Thursday, December 5, 2013

Analyzing Scope Creep

            Scope creep can be a project manager's nightmare! Scope creep is defined by Portny et al. (2008) as "the natural tendency of the client, as well as project team members, to try to improve the project's output as the project progresses" (p. 346). In other words, the scope or the subject matter of the project is extended for any number of reasons. This happened to me a couple years ago when my school had to update and create curriculum maps. At the time I was teaching 9th grade English and 7th and 8th grade Theater, so it seemed like a ginormous task. Updating the curriculum maps meant creating two kinds of maps:
1.      The calendar map--this is basically a map that explains what units will be covered at what time during the school year. For example, in English, I start with the short story unit in August and September, and we move on to poetry in October, etc. However, I also had to include the benchmark codes in these maps so that made this task more difficult since the benchmarks are numerous and multiple benchmarks are covered in each unit.
2.      The consensus map--this "map" is like a unit plan. Every essential question, benchmark, activity, resource, assessment, etc. is listed in the appropriate area so that essentially, a new teacher could pick up the consensus map and understand how to teach the unit.
            These maps aren't that difficult to create; however, they are time-consuming. It's basically taking the lesson plans that are made each week and putting them into another format, but in order for it to be useful for others in the future, the project manager made sure they were all done in the same format and were very specific. Because I taught three classes, this meant I had to create 3 calendars maps and around 27 consensus maps. It was my first year at the school and I was given until the end of the school year and that's where the scope creep started... I was creating everything from scratch so not only was I reading multiple novels, plays, and selections from the textbook, I had to create meaningful assessments and provide meaningful feedback so that my learners could grow and reach their full potential. And even though creating the curriculum maps basically means reiterating the lesson plans, it was something I put on the back burner since I had until the end of the school year.
            After the first semester, the project manager reminded us that we should have our calendar maps completed and the consensus maps from first semester done as well. If not, we were behind. Well, I was behind and so were many of my other first-year colleagues. We had no clue! We were just trying to survive, really. So I tried to do some work over the Christmas break, but I didn't get as much done as I had hoped. I completed the calendar maps and something like the first three consensus maps for my English 9 course. When we came back in January, we were given some time during a professional development day to get some more maps done, but in the two hours we were given I completed only one more map.
            It was becoming clearer and clearer that I would need more time to get the curriculum maps done. However, that isn't what happened. Instead, we were threatened that our last paycheck would be withheld if we didn't complete our curriculum maps. I'm not sure what others did, but I panicked and spent every long weekend working on curriculum maps. In fact, the only reason I was able to finish all of the curriculum maps was because I got appendicitis and was forbidden to go to school for 21 days. The first week I spent resting and recuperating but after that, I was feeling pretty good so I completed the remaining curriculum maps and received my paycheck at the end of the year. (Side note: The paycheck threat turned out to be an empty one. I know of a few teachers who "promised" to send the remaining maps and never did... but I'm sure they got their paycheck!)
            Writing the curriculum maps was stressful for everyone, the project manager included. However, if I were her, I would have...
a)      Gotten more time set aside for teachers to write the curriculum maps. There were teacher in-service days, but there weren't enough! And some of them were planned for 3:00-6:00 p.m., after the school day! That is not an optimal time to do more work.
b)      Created milestones that would act as checkpoints for people. Then I would know exactly who was behind and find a way to work with them so that the project could stay on track (Lynch & Roecker, 2007, p. 99).
c)      Checked in with people more often and documented that interaction (Laureate Education, Inc., n.d.). If I recall correctly, the project manager was good about visiting everyone, but there wasn't much for follow-up. If she had set milestones and had each teacher create their own Gantt chart (or a simplified version that said something like, "By the end of October, I will have the Short Story consensus maps completed."), her feedback would have been more meaningful and direct. Also, she could have identified the "symptoms" of poor project performance and perhaps done more to help those who were struggling (Portny et al., 2008, p. 320).
d)     Changed the timeline. Honestly, there was no rush to complete the curriculum maps. Yes, they are nice to have, especially when one works at an international school that has a high turnover rate, but it wasn't until this year that SACS (Southern Association of Colleges and Schools) came for our reaccreditation visit. That's when the curriculum maps were needed!
            Luckily, the project wasn't a complete failure. All of the loose ends were tied up in the following years, but more effort should have gone in to planning of the project and the documentation of its progress (Lynch & Roecker, 2007, p. 96). Lynch and Roecker (2007) wrote, "Initial estimates are sometimes not as accurate as we would like" (p. 97). Perhaps the project manager should have asked those who were writing the curriculum maps about their progress and used that to create a baseline to inform the overall timeline of the project (Lynch & Roecker, 2007, p. 97). I think that would have saved many of us curriculum map writers a lot of stress!  
Lynch, M. M., & Roecker, J. (2007). Project managing e-learning: A handbook for successful design, delivery, and management. London: Routledge.
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.

