Group work and its influence on individual creativity

Group work relies on collaboration, participation, and cooperation of every member of the group—in general, working towards solving a problem while maintaining cohesiveness in the group.  While group work (teamwork) has many advantages it also has some drawbacks.  Scholars, such as, the psychologist Irving Janis who coined the term groupthink, and the psychologist Solomon Asch known for the Asch Experiment argued that working in a group forces us to conformity and alters how and what decisions we make.  Basically, we tend to make our decision based on peer pressure rather than from our own logical approach.  More recently, Susan Cain, in her book, Quiet. The Power of Introverts in a World That Can’t Stop Talking echoes the sentiment in what she describes as the New Groupthink—a phenomena that “elevates teamwork above all else.” (Cain, 2012, p. 75).  She further implies that to succeed in this team one must exhibit “Extrovert Ideal” traits such as—friendly, unabashed, assertive, and great public speaker.  She notes that the New Groupthink “insists that creativity and intellectual achievement come from a gregarious place.”  (Cain, 2012, p. 75), and raises her concern over its increased popularity both in the workplace and in our schools.  While she acknowledges the benefits of teamwork and collaboration, she also argues that such working and learning environments impede on the individual’s creativity.  She argues that solitude/working independently matters and is key to creativity and innovation, and that it is equally, if not more, important as group work.

Here is Cain’s TED Talk presentation

Take time to reflect on her presentation, read the links to Janis and Asch, then (in 2 to 3 paragraphs) discuss your thoughts on the influence of group work on individual creativity—making comparison between group work in the online environment, and group work in a face-to-face environment, to what extent do you feel group work influences an individual’s creativity?

Follow this rubric to guide your response.

(Rubric source: Teaching Online Pedagogical Repository)

Reference:

Cain, S. (2012). Quiet. The Power of Introverts in a World That Can’t Stop Talking. Crown Publishing. NY: Random House, Inc.

Plagiarism Detection and Prevention

Plagiarism detection software available to online instructors

Online instructors have numerous options on plagiarism detection software.  Noted in (Jocoy & DiBiase, 2006) are Turnitin, Google’s functionality of tracking of copied phrases, and EVE (Essay Verification Engine).  Additional options include: GrammarlyiThenticate, ViperPlagiarism Detector, and Write Check.

Design of assessments can help prevent academic dishonesty

Dr. Pratt and Dr. Palloff in (Laureate Education, Inc., n.d.) recommend that assessments mirror real-life experience as much as possible; that they be as authentic as possible to minimize academic dishonesty.  The rationale being that the nature of such assessment does not warrant cheating—even if students were given permission to do so.  In such assessments, the result of students’ work has to come from themselves. They have to produce something from what they have learned.  They can collaborate with others as much as they need to but the final result will be their own effort.  As much as possible, I believe it is best to avoid assessments that rely on multiple-choice questions.

Strategies to facilitate academic honesty

(Jocoy & DiBiase, 2006) and Dr. Pratt & Dr. Palloff in (Laureate Education, Inc., n.d.) propose well-founded, sound strategies—which include:

  • Communicating the principles of academic integrity as a component of the “expectation management” strategy discussed in (Jocoy & Diabiase, 2006); for example, requiring students “to pass an academic integrity quiz to unlock instructions for project assignments.” (P. 9).
  • Developing course specific guidelines for proper citation and proper paraphrasing. (Jocoy & DiBiase, 2006).
  • Utilizing plagiarism detection software and warning students of its presence
  • Administering tougher penalties
  • Providing students with a clear explanation of plagiarism, fair use and copyright, and directing them to resources that can provide detailed information, such as the institution’s library as Dr. Palloff noted in (Laureate Education, Inc., n.d.) and/or the Library of Congress Copyright Office

I would add to the list, what I believe to be a fundamental strategy is, getting to know my students well and establishing a trusting relationship within our learning community.  My opinion is that if there is a strong sense of trust within, and a sense of belonging to, the learning community students are less likely to be dishonest.  If they feel they lack the required skills or knowledge, they are more likely to approach the instructor and their learning community for help than they are to cheat.  If I know my students well and know what type of work they produce, I am better able to detect academic dishonesty—intentional or unintentional.  Furthermore, having a trusting relationship with my students (and they with me) puts us in a better position to not only detect dishonesty, but also to identify the underlying cause for the dishonesty—and perhaps work towards eliminating the cause.

