You are building your first house. So far you have poured the slab (which could have cost less if you had priced other companies), framed it up (which took a bit longer than expected since you ran out of lumber), and are ready to put on the shingles … Wait, what? I thought YOU were supposed to buy the nail gun???
While building your first house is a difficult project, it can be made simpler by breaking down the final product (a finished house) into a set of tasks (including gathering the materials, resources, knowledge) and clearly ordered steps of completion. How detailed a task list is can vary, depending on one’s knowledge of the subject and experience with the process of creating the final product. According to the Buck Institute for Education, “it is helpful to write out the tasks with enough specifics for you to identify any resources you may have to gather.” These resources may include skills, time, information, tools, materials, people, technology, etc. Anything you need to get the job done!
A task list not only needs to include tasks, but also a timeline. Set a date by which each task will be accomplished. This can often be an eye opener to the amount of time a project will take to complete, as well as the order for the tasks (you need to order lumber before you can build walls, but after determining the amount of lumber needed). These benchmarks will keep your project moving efficiently. While the order of tasks and amount of time needed for tasks may seem like a “no brainer” to some, to a novice these are essential pieces of information that cannot be overlooked!
Lastly, each task has to be assigned to the respective project member(s) who will be accomplishing it. There will be no progress if the project members don’t know who is supposed to do each task; and progress will be slower than anticipated if someone is working alone when, in fact, they should have been working together with help of other project members.
Now, here’s the best part…Project Foundry can help your students do all of this! Within most project request forms there is a Task prompt that allows users to create a list of tasks or to-dos for their project (if you don't see one, your Admin user can easily add one). Encourage and guide your students to create a list of skills, activities, resources, and time allotments that need to be achieved in order to create the product.
Once entered into the request form, Project Foundry will automatically keep users notified of upcoming tasks and benchmarks they set for themselves. Students can manage their tasks for all their projects simultaneously via the Tasks component on the student homepage.
Advisors can also see/manage all of a student's tasks via the advisor home page, as well as see project tasks for any given project.
During the completion of a project, the advisor role provides the functionality to verify the completion of tasks by students. This features is useful when a student has notified the advisor they're done with a task (the advisor can then verify the completion), as well as during a seminar or jointly-managed project to keep a group of students moving forward.
Lastly, we are aware that some projects bring unforeseen tasks. Project Foundry lets both students and advisors add tasks in the middle of projects, too!
What are your thoughts and ideas on how to use tasks to manage a project? Please share them with others who are, like you, helping students become successful project managers!