in using a flipped course comes from, and how it might help you learn and master a complex topic. In the case of this paper, to learn and more fully understand a complex project management tool, such as Microsoft Project.
So the purpose is to give fellow project managers a vicarious taste of what it might be like to create a video lecture, in their own specialty, and the trials and challenges they may encounter along the way. Additionally, I present tips on how you might navigate this trip. In the end I come to the conclusion that whether you want to make the journey or not, an educational shift is coming to your front door. And the reach of Moore's Law will continue to extend beyond technologies such as smartphones and will enable educational time shifting, into society through social media and its continuing democratization of institutions. So, rather than avoiding it, hopefully this paper will help project managers get a better understanding of this, through my telling about one small slice of where this movement impacted me, and thus possibly anticipate its potential impacts, beyond education, into other areas.
The Flipped Classroom and Social Media
First: The Technical Infrastructure
The Flipped Classroom is basically a video-based learning approach that leverages different aspects of the Internet, such as time shifting and delivery of high quality video to connected devices such as smartphones, and changes the teacher-driven learning emphasis from listening to classroom lectures to the “doing” of homework. In the words of “The Flipped Class Manifest” (Bennett, 2011), the ownership of the responsibility for the learning is transferred from the teacher to the student. On the Internet, this approach can be seen on sites such as the Khan Academy, YouTube, and Udemy. The Flipped Classroom concept of learning by doing, or using differentiated learning, is not new. Nor is the use of online learning. But what is new is the availability of affordable online learning resources in quantity, quality, and to a variety of devices and locations. These components together created a tipping point for the Flipped Classroom.
For example, it is only in recent years that high-speed video has been available in a form factor as small as a phone, and at a price affordable to the average consumers. This is Moore's Law in effect, and in 2007 the first commercially popular smartphone, the iPhone, appeared. Smartphones are phones that have one important feature: a fully functional Internet browser. That results in enabling video across all computing platforms. Add in the relatively recent availability of affordable high-speed networks, and the delivery of videos becomes a commodity. This sets the infrastructure stage for the Flipped Classroom.
Next: Social Media and the Adoption of the Flipped Classroom
The next component for change is adoption. Adoption takes awareness. That is where social media comes in. If you watch Khan's video (Khan, 2011), he will tell you the story of how he puts his materials on YouTube for his cousins, only to find out it becomes very popular and goes viral on YouTube. And the rest is history: Khan Academy is born, endorsed, and financed by people such as Bill Gates of Microsoft fame. Fairy tale stuff, but real.
Lastly: Social Media Helps Spread a Concept, But There Must be Value
If this was all there was to the story, this could easily end as just the retelling of the “Pet Rock” story. A fairy tale fad. But this story doesn't end here: The most dramatic impact of Kahn's journey is what he finds as schools in the Los Altos School District in Santa Clara, California begin to adopt his materials as part of their curricula and embrace the Flipped Classroom approach. What Khan finds can be seen in Exhibit 1 (Kahn, 2011, 13:49), and Khan related the importance by saying, “the kids you think were slow six weeks ago, you now think are gifted.” What has happened and why is this important?
Exhibit 1. Graph of 30 Students' Progress by Modules over Time
What has happened is the technology and the material has enabled a wider range of students to master a subject. That is a significant leap in the field of education. Significant enough that some say this is the dawning of change in the education industry, akin to the change that the book, news, and music industries experienced as a result of the Internet.
My Flipped Classroom and Social Media Journey
Beginnings: A Microsoft Project Course
In 1985 I worked for Inland Steel as a project engineer. At the same time I was teaching classes in the evenings on Lotus 1-2-3 at Purdue University extensions in northern Indiana and doing technical reviews for Lotus 1-2-3 journals. Ten years later I was working in an IT project management role in Indianapolis. Then in 1994, Microsoft Project was becoming widely used while Lotus 1-2-3 was in decline. I started teaching Microsoft Project. I taught it for companies and at the local university, IUPUI, in the continuing education division. In retrospect, I was working two empirical labs: one as a practicing project manager using Microsoft Project on complex IT projects, and one as an adjunct professor observing how students learned the tool.