Additional considerations to help detect or prevent cheating and plagiarism

For online courses that require proctored exams, perhaps institutions can arrange for students to take their tests at a testing center, with a live (vs. virtual) proctor present.

What I learned this week

This week’s learning resources have provided excellent strategies to minimize academic dishonesty.  I agree with (Jocoy & DiBiase, 2006) conclusion that “expectation management strategy” along with “rigorous enforcement of academic integrity standards” can help minimize academic dishonesty.  I also believe however, just as there is dishonesty in other aspects of our society, [and becoming more sophisticated at that], so will be in academia.  As instructors (online or face-to-face), we need to manage it as best we could with the tools we have available.  Additionally (and more importantly) we need to model honest and professional behavior to our students and educate them on the true value of education; that it is much more than grades or diplomas—it is a profound personal development, and enlightening experience that will help them contribute to the betterment of society.

And on enlightenment, watch Dan Ariely on TED – on “Why We Think it’s OK to Cheat and Steal (sometimes) – Our Buggy Moral Code.”

 

Thank you,

Marta

References:

Jocoy, C., & DiBiase, D. (2006). Plagiarism by adult learners online: A case study in detection and remediation. International Review of Research in Open & Distance Learning, 7(1), 1-15.

Laureate Education, Inc. (Producer). (n.d.). Plagiarism and Cheating.

Impact of Technology and Multimedia

Impact of technology and multimedia on online learning environments

Technology and multimedia are the foundations of online learning; i.e., without technology online learning would not have been possible.  I also believe that, because of technology and multimedia, the quality of learning itself has improved in terms of access to information in numerous formats from infinite resources; including from connections we create with other learners, and thereby, resulting in a more enriched learning experience.  By the same token however, the technology and multimedia selected for a given online course must add-value to the learning experience.  It should not be used just for the sake of using technology. I think the type and purpose of the technology and multimedia used in a given online course will depend on the learning outcomes of the course, and their [technology and multimedia] effectiveness to facilitate the outcomes.

Considerations for implementing technology in an online course

Before implementing technology, the instructor should consider the learning objectives – what type of tools will help my students achieve those objectives? Do my students have the skills required to use the technology? Perhaps they need to practice with the technology prior to using it for a graded assignment, as suggested in (Conrad & Donaldson, 2011). How much time should I allow for the practice? As an instructor, I also need to consider my own skill level in the technology I choose.  Although it is assumed if one is enrolled in an online class, one does have access to technology, as Dr. Pratt noted in (Laureate Education, Inc., n.d.) as an instructor I still need to consider accessibility issues.  Do I choose downloadable applications or should it be cloud based? Should I choose video/audio tools requiring webcams and microphones or should I go with text only? Some students may not have sophisticated computers or high speed internet to accommodate every type of multimedia.  And so my goal should be as noted in (Boettcher & Conrad, 2010), to communicate with my students to understand their needs and capabilities in terms of what technology tools to use for what purpose.

Implications of usability and accessibility of technology tools for online teaching

Cooper, Colwell, & Jelfs, (2007) define usability as “the effectiveness, efficiency and satisfaction with which users can achieve specified learning (or learning related) goals in a particular environment or with a particular tool or learning resource.” (p. 232), and accessibility as “the ability of the learning environment to adjust to the needs of all learners.” (p. 232).  What I think this means is then, the learning environment needs to accommodate the diverse needs and abilities of all learners—it has to be fair and inclusive, and consequently, aid in narrowing the digital divide.  (Cooper et. al., 2007) further note that, “accessibility and usability impact directly on the pedagogical effectiveness of e-learning systems or resources for all learners. . .” (p. 233).  As an instructor, the technology tools I choose should not be a hindrance, but rather assist my students in effectively achieving their learning goals—the tools have to be both accessible and usable.

