February 7, 2012, 12:30 PM EST
Date: Originally aired on February 7, 2012, 12:30 PM EST
Session Title: M.S. in Project and Program Management Information Session: Balancing Soft Skills and Hard Skills
Panelists: Anne Marando, MS, Director of Academic Programs and Distance Learning; Monica Perez, Enrollment Advisor; Daniel Mongeon, Academic Advisor.
Description: In this information session, Anne Marando discusses why a balance of soft skills and hard skills are critical in effectively leading projects and achieving project success. In addition, all panelists provide details about Brandeis University’s M.S. in Project and Program Management in an on-screen presentation with audio commentary.
Speaker: Hello and welcome to the Brandeis University Rabb School of Continuing Studies, Graduate Professional Studies, Master of Science and Management on Projects and Programs Information Session Balancing Soft Skills and Hard Skills.
Please note that this webinar is needed. If you have any questions during the presentation please type them into the chat box which is located on the right hand side on the control panel and click send to submit your questions. After the webinar you will be able to obtain slides in the archive recordings. Please contact enrollment adviser Monica Pérez whose contact information is listed at the bottom of the slide page and also on the last slide of this presentation.
Today, we have three speakers who will be leading the webinar. We have Ann Morendo, who is the Director of Distance Learning for Graduate Professional Studies as well as a faculty member of the Management of Projects and Programs Degree Program. She has held projects in Process Management Divisions at several organizations including fidelity investments, and her specialty areas include Project and Program Management, Risk Management, Distance Education, and Process Methodology.
We have Monica Pérez, enrollment adviser for Brandeis University online. Monica had worked for online education for over 7 years and has an MBA from [inaudible] Graduate School of Management. Monica will be able to answer any enrollment related questions you may have towards the close of this webinar.
And lastly we have Daniel Mongean who served as an Academic Adviser to students of all of the programs offered at Brandeis Division of Graduate Professional Studies. Prior to working at Brandeis Daniel was employed as a content writer and research editor for entertainment based websites.
And now I’ll turn it over to Ann Morendo.
Speaker 2: Thank you Celina. Thanks to everyone for joining us today to talk about the challenges of balancing soft skills and hard skills while managing projects and programs. As Celina Mentioned my name is Ann Morendo and I’m the Director of Academic Programs in Distance Learning here at Brandeis Division of Graduate Professional Studies as well as a faculty member in our Management of Project and Programs, Master’s Degree Program. I’ve developed and taught several courses of this program over the years including Foundations of Project Management, Advanced Scheduling and Control, Risk Management for Projects and Programs, Program Management Various Practice, and Agile Project Management.
We have critical agendas here today with the primary focus being the significant challenge facing project and program managers with managing projects, they maybe the ability to effectively adapt and apply interpersonal and technical skills from launch to closure. During today’s session we’ll talk more about hard skills and soft skills and that interdependent nature. We’ll see that we can effectively manage projects to completion without an even balance of these skills.
We’ll also talk about the curriculum of our Master of Science in Management of Projects and Programs highlighting how its core and elective courses were designed to mirror this balance of the interpersonal with the technical. Near at the end of the session we’ll provide more specifics about the program requirements, its faculty and Brandeis University in general. Monica Pérez will speak to the program’s admission requirements and Daniel Mongean will speak to academic advising services and financing option. We’ll close and open Q&A but I do encourage you to enter questions in the chat box throughout the session. They’ll be compiled and addressed by the appropriate panelist at the end of this session.
So first let’s look at some terminology defining soft skills and hard skills. Commonly referred to as soft skills, interpersonal skills include leadership, communication, negotiation, expectations management, influencing, problem solving and decision making. Soft skills are largely intangible, not associated with the deliverable or concrete output necessarily and they’re generally employed without the use of tools or templates. Hard skills, that is the more technical aspect of a project manager’s role generally involve the creation of a tangible deliverable such as the work breakdown structure, the project schedule, critical path diagrams, earned value reports, project budgets, dashboard and so forth. These skills are more technical in nature and they often incorporate these to tools such as Microsoft project, spreadsheets, modeling tools, and many other deliverable templates available.
Many people feel more at home if you will in one of these areas or the other. Some people by their nature are effective communicators and leaders. They may be less adoptive creating dependency diagram or in-depth budget tracking report. Other people might thrive in the creation of project management deliverables such as Microsoft project schedules, risk management reports, critical path analysis, various analysis and so forth. But they might last the ability to effectively build sources on their team or to appropriately tailor and communicate project management deliverables and status to the appropriate audiences.
The [inaudible] a quick self-assessment. Are you equally comfortable making up a 15 minute presentation to a senior VP within the organization as you are using tools to determine budget variances and corrections required? I’m equally adept at negotiating with contract and vendors as you are with developing efforts and cost estimate on these sources and this very distinction somehow between art and science being made here. Let me look at the soft skills and hard skills, we see that soft skills they’re often phrased using verbs. They reflect actions, managing expectations, influencing, negotiating, problem solving and so forth. Hard skills on the other hand are commonly created using noun as they’re aligned with the results in deliverable the output that are produced such as schedule, budget, earned value matrix, risk management reports, various analysis, and so forth. So the verbs and nouns you hear are by no means exhaustive and know that they are mutually exclusive and we’ll see examples of that shortly. But what about the highlight here is the fundamental assumption that ineffective project manager we need both and research also supports this assumption.