CamStudio: Beginnings of a Video Experience
Around 2001, I came across a freeware product called CamStudio (CamStudio, 2011). I began creating small Adobe Shockwave files on CDs for my classes as student “take-home” materials. I also used them in the classes for reviewing lecture material—to repeat key items for reinforcement. They would hear me, do some work, and then I would play the video on the same topic. Some interesting things happened. The students seemed to like the recordings. They liked them to the point that they made sure before they left class, they had a copy of the CD. They were asking for them, I wasn't pushing them. Another thing I noticed is that the recordings made me a better instructor. What I mean is that as you teach a subject over the years you tend to forget and drop certain parts of the material, either through over-familiarity, or forgetfulness. The videos helped mitigate against this. And in creating the videos I often would spend a great deal of time recording them. Since CamStudio had no editing capabilities, I had to make sure I had just the key elements, and had everything right, before I started recording. And the fact that they were recordings that would be used over and over again emphasized the need for accuracy. I can still remember one recording where I said “lower corn pane” and meant “lower form pane” and had to listen to that faux pas for years. Thus, the videos drove perfection, and preserved content—and the students liked them.
Refocused: ‘”The Five Keys to MS Project” Course Emerges
Around 2004, Camtasia Studio was emerging as a video recording and editing product (TechSmith, 2012). Though similarly named, Camtasia is not from the same authors as CamStudio, but was a next step, in that video editing was now available—and functional. I began to dabble in creating longer videos, as by this time, commodity-level computers had enough power to handle this relatively inexpensive video editing software. So from a video authoring perspective, the technology was coming along at a Moore's Law rate. I could afford it and the computer I had could run it. At the time I was teaching MS Project in a six-evenings/four-hour segments format—24 hours of lecture. One evening, I had a student come up to me at the end of one of these series and he asked me a very challenging question. He asked, “Kevin, why do you teach us all of those complex features that don't really have much to do with creating a schedule? Why don't you just teach us what we need to know?” Well, that question got me thinking. That summer I redesigned the course into what I called “The Five Keys to MS Project.” I focused on what I saw were the core functions needed for a pure project schedule: the ability to link tasks, to be able to estimate a start and finish date, and to be able to understand all the key features in between, such as project calendars and constraints. And nothing much more. No resource feature as that took extra time and few students grasped it. No time spent on options like exporting to Excel. A minimalist scheduling focus.
This was also happening at the same time I was coming off of several enterprise mainframe conversion projects where, due to time constraints, I was using MS Project without using the resource feature. I found I could assign tasks using a text field and just concentrate on core scheduling—and it worked. Complex resource issues were worked out verbally after team members reviewed the schedules filtered for their tasks, and could provide feedback on problem areas. The scheduling impacts from resourcing issues were addressed in that manner.
So I had several things going on. I was developing a simplified, but effective, field-tested approach to using MS Project, and I had students asking for a simpler way to understand the product so they could use it. And I was experiencing the impact of technology, specifically video recording, enhancing the ability of the students to capture and retain knowledge in learning to use the product.
Piloting: The Five Keys as a Flipped Class
Move forward a couple of years. In the summer of 2011, I was having lunch with a colleague who is a consultant and also teaches. I brought up the Khan Academy, and my colleague, while unaware of Khan's works, said he himself was doing some distance learning video lecturing through his company. We discussed licensing and distributing, and by August I began transforming my course into a video offering. By February of 2012, I read my first article on the Flipped Classroom. The course design was based on that approach. By March, the pilot of the first class was ready. In preparation for a kickoff webinar for the course, at home, I brought up one of the lecture videos on my laptop. Sitting next to me was my daughter who pulled up the course on her iPhone and an Android. In amazement we watched the video lectures on all three devices and realized it was consumable: it was not garbage in a small form factor. You could see the Microsoft Project demonstrations clearly on your phone. I then realized because it was on a phone, I could watch the rest of these videos literally from anywhere, at any time. Time shifting. All the technology was there.
The Next Step: Udemy and Social Media
Soon after the first course ended in April of 2012, I was discussing my experiences with another colleague, who mentioned a sophisticated learning technology platform called Udemy—The Academy of You. It has all the elements that were piloted in the first course. The cost of the service is only 30% of your gross sales and Udemy provides the entire infrastructure. One of the ways Udemy is unique is they have taken the elements of the Flipped Classroom and combined it with social media. How so? I still do all my recordings. I create a course to be offered through their web site, and then I upload my recordings. From there, Udemy takes care of displaying my course, taking student registration, and delivering the video to all devices (even the pesky iPad). They pay me through PayPal. But the piece that is different is the promotional piece. With Udemy, the model is to use social media.
For example, Udemy integrates with Facebook. In fact, the easiest way to become a free Udemy member is to log in to Udemy with your Facebook account. Basically, Udemy is tying into the social media influencers, like Facebook, to drive course popularity. And the courses on their site (at this time approaching 5,000) are listed by category and popularity. Thus the democratization model that social media embraces is the main promotional tool.
