Whilst working on the BSc Medical Biosciences project (the topic of the conference presentations mentioned in example 1), it quickly became apparent that as a learning designer working with several module teams and a number of lecturers and teaching fellows, I needed to put in place a solid project management structure to make sure content is designed and developed on time and to the required standard. To help me with this, I requested a formal training in Project Management as part of my CPD, which I completed with a PRINCE2 Practitioner qualification.
Whilst working on large learning design projects with numerous stakeholders (often with no explicit project management structure in place), I often felt overwhelmed by the amount of planning, scheduling, and juggling competing deadlines for various contributors. I was hoping that formal Project Management training would help me navigate these challenges more effectively.
PRINCE2 training follows a specific prescriptive methodology with a number of stages, processes and documents. I found the framework itself somewhat rigid and not necessarily immediately applicable in academic projects due to an abundance of competing deadlines and responsibilities project contributors often have to manage on a daily basis. However, there were a number of elements of the framework that I have since adopted in my day-to-day practice, and overall I am pleased I decided to take the opportunity to study for this qualification.
For instance, one of the principles of project management as defined by PRINCE2 is “learn from example”. This is achieved by systematic capturing of the lessons learnt over the duration of the project so that they can be implemented for later stages or other projects. These lessons learnt now form a part of the materials we use for onboarding colleagues into our processes.
Another principle is that of “defined roles and responsibilities”. I have found it very helpful for working on academic projects when roles and responsibilities are clearly listed and defined from the start: this helps avoid miscommunication and also makes it clear to all stakeholders that creating online and blended content is a complex task requiring commitment to close collaboration.
One last thing I picked up from PRINCE2 is the “tailor to suit the project” principle. Working on educational projects within academia often requires considerable flexibility and ability to adjust to changing circumstances, and from experience, following a rigid process often causes more discontent that benefit.
In more general terms, learning about project management has also given me an opportunity to reflect on the role of a learning designer in academia. It quickly became apparent to me that I quite enjoy the project management side of things, and in effect my role in the team has expanded to include more strategic tasks of creating workflows and processes for learning design projects.