Blog Post 1: PM and ISD

This blog series will focus on the integration of Project Management (PM) and Instructional Systems Design (ISD) in the formation of a holistic process incorporating elements for both disciplines as described by Cox’s (2009) book, Project Management Skills for Instructional Designers: A Practical Guide. This post will look at the integration of PM and ISD as well as the definition of a project and stakeholders with reflections on suitable final projects using Cox’s model.

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PM and ISD

Cheng-Chang (Sam) Pan (2012) notes that Instructional Systems Design (ISD) and Project Management (PM) both have strengths and weaknesses; he proposes a symbiosis between the two systems, merging ISD with PM. Pan sees ISD as having systems thinking (comprised of the systemic and systematic characteristics), effectiveness (to assess mastering the performance objectives) and a ground approach (research spans various disciplines). Negatives include being “tedious, rigid, and vulnerable to short turnaround” because they involve complex steps, discourage creativity and could involve the omission of step completion, respectively (Pan, 2012, p. 4).

Project management supports ISD because a project manager’s main objective is to complete the project and manage effectively with a project team. This can aid in maximizing Human Performance Technology (HPT) potential. Consistency is also a main factor of the PM process that complements ID through the use of 5 systematic, project processes which are completed during each of the four-step PM process (initiating, planning executing, monitoring, controlling and closing). Project managers further support ISD in their ability to make skillful compromises through communication and coordination, ensuring all stakeholders’ needs are being met. Negatives of PM include the time-consuming nature of the process, the high amount of time spent with documentation and paperwork as well as an external error that is beyond the project manager’s control (Pan, 2012).

Overall, the three most important ways in which PM can support ISD is through the use of project charters (which makes an allowance for risk management), Gantt charts (which gives task responsibility) and the critical path schedule method (which can free up ‘slack time’). Shahron Williams van Rooij (2010) found three common characteristics of proposed ISD/PM synthesis models in that 1) “a formal, documented process of project management is essential to the success” of ID, 2) instructional design managers “must be skilled managers as well as skilled instructional designers” and 3) “project management is embedded in the successful execution of the various phases and stages of the instructional design process” (van Rooij, 2010, p. 858).


Image Credit: Wikimedia Commons.

Image Credit: Wikimedia Commons

What is a Project? Stakeholders?

Cox (2009) describes a project in terms of a temporary nature (clear beginning and end dates), offering a unique product or service (specifically fitting the objectives given) and is characterized by incremental development. On the other hand, operations are “permanent endeavors that produce repetitive outputs” (p. 6). While ISD is the systematic approach used for instructional projects, after the proper evaluation step to help determine the quality and assessment is performed, it falls under the operations purview, as it becomes an ongoing, repeatable process.

Duncan Haughey (2014) describes project management in terms of “creating an environment and conditions in which a defined goal or objective can be achieved in a controlled manner by a team of people” (p. 4). Before one can launch efforts into creating suitable conditions for success, one must first assess who the stakeholders are, or the people “(or organizations) with a ‘stake’ or a vested interest in the project…who are actively involved in the project work or have something to gain or lose as a result of the project” (Cox, 2009, p. 7). Without properly determining the stakeholders, the project deliverables run the risk of not fitting the real-world situation on which the project is based upon. Fore more information on project stakeholders, the Project Management Institute (PMI) gives a complete overview.


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My first idea for the project is the implementation of student success training for incoming freshman at my university. Incoming English education students enter the higher education experience with no discernable, independent study techniques with no current English language screening process for students who wish to study in this major. A training class that provides an overview of basic English skills that should already be familiar to incoming students as well as a presentation of study and learning techniques (in each of the four areas of listening, speaking, reading and writing) will aid in student self-monitoring and self-learning. Stakeholders include the instructors, the Dean of Education, the Head of the English Department, incoming students and the university.

My second idea will move all content for a high school Thai Buddhism course into an online format. I want to make all materials and assignments/projects available in an easily accessible and collaborative, online environment, with additional resources. The goal is to create an environment in which the students can reflect and learn at their own pace. Stakeholders include the students, the instructor, the Head of the English Program, the Sangha (the monastic community) and parents.


Cox, D. M. T. (2009). Project management skills for instructional designers: A practical guide. Bloomington, Ind: iUniverse Inc. ISBN-13: 978-1440193637

Haughey, D. (2014). Introduction to Project Management. Project Smart. Retrieved from

Pan, C.-C. (2012). A symbiosis between instructional systems design and project management. [article]. Canadian Journal of Learning and Technology, 38(1) 1-10.

van Rooij, S. W. (2010). Project management in instructional design: ADDIE is not enough. [article]. British Journal of Educational Technology, 41(5), 852-864. doi: 10.1111/j.1467-8535.2009.00982.x


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