Cooperative Hand



On April 30, 2017, I submitted a final deliverable for a service-learning massive open online course (MOOC) developed by Designers for Learning on Designers for Learning is a not-for-profit corporation that “promotes service-learning opportunities through collaboration with schools, students, and volunteers.”

I finished the course (Higher Education) Instructional Evaluation Service Course: Gain Experience for Good on schedule with renewed enthusiasm for instructional design. This is significant because I have signed up for several MOOCs in the past but did not finish one.


Why was this course so successful? The service-learning course was project-based, engaging, and relevant. Before registering for this course, I did not know the definition of service learning. According to Fayette State University, “Service learning is a teaching and learning strategy that integrates meaningful community service with instruction and reflection to enrich the learning experience, teach civic responsibility, and strengthen communities (Learn and Serve America National Service Learning Clearinghouse).”

Service learning, a type of experiential learning, uses project-based activities relevant to the course topic. Students develop critical thinking and communication skills while addressing a real-world community need. Community organizations collaborate with K-12 schools, community colleges, and universities to address those community needs.



Problem: Service learning offers many benefits to students and community organizations. Schools must keep students engaged and community organizations struggle with lack of resources to build awareness and carry out initiatives.

Solution: Community organizations can collaborate with schools and universities to provide meaningful, service-oriented projects that engage students and address a community issue/need or solve a problem in the community.

Success: The Office of High School Programs highlights a successful Environment Science and Invasive Species service-learning project. “In an Environmental Science course, students learned about the concept of biodiversity and its importance in the natural world. During their studies, students read about a variety of threats to biodiversity in nature including invasive species. The teacher made a contact with a local forest preserve and organized a trip to study and plant and animal life at the preserve including invasive species. The students spent part of the day clearing a prairie area of invasive buckthorn. The class decided to return to continue their work clearing invasive plants, because they learned that native plants only flourish if invasive plants are contained. After the trip, the teacher guided students through a process of reflection where they considered various strategies to contain invasive species and discussed what might be done to control the introduction of invasive species.”


According to the Office of High School Programs, which houses the Service Learning Initiative of Chicago Public Schools, students and community organizations benefit in many ways.


Students Community Organizations
Enhance student learning by joining theory with experience and thought with action Fill unmet needs in the community through direct and indirect service that is meaningful and necessary
Enable students to help others, give of themselves, and enter into caring relationships with others Assist agencies to better serve their clients and benefit from the infusion of enthusiastic volunteers
Assist students to see the relevance of the academic subject to the real world Cultivate future volunteers
Enhance the self-esteem and self-confidence of your students Enhance community image
Expose students to societal inadequacies and injustice and empower students to remedy them Foster positive relationship with the university and schools
Keep students motivated and interested class and serve as a tool for reflection Impact local issues and local needs

If you work for a community organization or school, encourage educators and administrators to reach out to one another and make use of this rich resource.


Bartholomew, Keith and Basinger, Nancy. “Service-Learning in Nonprofit Organizations: Motivations, Expectations, and Outcomes.” Michigan Journal of Community Service Learning. Spring (2006): 15-26.

Designers for Learning. “Home.” (accessed May 6, 2017).

Fayetteville State University. “Definition of Service Learning.” (accessed May 6, 2017).

The Office of High School Programs houses the Service Learning Initiative of Chicago Public Schools. “Service Learning. Successful Projects.” (accessed May 6 2017).



An e-Lesson in Project Management


As an e-Learning developer, one the most important (yet often overlooked) functions is project management. Project management strategies contribute to the success of an e-Learning project by ensuring the project remains on schedule and achieves the business unit’s goals. This article reviews a web-based training (WBT) project I worked on in 2016.


Each year this business unit produces an eight-hour e-Learning project for approximately 24,000 users. In 2016, 24 WBT modules were developed in Captivate 9.0, averaged 40 pages in length and included videos, animations, simulations and drag and drop interactions. The department delivered the training via the SumTotal learning management system (LMS) to PC, Apple laptop, iPad and Android tablet devices. The four-person development team delivered all 24 modules on time with few content and functionality issues.

In contrast, the 2015 project had content organization problems, typos and content errors, functionality issues and LMS tracking problems. One week before the WBT launched, the business unit realized several modules were not developed. Team members had to work 16-hour days, seven days a week to complete the modules. In addition, the instructional design, graphic design, writing and functionality quality was low. The 2015 project lacked a clear project management plan.


In 2016, the team implemented a basic project management plan. Although there are more components that make up a successful project management plan, this article focuses on three, which led to the success of the 2016 project.

  1. Communication Plan
  2. Project Plan
  3. Quality Assurance Plan

Communication Plan

The team conducted a project kick-off meeting nine months before the launch date with the following developments:

  • Weekly planning and status meeting
  • Weekly update email

Project Plan

The team collaborated to create a tailored project plan with the following sections:

  • Project scope
  • Role definition and responsibilities
  • Timeline and deliverables

Quality Assurance Plan

A brainstorming session led the team to implement a three-phase quality assurance plan. The small size of the team presented another challenge, so we had to enlist the help of outside resources (instructors).

Phase I

  1. The curriculum developer creates the storyboard
  2. The assigned Captivate developer develops the module
  3. The other two Captivate developers review the module and provide feedback
  4. The assigned Captivate developer edits the module based on the feedback

Phase II

  1. Instructors (group 1) review each module and provide feedback
  2. The curriculum developer reviews the feedback and sends relevant feedback to the assigned Captivate developer
  3. The assigned Captivate developer edits the module based on the feedback

Phase III

  1. Instructors (group 2) review each module and provide feedback
  2. The curriculum developer reviews the feedback and sends relevant feedback to the assigned Captivate developer
  3. The assigned Captivate developer edits the module based on the feedback


I learned two things from this project, the importance of flexibility and motivation. A project management plan does not have to be a rigid set of stages that you must follow in order. You can create a plan that fits the project and team members. In addition, the team’s motivation can bring a project to a screeching halt. Team members started to lose steam around the middle and end of the project. There should be a plan in place to encourage and support team members to keep them motivated.

Share your e-Learning project management stories. I would love to hear your successes and lessons.

Author: Rema Merrick is an instructional design guide and e-Learning adventurer helping to create organizations where employees are passionate, excited and engaged.