Coursera.org: Project Initiation and Planning #eLearning

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Back to being a student again!

Having worked as a project manager in dozens of training projects – and even writing training materials on project management – I dare to say I have never studied project management.

Until a few months back when I enrolled in ”Planning and Initiating Projects” which was offered by the University of California at coursera.org.

The course was extensive – I studied when commuting and during evening after my kids went to bed. To a person who designs online courses for a living, being a student in one is a revelation!

Mostly the experience was positive – there were plenty of interactions and lively videos with a professor explaining key concepts and even giving guidelines on how to study the “Bible” of project management, the PMBOK Guide by the Project Management Institute, the world’s leading not-for-profit organisation for project management.

From a learning professional’s point of view it was hard to understand the lack of practical examples and interesting, challenging interactions. It is of course true that this was a basic level course where the point was pretty much to introduce the theoretical framework of project management, but nonetheless I missed having real-life examples. The course had quizzes at the end of each section – these too lacked real-life content and I have to honestly say that occasionally I felt like a monkey pressing buttons and answering silly questions that only tested whether I had been awake for the past ten minutes and learned some key terms by heart.

There were a few questions in the quizzes that started with “Imagine that… “ and ended with “what would you do?”. These were simple multiple-choice questions, but nonetheless answering to them gave me the lovely feeling that I am an adult who is trusted to use her brain to apply information. Ah!

Another set of items in the course that have me a lot to think job-wise was the set of videos where a professor of University of California explained some of the key concepts of the course. Some of the videos had been shot against green screen, whereas others were taken in a room that looked like the professor’s study. I enjoyed the latter ones so much more – the professor seemed at ease when sitting next to her own desk, and the messy book shelf and the coffee cup on the table only have a human touch to the video. Then again, in the videos shot against green screen the professor – albeit an excellent speaker – seemed a bit tense and nervous. Something to bear in mind when I next need to film an anxious CEO for a corporate video!

Finally, an excellent part of the course was at the very end and so little advertised that I almost skipped it. This was a panel discussion video with four experienced project managers sharing their experiences and ideas on how one can develop as a project manager. The discussion was absolutely fascinating and in my opinion should have been broken down to smaller clips and added to different parts of the course – this would have made the general, theoretical content so much more interesting.

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