How to Overcome Challenges in Instructional Design Projects

It is vital to the success of any project that the project manager organizes the resources available to him/her, including the management of the project team (Portny, Mantel, Meredith, Shafer, & Sutton, 2008). To help organize the team and in the “initiation” phase, the project manager should create clear roles and responsibilities, and assign people to all project roles (Portny et al., 2008). Without clear tasks and roles the project may be negatively affected.

In this blog post, I’ll explore some challenges that may arise during instructional design projects and recommendations to overcome each challenge:

Requesting Changes or Additions Outside the Scope

The project manager could get requests from the sponsor or the project team that suggest the addition of tasks that were not agreed upon in the statement of work, these changes are called “scope creep” which could affect the timeline and the budget of the project (Laureate Education Inc., n.d.). There are two ways to deal with these requests; first, the project manager should say no to any additional requests that are out of scope and focus on the approved tasks (Laureate Education Inc., n.d.). Another strategy to handle change is to create a change management plan for any predicted changes that may arise during the project (Allen &, Hardin, 2008). The change will need to be documented and signed by people involved in the change process (Allen &, Hardin, 2008). The project manager may go back to the sponsor with an idea of a new project based on these change requests (Laureate Education Inc., n.d.).

Resisting the Change

An instructional designer who manages the ID project could face resistance to change that is associated with the implementation of the project. In this case, the ID could serve as a change agent (Gandz, 2008) as well as a project manager. Without fully understanding the need for the change, team members or stakeholders could act as resistors which create conflicts and delays in the schedule. For example, the instructional designer could be dealing with multidisciplinary teams (Portny et al., 2008); with the differences in backgrounds and disciplines, conflict may arise and there could be resistance to performing the assigned tasks. Portny et al. (2008) explained that when problems arise it is recommended that team members work together in solving these issues as they might come up with creative solutions. The project manager could plan for these kinds of conflicts; it could be listed early in the statement of work as a risk with an indication on how to mitigate or avoid this risk. In addition, to prevent resistance it is important to create a communication plan to ensure effective communication and reporting among team members. Gandz (2008) stated “some resistance can be converted into support. People who may think, incorrectly, that the change will be harmful might be convinced by simply communicating with them, listening to their concerns and providing the information that will satisfy them” (p. 1-2).

Interfering in Each Other’s Work

Sometimes team members may try to do the work assigned to other team members; Murphy (1994) gave an example of a subject matter expert who tries to control the design aspects of the project stepping into the instructional designer’s responsibility. While this could be unintentional, this could create tension and conflicts within the project team (Murphy, 1994). A good strategy to overcome this problem is to create a responsibility matrix which list roles and responsibilities for each team member (Laureate Education inc., n.d.; Portny et al., 2008); in addition, the project manager should create a work breakdown structure and assign each task to a single owner (Allen &, Hardin, 2008).

 At the beginning of the project, it is important to involve all stakeholders and team members to obtain commitment to complete the assigned tasks in time and within budget (Greer, 2010). It is also essential to keep open communication channels, continuously provide all details related to the project and keep all stakeholders involved in the progress of the project.


Allen, S., & Hardin, P. C. (2008). Developing instructional technology products using effective project management practices. Journal of Computing in Higher (2), 72–97.

Gandz, J. (2008). On leadership: Cherish the resistors. Ivey Business Journal, 72(4), 1-3.

Greer, M. (2010). The project management minimalist: Just enough PM to rock your projects! (Laureate custom ed.). Baltimore: Laureate Education, Inc.

Laureate Education Inc. (n.d.). Defining a scope of an ID project. [Video webcast].

Murphy, C. (1994). Utilizing project management techniques in the design of instructional materials. Performance & Instruction, 33(3), 9–11.

Portny, S. E., Mantel, S. J., Meredith, J. R., Shafer, S. M., Sutton, M. M., & Kramer, B. E. (2008). Project management: Planning, scheduling, and controlling projects. Hoboken, NJ: John Wiley & Sons, Inc.

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