Studies such as Danish Group, Gartner, [inaudible] and others all point to the same facts and perhaps you’ve experienced it as well. Projects often fail. They’re late, they’re over budget, they fail to deliver the products that they were designed to produce, and perhaps some projects don’t produce any products at all. So why would you still look at the top 10 reasons for project failure? Well I think that knowing what can go wrong is helpful in preventing future mistakes. If we look at common causes of project failure and assess the degree to which we’re equipped to overcome them, we can avoid pit falls when they appear. On a similar note, to be successful we need to define the primary measures of success such as satisfying the business requirements of primary stake holders, delivering promised business values as well as meeting time and budget expectations and then make sure that we implement practices to be successful while avoiding common pitfalls.
So here we have a list of top 10 reasons for project failure simulated from research, published by Danish group, Gartner and Genthead.com contributor. Along the left and right side of this list we have two parameters with the rest estimate of the degree to which soft skills or hard skills contribute to each failure factor. Just wanna point out the parameter level, they’re not intended to be exact by any means and their basis on my suggested qualifications but let’s walk through some themes here. Inadequately trained or inexperienced project managers appear as the top primary reason for project failure. And as interesting if you’re asked 100 project managers, if they felt they have sufficient trainings or experience in project management, my guess is that the majority would say yes. Again this perception went counter to these studies. For this failure factor the hard and soft skills parameters are about even, meaning to be successful project and program managers need to employ both hard and soft skill techniques. Similarly going down the list, properly setting and managing expectations and selecting appropriate methods for one project involve roughly and even balanced hard and soft skills as well.
There are main factors in the list are less general than the blanket factor of project management inexperience or inefficiency and they’re a bit more useful because they help tell through not only the reason for failure but hence on how these factors may be overcome. Project plans and effort estimates are output primarily of hard skills while leadership, communication, culture and ethics are generally associated with soft skills but things aren’t so black and white. Let’s take core planning for example. Suppose I determine that I need education and experience in developing comprehensive project plan, how am I to go about to build on these skills? While I can manage specific steps for how to determine and define a WBS that reflect project skills, I can study how to migrate a WBS into a scheduling tool such as Microsoft project. I can use this tool to assign and analyze resource assignments and the dependency. I can crank up critical path diagrams and ensure I can try to match it with the technical skills involved in developing a solid project schedule. But that can’t be my sole area focus. So consider for example how do I go about finding a comprehensive WBS? I might have mastered the skills necessary to build the WBS that complies with the technical definition of completeness but unless I communicate self-expectations with my stakeholders, facilitate negotiation discussions to ensure that the scope is obtainable and based on reality and set expectations within the organization about the resources required to achieve that skill. And in effect my perfect WBS has no value. The hard skills required to build the WBF has a higher parameter but without applying the right set of soft skills we won’t be successful. And more we have the WBS again later. This theme this will come up again shortly.
Let’s leave it for a moment. Let’s take poor leadership also on this list. If I self-asses and determine that I need to sharpen this interpersonal skill, I personally to determine a trait of a leader can be learned or people are born leader to coin a phrase. What is some things that leaders do that they can create an image charisma by maintaining an optimistic point of view? They use passion as a catalyst to generate enthusiasm. They communicate with their entire body not just with slur and they inspire others and bring out the potential in others like tapping into people’s emotion. Research shows, believe it or not that people can learn to exhibit these traits but it’s clear though that as leaders we need to have solid fundamental skills in the domain which we’re leading. An optimistic leader who tries to enthusiastically lead a team and resources to project completion will not be successful if he or she does not understand the intrinsic phase of the project, scope, deliverable, schedule and budget. So this leads us to the notion that perhaps the best leaders make up from the ground up. Meaning they have strong prerequisite knowledge, the gift and the ability to make sound decision while they lead others to project success. If they’re lacking in the aid of knowledge then they need to surround themselves with key contributors who can assist them with filling in these gaps.
The key top 10 reasons in mind for a while, we’re gonna revisit them shortly and for now let’s focus more on some of these parameters and focusing more on the balance of hard skills and soft skills along with their interrelationship. In the previous slide I classified the creation of a work great down structure in Microsoft project to the hard skills. Now if I was creating a WBS for a project that I’m gonna execute alone with only myself involved and with myself being the sole source for the requirements and all of the project decisions, and perhaps the creation of a WBS will land solely in the hard skills course. So let’s look again at the many crossover skills required in the context of the WBS. On the far majority of the project we as project managers are not the sole team members. We can’t develop a WBS unless we understand the specific business objectives and what we’re trying to achieve and the scope to be constructed that we realize those business objectives.
