How Are Instructional Designers Managing Their Learning Projects?

Concurrent Session 6

Session Materials

Brief Abstract

It is unclear how instructional designers acquire and use project management skills and tools in their profession. The purpose of this phenomenological study is to understand their lived experience as they acquire and apply this knowledge.


La Keshia L. Nall, MBA, Ed.S. is a doctoral candidate at Nova Southeastern University. Her research focus is instructional design and educational technology. Her dissertation, titled Instructional Designers as Project Managers - A Phenomenology, describes the lived experiences of instructional designers as they learn to manage projects in higher education and on-the-job and as they actually manage projects in their professional roles. The dissertation is based on a phenomenological study that investigated the project management-related experiences of practicing instructional designers to gain insight into their common experiences and identify themes from their stories.

Extended Abstract

Instructional design can be a complex field, regardless of the industry or sector. Preparing for and executing the dynamic and challenging responsibilities of the role requires a unique mixture of education and experience, which spans from knowledge of learning theories, instructional design theories and models, curriculum design, assessment and evaluation, graphic design, web design, and teaching/facilitation to business acumen, requirements analysis, project management, and more (Klein & Jun, 2014; Ritzhaupt & Kumar, 2015; York & Ertmer, 2011). However, it is unclear how instructional designers are and should be preparing for and executing the project management responsibilities of the role (Williams van Rooij, 2013). Project management is often not sufficiently covered in higher education programs. For example, Williams van Rooij (2011) reported that there are 765 educational technology graduate programs in the U.S. focused on preparing students for careers in instructional design. However, higher education instructional design curricula generally do not include formal courses in project management and the course descriptions often do not give any indication that project management is addressed as a topic in any of the program courses. In other words, instructional designers may not be fully prepared to acquire positions in certain organizations because they lack project management knowledge and skills.

As Williams van Rooij’s research indicates (2011), although instructional designers are expected to know how to manage projects, there is very little written in the literature that details how instructional designers should acquire project management skills, what those skills consist of, and what successfully managing learning/training projects looks like from the instructional designer’s perspective. The purpose of this phenomenological study is to understand the lived experience of practicing instructional designers as they acquire and apply project management knowledge.

The overarching research question is: How do instructional designers manage their projects?

Sub-questions include:

1. What are the responsibilities of instructional designers as managers of projects?

2. How are instructional designers prepared to manage their projects?

3. What challenges do instructional designers face when managing learning design projects?

4. What instructional design and project management models, methods, tools, and techniques to instructional designers use to manage their projects?

5. How do instructional designers feel about using these resources and their associated outcomes? 6. What recommendations, best practices, or examples can instructional designers offer to help their peers successfully manage learning design projects?

Results will describe project management best practices, models, methods, tools, and technologies that instructional designers use in acquiring project management knowledge and ultimately in managing their learning design projects.