Wednesday, November 27, 2013

Estimating Costs and Allocating Resources: Project Management Resources

            This week we were asked to find resources that would be helpful for instructional design projects. After all, there are many pieces to every project--costs, time, effort, activities, resources, etc. Keeping track of all of that seems like a herculean task! Nonetheless, there are many resources that can help, especially in this age of technology.
1. Insightly is free for up to 3 users and then it is $29 per month. I was intrigued by this tool because it is a Google App (and it's free--that's a price you can't beat!).  I really like how you can import your Gmail contacts and any other important documents for the project. It seems easy to use, especially if you already use Google applications. In fact, after I set up my project "Let's Go Camping," I could see e-mails, notes (from Evernote, too!), files, milestones, tasks and events associated with the project. It was all there in one spot and I can invite people to that one spot, too, so this looks like it would be a great resource to use with your project team and stakeholders. Communication should be transparent and current if this Google App is used.
2. While Insightly is free, it doesn't look quite as appealing as Basecamp, another project management site. Basecamp has discussion threads, "To-Do" lists, file storage, and calendars among other features. Again, everything is all in one place, making it easy to keep your team and stakeholders organized and in the know. Basically it looks to be like Insightly only more aesthetically pleasing and possibly more user-friendly and it costs $20 a month.
3. Vertex 42: The Guide to Excel in Everything has free Excel budget templates! Budgeting for a project is the thing that scares me most (namely because of the unknowns), so having some templates with the formulas and some of the budget areas already listed is a big plus. I think this kind of resource would help me as I tried to get a handle on the budgeting side of projects. As an added bonus, there are even some tips and resources (with working hyperlinks!) at the bottom of the page that can further help one plan the project budget.
            Honestly, there are a plethora of project management resources available on the internet; however, these are the three resources I've found that I think would best serve me at this point. It's good to know, though, that there are a number of project management resources available and project managers who are active on the internet. (I actually found all of my resources using Pinterest! I plan to peruse Twitter next.) That kind of support should help me succeed with any project I am assigned or choose to tackle in the future.

#1 Free Online CRM for Small Business: Customer Relationship Software - Insightly. (2013). In Insightly. Retrieved from
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.
Project Budget Template. (2013). In Vertex 42. Retrieved from
Project management software, online collaboration: Basecamp. (2013). In Basecamp. Retrieved from

Smith, T. (2013, May 13). 10 Great Project Management Tools for Freelancers. In SparkPlugging. Retrieved from

Wednesday, November 13, 2013

Communicating Effectively

Portny et al. (2008) wrote, "The key to successful project management is effective communication" (p. 357). However, when you are working with a team, there are a number of ways to communicate including meetings, e-mail, phone calls, memos or whatever works best for your group. After all, communication strategies are never a one-size fits all kind of  deal (Laureate Education, Inc., n.d., Project Management Concerns). This week we examined a message delivered three different ways. Here is the e-mail:

