The need for faster ways to do things will always increase. Naturally, we want to do things quicker and more skillfully than when we first started doing them. To make my video for learning projects faster and more efficient I started using a project timeline template.
My project management life got easier.
Now, I want to share my template with you and help you improve your eLearning project management skills.
If this is your first time reading my blog, welcome. I’m on a mission to help people make and use video for learning purposes. Please allow me crystal clarity: This post will give you a project timeline template and tell you how I use it to get sh!t done! In the anatomy section, I’ll explain each portion of the Project Timeline template. Hopefully, after you use it, you will come back to me and share your experience. Even better if you can tell me how you improved it!
So let’s get to it!
“Happiness, like unhappiness, is a proactive choice.” ~ Stephen Covey
How to Improve Your eLearning with a Project Timeline Template
First, I want you to think of a time when you jumped into something and had no idea what you were doing at first. In college, I had a job in a manufacturing facility that made office chairs. My job was to staple the fabric to the underside of the wooden seat. It required numerous tactile skills, which I did not have when I started.
Fortunately, several of my peers and the foreman offered me 1-on-1 training, complete with a view of the entire operation. I didn’t realize it at the time, but once I was shown all of the essential steps to building a chair I was able to do my job better. In the corporate training world, we call this the “10,000-foot” or “at-a-glance” view. Back in that plant, I was able to learn the skills I needed from my peers and adjust the rate of my production to help the rest of the production process flow smoothly. Without the overview, I would have left the job much earlier than I did. I am the type of learner that needs to see how it all fits together and I feel like so many of us are this way.
Do you like to know how it all fits together?
When making a video for learning, or an eLearning project, it is super helpful to show everyone on the team how they are going to get there. Try very hard to show this to people early in the process and keep it to just one page. Here are the three reasons I use a project timeline:
- To establish due dates and milestones so my project managers and the client’s project managers can effectively evaluate progress.
- To assign roles so that everyone knows who will do the work and by when it should be completed.
- To keep track of all of the tasks so nothing is overlooked.
The Anatomy of a Project Timeline
Like all of my templates and guides, the project timeline template has been used and improved over the past ten years. In addition to the tab for the actual project timeline, I also use tabs to organize Notes, a Punchlist, and a Tracker. Of course, I also have a tab for data validation called (options).
On client calls, I have the project timeline document open for easy reference. I used to take notes by hand in a notebook and then I started tracking my notes in a Google doc. I quickly realized it would be best to merge the notes into my timeline document so that I only have to click into one document. This time-saving tactic helped me organize my notes, reduce misplaced tasks, and avoid desk clutter.
The Punchlist tab became a central location for my internal team to track tasks related to a deliverable. By naming the task (Item name) and assigning a name (Who) to it the punch list creates accountability. The Status column features a drop-down menu that allows team members to communicate if the work is in progress, under review, or complete. This allows everyone to see how things are progressing. If you use this as a Google sheet, you can have your internal team turn on notifications so that they will get pinged when you add and assign a task.
The Timeline tab starts with column A, which features the learning model in use during the project. In the example above, I’ve listed line items under the Analysis and Design phases of the ADDIE model. Columns B-G offers everyone a view of the time it will take to complete the tasks. There are the start and end dates along with who owns each task.
Timelines are essential, but I’ve never met one that stays the same from start to finish. So don’t worry if things veer off course (pun intended). A project timeline’s purpose is to help the team focus and refocus over a long period of time.
I developed the Tracker tab to provide myself and my internal team with a centralized location to see multiple courses at once. I once managed a curriculum overhaul of over 100 courses. Smartsheet was not an option so I built a separate tab that allowed for line by line review of each course.
The (options) tab is where I keep my data validation lists. In order to create drop down menus in Excel or Google Sheets, you need to reference a range of cells. If you want to learn more about drop-down menus, check out Google’s Help Center and Lifewire’s article on how to do this in Excel.
Review cycles are the most critical element of a project timeline. The review cycle is the period of time it takes for the video project team and the clients to look at a deliverable and provide feedback. If possible, pad your review cycles with an extra day or two. Each project I work on includes internal reviews – including a Quality Assurance (QA) review – and two rounds of client review. After each review, feedback is addressed. This could mean making changes to the deliverable or explaining why no changes were made. The final review stage for each phase of the timeline is “Final Approval.” Asking everyone involved to sign-off on each stage of the process ensures that the work stays on time, on budget, and of high quality.
Pro-tip: Pad your review cycles to provide enough time for both internal and external reviews. 3 days internal, 5 days external.
Here’s a helpful link to Next Thought Studios’ production timeline post, straight from the video production world. For additional information, check out Clarizen’s Project Timelines: Why They’re So Important. They make a great case for placing a project timeline process at the core of your management.
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So let’s recap on how to improve your eLearning with a project timeline template. Use the template I’ve offered you for the super low price of subscribing to my (free!) newsletter. Try to utilize the tabs to organize your Notes, Punchlists, and Project Timeline. If you need to handle a project with many courses, try the Tracker tab so that you can see all of the links and various drafts of your deliverables on a single page. Finally, pay close attention to your review cycles. Gently reminding and firmly asking for sign-off on each stage is critical to keeping your project costs down while staying on track.
Are you new to learning about video for learning? Consider reviewing my four-part series, Video for Learning Fundamentals.
Looking to improve your learning video scriptwriting skills? Check out these six posts that will help you be more efficient and process-oriented.
Part 1: Scriptwriting for Learning
Part 2: The Writing Process for Learning Videos
Part 3: 4 Must-Have Skills for Writing Scripts for Learning
Part 4: 5 Best Practices as a Learning Video Scriptwriter
Part 5: 3 Learning Video Storytelling Formulas
Part 6: The Mindset for Writing Learning Videos
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