To determine the business’ objective and scope to be modeled on the WBS, we need to work with numerous and different stake holder group. All of whom will have the wrong assumptions about priority and many of whom will introduce constraint. We need to apply leadership, organization and negotiation skills to arrive at a neutrally agreeable definition of scope reflected on the baseline WBS. Once attained how do we then achieve it? How do we achieve those outcomes to deliver value? To break the WBS down into a resource level of schedule of milestones to dependency we may need to further negotiate within and outside the organization to the appropriate resources likely applying influencing skills to obtain the best team members available. We need to apply problem solving skills to reconcile the embedded conflict between scope, time, cost and quality and to develop response plans or risks related to the WBS. We need to exhibit strong leadership skills to guide and develop team members through our project distribution and decision making skills to recommend the appropriate corrective action when varies arise. By definition project changed and we need to respond to them primarily [inaudible]. There are more factors involved and I’ll give you some correct examples that hopefully this illustrates the seemingly hard skills such as developing Microsoft projects schedule simply cannot be done without soft skills as well.
Similarly I’ll talk about communication for a minute. A typical project manager spends approximately 85% of their time communicating. Effective communicators may seem to have been born with the gift. They always know the right things to say at the right time, at the right level with the right audience member. They know how to plan properly to design and implement communication strategy. They know how to actively listen and to recognize the role of perception in overcoming perceptual differences in the speaker and the listener. And many of these aspects of effective communication can be tough. We can learn how to deliver information, how to communicate in order to persuade, how to strengthen our active listening skills, how to be aware of and effectively express body language. You can try to master all these skills in the context of effective communication but fundamentally we need to have a solid understanding of what we are communicating. And that sound so basic but ask yourself have you ever worked with a project or program manager or a member of the senior management team who try to deliver a status update without full knowledge of what he was speaking to. The message may be delivered well from a stylistic point of view, looking polished but the content of the message is way off the mark. Those specific knowledge of the content will immediately see that the communicators essentially are trying to ask his way through the presentation or status update. And again the crossover theme applies. To be most effective, applying the soft skill of communicating status to stakeholders for example, we need sharpened hard skills to effectively speak the schedule, budget, issues, templates and so forth.
So both of these examples are tenant to illustrate message where we can balance hard and soft skills to combat many of the top 10 reasons of project failure including failure to adequately identify document requirements, poor planning, poor effort estimation and inadequate communication. Applications applied on soft skills crossover throughout the project lifestyle, lifecycle that appear constantly. At the point of the majority of the soft skills becomes thread and pull it in all processed groups and knowledge areas. Many project management workshops focus on the creation of deliverable. How do we create a project charter or a business case? How do we create a project management plan and it’s component or a supplementary plan, modeling controlled reports, post project reviews report? Here’s a quick example illustrating the thread of communications required throughout the project life cycle. Supposes we’re tasked to write a project charter for a presentation to a CEO who will ultimately approve or deny our project? We can grab a template for a project charter and try to fill it in to the best of our ability but how do we perfect it? We have to frame the project charter so that the project objective clearly articulates measurable and achievable business value to the organization. We must account for potentially conflicting opinion and input from other stakeholders on the organization and put to a proposal that reflect the achievement of consensus. We must write clearly and concisely, recognizing that those who approve project are not likely to read 15 pages of narrative but rather one to two page of summary underscoring the potential business value to be delivered. Similar examples can be reviewed and removed throughout the life cycle. In planning we need to listen and problem solve to identify and minimize known project constraints. In executing and controlling we need to filter information produced to the right level of detail required by our audience. In the closing stage we need persuasion skills for example to ensure that comprehensive post project review analysis is conducted. So communications, leadership, decision making, influencing, negotiating, fill up one time endeavor but trends apply throughout the project and this is just one example of the thread of communication. Properly applied we can help combat reasons for project failure such as expectations management, meet the line between project team and organizations they serve and poor leadership.
Fourth, we do have tools and techniques available to us to help build an effective communication into structure. We’ve all seen the impact of ineffective communication on all aspects of the project life cycle. Information fails to get to the people who need it in time for them to use it, false or incomplete information distributed and used as a basis for decision making or assumptions that confuse for facts, information distributed can become a spark or ignite politics and conflict, a crucial information may be withheld, huge amount of time or expense and unfocused, ineffective meetings. So let’s approach the creation of an effective communication structure as the key component of our project management task. We can [inaudible] stakeholders in a communication meet, are they a key part of a project or at a preference involved. What types of information do we need to receive and in what frequency? What needs most concern about? What is the most appropriate way to communicate the various project output [inaudible]. This kind of matrix perhaps you’ve seen in use can calm things quickly that we spend some time on it to assess its effectiveness. I’ve worked for a team for example who indicated in a communication matrix that they would e-mail a project requirement document to the responder for approval with the response requested in three business days. So they completed the entries of this matrix but is this the most effective choice? Would the responders be likely to read and absorb all aspects of the requirement document or would they even read it at all? Why spend the effort producing a document that you need approved if it remain unclear if the approver didn’t even understand what they’re signing. We can adopt our approaches for example, have a review meeting with the stakeholders performing a walk through of the document with questions, suggestions and point clarification. This way the signatures are eventually obtained ultimate confidence with these meetings behind the signatures.