This same message was delivered as a voicemail and in person. All three modes of communication are acceptable; however, the interpretation can be different. For example, the e-mail stressed me out initially. Jane uses a nice tone that is professional and not accusatory, but since I am a perfectionist, I began to panic that I had to get a report done sooner than I had perhaps planned it. Nevertheless, I was able to read it again and calm myself down as I focused on Jane's offer for me to at least send her the data. Now since this is a hypothetical project, I'm assuming I have the data already so that put my mind at ease because I knew I could probably do that immediately and then Jane would have it and be able to complete her report. I really appreciate the fact that I can go back and re-read this message as many times as I need to and with my e-mail, I can mark the message as "unread" so it will remain highlighted and keep Jane's request a priority, even after I have sent a little message to Jane giving her an ETA or the data. Because I like visual reminders, e-mails are effective for me.
Next I listened to the voicemail and I thought Jane sounded kind and understanding. The message was the same, but the words came out fluidly and without any special emphasis on any part of the message so this particular message didn't stress me out at all. Dr. Stolovitch said 90% of communication is not in the words and this is true of Jane's voicemail (Laureate Education, Inc., n.d., Communicating with Stakeholders). Namely because of her tone and the eloquence of her message, I was immediately put at ease and would call Jane right away to follow up with her. If I needed to, I could listen to the voicemail again; however, I didn't feel the need to do so because I think I would simply call Jane after getting her message. After all, if one receives a call, that likely means that the message was somewhat urgent and it is common courtesy to return phone calls promptly.
Finally, I watched the face-to-face message and I was not a fan. Jane was on the other side of my cubicle which I took as a signal that she was unhappy with me and didn't want to spend any unnecessary time with me. Her nonverbal communication was sending me mixed signals−her words were still rather kind and understanding (though the emphasis on "YOUR report" put me on edge!) but she kept her distance, crossed her arms, and she was probably standing up while I was sitting down (which makes her seem as though she has more authority or wants to assert her authority because of her position). She also didn't maintain very good eye contact with me, so I thought she was perhaps so angry she couldn't even look at me! Even though the message was the same, I think this delivery would have left me feeling agitated. All of the nonverbal communication that came with Jane's message this time left me feeling anxious and that would be the remaining feeling. There is no reviewing a face-to-face meeting.
Even though all three means of communication are effective, the deliver should learn about the receiver's communication style so she or he can avoid any miscommunications (Laureate Education, Inc., n.d., Project Management Concerns). Vince Budrovich said project managers should tailor the communication strategy to fit the specific needs of each stakeholder (Laureate Education, Inc., n.d., Practitioner Voices). For me, since this particular issue doesn't seem to be extremely pressing (hey−I don't even have to get my report done! I just have to get her the data), an e-mail is best. I am able to read it multiple times and use that same e-mail as a reminder, too. Plus it saves me from an awkward encounter that could be misconstrued to be something it isn't. However, others may feel differently so it is important that we get to know our team members and communicate in a way that is appropriate for them.

Laureate Education, Inc. (Producer). (n.d.) Project Management Concerns: Communication Strategies and Organizational Culture. [Video Webcast]. Retrieved from
Laureate Education, Inc. (Producer). (n.d.) Practitioner Voices: Strategies for Working with Stakeholders. [Video Webcast]. Retrieved from
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, November 7, 2013

Interdisciplinary Project "Post-mortem"