Most appealing technology tools

There are several technology tools that appeal to me, including Prezi, VimeoYouTube, wiki, blog, VoiceThread, Conceptboard, digital books (via the iPad), TED Talks, and of course a learning management system, my preference being Canvas.  Regardless of my preference however, if it does not address the learning needs of my students, using the tool is pointless.  The learning needs of my students, always takes precedence, and my obligation is to fulfill those needs in whatever manner I can.

What I learned this week

In addition to learning the significance of selecting the right technology and media tools, (Boettcher & Conrad, 2010) tips and suggested pedagogical uses of the various technology tools will certainly help me implement effective online instructional strategies. I particularly like the breakdown of “when/at what point” during a given course (early, early middle, etc.) each tool is best utilized.

Thank you,

Marta

References:

Boettcher, J. V. & Conrad, R. (2010). The Online Teaching Survival Guide. Simple and Practical Pedagogical Tips. (pp. 59, 60, 107, 108). San Francisco, CA: Jossey-Bass.

Conrad, R. & Donaldson, J. A. (2011). Engaging the Online Learner. Activities and Resources for Creative Instruction. San Francisco, CA: Jossey-Bass.

Cooper, M., Colwell, C., & Jelfs, A. (2007). Embedding accessibility and usability: Considerations for e-learning research and development projects. ALT-J: Research in Learning Technology, 15(3), 231-245.

Laureate Education, Inc. (Producer). (n.d.). Enhancing the Online Experience.

Setting Up An Online Learning Experience

Successfully launching an online course requires careful planning which includes, knowing the technology tools available and selecting those that facilitate learning, defining and clearly communicating course expectations, as well as other considerations that might affect my students.

Significance of knowing the technology available

As an online instructor, knowing the technology tools available to me is significant in determining the structure (set up) of my course: the type of activities and assignments, the amount of time required for those activities and assignments, and the method of communicating with my students.  It is also essential in communicating the course expectations to learners; i.e., what technology they are expected to use for the course.  Furthermore, knowing the technology tools I have available helps me gauge the amount of time I would need to familiarize myself with those tools and to determine whether they facilitate or hinder the learning experience.  When it comes to selecting the technology tools from those available to me, I would need to take into consideration the “maintainability, compatibility, usability, modularity, and accessibility” of those tools.  (Kapp, 2003).  And I would follow (Boettcher & Conrad, 2010, p. 57) recommendation of focusing on the “essential tools” especially for my first online course, and then branching out to the more sophisticated tools later on in subsequent courses.

Communicating clear expectations to learners

Clear expectations, note (Boettcher & Conrad, 2010) significantly contribute to “ensuring understanding and satisfaction in an online course.” (p. 55).  Clear expectations provide students guidance as to what they need to do at each stage of their learning process in the course, and thereby, minimize the potential for misunderstanding.  As an online instructor, communicating clear expectations to my learners can help them set their learning goals based on those expectations, schedule and manage their schoolwork time better, and maintain focus on their learning process.  For me as an instructor, setting and communicating clear expectations helps me stay organized and manage my workflow efficiently.  Furthermore, and more importantly, as (Boettcher & Conrad, 2010) note, communicating expectations clearly can help create “a smooth and trusting learning environment.” (P. 55)

Additional Considerations

Additional considerations I need to take into account when setting up an online learning experience include: recognizing and understanding my students’ cultural and language background, their level of online learning experience, the time zones of where they live, any personal factors that may affect their learning (whatever they are willing to share), and as much as possible, their learning styles and preferences.  Knowing these factors can give me a glimpse of who my students are and where they’re coming from in terms of their learning approach.  Consequently, I am better prepared to meet their learning needs.

Thank you,

Marta

References:

Boettcher, J. V. & Conrad, R. (2010). The Online Teaching Survival Guide. Simple and Practical Pedagogical Tips. (pp. 55, 57). San Francisco, CA: Jossey-Bass

Kapp, K. M. (2003). Five Technological Considerations When Choosing an E-Learning Solution. eLearn Magazine. Education and Technology in Perspective. Retrieved on September 19, 2013, from http://elearnmag.acm.org/featured.cfm?aid=2134469

Online Learning Communities

Impact of online learning communities on student learning and satisfaction. . . .