Is Social Media Enough Marketing?
If you are not familiar with social media, these days you may not first ask “Will it work?” but “Why does it work?” I think the best analysis of why it works comes from the book, The Wisdom of Crowds (Surowiecki, 2004). Surowiecki basically provided a collection of stories and facts that demonstrate how “the many” and “collective wisdom” can often be smarter than the intelligentsia few. Surowiecki's opening story of a 1900s pig weight guessing contest is a wonderful vignette on this effect. That story basically explains one of the foundations of why social media has weight. People listen to what their peers advise, and in the case of crowds, a lot of peers often choose very well. Crowds, or markets, have uncanny wisdom. Social media, with its likes and tweets, is a variation of that market affect.
So to the question of whether basic social media is enough, Udemy answers with another element they use: the affiliate program. On Udemy, anyone can become an affiliate. An affiliate is someone who sells your course using a Udemy-generated customized web link. An affiliate can be an organization that is looking for a way to get discounted educational materials, as an affiliate gets 50% of the gross. The course author gets his or her 70% after that cut. This is a powerful market incentive, as while you may be very good at creating a course, you may not be very good at selling it. With the affiliate program, the “influencers” who drive customers to products are an important leverage. Thus, if your course can be recognized as a valuable offering, you may ride on the coattails of affiliates. In this way, Udemy's social media marketing model is complete. To quote from an IBM marketing paper for Cognos (IBM Corporation, 2011), “This [social media marketing] isn't just for marketers ... [it is for anyone that needs to] create relationships, build advocacy and improve loyalty—all with the goal of driving revenue. Social media provides the means to do just that.”
Social Media Invades My World
Well, the affiliate option and Facebook hooks are all good for my Udemy course, “Microsoft Project 2010, The Five Keys,” but I realized that while social media was sufficient, using just Udemy wasn't enough. As Tom Peters (1997) famously wrote with respect to personal branding, “It's a new brand world.... You're branded, branded, branded.... We are CEOs of our own companies: Me, Inc. To be in business today, our most important job is to be head marketer of the brand called You.” So I realized it was time to go out beyond Udemy. I purchase a domain name, TheGazaMethod.com. Inexpensive. I had it hosted, from the same place I bought my domain name, Register.com. Again, inexpensive. I created my HTML with Microsoft Publisher. Pedestrian, but it worked and I was done in a few hours. In Publisher, I added my classes to my web page with links back to Udemy to make it easy for people to find my course. Simple. Took minutes. I added a free WordPress blog to my website, available at Register.com with just a click.
The most difficult thing I ran into was in understanding why Akismet, a spam-blocking plugin for WordPress, was important. Adding it was easy, a couple of clicks in Register.com. I added HTML code from the free Google Analytics to track visitors. Simple cut-and-paste stuff. I went to LinkedIn and got a jpeg and the HTML code for a button to redirect to my LinkedIn page. Again, easy.
I hadn't been active on my Twitter account since I got it years ago, so I had to go back and read about viral marketing and retweets, direct messages, hash tags, time-stamped links, and basically get back up-to-date with Twitter. I know, shame on me for falling behind. But it took only a day to get back in the swim. Twitter is easy.
All of this had to be done to be part of my social media marketing for Me, Inc. All I had left to do was integrate Facebook. My social infrastructure is in place and is not too bad. I tell this story to let you know that this isn't hard to do. The hardest part is understanding you need to create a digital “biosphere” if you are going to market yourself on the Internet. Conceptually, that looks like Exhibit 2.
Exhibit 2, Social Media Biosphere
Each part feeds back to the center, and the center feeds content back out to each part. A blog post becomes a tweet. A tweet comes back as a post, and so forth. You get the idea. Your social media biosphere has to be integrated. You can go to my site (www.TheGazaMethod.com) and see it for yourself. I created it in a couple of days and it does the job so far. I would love to find a firm that would do this for me, the social media management, but I haven't. Is it working? Time will tell. But the point is, it has to be there, and it has to be maintained, which will mainly be in tweets and blogs related to how I do project management and how I use Microsoft Project. Things I already like to talk and write about. Piece of cake.