            By trade, I'm a 9th grade English teacher. You may or may not know that education is an ever-changing process with an ebb and flow of  "best practices" and new ideas that people, especially administration, are eager to implement. One year our principal was really stressing the importance of interdisciplinary projects, so the 9th grade computer teacher approached me to ask if I would like to work with her. "Sure!" I enthusiastically replied, imagining the cool projects that could be completed in English and Computer class. We made a plan to meet and discuss the project later so I was left racking my brain for things that my students could still complete before the grading period ended.
            The next day we met to discuss our interdisciplinary project; however, I soon learned how rigid the Computer teacher was with her curriculum. "We're studying databases this semester, "she informed me matter-of-factly. "What can you do with databases?"
            "Oh," I said, caught off guard at how little wiggle room there seemed to be. And that was how the project happened−I had to make concessions to fit into her curriculum so we ended up planning to have the students do a database of prefixes, word roots, and suffixes that included their origin and the meaning (i.e. etymology). It was a topic that sort of fit into my curriculum and something I thought could be nice to have in a database form.
            Even though I thought I had made an acceptable compromise, the Computer teacher was concerned about copying and cheating; however, etymology was one of the few things I could think of to do with databases, a concept I didn't even really understand! The Computer teacher did try to explain the program to me, but all I could imagine was an Excel spreadsheet but that wasn't quite right. Nevertheless, we trudged ahead with the project, wanting to fulfill the desires of our principal and hoping it would be a beneficial project for the students.
            After storyboarding the rough idea, we both went to our separate classes and planned how we would conduct our classes and what parts of the project our students would do in our classes. I suppose it was a functionally organized project since we created "separate units addressing the same specialty" (Portny et al., 2008, p. 63). So we did understand our own parts, but I know I did NOT understand the Computer class part of the project! And to be honest, I didn't have the time to do so either because it was my first year at the school so I was planning a new curriculum and having to document it all. It was quite the process and even though Murphy (1994) wrote, ""Proper instructional design, on average, requires between forty and sixty hours of design work for every hour of classroom presentation time" (p. 9), getting that much time is impossible for a teacher. Nonetheless, we did try to remain in constant communication. Although, I believe one of the pitfalls of the project was that we had "different work procedures and reporting systems... to guide [the project]" (Portny et al., 2008, p. 64). We knew what we were looking for in our own specialty area and we weren't clear about what that was and then the communication began to fall apart as students tried to pit us against each other saying that one teacher said this (which was against our original agreement) or by lying about changed due dates. (Though with some e-mails and visits, we were able to nip those rumors in the bud.)
            Nevertheless, I know I was very frustrated with the lack of clarity of the project. At this point in my career, I hadn't even heard of project management so we hadn't established a clear plan. In fact, the plan we had wasn't exactly agreeable for either party either. I think we handled the planning phase of the project too informally because we didn't feel like we had time for much more than a verbal agreement and (very) rough storyboard (Portny et al., 2008, p. 77). It would have been better if I had gotten a better understanding of databases by making one with the Computer teacher. She could have taught me how to make it and what it did by leading me through the process instead of trying to verbally explain it. I think a visual aid would have helped tremendously but we were both feeling pressed for time, so that was never proposed.
            However, as I continue to think about the project, the Achilles' heel of the project was the fact that I didn't understand databases. Without that knowledge, proper planning was impossible and without an appropriate plan, the project falls apart quickly. I was making deliverables and assessments based off of my understanding and perceptions and I think that's when students got frustrated and began to feel like the project didn't really matter and to be honest, maybe it didn't. I never actually got to see the databases because I didn't have the right program on my classroom computer. Clearly, we did not spend enough time planning because I did not understand databases nor did I have the appropriate program to even begin understanding them. Portny et al. (2008) wrote, "Project managers can increase a project's chance for success by planning and guiding based on understanding specific project life cycle phases" (p. 108). That is something the Computer teacher and I did not do, so I believe our project was doomed from the beginning. Lesson learned: Take the extra time that is needed to write the plan as a Statement of Work with a Work Breakdown Document if multiple parties are involved. It will save all stakeholders many future headaches.

Allen, S., & Hardin, P. C. (2008). Developing instructional technology products using effective project management practices. Journal of Computing in Higher Education, 19(2), 72–97.
Copyright by Springer-Verlag, New York. Used by permission via the Copyright Clearance Center.
Greer, M. (2010). The project management minimalist: Just enough PM to rock your projects! (Laureate custom ed.). Baltimore: Laureate Education, Inc.
Murphy, C. (1994). Utilizing project management techniques in the design of instructional materials. Performance & Instruction, 33(3), 9–11.
Hoboken, NJ: John Wiley & Sons, Inc.
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, October 28, 2013

EDUC 6145 Project Management Begins...

A new Walden course has begun: Project Management in Education & Training. I'm a little nervous about this course because we have spent so much time focusing on the Instructional Design portion of projects, but I am looking forward to the challenges. Besides, I may discover that I would be an excellent project manager since it seems they have many things to keep track of; after all, that is what I do on a daily basis. ;-)
Well, here's to another Walden course and another challenge accepted.