The most significant impact of online learning communities, as I have discovered for myself, and as Dr. Palloff in (Laureate Education, Inc., n.d.) presented is providing learners the opportunity (or in some cases forcing learners to leave their comfort zone) to be active and equal participants in the learning process.  Equal meaning that learners are at the center of the learning experience and that their participation is just as crucial as that of the facilitator (or the instructor) for effective learning.  Being part of an online learning community means belonging to a diverse pool of knowledge, opinions, and expertise, both academically and culturally.  As a learner I am not just absorbing and locking in what I learn but rather exposing my ideas, opinions, and knowledge to those in the community, and expecting feedback—both favorable and unfavorable.  So, what I thought I knew is constantly being questioned and challenged and as a result, I am driven to think, analyze, and investigate deeper the topic at hand.  In doing so, my understanding of the subject expands, my online social presence grows, as indicated in (Laureate Education, Inc., n.d.), and I make expected and unexpected discoveries about myself as well as about the subject I am taking.  As Dr. Pratt noted in (Laureate Education, Inc., n.d.), we in our online learning community, are co-constructing knowledge together both by challenging and supporting each other.  His assessment aligns with (Siemens, 2006) philosophy of knowledge in our connected world, stating: “Instead of seeing knowledge from only one perspective (the filter), we, as individuals, can contribute our opinions and views to extend the depth (diversity) of our understanding.  Knowledge can now be expressed through the aggregate of the individuals—a deafening crescendo of contrasting and complementing opinions and views.” (P. 72).

Essential elements of online community building . . . .

The essential elements of online community building Palloff & Pratt discussed in (Laureate Education, Inc., n.d.) are:

  1. People – the learners, facilitators, administrators, and those working behind the scene to support the learning process.
  2. Purpose – a common goal for the learning community that connects the learners; i.e., the specific course the learners are taking.
  3. Process – the means by which the course is delivered; the learning management system for instance to engage students in the process of community building.

Online Learning Community

Graphics (slightly modified), courtesy of article on UNISA website http://www.unisa.ac.za/Default.asp?Cmd=ViewContent&ContentID=13287

Sustaining online learning communities. . . .

Sustaining this community, as Dr. Pratt suggested in (Laureate Education, Inc., n.d.) is not solely the faculty’s responsibility but also the responsibility of the learners and the institution/administrators.  Faculty must present learning activities that challenge and engage the learners.  The faculty needs to foster an environment that encourages learners to participate and contribute to their learning community.  The continuous presence of faculty to facilitate and to provide guidance and feedback to learners is crucial to keep the community alive.  At the same time, learners must take the initiative—be self-directed in achieving their learning goals.  The institution/ administrators are responsible in providing the appropriate resources both to the faculty and to the learners to facilitate the learning process.

Community building and effective online instruction. . . .

Effective online instruction and community building are interdependent.  Effective online instruction can strive only if there is a well-established learning community.  And conversely, community building happens through a well-planned and designed instruction.  As noted in (Laureate Education, Inc., n.d.), the elements of a learning community include people, purpose, and process.  The effective cohesion of these elements constructs the community that yields effective instruction.

Becoming a more effective instructor. . . .

Given, all the relevant learning materials and resources are available to the learners, I believe that communicating with my learners in a humanely, considerate, non-threatening, and personalized manner is key to effective instruction.  It is about building trusting relationships, albeit through the learning management system/communication technology.  Furthermore, I need to ensure the learning environment engages, challenges, and promotes interaction amongst the learners, with the instructor, and with the content.  As Dr. Pratt advises in (Laureate Education, Inc., n.d.) as an instructor, I must continuously find effective means of reaching out to my learners to motivate and encourage them to be willing participants in, and contributors to their online learning community.  The online learning community is a platform where my learners’ individuality can flourish.  And my responsibility is to ensure I provide an environment that fosters the emergence of those individualities.

Thank you,

Marta

References

Laureate Education, Inc. (Producer). (n.d.). Online Learning Communities.