It's An Agile World That We Live In
I now want to move from social media to perhaps what is one of the drivers of social media: the agile movement. The Agile Manifesto (The Agile Alliance, 2001) basically stated that the agile movement is about business value through rapid development. The value is used over and over again in the manifesto statement. In many ways this movement is simply the repurposing of many pre-existing concepts. For example, a concept called value engineering, which started at GE in the 1940s during WWII, has a stated goal to improve the ratio of value to cost. An example of value engineering would be substituting a more cost-effective, but perhaps less well-known generator system, in the design and construction of a new data center. The “lazy project manager” is also a recent fad that emphasizes the same concepts of measuring cost—in this case “effort” in relation to value. The lazy project manager asks these questions (Taylor, 2009): Should it be done? How much effort will it take? What is the range of outcomes? What is the minimum point needed to reach a successful outcome? How does all this fit in with agile? These are all examples showing we are moving to an increasingly immediate value/agile world.
I have a personal story that will help drive home the point: In late summer of 2012, while walking into work, in a casual conversation with the senior director in charge of the deployment of a new healthcare enterprise information system, she said, “You know Kevin, with the quick turnaround times in the market anymore, this is probably the last super-sized, multi-year rollout project we will do for a long time, if ever again.” The iterative nature of agile is weaving its way into the web of business.
Agility and Project Management
In a world where you have to deliver value quickly, you need tools that will help you create a roadmap for your project. As even in a 100% agile organization, management still needs to know when you are planning to deliver and what you are planning to deliver. So in that new constant grind that we now live in, that grind between schedule and completeness that is at the heart of our agile world, you need a tool that is light. You have to be able to figure out what you can give up to still deliver and still meet the timeline. And a tool that is flexible and can change quickly is absolutely essential for that planning work to be accomplished.
But if you use MS Project in the way it is taught traditionally, you may not end up creating schedules that are flexible and responsive. You will add in resources, create task assignments, and can quickly end up with a schedule that is complex and “heavy,” and thus very much un-agile. So how do you deal with this problem? Some organizations have switched to web-based project scheduling tools. But often these tools are too light. Just as with MS Project with a resource-heavy approach, web-based tools suffer from the same problem, but on the other end of the spectrum: they keep you from “keeping the main thing the main thing.” And in running a project, the main thing is to able to determine when you think you can finish, what you need to watch to get there, and what you are expecting to deliver. With a web-based tool, you are not going to get that. My answer is to stay with what you know, Microsoft Project, but slim it down. Make it agile. With the approach I teach, I am not just teaching it, but I use it day in and day out, and successfully on very complex projects. Albert Einstein may have been the first agile evangelist when he said, “Keep things simple but no simpler than needed.” In this world, that is a pretty good guide.
Agile and a Model for Enterprise Project Management
In 2012 at the Microsoft Project Conference in Phoenix, Arizona, Eammon McGuinness and Dux Sy made a presentation on the adoption of a Microsoft Project Server enterprise platform as something to be done within a maturity model—and Project Server comes last in that model (see Exhibit 3).
Exhibit 3. Brightwork's Enterprise Project Management Maturity Path
They argue that before implementing Project Server, the more practical, or “business value approach,” would be to use MS Project integrated with SharePoint (McGuinness, 2012, 13:05). Thus, perhaps an early adoption, or agile, way of getting down the maturity curve for an enterprise project management system may be to start to use Project in a simplified way. A training course that teaches the basics of the scheduling tool could be a needed pre-requisite for organizational effectiveness with enterprise project management.
Agile, Social Media, and Education
Perhaps a more important point is you have to educate staff to make these shifts. And the potential of using the Flipped Classroom's time shifting and on-demand educational model in the organization may be a way to do that. Teamed up with providers such as Udemy, companies may find they can bring timely and on-target education to an organization's knowledge workers more quickly. In fact, using Internal social media tools such as Microsoft Lync, your employees could end up being the drivers to which resources should get used. Democratization within the organization from social media. These are important issues that human resources departments will grapple with in this increasingly constant change and quick turnaround time world. Along with tweeting and private biospheres being independent of the organization.
What Makes For a Good Flipped Course?