Saturday, October 26, 2013

Reflection on Distance Learning & its Future

As technology advances, distance education is becoming more relevant and accepted; however, as Huett, Moller, Foshay and Coleman (2008) wrote, "We just need to choose to view e-learning as the question rather than the answer" (p. 66). There are many unanswered questions about distance learning in regards to academic integrity and fidelity, but it is a trend that will impact the world in ways we cannot yet even imagine.
For example, Moller, Foshay, and Huett (2008) wrote, "We believe that the dominant [distance learning] approach now realizes very little, if any, of e-learning’s transformational potential..." (p. 70). Technology is advancing rapidly, but it takes time for education to evolve. In fact, many of the educational systems that are in place which were designed for a different era (Robinson, 2010). Breaking away from the norm takes time and some trial and error while new ways are being tests. Huett, Moller, Foshay and Coleman (2008) wrote, "What we are witnessing with the current evolution of distance education and the technologies that support it is nothing less than the single most important reorganization of how we will engage learners since we started to gather students together in school buildings" (p. 65-66). Yet now learners are gathering online and participating together in ways that were laughable even five years ago (Laureate Education, Inc., n.d.). This is how education will reach the masses and make a difference in the world as the playing field is leveled for everyone. (Well, at least everyone who has access to technology, but that's an issue for another day.)
With the creation and implementation of Course Management Systems (CMSs) and Learning Management Systems (LMSs) like Blackboard and Moodle (among many others), instructors "of conventional face-to-face courses [can] provide learning resources and conduct course-related activities, such as discussions and testing, outside of normal class time" (Simonson, Smaldino, Albright, & Zvacke, 2012, p. 183). In fact, I know many instructors and students who used CMSs/LMSs in web-facilitated and hybrid/blended courses, and I am currently enrolled in a distance education program that is wholly presented via an LMS. The bottom line is that more and more people are being exposed to the elements of distance learning and people are beginning to imagine the possibilities available through the tools presented online−e-mail, chat rooms, blogging, wikis, social networking, video conferencing, etc. They're all tools that can be used in any classroom to enhance learner interaction, but "the key to success in an online classroom is not which technologies are used, but how they are used and what information is communicated using the technologies" (Simonson et al., 2012, p. 115). That is where the instructional designer comes in and though "no one approach to course design is ideal" (Simonson et al., 2012, p. 173), an essential part of the instructional design process calls us to "consider the components of a successful learning system [including] the learners, the content, the method and materials, and the environment, including the technology" (Simonson et al., 2012, p. 152). That information will help us frame the learning experience in a meaningful way.
Nevertheless, there are people who don't seem to completely understand how those tools can be utilized in a distance learning environment to interact with their professor and classmates because "an issue identified [with online learning] was interaction with an instructor...[and] classmates" (Schmidt and Gallegos, 2001, p. 5). Yet the technologies are there and instructional designers need to ensure "teaching methods [are] chosen based on the characteristics of the instructor, students, content, and delivery system" (Simonson et al., 2012, p. 203). Also, learners who are new to distance learning "need guidance as to what they are expected to do within the activities, using the technology, how to efficiently and effectively communicate with peers and with the instructor, and how to demonstrate their knowledge" (Simonson et al., 2012, p. 225), so instructional designers much be intentional about providing training and support systems for new technologies that may be used.
Yet, whether learners are ready or not, distance education is making waves that will impact the near future. Georgia Tech offers an M.S. in Computer Science via MOOCs (Massive Open Online Courses) for the low, low price of $6,600 (Kahn, 2013). Many think this could hurt Georgia Tech's reputation and even the quality of their program, but as Zvi Galil, the head of the school of computing for Georgia Tech, said, "There is a revolution. I want to lead it, not follow it" (Kahn, 2013). Yale, Harvard and Stanford all offer MOOCs as well, but those courses are free and not for credit (Kahn, 2013). Georgia Tech is making history and making everyone take notice. Critics believe the Georgia Tech MOOC will be a watered down version of the master's degree program and interfere with the school's academic integrity−"when the educational program offering is truly equivalent to the quality and standards of the institution"−and fidelity−"measures the nature and extent of integrity or equivalency between on campus programs and online degree programs" (Gambescia & Paolucci, 2009). However, Georgia Tech representatives say the new program "is intended to carry the same weight and prestige as the one it awards students in its regular on-campus program" (Kahn, 2013).
Distance education is here to and impacting education as we know it, even though doubts and imperfections remain. Gambescia and Paolucci (2009) quoted Judith Eaton, the president of the Council for Higher Education Accreditation, who said, "Whatever our opinions may be about distance learning and its future, there is no disputing the evidence that some elements of the distance learning experience are significantly different from the site-based educational experience. The task for institutions and accreditors is to identify and scrutinize those differences to protect quality." Moller, Foshay, and Huett (2008) remind us that "poor quality hurts everyone involved in e-learning" (p. 71), so as instructional designers, it is our duty to uphold the best practices of instruction that begin with an analysis of "the learners, the content, the method and materials, and the environment, including the technology" (Simonson et al., 2012, p. 152) and using that information to create "good instructional goals [that] form the basis for instruction, regardless of the medium used" (Simonson et al., 2012, p. 158).

