Top 6 Skills An Outstanding eLearning Project Manager Should Have
It is the common practice of many companies today to believe that by hiring an “eLearning Expert”, “eLearning Specialist” or whatever title they may assign to this person, and by buying a couple of Rapid eLearning Authoring Tools and acquiring an Open Source eLearning platform, they will be able to create effective eLearning courses. Effective eLearning, though, involves much more. It is the combined effort of many different professionals in different areas of expertise. All these people need to come together in a joint effort to produce high quality eLearning content.
eLearning Design and Development, therefore, can only be perceived as a project, following all steps from design to deployment, under the supervision of the eLearning Project manager, the aim of whom is to coordinate a group of different professional experts in order to fulfill the eLearning project’s requirements, that is to deliver the eLearning course on time, at the best possible quality, given the available resources, and within budget.
There are many challenges involved in the job of an eLearning Project Manager. In this article, I’ll highlight the 6 key qualities they should have in order to succeed in their job.
- General understanding of how eLearning works.
All people involved in eLearning have usually either pedagogical or a technical background. Instructional Designers for example, usually have theoretical knowledge from a variety of disciplines, such as Educational Psychology, Educational Technology, theories of learning, etc, though eLearning Developers are usually IT people, programmers, flash developers, etc. It is therefore, essential for the eLearning Project Manager to have a thorough understanding of these two different perspectives, in order to successfully bring these two groups of eLearning professionals together, making the most out of each group, and delivering an outstanding eLearning courses to the client.
- Keeping up-to-date with latest eLearning Trends in the industry.
Another factor that can prove critical for the success of an eLearning Project Manager, is staying up-to-date with latest eLearning trends in the market. A successful eLearning Project Manager should seek to keep informed about new releases of eLearning authoring tools, new LMSs, general eLearning trends and a sense of where the market is heading to, competitors’ eLearning best practices, etc. Reading eLearning articles, attending eLearning conferences, participating in eLearning forums, connecting with other eLearning professionals through social media, are just some indicative examples of what an exceptional eLearning Project Manager can do to get a thorough perspective of the eLearning market, and acquire a true understanding about the exact possibilities that the eLearning project at hand may have, given the available budget.
- Leadership skills.
As eLearning Project Managers are accountable for selecting and coordinating the eLearning team, they should also possess all the necessary skills to bring this diversified group of professionals with different specialties together for the success of the eLearning project. These people may be either internal corporate resources, or individual eLearning freelancers, who work for the common project under the supervision of the eLearning Project Manager.
- Communication and empathy skills.
Apart from leadership skills, communication is important for the success of the eLearning project. This not only does it involve letting the eLearning team know what needs to be done, but also establishing a proper communication channel to receive feedback from everyone involved in the eLearning course design and development as part of the eLearning project's tracking process, as well as foreseeing or resolving unexpected problems that may occur. Effective communication with stakeholders and clients is also key to the eLearning project’s success, as the eLearning Project Manager can identify the client’s expectations and get feedback with respect to the extent that the eLearning project meets these expectations. Last but not least, as a solution provider, active listening and empathy skills are also absolutely necessary in order for the eLearning Project Manager to be able to take corrective action and improve the eLearning content.
- Asset Management and Resource Allocation.
The challenge of the eLearning Project Manager is to make the best use of all available resources in order to produce the best possible eLearning deliverable within strict time constraints and the available budget. This typically requires Asset Management optimization that extends from equipment usage and eLearning authoring tools to be used, to human resources to be involved in the eLearning project. The eLearning Project Manager is the one to select whether these human resources will be internal or external, depending on the amount of workload to be assigned. Asset Management is usually perceived in function of time; for example the same workload, and budget, can be allocated to one individual over a three-months period, or three individuals over one-month period. Therefore, depending on the eLearning project delivery date and whether the eLearning Project Manager follows a Backward or Forward Project Management planning approach, a different decision may be made on how assets may be allocated.
- Time Management Skills.
Speaking of Backward and Forward Project Management Planning, whatever the approach the eLearning Project Manager decides to use, the important thing is not to miss deadlines and deliver the eLearning course to the client on time. Having a great sense of time needed per task is also key to the eLearning project’s success. The eLearning Project Manager should make a very realistic estimate of how much time should be devoted at each stage of the eLearning Design and Development process, as the first thing to do in order to initiate the eLearning development phase is to consider the tasks, as described in the eLearning storyboard, in terms of learning objects to be developed. Grouping activities together, as well as assigning the same type of activities to the same person may accelerate the process. In any case, setting milestones in order to keep track of the eLearning project’s progress and take the respective corrective action, is a good practice that eliminates the risk of missing deadlines.
An eLearning Project Manager is a liaison between the eLearning Project team members and the client, and although their role may be extremely challenging and demanding, there is no doubt that it’s highly creative and rewarding for talented individuals who possess these 6 key skills for the success of the eLearning project.
Want to learn more about eLearning Project Management? Read the article 5 Things All Successful eLearning Projects Have In Common to find out 5 elements that successful eLearning projects have in common.