The change process I was most recently a part of (as was the entire world) was the addition of web conferencing tools, specifically Microsoft Teams and Zoom to our online learning environment. Prior to March 2020, our Distributed Learning (DL) school scraped together tools like Skype and Big Blue Button as there was no district-provided tool. With the shift to global online learning, our district successfully added Zoom and Teams to address how public schools can continue education amidst a global lockdown In the implementation stage group and personalized training was available.
The benefits of this project were, the one-to-one training to address individual needs and skill levels. It seems that there was a lot of leniency from staff, parents and students as everyone was just trying to get by. Similarily, people did not have a choice. In hindsight, it would have been beneficial to slow down the overall process, clearly communicate expectations and processes to staff, and to offer more consistent and persistant training.
The overall goals were communicated broadly by provincial health and education ministers. They were communicated briefly by district and school administrators. I am not aware of a project plan. Therefore this project lacked some of the aspects Watts’ definition of good project management, “Strong planning skills, good communication, ability to implement a project to deliver the product or service while also monitoring for risks and managing the resources will provide an edge toward your success” (Watt, 2014, ch 1) which raises the question of acceptable exceptions for emergency processes.
In exploring the barriers further, this same process would not be as effective today as people’s patience is wearing thin. Also, if this was a decision based on analyzed data (Marsh et al, 2006) it would have been helpful to share this with impacted users. This same mind set was also a barrier as stress meant there was little focus and processing. Similarily, communication was a big challenge. Redesigning how teachers communicate with students at the same time as the tool is being implemented is not an effective plan. Limited skills was also a challenge. There was a marked absence of philosophical and practical background. This led to limited resources such as research and concrete techniques for engaging students. There were a handful of strategies being passed around on social media such as scavenger hunts and virtual field trips, but as the resources were so limited these got old, fast. One of the greatest drawbacks was how the web conferencing tools allowed teachers to connect to students who were already engaged in their learning. It did not work to re-engage inactive students.
In my practice I foresee taking a Frankenstein approach and using portions of a variety of methods. The clear visual aspect of the GANT chart is appealing (Watt, 2014, ch. 1). Gant is highly visual and straight forward. Outlines tasks and timelines.Also, the Project Management Institute (the PMBOK guide) offers ways to delegate and collaborate on a project. “PMBOK is the fundamental knowledge you need for managing a project, categorized into 10 knowledge areas:” (Watt, ch. 4).
While this project met the initial need to continue to offer education in a global lockdown, it does cause us to reflect on the resulting successes and opportunities for growth. Luckily, the use of these tools are ongoing and are now operational but the implementation had a clear start (March 2020) and end time (June 2020).
Marsh, J., Pane, J., & Hamilton, L., (2006). Making Sense of Data-Driven Decision Making in Education: Evidence from Recent RAND Research. Santa Monica, CA: RAND Corporation.
Watt, A. (2014). Project Management. Victoria, BC: BCcampus. (ch 1 -4)