Gambescia, S., & Paolucci, R. (2009). Academic fidelity and integrity as attributes of university online degree program offerings. Online Journal of Distance Learning Administration, 12(1). Retrieved from
Huett, J., Moller, L., Foshay, W., & Coleman, C. (2008). The evolution of distance education: Implications for instructional design on the potential of the web (Part 3: K12). TechTrends, 52(5), 63–67.
Kahn, G. (2013, July 23). Georgia Tech's Computer Science MOOC: The super-cheap master's degree that could change American higher education. In Slate. Retrieved from
 Moller, L., Foshay, W., & Huett, J. (2008). The evolution of distance education: Implications for instructional design on the potential of the web (Part 1: Training and development). TechTrends, 52(3), 70–75.
Robinson, K. (2010). Ken Robinson: Changing education paradigms. In YouTube. Retrieved from
Schmidt, E., & Gallegos, A. (2001). Distance learning: Issues and concerns of distance learners. Journal of Industrial Technology, 17(3). 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.
 Calvin College Hekman Library openURL resolver

Sunday, October 20, 2013

Converting to a Distance Learning Format


Congratulations! You've decided to make the leap into a hybrid/blended learning environment and this guide will help make that leap a little more manageable. After completely reviewing this guide, we urge you to use the Table of Contents to find what you are looking for in a more timely manner in the future. It is our hope that this guide prepares and helps direct you through this transition.
(To see the complete guide more easily, please click here.)

Pre-training Strategies

            When beginning to consider the shift from a traditional classroom to a hybrid/blended classroom, one must begin with an analysis of the learners, content, methods, and environment (Simonson et al., 2012, p. 152). With that information, a more informed decision about how to proceed with the design and development of the course can be made.


            You should begin by thinking about your learners because "taking the time to learn about the learners in the class yields a more productive learning environment" (Simonson et al., 2012, p. 154). Each learner is different and has his or her own preferences and ways he or she likes to learn so the instructional designer will have to consider that and "develop supporting materials to individualize instruction" (Simonson et al., 2012, p. 155). Using a survey would be a good place to start for this kind of analysis and that survey can enlighten the design and development of the course.


            As Simonson et al. (2012) remind us, "Keep in mind that courses previously taught in traditional classrooms may need to be retooled. The focus on the instruction shifts to visual presentations, engaged learners, and careful timing of presentations of information" (p. 153). In fact,  in online learning environments activities help learners engage with and learn the content, so along with a more visual representation of concepts, the designer must think about how to encourage interactivity (Laureate Education, Inc., n.d.).

Method and Materials

            With your desire to have your training materials available on a server  along with interactive activities, the recommended method of delivery for the hybrid/blended learning environment is a Course Management System (CMS). A CMS is an "Internet-based software that manages student enrollment, tracks student performance, and creates and distributes course content" (Simonson et al., 2012, p. 162). These are some of the essential features you will be looking for as you move from a traditional classroom to a hybrid/blended classroom. Your organization will have to choose the CMS that works for you, but there are a number of CMSs (which are also known as Learning Management Systems or LMSs) to choose from, so your institution will have to make that decision according to your previous analysis of the learners, content, methods, and environment.