To bring this all back around full circle, I would like to close with what I think, based on my journey into the Flipped Classroom and social media, are the components of a “good” Flipped Classroom course. Let me emphasize that I said “a good course.” A successful course can mean something different to each individual. But the basic premise is if there is a good course, social media will find it. But it is not a guarantee. So whether you are a potential consumer or a creator in this new paradigm, here are some of the elements you should find in a quality offering:
A focus—A good course is like a good book, it has a story with a focus. The odd thing is that most books about Microsoft Project are over 500 pages long. And many of the training classes try the same “boil the ocean” approach and to teach you everything, and in the process often teach you very little you can use. The two-time Pulitzer Prize-winning author David McCullough provided a great insight into what is meant by focus in revealing why he left a certain historical incident out of one of his books. He explained he did not go into the event because it was an “immensely larger story.... I had to leave a lot out of this book ... otherwise it would have become a catalog. And catalogs aren't generally very compelling reading” (McCullough, 2011a, 09:30). The same goes for video courses. You have to always be thinking to minimize nonessential features, as they are unnecessary distractions for the consumer. So in purchasing a course, you need to check and see if they are trying to sell too much. In other words, do they have a cogent story to tell. Even in courses on Ruby on Rails, there has to be a message the author is obviously selling. If you don't see it, the course is probably not going to be very good.
A good teacher—Again, David McCullough is a good expositor of what this means: “Show them what you love is what the great teachers have all known how to do” (McCullough, 2011b, 22:02). In other words, a teacher that is not only an expert, but has a passion for their specialty is going to often deliver a very good course.
Unlimited access—There is nothing more frustrating than to take an online course and then months later want to go back to review a component, and you can no longer get access to it. In other words, in this day of technology and its ability to store anything from anyone for any length of time, it doesn't make sense to work with a provider that has a time-out clause, as all they are doing is punishing the honest. This is a sad state, but the quality providers understand this and have no problem with it. They realize their challenge is to make up shrinkage on the volume.
Note, if you are thinking of being an author, a good corollary to this is don't expect to have a successful class just because you noticed there wasn't a good video offering on earned value, so you decided you were going to sit down and record a course. If you don't have the background and the passion, the chances of it being successful diminish.
CanYou Create a Flipped Course?
I believe one of the subtlest things of all that may happen for us project managers, is not only will there be more opportunities for education options, but the unobvious twist is there will now be more opportunities for project managers to be education content authors. Now why do I feel this way? Well, because project management is one of those unique professions where your value increases with your age. In other words, an experienced project manager is something of increasing value—like a good wine. Further, as project managers continue in the profession, they tend to become knowledge experts in a category or section of project management. For example, it may be that you have a special talent in risk management. I also think that project managers can make very good teachers, because we love getting into details. So here is the twist: in the past your knowledge left with you when you retired. Well, in this digital academy age, opportunities exist that extend your life experience beyond just what you can consume, and extend it in new ways to what you can create. Your expertise can now be turned into a recorded class. Think of it this way, suppose Stradivarius had recorded a video on how he crafted his violins? Can you imagine the impact?
Okay, if explanation has got you thinking you might be up for this, the first place to stop is at Udemy and to watch the 51-second video in the About Us section, “Why We Teach on Udemy.” If that gets your blood boiling, you might then segue over to Alex Mozes' free video, “How to Create a Udemy Course,” as it is an excellent tutorial on how to find your focus, and what to do with it once you have it.
If you have decided you are going to create a video course, here are some items and tips you need to think about, at least from my experience in doing this. Many of these are also additional items you should look for when searching for a quality course:
Scripted—Since I am doing training that records what the software is doing and not my face, I never sit down and record without a script. I may waiver from the script once I start recording, but I always start with a very good understanding of what I am going to say.
Outlined—My script is usually done in an outline format. That makes it easy to move, but if you use a legal numbering system, it also lends itself well to a numbering taxonomy for saving your files.
Chunked—With the Five Keys method I have five major categories: Navigations, Tasks, Constraints, Calendars, and Tracking Actual Progress. But within each one of those keys I have knowledge “chunks.” For example, the Tasks Key has information not only on how to enter tasks, but also on linking and the different variations. And beyond just the basic functionality, there are important features within tasks such as Outlining and the Critical Path. Each one of these is a chunk you have to determine ahead of time and decide whether it is in focus. And when you get to recording, you will find that not all your chunks will be the same size. Some video segments can be as little as three minutes, while others can run eight or nine. But a rule of thumb, at least for software type lectures, is to stay within the 3- to 9-minute range for each video segment. Any shorter is distracting, any longer is too long to hold a phone. Also, one of the goals of chunking is to create the building blocks that will lead the learner to the “aha!” moment: the feeling you get when you gain insight into an area that was previously puzzling.
Use editing cues—We have all watched movie outtakes and laughed at the scenes that start with the chalk-scribbled clapperboard. Once you start recording however, this all takes on a new meaning. You will find yourself using long pauses, and then saying things like, “Take two,” while recording your videos. Why? It helps improve the efficiency of the video editing that follows recording.
