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In MGSC 205, students learn about the stages and deliverables in a project life cycle. Students develop an understanding of the language used in project management. Using the yin and yang analogy, students appreciate that project management is more than the technical content (such as a schedule or work breakdown structure). Students learn that the sociocultural aspects are equally important (such as working effectively on teams and leading teams).
Who Should Take This Course and Why
For this course, we had the opportunity to interview Sue, who is currently a returning student to Athabasca University and is working part time towards a Bachelor of Commerce in Human Resources Management. Sue decided to try a return to study as a means of as she says, ‘getting her grey cells working again!’
When we asked Sue who she would recommend the course to and why, she stated “I would recommend the course as it provides you with an understanding of project management concepts, tools, resources, terminology and practice – which is beneficial to any career path or area of study. I would definitely recommend it to business, commerce, administration, and human resource students, but it would honestly be helpful to anyone as it provides a sense of understanding and order for implementing strategic objectives in the workplace. I signed up for the course as I thought I would enjoy it and build upon my project management knowledge and build up my personal PM tool kit–I achieved my objectives and enjoyed the course very much (except for exams).”
Course, Assignment, Midterm and Final Exam Details
The course consists of 10 lessons and covers approximately half of the material in the textbook. The textbook (Project management: The Managerial Process published by McGraw-Hill) was written by best-selling authors Dr. Erik Larson and Dr. Clifford Gray. Each chapter includes many snapshots from practice key terms in the glossary and some research highlights.
The course helps students learn about how projects are structured in different organizations. Students learn about estimating time and cost as well as developing a schedule. Students learn about managing risk on projects. Students also learn about what it takes to be an effective project manager, managing teams, and closing out a project with the lessons learned.
What will it take to pass the course? This course involves two written assignments (30 percent each of the final grade) and a midterm and final exam (20 percent each of the final grade). The midterm and final exam each consist of 60 multiple-choice questions and 15 true/false questions. The final exam is not cumulative and focuses on the second half of the course material.
According to the course coordinators, the thinking in structuring the course evaluation this way is that it helps balance different learning styles. Some students are much more comfortable writing responses, and other students prefer to focus on multiple-choice and true/false type questions.
The assignments are on a student’s “Dream Vacation” project. In the first assignment, students are given an assignment template to fill in. They are given time, cost, and scope criteria and asked to answer questions related to the material covered in the first half of the course. In the second assignment, students build on their Dream Vacation project and answer questions related to the second half of the course.
Each lesson includes multiple-choice practice quizzes, key term review activities, and PowerPoint slides to help students learn the material. Each lesson also includes a reflective self-development exercise whereby students can think about building their project management tool kit based on the tools and techniques they cover in each lesson.
How to Be Successful in the Course
Introducing the Course Coordinators
Dr. Kam Jugdev joined Athabasca University in 2003 following a career as a project manager. Dr. Jugdev enjoys (yes, you read that right) writing courses collaboratively with the Course Production Coordinator. Maria Frank was the Course Production Coordinator for this course. Dr. Jugdev appreciates being able to work closely with her students to help them develop their conceptual understanding of the material and apply the concepts to practice. You can read more about Dr. Jugdev at her profile link.
Maria Frank has been a Course Production Coordinator with Athabasca University since 2016. She values the opportunity to work with academics on undergraduate and graduate Faculty of Business courses to help deliver quality courses to AU students.
“We develop courses collaboratively to enhance student experiences,” begins Dr. Jugdev, “Course Production Coordinators like Maria bring project management to the process, along with instructional and learning design expertise. What students see in front of them involves a lot of back-end work. Course Production Coordinators ensure that a course adheres to accessibility standards and follows principles of universal design for learning (UDL). UDL takes into account that students have different styles of learning and engaging with course material. For example, incorporating things like authentic assessments within a course allows students to interpret and express their learnings in unique ways. Course Production Coordinators also address copyright and intellectual property aspects of the course.”
Tips from the course coordinator
“Individualized study online courses are a challenge for anyone because they involve a more disciplined approach. Our advice for students is to treat the course like a project that they are managing. As students start learning the material in the first chapter, they should try to follow what they are learning by applying those concepts to handling their progression in the course. For example, just like a project involves the schedule, our courses offer a customizable schedule for students to use.
