Marlboro College is situated on 300 wooded acres just outside of Marlboro, Vermont and is best known for its student-centered approach to teaching. This means that the student’s individual learning experience is emphasized over a generic curriculum, with the goal of helping the school’s 300 students think clearly while learning independently.
This real world approach to learning is evident in the Master of Science in Information Technologies (MSIT) program where Lisa Sieverts is a professor. Sieverts has taught the program’s required project management course to more than 100 students and has been certified by the Project Management Institute as a project management professional. Sieverts is also the owner of Facilitated Change, a consulting firm specializing in project management and training. Her work experience and credentials make Sieverts uniquely qualified to teach project management at Marlboro, where she can draw upon her own personal work experiences as she guides her students though the course.
A Search for “Real World” Project Management
In 2008, Sieverts recognized she needed a better project management system to help her students understand the key concepts of project management. While she had used Microsoft Project extensively in the past, Sieverts realized that the software didn’t allocate resources accurately and could not provide insights into estimation – two vital components for effective project management. After an extensive search for a better tool, Sieverts selected LiquidPlanner and has never looked back.
“From my very first course, LiquidPlanner was 100% successful for my goal of having students learn about project management. It was a way for students to learn big concepts without having to learn software. The UI is pretty self-explanatory. It’s hard for them to make mistakes.”
“LiquidPlanner has become an integral part of my course because it provides an easy way for students to truly comprehend essential project management principles,” said Sieverts. “For example, range estimation is critical for managing any project. When students see ranges automatically visualized in LiquidPlanner, a light bulb goes on in their heads and they understand it immediately.”
Sieverts also likes LiquidPlanner’s ability to allocate resources effectively, setting realistic work schedules that limit a team member’s workload to eight hours per day. This “automatic leveling” functionality gives LiquidPlanner a distinct advantage over other project management software, which typically allows a single team member to be overbooked, sometimes exponentially. With automatic leveling, LiquidPlanner’s projections are more realistic because they are grounded in real world parameters such as the actual availability of resources.
Students Build Their Own Projects
As part of the course, students are given six months to plan, execute and finalize one of their own projects using LiquidPlanner so that they can learn in detail about process improvement projects. While most students are focused on web development projects, some choose construction, process improvement, or even volunteer projects. Students begin by articulating their project’s goal, the customer need, and various deliverables, as well as required resources and project timelines.
Many students say their projects become much clearer to them once they enter project-related information into LiquidPlanner. For example, LiquidPlanner’s ability to manage estimations and visually display project parameters allows students to make quick informed decisions about schedule and scope of their projects. When their project information is entered into LiquidPlanner, Sievert is able to access the system and makes comments directly in each student’s workspace. This improves collaboration by providing timely, individualized feedback exactly where it’s needed, reducing confusion while receiving senior-level insight within the context of the overall project.
To see this in action: One student used LiquidPlanner for her master’s thesis project. Using the software, she created a database that interfaced with an antiques website to inventory and manage its contents. The inventory was then sold by a high-end auction company that specialized in theatrical costuming. As part of the project, the student programmed a website to display pictures of the antiques and make them searchable by several attributes, including by auction number. The student used LiquidPlanner to handle the entire back end and management side of the project. She did a “deliverable oriented” schedule using projects and sub-folders, and then used packages to put the tasks in chronological order. With LiquidPlanner, the student was able to complete her project by the deadline: graduation.
Applying Classroom Benefits to Business
Immediately recognizing the value of using LiquidPlanner with her students, Sieverts began using the software in her own project management consultancy. Today, she enters each of her projects into her LiquidPlanner workspace and also uses the solution to collaborate with a number of her clients on their projects. Today, Sieverts relies on LiquidPlanner’s resource allocation capabilities to allow her to forecast into the future and make intelligent business decisions.
“As a consultant, it’s hard to turn work away, but I’ve learned the line between not enough work and too much work is paper thin,” says Sieverts. “Before I take on a project, I always consult my LiquidPlanner workspace to see if I have bandwidth to take on more work within a specific time frame. In the end, I do better work for my clients because I only accept the projects I can handle.”
Benefits of LiquidPlanner at Marlboro College
- Offers intuitive solution and visualization of key project management concepts such as range estimation and resource allocation.
- Allows users to make more informed decisions about scope of work and schedules.
- Provides automatic resource leveling to avoid over-booking of team members, ensuring more accurate and realistic projections.
- Allows managers and teachers to provide feedback directly into the workspace, encouraging and enhancing collaboration.