Modifying Original Aspects of the Traditional Course

            Since the course has been done in a traditional format, the chances are good that you will be able to modify what you've already done to work in a hybrid/blended learning environment. It does take some work, but this chart outlines the materials and activities that are used in the traditional classroom and how they can be modified for a hybrid/blended classroom. The key is that "online education demands that students become engaged in the learning process. They cannot sit back and be passive learners; rather, they must participate in the learning process" (Simonson et al., 2012, p. 195-196). Therefore, the designer needs to plan for a higher amount of interactive activities (Laureate Education, Inc., n.d.).

Shifting from Traditional to Hybrid/Blended Learning


Traditional Classroom
Hybrid/Blended Classroom

Course Readings

Readings are usually bought before the class or distributed in class as a copy that students can highlight and comment upon. These readings are often stored in a binder or a folder dedicated to the course.
Readings can be bought or distributed using the same means as a traditional classroom, but they can also be hyperlinked to places on the internet or stored on the server and made available through the CMS. This means they are available at anytime, anywhere. Highlighting and commenting can be done digitally, making the resources more user-friendly and searchable.


Copies of handouts are given in class and it is the student's responsibility to keep track of them, again, likely in a binder or folder. Comments and highlighting are made directly on the document.
Handouts may be delivered in the traditional classroom, or they can be hyperlinked to places in the internet or stored on the server and made available through the CMS, again, making them available at anytime, anywhere and highlighting and commenting can be done digitally as well.


Instructors deliver the message verbally while students listen and take notes. Sometimes visual aids are used to enhance the lecture.
Instructors may still choose to do an in-person lecture, but that lecture can be recorded as a video or podcast and stored in the CMS for students who may not be able to attend. Or the instruct may choose to record his/her lecture instead of delivering it in class. The instructor may even choose not to be seen in the video and feature the visual aids with narration. A narrated PowerPoint presentation would be an example of this kind of technology; however, instructors need to use PowerPoints and these kinds of resources sparingly because they aren't very interactive. As was mentioned before, learners will learn the content through interactivity with the content (Laureate Education, Inc., n.d.). Any kind of video or podcast should remain between 3-10 minutes and if it is longer, the instructor should consider creating a series (Simonson et al., 2012, p. 97).


Assignments and papers are collected in class or sometimes they are put in the instructor's mailbox or some other designated collection spot.
The CMS may have an assignment drop box where assignments can be uploaded and time-stamped so instructors are sure learners turned in their work on time. Feedback then also becomes more instantaneous as instructors are able to deliver that as soon as the assignment is graded. The student will find that feedback on the CMS and it will remain there for future reference.

Discussions/ Debates

Discussions/Debates are held during class time and all members are expected to prepare and participate equally. Timid learners often struggle with this portion of a course since they tend to be soft spoken and reluctant to participate.
Discussion forums can host discussions and debates in written or video form. Each participant should be required to post a reaction or response to a given topic and then participants could be required to respond to a certain number of classmates. The same topics that were discussed in the traditional classroom can be used here; however, all participants will be heard and they will have more time to think about their responses (Simonson et al., 2012, p. 273-274). In fact, Simonson et al. (2012) wrote, "One of the most effective techniques to promote interaction in distance education is the threaded discussion " (p. 156).


Quizzes and/or tests are conducted in class and the instructor usually has to manually grade the questions or at least manually calculate the score if resources like Scantron tests are used.
Many CMSs have "system-scored exams and quizzes" that allow learners to immediately "review their progress" (Simonson et al., 2012, p. 184). Therefore, feedback can be immediate (unless essay questions are also included; then learners will only get a portion of their final grade) and quizzes or tests can be set up so that a learn can have multiple attempts so that he/she can practice the concepts and learn from his or her failures as he or she continues to improve his or her score and comprehension simultaneously (Simonson et al., 2012, p. 273).

Group Projects

The parameters of the group project are delivered in class and the students have some time in class to meet, but are expected to meet outside of class to finish the project.
The instructions may be delivered in person so that clarifying questions can be asked and this information can also be stored on the CMS. The students can choose to work synchronously or asynchronously using Wikis, Skype, Google Documents or other Web 2.0 tools that may be available to them. Those tools are often easily connected to CMSs.