So in summary here we can use matrixes and planning grids to help steer our decisions related to effective communication once again balancing hard and soft skills. The right communication strategy will help overcome many top reasons for project failure assisting and preventing and resolving issues, managing expectation, resolving conflicts, but the approach should be proactive and targeted. The right communication strategy includes delivering the needed information to the right stakeholders at the right time, applying a direct, collaborative, professional and receptive communication approach in using an appropriate communication technique by the task at hand.
Another theme that has already come up in today’s session is the need to tailor the communication approach to align with the needs of the audience. I would like to spend a few more minutes on this. External clients and internal senior management will need different types of information, different types of progress reports and so forth to different levels of depth. Key sources in our theme will need various levels of direction, coaching, rapport. In the area also involve stakeholders who are personally involved in the contribution of this key part of project success for those who will be impacted greatly by the success or failure of your project. These stakeholders may have financial interest in those projects. They may directly impact an external stakeholder’s image and visibility in the organization. And the project may directly impact the mission of another group or department. So we can create a project specific diagram such as the one shown here. We placed in the general category of stakeholders with specific individuals, departments or organizations involved or impacted by the project. We can graphically show the types of information to be distributed to and from each stakeholder on the group. And then we can use the company matrix such as the one we just saw on the previous slide to uncover potential conflict areas. These related techniques are risk mitigation strategies, helping us to overcome some of the top ten reasons for project failure including ineffective communication and inadequate or misused method.
The sources of conflict, conflict by its definition of the results of a disagreement referring to any situation which the incompatible goal, thoughts or emotion within or between individuals or groups. On the right hand side we have a list of potential conflicts stemming from hard skills. Essentially, any hard skill output has the potential to be a source of conflict on a project. Individuals reviewing your project schedule may have different priorities or goals in mind. They may be competing with the project for resources. They may be pushing to cut funds to expect where to spend it on the project or pushing to deliver it sooner. They may have potential customers looking for particular features that sooner not reflected in the current schedule. Sources for conflict are numerous and we need to recognize though that conflict is an inevitable consequence of organizational interaction, regardless of organizational size and conflict can be beneficial. And you have some people though who avoid conflict like the plague. It might go out of their way to stay with [inaudible] sad and make everyone happy all the while essentially bearing the conflict temporarily at hand until another issue found to resurface.
So let’s talk about better ways to address conflict for a moment. There are several conflict handling modes and knowing which is the most appropriate to apply in certain situations is an essential part of their effectiveness. For example we can withdraw or retreat from an actual or potential disagreement. Doing so might be useful for some cooling off period but it’s not the best long term strategy whose conflict is addressed or resolved. We can try to smooth things over, deemphasize or avoiding areas of difference and emphasizing areas of agreement. Similar to a Toro this is useful in a cooling off period is needed but it similarly does not resolve the conflict. We can try to search for compromises, bargaining and searching for solutions that earn some degree of satisfaction to all parties in the field. Everybody may not be perfectly satisfied but they can live with the solution. A couple about a potential conflict handling most is not shown here in this slide, we can use forcing where we exert our viewpoint at the potential expense of another. This might be applicable when time is short, stakes are high and there are no other alternatives. The project manager must have a high level of authority for this to be effective though. Similarly we can use confrontation where we take the conflict directly and work with the affected parties throughout the areas of disagreement. This takes time and once again, the project manager needs the right level of authority.
Why do we need a firm grasp of conflict resolution techniques? Well essentially all of the top ten reasons for project failure that we looked at has at their roots some underlying conflicts. Conflicts can arise in planning and estimating and managing expectations and working with stakeholders to define the requirements in working with teams from these different organizations, the different cultures and so forth. So with this backdraft of the definition of the terminologies, of hard and soft skills and what we mean in the way that they interplay and cross over, I’m gonna transition for a few minutes from this discussion of hard and soft skills to our master’s degree program here in Brandeis for the management of project and programs. Courses of the program have been designed to have a balanced coverage of hard and soft skills, the theme of today’s session. And a couple more points about our curriculum design that I wanna highlight, when applicable many of our courses and corporate team standards including the pin box, the program and the portfolio management standard sector and this provides a common vocabulary through which we can speak through project management processes and techniques. The part of our mission is to focus on practical, cost-effective project and program management techniques. The PMI standards for the most part focus on what is involved with project management. With the stronger focus on hard skills our courses focus on the how, that is the techniques that can be tailored to best meet the needs of the project, the program of the organization. Transforming one viewpoint from what I need to do to how I need to do it requires an integrated understanding of business functions and corporate operations as well as an interdisciplinary understanding of leadership and technology or in other words a balance of hard and soft skills. Within this program, we’re committed to providing a rigorous graduate program curriculum for project and program management professionals looking to advance within their field.
