Lessons in project management
The conventional view of project management is challenged by a contemporary construction industry that is rethinking its processes and procedures as it seeks to align itself with clients' business needs. Project managers must update their skills. They require flexible education and training that complements work place experience rather than distracts from professional obligations. Educational technology offers an exciting opportunity to accommodate these, often conflicting, requirements. Computer-aided learning (CAL) is supported by a government keen to promote a Learning Society, the expansion of Higher Education (HE) postgraduate provision and the construction industry's own initiatives to engender a culture of lifelong learning. Enthusiasts argue that CAL provides greater access, enhances quality and overcomes the inherent disadvantages of distance learning. Yet the apparent eagerness to develop innovative CAL applications is not evidenced in an educational survey of built environment postgraduate course provision. On the contrary, only small pockets of CAL activity are available. A new distance learning project management educational software application (DIMEPM) is developed and compared with a traditional multiple media resource and a well-established postgraduate module delivered in part-time mode. The design of DIMEPM draws on the expertise of experienced practitioners in HE and the views of leading academics in the field. Qualitative and quantitative approaches are employed in a longitudinal evaluation that assesses the relative learning gains, student attitude and confidence of HE students. And, in order to gain reaction from industry, DIMEPM is subjected to an illuminative evaluation within a leading engineering and project management consultancy. The research study finds no significant difference in the academic performance of students in the control and experimental groups. However, it is clear that technically orientated tasks lend themselves more readily to CAL than interpersonal skills. Distributed educational packages provide opportunities for enhancing distance learning but alternative pedagogic approaches are needed to encourage web-based dialogue and promote vicarious learning. Practitioners suggest that the distinction between these alternative delivery methods is artificial and that an integrated approach should be explored. Crucially, the research identifies considerable advantage in linking outcomes to delivery mechanisms and advocates the use of an "Associated Delivery" model.