Siemens, G. (2006). Knowing Knowledge. Retrieved on September 5, 2013, from http://www.elearnspace.org/KnowingKnowledge_LowRes.pdf

Analyzing Scope Creep

I was once assigned to “manage” a project that involved the conversion of a customers’ billing process system (both computerized and manual operational processes) from one vendor that was handling the process to another vendor.  This was my first project management assignment and I was assigned to the project months after it had already begun – a sure sign of trouble at first sight.  Among numerous other issues, scope creep was the biggest.  My clients represented the product and marketing divisions of the company in three different countries, including the United States.  There were approximately forty people in the project; marketing managers, product managers, functional managers, programmers, analysts, testers, call center managers, consultants, and the people from the two vendors we were working with.  Prior to my arrival, any request related to the project (new/change) from the clients and other stakeholders had been submitted directly to the functional managers of the development team (with no centralized process for the project).  At times, clients would even directly contact the developers (programmers/analysts) to request changes.  So when I got on board, despite my objection, the expectation remained the same – request would go directly to the functional manager(s) and the functional manager(s) will fit it in his/her group’s schedule, without any impact analysis to the overall project.  And with each request, the scope of the project kept expanding with no clear end in sight.  Every meeting I conducted ended up being an issues log review as opposed to an overall project progress meeting.  I realized later on that my role was not necessarily managing the project but managing and keeping track of issues.  It was frustrating and overwhelming but a learning experience nevertheless.

Looking back at the experience, the project was way beyond my skills and experience as a project manager at the time.  It was a big project and my role was not clearly defined.  Had I truly been the “project manager” and had had the experience and emotional maturity to stand firm by what I believed was good for the project, I would have requested time to pause and to re-assess the project up to that point.  Then along with the influential stakeholders determined a path; i.e., continue with the project by taking corrective actions – which would have meant developing and adhering to a detailed plan that included a scope management process.  If agreement could not be reached on the corrective actions, and if I had had a choice I would have advised against pursuing the project.  Unfortunately (or may be fortunately), due to a re-organization of my division, I moved on to a different organization before the project was completed.  I am not certain what happened to the project at the end.

Scope creep in a project is unavoidable.  However, with proper project planning that includes a “change control system” as discussed in (Portny, Mantel, Meredith, Shafer, Sutton, & Kramer, 2008, ch. 11) a PM can manage scope creep effectively and lessen the risk of project failure.

Thank you for reading.

Marta

Reference

Portny, S. E., Mantel, S. J., Meredith, J. R., Shafer, S. M., Sutton, M. M., & Kramer, B. E. (2008). (ch. 11). Project Management: Planning, scheduling, and controlling projects. Hoboken, NJ: John Wiley & Sons, Inc.

Estimating Costs and Allocating Resources

Here are a few resources that can be useful in estimating costs for ID projects.

Estimating Costs and Time in Instructional Design.  This article provides a comprehensive analysis of factors to consider when developing your training budget, along with examples and a case study.  I particularly like the table with percentages of time for each training development task, for example, the percent of time allocated to develop the analysis of the lesson versus the prototype of the lesson.

Time to Develop One Hour of Training – I find this article helpful for its identification of factors that can reduce instructional development time.  I also like the survey results chart that breaks down training hours estimates into various categories; such as, level of interactivity in a web based instruction from limited to high interactivity, and each with its own estimation of development hours.

Why eLearning Development Ratios Can be Hazardous to Your Career – This is a great article that advises caution in using e-learning development hour ratios, and discusses factors you need to consider.

Thank you,

Marta

 

 

Communicating Effectively

Communication during a project’s life cycle can take various forms: formal, informal, written, or verbal.  (Portny, Mantel, Meredith, Shafer, Sutton, & Kramer, 2008).  Regardless of the form of communication used however, project managers need to ensure “their messages are received and correctly interpreted by project audiences.” (P. 367). The multimedia example in (Laureate Education, Inc., n.d.) conveys the message in three modalities: text, voice, and face-to-face.  The message itself however, is not clearly conveyed in any of the modalities presented.