Keep the visual action going—In the editing you will do with Camtasia or the free products you will find at sites like Udemy, you need to add in callouts that emphasize what is being said in the audio, and zooms to show more closely what is on the screen. Picture-in-picture effects are also a good way to get more information on a small form factor. In other words, you need to keep the user engaged with purpose-driven visual activity. Why? Go watch an early “I Love Lucy” show. The camera may move every 60 seconds. Then go watch “Friends.” The camera changes every couple of seconds. Point: People have been trained to expect action—in the video and in the audio. Dead audio spots are just as disturbing to users as motionless video.
Provide problem sets—For my courses I use two types of problem sets: skillset problems and a case study problem. The skillset problems are designed to ensure that the student knows how to, for example, create a task with each of the different link types. The case study problem is then a business situation scheduling problem to be solved with Microsoft Project. In my course the case study is a continuing story problem that progresses through each Key and culminates in a situation that combines all the elements you should have learned. The best part about case studies is that there isn't really a “right” answer. And thus in the web conferences, this adds to the learning impact of the course, as different approaches are reviewed and insight is gained in the process.
Use web conferencing—In the Flipped Classroom model, a key component is the interaction after the recorded lecture is watched. You can do that component in a classroom, but in the Internet model the more efficient approach is to use web conferencing. Web conferencing can be the most technically challenging component of your course (you have to deal with your internet connection's bandwidth, your users' connection, the audio portion, etc.), and that topic is beyond this paper, but assuming you have a good infrastructure (e.g., a stable high-speed internet connection), as do your students, then it simply comes down to whether the web conferencing software is stable. And with products like Adobe Connect, GotoMeeting, Webex, and the like, it just becomes a matter of cost. Also, a thing to look for is that the web conferences are recorded. This is important, as often new knowledge comes up in the web conferences and going back to review that can be important. (Note: With respect to Udemy, at the time of this writing, their web conferencing tool is not mature. By August of 2013, that should be remedied, I have been told.)
Within each web conference, there are a couple of additional elements to think about. For example, the ability to do surveys or quizzes (you need to break up the exercises work with some other mental stimulation). Chat windows are also an important way to get feedback. And one more thing: Web conferences are essential to an agile theme that is part of this paradigm: Constant improvement. One, for the instructor, having web conferences requires the constant revisiting of the materials. This results in regular revisions and updates. Also, the web conferences are your empirical lab where you will get unexpected insights and necessary feedback. If you are taking a course, ask for web conferences. If you are providing a course, don't overlook the importance of web conferences. It is a key element.
Lastly, keep in mind that the Flipped Classroom Manifest has one interesting statement that can give all of this perspective: “[The Flipped Classroom] can look very different from classroom to classroom. [as] no two Flipped Classrooms look exactly the same” (Bennett, 2011).
That is the story of my journey to the Flipped Classroom. How it started out years ago at Inland Steel and ended up in a Udemy Flipped Classroom via a social media highway. If it wasn't for my passion for project management and Microsoft Project—and technology—I would have never made the journey. My guess is that there are project managers like me out there, reading this and becoming inspired to create their own personal brand, and in the process create some digital content that will move the project management world forward. The tools out there today are new and unfamiliar, but not difficult. That is the comforting thing to know. And with literally hundreds of millions of people in the United States using the Internet on a regular basis, it is no wonder why it is a mainstream social activity that is only going to grow and become more pervasive worldwide. In short, it's not going away.
Epilogue: Shortcomings/Future Research
Did my students learn MS Project better than others with this approach? I don't know. I did not have a control group and a testing mechanism to compare results with, so any conclusions I have are purely anecdotal. My guess from the feedback I see from the students is that they are in fact becoming better schedulers. One of the elements I do have in the new version of the Five Keys course is it ends with the case study requiring the completion of a fairly complex schedule involving a software selection scenario. All of the elements taught in the course are put together into this final problem. I have actually used the problem in a simulation in the classroom and let the students work on it for over an hour. And the ones who can finish and generate a schedule with a projected finish date, and can identify the critical paths, I feel have mastered the material. Again, I am not a research person. My case study final simulation problem has not been tested by any standards committee for validity in showing proficiency. I guess the only proof I do have is in observing project managers I have worked with over the years creating project schedules that they could not create before they took the course. There is more to do obviously, but at this point, this journey is feeling pretty good.
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© 2012, F. Kevin Gaza
Originally published as a part of 2012 PMI Global Congress Proceedings – Vancouver, Canada
Earning a scheduling certification helped three project professionals deliver more precise estimates — and become better leaders.