Saturday, October 12, 2013

Principles of Project Management (MOOC)

MOOCs (which stands for Massive Open Online Courses) are offered by schools and universities from all over the world in as diverse fields as anthropology, mathematics, marketing, or information technologies. The course we are interested in is entitled Principles of Project Management. It is delivered by the Polytechnic of Western Australia, often shortened as Polytechnic West, a technical and further education institution based in Perth.


This is a Bachelor of Business level course, mostly based on the Project Management Body of Knowledge, or PMBoK, by the Project Management Institute. According to this standard, or more precisely to its 4th edition, a project can be decomposed into 42 processes grouped into five stages:
  • initiate / concept
  • plan / develop
  • execute
  • monitor, control
  • closing / finish

If this course is based on the PMBoK, it is not necessary to refer to its extensive documentation. However, in order to further learn the topic, you can use its fifth edition.

Sue Dawson, the lecturer of this course, has worked in CADD for about twenty years before turning to online training in 2000. She teaches the techniques of project management since 2007. Her course is very lively and she includes vivid examples to illustrate the different processes of this methodology.

Course overview

The course consists of four modules of one week each. During the first week, it introduces project management in general: definition of a project, main methodologies and standards, the PMBoK. The next three weeks are devoted to the different phases (concept, development, execution and finishing), and to the processes composing them. Each module consists of nine videos of about ten minutes each, during which the lecturer presents the processes involved using examples. Each video is followed by a quiz to ensure that its content has been understood, and each module also ends with a quiz available at the end of the week. At the end of those four weeks, a Certificate of Achievement is issued if the results were conclusive.

The videos are offered with a transcript, as well as a list of resources for further study (YouTube videos, websites). Students are also invited to participate in the course forums to share their experiences. However, with more than 1,300 registered students for the session of September 2013, these forums do not allow such an active networking as we can see in a presential course.

Benefits of the course

This course sheds light on many processes necessary for the successful completion of a project. Each project in which we have ourselves been part of is an illustration of the importance of these processes, and the course forums allow a wise illustration beyond our own specialty.

The PMBoK approach shows how much the initialization and plan phases of a project are important. This is where we will define and frame the project, reach an agreement between the various stakeholders, and define how we will ensure that the result matches their expectations. We set up there the quality assurance checks and the project milestones which will allow its monitoring to detect possible failures before they become issues. When a project drifts away, it does it one day at a time, and it is important to identify it as soon as possible.

The closing phase is also very meaningful, for both the morale of the team and the corporate memory. The finalization and acknowledgment of a project success allow its team members to step back before embarking on another project, possibly in another team. Likewise, identifying the reasons for a project success (or failure) and the good practices implemented during its life makes it possible to constitute a memory on which the following projects will be able to draw. We are not talking about documentation for documentation sake, but to allow the development and the improvement of both work techniques and teams, project after project. This phase is too often neglected, which is unfortunate as much for the people involved as for the corporate memory (if the individuals go away, their whole experience goes out the window).

Benefits of the MOOCs

Continuing education is everyone's business, and the arrival of MOOCs which democratize and facilitate learning of high-level courses at home, at ones own pace, is an opportunity that should be seized. This free course, as well as many others, is available on the website, or directly through its page Principles of Project Management.

Principes de Gestion de Projet (MOOC) (in French)
Principios de Gestión de Proyecto (MOOC) (in Spanish)
Princípios da Gestão de Projeto (MOOC) (in Portuguese)

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