The face-to-face modality somewhat conveys the urgency of the request.  Among the factors that influence effective communication, discussed in (Laureate Education, Inc., n.d.), are body language and tonality.  The body language and the tonality of the requester in this example suggest, the request may be urgent, but the level of urgency is not clear.  Additionally, since the request is made verbally and casually (not in a formal meeting setting) the recipient of the request (Mark) may not consider the request as “urgent.”  The advantage of this modality however, is if Mark has questions he can get immediate clarification.  The voicemail modality has more of an urgent tone than the face-to-face, but still not sufficient enough to indicate to Mark it should be a high priority on his to-do list. The text modality conveyed about the same level of urgency as the voicemail, with more formality; i.e., presented in writing.  Unlike the face-to-face modality, the latter two modalities do not allow for immediate clarification, if it was required.

In all three modalities, the request is ambiguous.  The phrase “let me know when you think you can get your report sent to me…” (Laureate Education, Inc., n.d.) implies that the requester is willing to wait until whenever the responder (Mark) can get to the report.  If I were Mark, I would assume the report is not a high priority and put it aside for more pressing activities.  The acronym ETA is confusing and can mean different things to different audiences.  The phrase, “missing report” can be referring to various missing reports.  Additionally, the format and transmission mode of the report (raw data vs. actual report) was left up to Mark to decide – further increasing the likelihood of ambiguity.

In his presentation, Dr. Stolovitch (Laureate Education, Inc., n.d.) stresses the importance of avoiding ambiguity.  In this particular example, I think a written communication would be more appropriate.  The requester needs to describe precisely which report she needs, in what format, and on what date, avoiding the use of acronyms (or spelling them out); thus leaving no room for ambiguity.

Marta

References

Portny, S.E., Mantel, S. J., Meredith, J. R., Shafer, S. M., Sutton, M.  M., & Kramer, B. E. (2008). (p. 367). Project Management: Planning, scheduling, and controlling projects. Hoboken, NJ: John Wiley & Sons, Inc.

Laureate Education, Inc. (n.d.). Communicating With Stakeholders.  Video presentation.

Laureate Education, Inc. (n.d.). The Art of Effective Communication. Multimedia presentation.

Learning from a Project “Post-mortem”

Context/background. . . .

Back in 2004 we (my husband and I) decided to renovate our house.  Our house was built in the 1950s and required a major infrastructure change so the remodeling effort was not just for aesthetic reasons. The renovation project entailed:

  • A complete renovation of two full bathrooms – gutting walls, insulation, electrical, the works
  • Tearing down a wall to install a sliding door
  • Replacing an existing sliding door with a bay window
  • Installation of wood flooring
  • A revamp of the plumbing infrastructure (below the floor, replacing galvanized pipes with PVC pipes, replacing rusted/leaky copper pipes)
  • Kitchen sink/fixtures replacement
  • Electrical work
  • Roofing (including gutters/downspout replacement)
  • Replacement of windows and entry doors
  • Building front and back patios

Rather than hiring one contractor that did everything, we hired separate contractors to work on their area of specialty.  It was less costly at the time, and allowed us to select the specific person(s) we liked and trusted to do the job. And so, the project team comprised of the master plumber and his apprentice, one electrician, two carpenters (subcontractors of a contractor), three roofers, a mason, windows/doors installers, floor/wall tiles installer, a painter (my husband), and the project manager (myself).

Constraints

  • The contractors were committed to the project but if/when they got called for “emergency” jobs (burst pipes, collapsed roofs, etc.) it meant halting our renovation project.  And this had a ripple effect on the project since the activities in one area of the renovation (plumbing for example) affected and/or depended on the activities in another area of the renovation (floor/wall tile installation, electrical work); known as, successor and predecessor activities in project management terms, meaning that the successor activity depended on the completion of its predecessor activity in order to move forward with the work. (PMBOK Guide, 2008).
  • Budget – of course was a constraint throughout the project and we had to constantly re-assess and prioritize the work to be done.
  • Permits – certain permits took longer than expected which resulted in further delay.
  • Weather – this affected the roofing work, which in turn affected the starting of the patio work since the debris from the roof replacement had to be cleaned up before the patio work could begin, resulting additional delay.

Result. . . .

