Learning from a Project “Post-mortem”

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Learning from a Project “Post-mortem”

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My first real practice developing an online course was a mixture of bitter sweet experience for me. On one hand I really enjoyed getting my hands on the field and applying what I have learned so far in instructional design. But on the other hand, I experienced frustration because the product did not get enough management support hence learners did not get motivated to use it.

This online course basically consisted on a short course of three modules explaining the basics of how to use a system that allows learners monitor and control an electrical infrastructure remotely. The online course was developed using Articulate Storyline and had interactivity, contextualised content, real work case scenarios, and assessments drawn from real work situations.

The initial plan was to get the operators of the electrical infrastructure to do the online course followed by a practice on a simulator and in a real setting. At the end operators did not complete the online course and preferred instead a simplified printed version that they could quickly read and re visit when needed. However, on a good outcome was that the practice on the simulator and with a real setting was successfully conducted with each operator.

What contributed to the project’s success or failure?

Some of the elements that impacted the project positively are the following:

  • The authoring tool Articulate Storyline allowed me to create a highly interactive tool without the need of using any other additional software or resources. Additionally, this software let me built a final product that was easy to implement in the organization’s intranet.
  • I was the Subject Matter Expert (SME) as well, so I knew the content and exactly what to include in order to make sure each module would stay relevant, concise, and easy to digest by learners. This was positive too in the sense that as an Instructional Designer I did not have to spend time and chasing SME.
  • Knowing the principles of multimedia learning, I made sure principles such as spatial and temporary contiguity, coherence, signalling, segmenting, personalize, voice, modality, and redundancy were followed (Laureate Education, 2010) in the multimedia elements in order to promote deep learning.

On the other hand, the elements that impacted the project negatively are:

  • There was no communication plan or a meeting to inform management about the online tool. It was developed in solo, because I was the subject matter expert and I identified the need for this training without getting management on board. In this case, being the SME influenced me negatively as I was not focusing on the project as an Instructional Designer. Additionally, during those days my department was going through organisational changes and at that exactly point there was no management to direct the department. All the employees were attending work and doing their roles without a clear direction.
  • Learners were not interested in an online course. They preferred face-to-face training followed by a practice on a simulator. As an ID I should have considered this requirement instead of trying to push a tool that I consider innovative and at the time I thought it would capture learners’ attention.
  • There were no project management practices in place for this task. I simply followed the ADDIE instructional design model with a very poor learners’ analysis to start the project.

Which parts of the PM process, if included, would have made the project more successful? Why?

Starting a project with a “Statement of Work” document would have set the project to start with the right direction. Identifying stakeholders using a RASCI matrix would have been also another important project management tool to get a clear list of the different roles and stakeholders that needed to be included in the project from inception (Laureate Education, n.d), as well as identifying their responsibility in the project.

Additionally, I would include a “Communication Plan” to make sure all stakeholders will be informed of different milestones and key pieces of information that can vary depending on their roles in the project (Lin, 2006).

Finally, I would have to include a complete project management perspective into the project rather than entirely focus on the instructional design part of it. This new perspective would give me the tools to stay organize and have a systematic approach to manage the project to a successful end. Project management practice would include tools such as a Work Breakdown Process (WBP) to partition the project into smaller and specific tasks, a Project Plan to specify tasks, milestones, and timelines; and a better strategy to fully engage all stakeholders as well as making sure learners’ needs will be addressed in the final product.


Laureate Education (Producer). (2010). Triarchic model of cognitive load: Parts 1 and 2 [Video file]. Retrieved from https://class.waldenu.edu

Laureate Education, Inc. (Executive Producer). (n.d). Defining the scope of an ID project [Video file]. Retrieved from https://class.waldenu.edu

Lin, H. (2006). Instructional project management: An emerging professional practice for design and training programs. Workforce Education Forum, 33(2).


About Author


I am an electronic engineer curious about the learning and development field. I think there are many opportunities out there to fully develop our potentials.



January 21, 2017at 1:47 pm

Hi Thais,

I really enjoyed reading your blog post. I’ve never gone through the entire ADDIE framework outside of the courses at Walden University. The Instructional and Advanced Instructional Design classes helped me get a decent grounding in the ID process and the Distance Education course continued to reinforce what I learned.