The program outcomes of the management of projects and programs master’s degree are shown here and I think it’s important to speak to these outcomes today so that you’re aware that all of our programs and our courses have outcomes that indicate the skills that students are expected to demonstrate upon program and course completion. Within a particular course, course level outcomes are further broken down into weekly outcomes. So as the modules of the course are explored, students can be aware of the skills that they are expected to demonstrate upon the week or module completion. This focus on outcome aligns well in their practical approach. We hope that students will be able to leave our courses and readily apply related concepts in their places of work. This program’s outcomes encapsulate essential skills for today’s project and program managers. From managing a project, from initiation to closure, communicating at all level throughout an organization, ensuring the project and program contribute to organizational strategic objective and leading teams to the tailoring and application of project management techniques on project that may be of various size, scope, virtual collaboration needs and complexity. And even by looking just at our program outcome both at work, you can see the embedded assumptions about the essential integration of effective hard and soft skills.
The required courses of the programs are shown here. The first course that you see, Foundations of Project Management, and that’s accurately named as foundational in nature and it covers many of the core techniques of project management in a broad overview. Incorporating both hard and soft skills the process from initiating to closing and the knowledge areas of the Pinbac are introduced as the weeks of this course unfolds and students are asked to complete assignments such as writing a project charter, developing a work break down structure or WBS, and building a Microsoft project schedule on a company report. Students will see that many of the topics that are introduced in one module or one week at a foundation course are then explored in a more depth in another core elective course.
So here we have three additional core courses, three of them focus on the soft or interpersonal skills; professional communication, organizational leadership and decision making and negotiating a conflict resolution. The three remaining required courses focus on the hard or technical skills aligned with advanced schedule and in control, risk management for projects and programs, and program management variorum practice. We will visit many of these courses in just a minute. Note that while the primary focus of a given course is highlighted on one side of the other soft skill or hard skill within each course the need for their integration is highlighted.
The six electives of the program are listed here. The model core courses encapsulate skills that would leave our potential for all project and program managers. The elective allows students to focus on particular areas of interest. For example in some organizations, project and program manager that are responsible for working with vendors and managing contracts. The procurement and contract management course covers the procurement process and depth including principles in ethics, pricing methods and all cases of contract administration for various types of contracts and pricing mechanism. Another elective is Agile Project Management, helpful to those who may be working in organizations that are adopting agile method to fund all their projects. There are two electives from the virtual team management communication program helpful to those who work with or manage virtual or global teams. The challenges in project management course looks at the various challenges that often arise within a project life cycle threatening project success. The course examines the reasons these challenges occur, when they occur, and how we can anticipate, prevent and minimize them.
We also have special topics and project management elective courses and this allows us to introduce new topics into the program based on recent industry trends of particular application areas. For example, we’ve offered a special topic course in clinical trial project management and are currently developing two additional special topics courses. One will focus on managing government projects and contracts, and the other will cover business analysis techniques for the project manager. In general you’ll find within the hard and soft skills parameters, each elective has an essentially level balance. From these six electives, the student selects three to complete the master’s degree.
This slide illustrates several defining themes of our MSMPP program, Master of Science in Management Project and Program. First, the program is balanced and I’m not gonna spend too much time on or into this diagram because that’s been the main theme of today’s session. Next to curriculum is relevance and this manifests itself in a couple of different ways. We have a professional advisory council of senior project and program executives across several industries who assist in guiding our program requirements and in recommending additional courses such as special projects. You’ll also see that our curriculum’s consistent with the project management institute standards such as the PIMBAC and many practice standards. So as the PMI publishes update to these standards, our curriculum when applicable remains consistent.
Another theme is that our program is portable and what I mean by that is that our graduate program explored the application of project and program management within the context of numerous industries from software to financial services, construction, pharma, non-for profit and so forth covering the factors of management leadership and technology. In course discussion students learn collaboratively and gain from the experiences, challenges and best practices of other students and their instructors who may be working within several different industries. And finally and on a related note our curriculum is adoptable. Meaning, the techniques covered in the courses maybe tailored based on organization size, structure and culture. As a quick example in the risk management course may explore rather robust process to identify qualitatively- quantitatively analyze and respond to risk. And many students report that in in their work group from the job, risks are managed much more informally. In the course part of what we discussed is how students can take many of the techniques we covered and adopt them so that they become cost effective, workable approaches for their project, very much in applied approach.
So let’s go back and look at the top 10 reasons for project failure. I sliced them into two different slides due to space constraint essentially. The program outcomes that I shared highlight skills that we expect all graduates to be able to demonstrate upon program completion. And the program outcome, the phrase is such and it’s certainly an underlying assumption that by realizing the program outcome, students will be able to successfully combat the primary reason for project failure.
