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What is a good project management for the implementation of an innovative learning system?

Eric Thao |

The health context that has been in the news since the beginning of 2020 has reshuffled the cards and opened new horizons for learning needs. The companies’ challenge is to offer a learning experience that best responds to their skills management issues by adapting to new uses (widespread remote working, digitalization of training, etc.).
Throughout what follows, we will detail the challenges of project management related to the learning field. First, we will understand the client’s challenges, its learning strategy and the structuring of its content. Then, the client’s learning teams must take charge of the new tools and become more autonomous with the help of the project team. The new tool will have to be integrated into an existing ecosystem and change management will ensure the commitment of learners and trainers to the system.

To understand the company’s challenges 

a. Learning strategies

When a learning project management is about to be started, it is important for external project teams to understand the company’s challenges and the internal strategy that led to the implementation of an innovative system. The project team must also be comfortable with the learning issues of the sector of activity and assimilate the lingo used by the teams. These initial steps make it possible to:

  • Build trust with key contacts
  • Develop a good understanding of the learning challenges of sectors each with their own job specificities.
  • Look into the system’s deployment, by adopting the point of view of the organization, whether it is a company, an academic structure, a training organization…
  • Identify essential documents that centralize key information and help anticipate recurring customer questions (FAQs*, user manual, communication kit, etc.).

For example, when managing a learning project for a client in the financial industry, the minimum requirement is to understand the regulations specific to this field, to know the lingo used by the learning teams, and to have an understanding of the major financial themes in order to be able to best manage the implementation of the system within the company in collaboration with the internal teams.

b. To plan for the medium term

Even if almost all clients want to start with a pilot to test a solution, it is important, from the beginning, to be able to foresee the next steps of a large-scale deployment. This requires detecting time-consuming tasks beforehand to parallelize them if possible and optimize the time spent on the project.

Updating assessment and learning content, for example, is a time-consuming task, but it is essential to the implementation of some innovative learning systems such as Adaptive Learning, Mobile Learning or Immersive Learning. Streamlining the process through solid project expertise and processes saves clients’ considerable time.

A concrete case study: a school that trains students to become advertising specialists wants to set up a new system to complement its traditional learning program, thanks to a mobile application that will help them prepare for their exams. This school of 5000 students wants to launch a pilot with 300 students and a selection of courses such as internal communication or marketing in times of crisis. Even if the initial focus is on these 300 students, it is wise to imagine what a rollout to all 5000 students will look like to anticipate the questions it will generate and the necessary organization.

2. To take into account the existing system and the existing learning content 

a. The existing learning system

Each structure has, according to various degrees of maturity, a learning system already set up. When a collaboration is contracted between a client and a service provider who comes to provide an innovative solution, it is important to understand:

  • The tools and processes already in place and how they work
  • The client’s expectations regarding the addition of the new solution

For example, a client company equipped with an LMS (Learning Management System), which learners’ access to learn, may decide to add a layer of individualization to the learning paths through adaptive learning or to add a more playful touch through gamification. In this case, the project manager who manages the integration of the new device into the LMS has a great interest in understanding what is already in place to best adapt to the client’s uses. 

b. Existing learning content and editorial recommendations in learning project management

An existing learning system involves existing learning content. It is important to take stock of the situation to identify whether this content is adapted to the new system or whether it is necessary to reengineer1 it or create new content.
The sharing of editorial recommendations adapted to the new tool to be implemented is essential, as it provides a guideline for the creation or modification of content to make the most of the new system.

For example, an existing system that uses “true-false” assessment questions leaves a lot of room for chance in answering correctly. This may not be adapted to a learning program that requires a more detailed assessment of the employees’ skills. Prior pedagogical engineering work will make it possible to create more varied questions and therefore to assess the employee’s level of proficiency with greater certainty.

3. To train the teams on the products to make them autonomous

Once the system is in place, it is critical to train the client-side stakeholders on how to use the new tool. Those who have been involved in the implementation of the project on the client side need to understand it well, in order to explain it clearly and in terms that are understandable to the target audience and to other learning managers. It is therefore essential that they have had as much experience with the tool as possible with the help of the project manager and are comfortable with its use before the end of the project.

4. To look into the deployment thanks to a good change management

A little earlier, we talked about planning for the medium term. Change management implies communicating about the new system to encourage learning players to integrate it into their daily practices and learners to use it. Communicating about the system is just as important as implementing it, because the success of the project will depend on its use.
For example, when launching an application that adds a layer of artificial intelligence to an existing device, it is crucial to get the right messages across to learners, highlighting what they stand to gain from using it (time, individualization, assessment accuracy etc.) and showing them how to access it. This communication work helps to explain the purpose of the system and to generate its adoption by as many people as possible.

5. To conclude

Finally, if effective learning project management is based on a set of methods and milestones, it is also based on people. Thus, the ability to adapt to a changing context, the ability to empathize and listen, as well as rigor and a sense of methodology are qualities necessary for a project manager to carry out his missions successfully.

Beyond the issues of learning project management, discover in this article how AI in learning can accompany the end of the crisis

1 Content reengineering: a process that consists of reviewing the formulation of existing assessment content so that it is better suited to the learning system to be implemented and made available to the people involved.