The end result was beautiful.  Getting there however, was not quite as beautiful.  The project lasted approximately nine months (way beyond what we had anticipated).  The major challenge for me was coordinating everyone’s schedule, primarily because most of the activities could not be completed independently.  The contractors had other clients as well so they had to do their own scheduling between our project and their other projects.  And so I had to try and coordinate the individual schedules to fit in with each other’s schedules as dictated by the activities.  It was not easy.  Additionally, we had to deal with several “unknown unknowns” (Portny, Mantel, Meredith, Shafer, Sutton, & Kramer, 2008, p. 41).  For example, much to the dismay of the tile installer and the plumber, the floor/wall tiles I selected for the bathrooms turned out to be quite sensitive (brittle) breaking easily during the cutting process and the installation of faucets/shower for the tubs.  It also resulted in additional purchasing of tiles to replace the broken pieces (above and beyond the allotted tile budget).  Another unknown unknown was a delay in the delivery of certain materials due to quantity shortage or items being discontinued, which meant more time spent (and more money on some materials) identifying and purchasing a replacement.

An interesting fact and a minor detail. . . .

I also want to mention that while all this renovation was taking place, I still had to operate my in-home daycare business.  I had seven children enrolled in my program at the time, ages ranging from 1 to 10 years old; which required me to carefully and creatively plan and schedule meals, clean up time, play time, reading time, and most importantly nap time (for the five little ones).  I also had to time when to use water and electricity since the plumber and the electrician had to cut off water supply and electricity frequently as part of their work.  Most importantly I had to ensure the children’s safety.  This was especially difficult since our house is small and practically every room had some type of construction debris. And so most of our activities had to be conducted outdoors (weather permitting).

Success factors. . . .

I think what contributed to the project’s success was the cooperation, understanding, and trust amongst the stakeholders.  The contractors didn’t know each other at the beginning but bonded well throughout the project and tried to resolve their schedule conflicts amongst themselves.  The patience and understanding of my daycare clients was a huge factor.  They trusted me enough to leave their children with me in a construction zone – luckily no construction related accidents occurred.  My own (my family’s) flexibility in terms of schedule accommodation also contributed to the success.  Since I (the project manager) was also the client, I had the authority to make decisions (with my husband of course).  If I were managing such a project for someone else, it may have been a whole different experience.  For me personally, I think holding on to the vision of the end result was the driving force for the patience and tolerance of all the construction chaos.  I also indicated my excitement to the workers, at each milestone, which boosted their confidence and satisfaction in their own work, fostering further cooperation and eagerness to complete the job.

Wish I could have. . . .

Ideally it would have been helpful if all the contractors had been able to meet during the define phase of the project and figure out their schedules (what they planned for other projects and what they can commit on our project) as well as, identify potential “emergency” getaways.  This would have allowed me to better anticipate and manage schedule delays; perhaps planned  weekend or evening work to expedite the project.  Furthermore, in the case of the brittle tiles for example, if we had all met at the same time, the tile installer and the plumber could have identified potential issues with certain tiles which would have helped me purchase more suitable tiles, thus spent less money.

All in all, the project was a success.  I was satisfied with all the contractors.  They continue to do work for us as needed and I have referred them to several clients that resulted in numerous contracts.  It was quite an experience for me.  I learned a great deal about home construction/renovation and actually enjoyed the process.  Of course, I had moments of utter panic when for example, in the middle of the roof replacement it rained for three days in a row.  Or when the plumber (who identified the majority of the unknown unknowns) would approach me and say “I just want to let you know…..” to which I would reply ”OMG, now what?”

Here is a picture of one of the bathroom wall tiles….still in good shape.

IMG_0291

Here is a portion of the back patio…..

IMG_0292

Here is the backyard/woods where most of our daycare activities took place…..

IMG_0293

Marta

References

PMBOK Guide (2008).  A Guide to the Project Management Body of Knowledge (PMBOK® Guide). 4th ed. Newton Square, PA: Project Management Institute, Inc.

Portny, S.E., Mantel, S. J., Meredith, J. R., Shafer, S. M., Sutton, M. M., & Kramer, B. E. (2008). (p. 41). Project Management: Planning, scheduling, and controlling projects. Hoboken, NJ: John Wiley & Sons, Inc.