This slide and the one that follows is a mapping of our program courses to the top 10 reasons for project failure that we’ve seen and this even an exhaustive mapping by any means but it illustrates how faculty and off forces, address head on how project managers can apply the techniques covered to their work efficiently and practically. Let’s turn some of the negative reasons for project failure listed into positive skills. For example, in foundations of project management, negotiating and conflict resolution in program management, topics, discussions and assignments address how to effectively set and manage expectations. In risk management we look at risk related to requirement and scope management along with methods to mitigate or avoid these risks. The foundations of project management, advance scheduling and control and risk management again we explore effective project plans on designing processes and students have the opportunity to create project plans and risk management plans in the context of the courses. We continue on to the next slide to see some more examples.
Again we can convert the reasons for project failure into skills to be refined such as the ability to develop effective effort estimates to address cultural and ethical issues and select and tailor appropriate methods for our project. [inaudible] at a particular courses are the reasons for project failure to you and again the mapping of these skills of the courses to the skills that’s non-exhaustive one but if you look at the course level outcomes for the core and elective courses you’ll be able to see the skills and purpose of this is to avoid reasons for project failure. I encourage those interested to go to our website for complete course description along with the outcomes for each course.
I’d like to say briefly some of the statistics about how our courses are ran. All of our courses are 10 weeks in length and the master’s degree requires the successful completion of 10 courses. As stated there are 7 required courses and 3 electives. We have 3 semesters that begin in the fall, spring and summer term. A fall term runs from mid-September to the end of November. A spring term runs from mid-January to early April. And our summer term runs from the end of May to early August. Students can enroll in one or two courses per term and there’s no requirement to take courses in each term. We generally recommend that if possible students start by taking one course, the Foundation of Project Management course. This could increase the chance for transition back into academic settings while balancing other professional and personal responsibilities. The master’s degree must be completed within 5 years of one’s first course. Depending on how many courses the student decides to take each term, the master’s degree can be completed in just over a year and a half to up to five years.
We have small class sizes of up to 20 for most of our online courses. There are a couple of courses such as professional communication and leadership are kept at slightly smaller number. On average, depending upon the topic presented and the assignment required, students can expect to spend between 9 and 12 hours per week per course. Program history, this program masters is launched in 2003 and it has been available online since 2008. The program was among the first credit bearing master’s degree in project management to be offered by a major US university. Including our May 2011 graduates, there are 90 master’s degree recipient and they’re currently over 100 intercalated students in the program. The degree of one of 7 master’s program that we offer here at Brandeis is graduate professional studies, all of our master’s program are part-time, designed for adult, working professionals looking to advance in their field.
During the course delivery, all of our courses are available online. Students access our courses through our course site and are learning management system based on module. Instructors post text based online lecture materials and other resources each module of the course and students and instructor engage in 8 sessions of discussions throughout the week. This means that there’s flexibility and the students can log in at any time to complete discussion posts and assignments so there’s no set day or time to participate. However, there is a weekly pace with discussion posts would do in designated points throughout the week. Our online course week runs from Wednesday through Tuesday. The students will be asked to perform the reading within the textbook, review the instructor’s text based lecture note, review other resources available in the course site and then craft an original response to discussion questions typically due by Saturday midnight. In some cases, additional original responses may be required by Monday as well and then the students convert the substitutions required to the post of others are due by Tuesday, the close of the online course week. In this environment, students and instructors form connections through this online discussions or in the module key concepts and sharing special experiences with one another. Students can’t be quiet online. With online participation of the core part of our approach and in fact online participation associated with at least 30% of the student’s final grade. In addition to the synchronized discussion many of our courses incorporate the use of the blackboard collaborate available to students for use in group projects and online presentations for example. In the negotiating and conflict resolutions course, students participate in live virtual sessions that our student and the instructor conducting role plays, mimicking scenarios that requires strong negotiation and conflict resolution techniques. In the professional communication course, students prepare informative and persuasive presentation which they record and share with their classmates and the instructor through the course site.
We require all students to complete an orientation course on our online management system in our online approach and based on student’s feedback they enter their courses feeling well prepared. Students get adjusted to it rather quickly and they get used to the pace of the online course week. All of our faculty are working professionals in their field and instructors directly participate in the discussion and the instructor personally grades all student’s work including participation and other course work. We have no separate discussion facilitator the teaching system for example. This means that our instructors bring their individual experience into the classroom in the discussions and in their evaluation of student work. When I review project charts and schedules created by my students for example, I prepare, I provide much the same kind of feedback as I would for taking a charter or schedule created by a peer. And as mentioned we have small class sizes, keeping to 20 students or less and you’ll find that students have a great feel from their discussions as well as from the faculty who remain actively engaged in discussion along with all of the students.
AS I’ve mentioned briefly all of our programs are guided by professional advisory council. In the case of project and program management, we’re guided by the Guidance Council of Senior Project and Programs Management Professionals and Executives. These professionals review our curriculum, they provide input related to the coverage of new topics and techniques helping us to make sure that our courses are graduates of the skills that they’re looking for when they hire project and program management professionals.