            As previously mentioned, a CMS would be an ideal environment for a hybrid/blended learning environment. Here are some popular options to examine with your institution:
·         Blackboard −
·         Moodle −
·         CourseSites −
·         Canvas −
·         SchoolRack −
·         Haiku Learning −
·         Rcampus −
·         EDU2.0 −
·         EctoLearning −
·         Joomla −
·         SilverStripe −
·         CushyCMS −
            Many of these CMSs have similar features that encourage interactivity, but do examine them all and how they could help your organization make the shift from traditional to the hiybrid/blended learning environment. Ultimately, your organization needs to find the CMS that is right for the interactivity that you plan to incorporate.

Role of the Trainer

            In a hybrid class, the instructor becomes more of a learning coach (Simonson et al., 2012, p. 196). Learning in an online environment shifts the learning paradigm from being instructor-focused to learner-focused and the learner is expected to take responsibility for his or her learning. Even though the learner takes a larger responsibility of their learning, they still need guidance and direction so you will have to be engaged and present; although, that presence comes from logging on to the CMS (Simonson et al., 2012, p. 196). The trainer is expected to be present in the learning activities and "by using assessments carefully, the teacher can identify and address weaknesses or gaps in the instruction" and that can be a powerful tool to help the trainer differentiate instruction and help learners where they really need help (Simonson et al., 2012, p. 264). The class time that the distance portion of instruction "saves" and instructor should be "reallocated from presenting to preparing, from lecturing to posting, and from explaining to interacting" (Simonson et al., 2012, p. 215). However, the instructor is still expected to know the lesson plan and to be prepared to teach the content (Laureate Education, Inc., n.d.).

Encouraging Communication & Participation

            Simonson et al. (2012) wrote, "Constant communication is essential [when teaching online]" (p. 135).  One of the best tools for communication between the student and the instructor is the course syllabus. Simonson et al. (2012) wrote, "The syllabus is the single-most important document an instructor can prepare. This is the primary communication with students at a distance" (p. 199). The syllabus should outline how students communicate with the instructor and what expectations they should have for the instructor (i.e., how often he or she will post, how quickly he or she will respond to e-mails, when it is appropriate to call, etc.). Simonson et al. (2012) reminds us, too, that "the announcements tool in a course management system is an excellent means for instructors to get new information to students" (p. 135).
            As far as participation goes,  it is recommended that the instructor "post once for every 4 or 5 student postings [in the discussion forum], then as student take more responsibility for their own learning later in the course, the instructor might post one for each 10 to 12 student postings−primarily to keep the discussions on track" (Simonson et al., 2012, p. 156). Along with helping the learners learn, this will also show them that you care about them and their academic progress, something that can be very motivating for students who begin to feel a connection with a real person and not just their computer (Laureate Education, Inc., n.d.). This constant communication is difficult, but you have to try your best because you can't disassociate yourself or you will lose learners along the way (Laureate Education, Inc., n.d.).

Trainer Tips

·         "Technology used in distance learning should be considered as a tool to deliver the instruction and not as a method" (Simonson et al., 2012, p. 203). 
·         Facilitators must be trained to use the software (CMS) that they will use (Laureate Education, Inc., n.d.). If your organization does not provide training, ask for it.
·         If there are multiple facilitators teaching the same course, they could take the course together as a means of training to teach the course (Laureate Education, Inc., n.d.).  
·         Learners must also be trained to use the software (Simonson et al., 2012, p. 137). And be sure they know where to go and who to ask if they are having any issues with the software, too!
·         "Be prepared in the event that technical problems occur" (Simonson et al., 2012, p. 153). Discuss possible issues with your learners in advance so that they know what to do and what is expected of them in such situations.  
·         "When teaching with technology, always assume the worst and be pleasantly surprised when everything goes well" (Simonson et al., 2012, p. 200).
·         "Instructors should consistently monitor to detect if students are having difficulty navigating the course website and using its components" (Simonson et al., 2012, p. 137).
·         Mind copyright laws and be sure to give credit where credit is due (Simonson et al., 2012, p. 212).


Acuña, J. (n.d.). The Networked Teacher. In Reflective Online Teacher: Becoming an Online Instructor. 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.