As instructional designers, we’d all love a little more order, control, and harmony in our e-learning projects. But this isn’t always easy to achieve, especially without a solid project plan. That’s why more designers are sharpening their project management skills.

If you’ve never read a book on project management or thought of yourself as a project manager, don’t worry. You don’t need a degree or certificate in project management to successfully manage a project. Good project management is all about finding the right balance between driving project tasks, deadlines, and goals, while also encouraging creativity and innovative ideas.

Here are five tips to help strike that balance in your e-learning projects:

Define quality

Everyone wants good quality, but few define what that means. Before you start an e-learning project, define—in writing—your project requirements, goals, and success criteria. And make sure that all of your stakeholders are on the same page about what good quality looks like. