Instructional design and development is no longer strictly a one-person pursuit, especially when delivery is digital. It takes a team possessing the skills needed to create video, virtual reality applications, online games, and many other forms of media to be delivered across multiple platforms. To do this successfully when your development team is widely separated requires an appropriate approach to project management and the necessary support tools.
Different kinds of projects call for different kinds of support. For example, building a bridge is a different kind of project than creating an eLearning application. While there may be superficial similarities between the kinds of practices required across many different projects, in this article I will outline the broad categories of software for instructional design and development projects, and I will identify some examples of these.
What is project management?
According to the Project Management Institute, a project is “a temporary endeavor undertaken to create a unique product, service, or result.” That would include creation of materials and systems for delivering instruction and facilitating learning and skills. To do this, organizations use software and other tools and practices to manage projects that meet their requirements for the unique product, service, or result, including delivery on time and within budget. That effort is project management. It takes, as Joanne Astorga said in a recent article in Learning Solutions, a solid and shared system for keeping track of work assignments and project schedules, and that's where the software comes in.
Project management software ranges from:
- General-purpose tools such as Asana, Monday.com, and ClickUp, to
- Tools such as Notion, Trello, and Float that focus on task management within a project context, to
- Applications designed to support specific types of projects, such as Assemble or Airtable for video production.
There are hundreds of other software choices for project management and task management; the ones just listed are only examples and are not an endorsement by The Learning Guild. The challenge is to choose the tools that best match your desired project outcome, your organization, and the experience of your team.
Features and elements
Software for project management can offer a number of features to carry out different functions. The most important functions are in the broad category of “task management". These include identifying and managing tasks and subtasks and visual task management features such as kanban boards and Gantt charts. Other project management software features often include support for collaboration, email integration, and documentation. Most project management software now includes provision for mobile devices, including iPads and Android devices.
Two broad categories of software to support projects
Integrated solutions try to include all of the important features and elements. These are also referred to as program and portfolio management (PPM) software.
“Best-of-breed” solutions stick to one niche or a small subset of elements, where they can outperform an integrated system. These may also be referred to as task management or work management software.
Selecting project management software
In general, small organizations tend to choose several best-of-breed solutions rather than a single PPM software. This saves money and also avoids having to deal with an application that offers far more than is needed and that may be complicated to implement and use. Large organizations also use best-of-breed solutions in addition to PPM software to facilitate project execution and to reduce the management burden at specific points.