PMP Your Course: Using Project Management Techniques to Support Students

Concurrent Session 3

Session Materials

Brief Abstract

Consider adopting and adapting project management practices (PMPs) to provide structures supporting student learning and engagement in your online courses.  With an overview of project management techniques, gain practice in creating tools your students can use to manage course workload and complete assignments.


I am an instructional designer with Middle Tennessee State University (MTSU). I began my professional career as a librarian at the University of Nebraska at Omaha (UNO), teaching online in the library science programs at both UNO and the University of Missouri. I moved into faculty development and instructional design at UNO in 2011, working for the distance education unit as the Senior Coordinator for Instructional Design and Faculty Support. After completing my PhD in Educational Studies with an emphasis on Internet-Based Education from the University of Nebraska-Lincoln, I served as the Director of UNO's Center for Faculty Excellence. In that position, I was responsible for creating and supporting campus-wide faculty professional development opportunities and consulting with faculty on teaching and learning, with a particular focus on teaching with technology and online learning. I moved to MTSU in January 2021, focusing more specifically on instructional design of online learning experiences.

Extended Abstract

One of the most important elements in designing an online course is providing structures supporting student learning and engagement. As Moore's Theory of Transactional Distance (2018) describes, structure is defined as "how content and teaching are organized in courses…" (p. 33), including "activities, projects, and other exercises to help the student engage with and apply the content…" (p. 34).  High quality online learning experiences include structures to address and respond to learner needs and preferences.  This is particularly true in times of change, when we face challenges with needing to adjust schedules, content, and/or delivery issues as we have seen in our response to and gradual recovery from the COVID-19 pandemic.

For inspiration on developing course structures, one can look to the Project Management Institute (PMI) and their standardized practices for planning and completing projects.  These best practices range from project charters, work breakdown structures (WBS), project performance and monitoring, and lessons learned reflections. While we in instructional design and faculty support may be familiar with project management tools and techniques to support our own work, imagine if those strategies were implemented within a course, allowing teaching faculty to adopt and adapt many of these activities to provide students with structure.

Assignment charters, work breakdown structures, and performance monitoring strategies give students more specific pathways and points of reference as they navigate course materials and assessments. Project closure activities – lessons learned reflections – support retrieval and self-assessment leading to deeper engagement and improved learning.  Consider transforming your existing materials with these project management tools. 

Session Outcomes

This presentation will provide an overview of project management phases and practices, identifying areas in course design in which PM practices can be implemented.  Specifically, participants will be able to:. 

  • Identify project management practices (PMPs)
  • Imagine crafting a work breakdown structure for an online course
  • Design a checklist or kanban board using selected technologies to frame an assignment as a project
  • Feel comfortable in using project management practices to support online learning experiences
Participant Engagement

Attendees will have the opportunity to practice, with selected technologies, using a checklist or kanban board approach to assignment support.  Participants will also be invited to share their insights and perspectives on integrating project management techniques into their own courses, enabling us to learn from each other.