“It is heartbreaking to see that students are seeking extensions to complete a course. As we developed this course, we encouraged students to check in at the end of every lesson to ensure they were keeping up with their course timeline.
“Take a moment to think about why you are taking this course. Ask yourself what broader goal(s) this course will help you achieve. After writing down your answers, place the note where you can see it as you work through the course. Read, update as necessary, and reflect on your personal goals note. Your personal goals will help you stay focused and motivated to complete this course.
“We encourage students not to try to cover too much material in one sitting. Students should think about the time of day that they feel they are most effective when it comes to working on a course, and then they should dedicate a set amount of time to do so on a regular basis.
“Finally, we encourage students not to be hard on themselves if they fall behind on their planned study schedule. Instead, students should extend their course schedule by a few days and continue working at a consistent pace.”
We spoke with Sue, who had recently completed this course and she stated, “This course is terrific as it covers the socio-technical aspects of the work, which is helpful as it guides the learner in comprehending the importance of building and maintaining positive, collaborative relationships in the field of project management and how this side of the work cannot be overlooked. This course highlights that project management isn’t just about tools and processes, it’s about people, leadership, and management.
“The course and textbook align so well on content and the context and objectives are clearly laid out making the concepts straightforward to grasp. I would recommend that students follow the suggested course schedule and complete each learning objective—not skipping any—as this really helps prepare learners for the assignments and exams. I would recommend completing all the Review Activities, including unit/chapter Quizzes and reading the unit PowerPoints before starting assignments, they test your knowledge and demonstrate whether you are ready to start writing.
“This course also has multiple resources provided, such as PowerPoints, lesson notes, key definitions and terms, PDFs, review activities—all of which are so helpful. I loved the review activities, especially the fill in the blank questions as they weren’t just pick and choose, you had to think about what you had learned to answer them, which is good reflective learning.
“The textbook is up to date and relevant for current work environments and is reflective of organizational strategy and project management in the real world. I bought the text as I like to stick notes everywhere and highlight things, but I also downloaded the e-book to my phone and laptop using the Vital Source Bookshelf App, which was nice as I could pull out my phone when I had a spare 10 minutes and read or re-read a chapter or two.
“The assignments are truly focused on helping you critically apply your knowledge into a scenario-based piece of work. If you follow the instructions, which are clearly laid out in the assignment overviews, you should have no issue completing them successfully. The assignments were actually quite fun and help you see that project management is actually something we do every time we make a plan. To some degree, use common sense and the information from the text and you will do well. Remember to use APA!
“The exams were tougher, they were made up of multiple choice and true false questions. Slow down and really read the questions is my best advise and don’t expect that they will be the same questions as in the Quizzes – some are but most are not. Wording can be tricky so take your time. You have three hours, use it!
“The course provides the learner with an understanding of the four sequential stages of a project life cycle and clearly identify the deliverables that are attached to each stage. It provides an opportunity for the learner to build off strengths they likely already have, learn the correct terminology, understand the importance of strong analysis, preparation, risk assessment and management and people skills, providing a solid starting foundation.
“Follow the suggested course schedule and complete all the learning objectives and reading (lesson notes and textbook). Don’t skip them and don’t work ahead – keep on a schedule. Life gets in the way sometimes but just press restart and get back on track. Connect with your instructor early in the course, especially if you have questions—don’t sit on them—if it hadn’t been for an early connection to the instructor, I may not have been successful in the course. Dr. Jugdev, who insisted I call her Kam, was so kind and supportive; she was really an amazing support!”
Experience with Communicating with Course Instructors
When we asked Sue how she felt the communication was with the instructor, she stated, “communication is so easy with the instructor: email questions are returned promptly, and telephone conversations are available when you need clarity.”
Final Tip for Students
The final suggestion Sue recommended for all students interested in taking the course is, “Don’t expect the course to be easy. It makes you think but is really worth the effort. Your Project Management Tool Kit will be packed full of new concepts, ideas and resources that will benefit you in your career, no matter what your area of study.”
If you have any further questions regarding the course, please do not hesitate to contact the Course Coordinator, Dr. Kam Jugdev, at email@example.com. Happy learning!
This article was co-written by Dr. Kam Jugdev, Maria Frank and Sue. Special thanks to Kam, Maria and Sue for their contributions!