Project Management

laptops and tablets

For this blog post, our class was challenged to write about a recent project we were involved with. Specifically, to reflect on the barriers and successes with the project and project management methods. I considered outlining one of the most exciting projects I have ever undertaken – moving onto a sailboat full-time; however, the scope of this assignment was around new technology, programs, or ideas.

As such, this blog entry will focus on adopting a group, or pod-based delivery of college course material, with specific attention given to the implementation of the Nearpod app to support this delivery. A separate blog post on the sailing vessel Agora will follow in the future.

Generally, projects differ from operations in that projects are temporary and have a beginning and end, and are often carefully planned (Knolskape, 2013). Operations, on the other hand, are ongoing initiatives. Effective project management contains a life cycle of Initiation Phase, Planning Phase, Implementation Phase, and Closing Phase (Watt, 2014).

After careful review of paramedic student engagement, retention, and success rates at a regional college, I discovered the data reflected published results for lecture-based learning. Holding a leadership position at this school I decided to engage the stakeholders, including faculty/educators and students, with a pilot project involving pod-based education utilizing several tools and apps including Nearpod.

Pod-based learning takes a traditional “sage on the stage” approach to lecturing students and integrates a “guide on the side” approach (Bates, 2015). Sitting in groups of 6 to 8 students, the faculty/educator delivers case-based or problem-based material and encourages or supports group discussion, collaboration, and problem-solving. This style of learning has been repeatedly demonstrated to increase engagement and retention of the content delivered to adult and paramedic learners (Doolan & Hilliard, 2006; Williams, 2009).

Nearpod is an interactive tablet-based student engagement app that allows digital collaboration with immediate educator support and feedback. Quizzes, polls, slide annotation, videos, and drawing boards are merely a few of the features of this robust education app. An example of the collaborative ability of the app includes an educator posting a poll regarding a patient illness presentation. Students then post in real-time the next steps of care or their differential diagnosis. The educator can see who submitted which answer by referencing the tablet they are facilitating the content with; however, despite shared content, the students view an anonymized interface. When used effectively, this allows all students to contribute to the class discussion while the educator gains insight into the class or individual students’ progression or retention of previous material delivered.

Nearpod Collaborate board
Screenshot of Nearpod Collaborate board with student input

To gain support for the project, I utilized Nearpod and mobile delivery techniques at regional conferences and faculty meetings to increase awareness and interest in the products and techniques. I then delivered educator workshops on the effective use of the app, and the pedagogy supporting the change from traditional lecture-based delivery. In most cases the app was well received and adopted with little resistance. In some cases, the educators attempted to utilize the app combined with traditional teaching methods, for example, with lectures. This resulted in frustration for both educators and students as Nearpod is designed for group or individual work rather than to be presented as a lecture.

During the Implementation Phase, I found that monitoring the educators’ use of the app was challenging at times, as some educators felt it was punitive to have a manager in the classroom during their classroom delivery. However, in most cases, the app integration coupled with the pod-based teaching resulted in acceptance by the educators and was lauded by the students. Engagement appeared to increase, and student retention and success had measured improvements.

Reflecting on the project management process, I feel I would continue to utilize the same framework. I am comforted in knowing that the routine method I employ is similar to recommendations by Watt (2014). To improve success and overcome the traditionally-minded educator would require a more significant cultural shift to move these individuals from within their comfort area. I have found that in some cases there are educators who are tremendous assets within their primary vocation, for example, Paramedicine. As such, they feel they can teach their profession with little or no formal educator training. These same individuals have not been receptive to adjusting their lecture-based approaches.

Common failures to project management include integration, scope, time, and cost (Zwikael, 2009). Within this project, improvements could have been made to integration and cost. I would push for increased funding to allow for those who wanted to participate in class and experience the process as the students do. The hope is that they can see how the technology and pedagogy align while learning how to facilitate with the new tools. Additionally, I would then audit their delivery to be able to continue to provide non-punitive feedback and support.

I look forward to learning more about project management and improving my skills with these essential methods.

Thoughts? Looking forward to hearing from you.

Bates, T. (2015). Teaching in a Digital Age: Guidelines for designing teaching and learning. In Teaching in a digital age: Guidelines for designing teaching and learning. Tony Bates Associates Ltd.

Doolan, M. A., & Hilliard, A. (2006). Collaborative Learning: using technology for fostering those valued practices inherent in constructive environments in traditional education. Journal for the Enhancement of Learning and Teaching, 3(2), 7–17.

Knolskape. (2013). Introduction to Project Management. YouTube.

Lock, D. (1997). Project management. International Journal of Project Management, 15(3), 195–196.

Watt, A. (2014). Project Management. BCcampus.

Williams, B. (2009). Do undergraduate paramedic students embrace case based learning using a blended teaching approach? A 3-year review. Australasian Journal of Educational Technology, 25(3), 421–439.

Zwikael, O. (2009). The Relative Importance of the PMBOK® Guide’s Nine Knowledge Areas During Project Planning. Project Management Journal, 40(4), 94–103.

Thank you for taking some time out of your day to read this post.  What are your thoughts on the project I highlighted or project management methods? Please comment below.

Enjoy the rest of your day!

Image by fauxels from Pexels used under license.