I think having the opportunity to design an online course must have been fun despite the poor reception. Your story emphasizes just how important doing a proper learner analysis is before starting the designing and development of an online course.

I also see that you thought about leveraging a Statement of Work and a Work Breakdown Process/Structure. I also thought using those would have helped with my own project that could have been more successful. I think the two tools do a great job at painting a picture of what needs to be completed and what you might be missing. The two seem just as important as a learner analysis! Maybe they’re part of a process called project analysis?




    January 21, 2017at 5:28 pm

    Thanks for reading my post Jake. I also think it is important to have an ID model linked to project management tools to keep the whole project organized and to have a structural approach for each part of the project.


Ryan Wiley

January 21, 2017at 7:20 pm

Hi Thais,
It’s great that you got to dive in and create a real project–it’s far more difficult than those little projects we did in our Distance Education course! Sounds like you hit a few rough patches, but also that you leaned a lot. I’m sure your next project will be much smoother!

I have a question for you? You mentioned using Articulate. Did you like it? I’ve designed a Thai language learning course and am looking for a platform to host it online. Right now I’m using WordPress–and doing all the coding myself, which takes forever!

I’ve been looking at Articulate and it looks pretty robust! I might give it a try!




    January 21, 2017at 8:58 pm

    Hi Ryan,

    Yes Articulate was so easy to use and I could add interaction, buttons, voice. It was also easy for online assessments. Definitely give it a try, you will like it. I haven’t use captivate but I should start using it too to see how it is now that I think we can access it with walden.

Joel Birch

January 22, 2017at 5:17 pm

Hi T,

Sometimes the strengths in my personality cause me to be over zealous and miss my target. Getting too excited about building something or using a tool going through the proper phases of learning design projects is something that I will conscientious of moving forward.

When you mentioned that you were frustrated because your management team didn’t promote the course, I thought of a passage I read, ” On a team-level, teams learn new alternatives to designing roles and responsibilities in order to enhance efficiency. Taking action to improve future work and performance creates a sense of control over the team’s activities and increases job satisfaction, improves work environment, and motivation to collaborate. The more team members discuss and analyze their actions in a constructive way the better they share their lessons from personal experience, get to know each other, and understand how every member thinks and what personal knowledge assets he has gained.” (Terzieva and Morabito, 2016).

I agree with you, using a RASCI matrix and having a more through Learning Analysis would have been helpful to you. Have you considered using any other design procedures other than ADDIE. Found two really good blogs that talked about SAM. Do you have any experience in using it or other forms? It seems really time consuming, although it seems as though it allows for more opportunities for checkpoints and milestones, as well as, incorporating interaction stakeholders. Thoughts?

Here the blogs I was referring to:



Great post!



    January 23, 2017at 9:06 am

    Hi Joel,

    I have only used ADDIE as an instructional design model. But I would like to try different models to see if I get better results. Perhaps with other model it is easier to incorporate other team members into the design process. I just checked the SAM process that you shared in your comment and it looks like a fantastic approach for designing instruction. I really like the iterative phases, small steps, and the agile development process included as well. It seems to be robust and like the perfect solution to address SME, budget, time. Including project management plus instructional design into one model.

    Thanks for sharing this, I really appreciate it. Definitely worth a try!

James McAdoo

January 24, 2017at 11:07 am

I enjoyed reading your blog post. As instructional designers we tend to focus most of our attention on the design and development portions of the ADDIE model. As you discovered in the project that you highlight in the post, the implementation phase of that model is equally as important. Part of that implementation phase is communicating to your client/learner that the course is ready for use. In situations like yours where the platform for the delivery of the content is different than the organizational norm, we must make a case for why the new approach is better. We have to generate interest and excitement around the new delivery platform to increase learner motivation to complete the course. Even though the project did not have the outcome you hoped for I still view it as a success because of the lessons learned. Great post!


    January 24, 2017at 7:16 pm

    Thanks James! There are good lessons learned from this project that I can take for my next project.

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