Next on the slide we’ll talk a little bit more about Brandeis University before we transition into admissions to the student services. We’re located in Waltham, Massachusetts which is just outside of Boston. We’re a private, co-educational, non-sectarian institution, named and honored of the US Supreme Court Justice Louie Brandeis. We were founded in 1948 by members of the American Jewish Community. And the university today combines the breast and scope of a world class research university and the accessibility of a small level out college. Brandeis is consistently ranked among the nation’s best universities recognized with excellence and teaching to quality and diversity of student body in the outstanding research of the faculty. The Brandeis community represents more than 100 nations with 3,400 undergraduates, 2000 graduate students and more than 350 full time faculty and 1,000 administrators and staff members. Brandeis and its master’s program are accredited by the New England Association of Schools and Colleges and we have a strong commitment to academic excellence.
Speaker 1: Thank you very much Ann. And now let’s turn over to Monica Pérez who’ll go over the enrollment requirements.
Speaker 2: Thank you. Good afternoon and thanks to everybody for joining us this afternoon. The items required for the application package are shown here on the screen. Interested candidates are to claim an online application form that will capture your contact information, your intended entry term, details on your prior academic history and the names of your recommendation letter provider. The application can be completed in one sitting and it usually takes about 15 to 20 minutes. Accompanying the application form is a $50 non-refundable application fee. A statement of goals must also be completed. This consists of a narrative of at least 500 words that addresses your motivations for pursuing the graduate degree and a description of how your personal and professional goals online with our programs match. A letter of recommendation form is also required from a previous faculty member or an employer supervisor who is qualified to evaluate your potential success in the program. This letter’s sent directly from the recommendation provider to the enrollment office. All applicants must have a four year, accredited US Bachelor’s Degree or its equivalent with the official transcript from all institutions sent directly to us. Applicants who earned their bachelor’s degree outside United States must submit their records, course by course evaluation by an education credential evaluator and we can provide you with more information on this as you work on your application package. A current resume should be submitted, describing your professional and educational background and experience. And finally, TOFEL’s required to individuals who are not native English speakers and who have earned their undergraduate degree outside the US. There are some exceptions which can be addressed individually. [Inaudible] your application item address any questions or concerns you might have during the admission process. So please contact the enrollment office directly for any additional questions. My contact information’s here. Thank you.
Speaker 1: Thank you Monica. And now Daniel Mogen will go over the information regarding student services and advising.
Speaker 4: Thank you Celina. Hi everyone and as Celina has said my name is Daniel Mogen and I’m an academic adviser with Brandeis Graduate of Professional Studies. I kind of support all new students in the management of projects and programs as well as [inaudible] in their graduate programs. I would be your main point of contact at Brandeis should you be accepted into the program. I reach out to my students regularly to support the new course planning and selection. I guide and a few are on my registration system and I share [inaudible] from my office. I also help my students prepare for the start of each term. I make sure that everyone has completed their business learning orientation, required textbooks and other course materials and generally have everything everybody needs to begin their courses. And of course down the road I provide assistance in graduation planning.
Speaker 1: Thank you Daniel. And now we move on to the Q&A session. We have questions come in and we also want to remind everyone if you have questions please type them into the chat box now which is located on the control panel, on the right hand side of your screen. Type in your question and just click send to submit your question. We also want to give you a reminder of the important dates. The application deadline for the summer term is March 15, 2012 and the summer class start date is May 23rd 2012.
So we begin with the first question which I’ll direct to Ann Morendo and the question is can soft skills be taught virtually and how does your program achieve that? How is mentoring accomplished to assure improvement in soft skill?
Speaker 2: Yes. Good question and actually one that we receive quite a lot. Fortunately we get some strong testimonies from students who articulate that yes it can be taught virtually and I’ll give you a couple of quick examples. Related to communication, in the course where students do readings and articles from their own research on how do we effectively communicate but on the context of the online course they’re actually asked to practice communicating. So we use virtual tools where they are asked to prepare speeches and record them. Those are then shared with the instructor and with their classmates and they do a self-critic and the instructor and fellow students critic it as well. That’s the way to sharpen, certainly verbal presentation skills for both informative speeches and persuasive speeches and so forth. Similarly, negotiating a conflict resolution, students conduct role play where they have to put themselves in a particular situation and they each take on different parts. Those sessions are done virtually in small groups with the instructor present and again they’re recorded and again critiqued. So there’s a balance of learning about the [inaudible] and they attempt to apply it in practice. Our courses also use case studies so those types of skills they can look at common pitfalls or try to self-asses their own strengths in a different spectrum of soft skills. But importantly the opportunity to practice those skills is important and we can incorporate technology and help us with that.
Speaker 1: Thank you Ann. We have another question for you. The question, you mentioned that 9-12 hours per week are required per course. Out of those hours, how many of those are online class sessions?
Speaker 2: We have no set day or time for students need to log in and participate as one large class with the instructor. In other words our lectures are given in a text based format in resources available on the course site. So you’ll have reading from the textbook, you’ll read the instructor’s note, you’ll read any additional journal article, the resources that may be available to you. So students will typically find 2-3 hours of reading of those kinds of materials per week, a couple of hours in the discussion form, preparing around discussion responses and then conversing with their instructors and then completing other course assignments which maybe a presentation or a project schedule or some other deliverables. So it’s a balance of reading, posting in the discussion, and then doing other assignments. Now, in some cases students will coordinate within groups to agreed upon, mutually agreed upon time for things like these presentations and role plays that I’m discussing but that’s very limited space upon a particular student in the group and the schedule is defined by the instructor.
Speaker 1: Thank you Ann. We have another question for you. With the program being 100% online and available 24/7, are there set times when the students can interact with each other and also with the professors?
Speaker 2: We have tools to support – yes, we have tools to support that. Certainly we use a collaboration tool, blackboard collaborate, some of our faculty members has open virtual office hours for example where students can drop in to a chat room that also allows them to share an application or just share a light board. So it’s not just a text based chat. And so the faculty can be available for open Q↦A. Students who are working in groups have access to essentially an empty room throughout their time with the course so that they can agree upon a time to go into a virtual collaboration meeting room within a smaller group and interact synchronously there as well. So this is some of the tendencies depending on how the course is structured, any types of assignments available but we do have opportunities for synchronous gatherings as well.
Speaker 1: And another question is graduation done on site, at the university?
Speaker 2: Yes. The Brandeis University in general we have 4 graduate schools and the Graduate School of Arts and Science. There’s a large graduation ceremony here, commencement time in May. Our graduate school, the Division of Graduate Professional Studies in the Rabb School has its own commencement. Prior to that where the diplomas are concerned, we do stream it online. We have a website to those students who aren’t able to attend can watch virtually on the web and all names of the degree recipients are read. So if someone participating from home would be able to hear their name being read upon graduation.
Speaker 1: Thank you. Another question, can you clarify again what the acronym WBS stands for?
Speaker 2: Sure. WBS is an acronym for Work Breakdown Structure. It’s a higher article way to list deliverable but needs to be produced by a project. So that looks somewhat like the outline of a term paper, breaking down into component pieces the scope of a project.
Speaker 1: Okay, great. We have one more question. You have addressed this in your slide before but if you can reiterate this again. The question is does your program teach how to produce the product in the hard skills column?
Speaker 2: Certainly. So if you think of some of the outputs in the hard skills column we have work breakdown structure, project schedules, earned value matrix, value reports, critical path diagrams. I think essentially all of the outputs that I listed that fall underneath the hard skills umbrella would be comparable assignments that you would see in our courses. So you’d learn techniques for how to create them and adopt them, produce them in an appropriate tool and then they would be graded and provided feedback from the faculty member.
Speaker 1: Thank you. Another question, how are the exams? What kind of style are the exams or what kind of format are they typically in?
Speaker 2: The far majority of the exam, you know using a campus based terminology here, they’re take-home. And what that means is students will have typically a week to complete the exam. They’re available during the last week of the course at the start of the week on Wednesday and they’re due by Tuesday. The majority of the exams will not just be subjective type question of multiple choice and so forth. They will include perhaps a case study analysis, solving a problem, something will be specific to the course. In the Risk Management course for example, students may be asked to create, to go through with a decision and analysis regarding a particular approach to risk in maybe in many case studies and so forth. So it’s considered like an assignment in the sense that students have a set time throughout the course week to complete it and then to upload the work product to the course site. That said, occasionally we have one or two courses where they would be in an online timed exam. And similarly in that type of exam would be available throughout the course week. So it’s available throughout the 7 day window. Once the student starts to take the exam and needs to be submitted within a certain time box whether it’s one hour or three hours. That would vary based upon the instructor on the course. We don’t have too many courses that have those time depend but they do come up from time to time.
Speaker 1: Thanks, and another question. Does the program issue an intern certificate and project management based on say a completion of just the core courses?
Speaker 2: No. We no longer have that kind of certificate. We formally offer them. However we found that the far majority with very high numbers into the 95, 6% but students prefer the master’s degree to an intern certificate that reflected a completion of just a subset of those courses.
Speaker 1: Thank you Ann. We have another question that I will direct to Monica Pérez and the question is how long did it take to complete a program?
Speaker 3: Yeah. This should take about a year and a half to 3.3 years depending on taking one or two classes three times about a year. All in all, as mentioned before you do have 5 years to complete the program from the time you start the first class. There’s a lot of flexibility in that.
Speaker 1: Thank you Monica. Another question I’ll direct to Ann Morendo. The question is how are the programs accredited?
Speaker 2: All of the programs on the Division of Graduate of Professional Studies are part of the Rabb School and as part of Brandeis we go through a very comprehensive reaccreditation process with the New England Association of Schools and Colleges which is called NEASC. That’s the same accrediting body that accredits all of the universities in our area including Harvard, MBC, MDU and so forth. It’s a regional accrediting body sponsored by the Department of Education.
Speaker 1: Thank you very much Ann. Those are all the questions that we have for today in which we’ll conclude our session. If you have any questions regarding enrollment you can speak directly with Monica Pérez at 877-960-2037 at extension 3631. Thank you everyone for attending today’s webinar and enjoy the rest of your day.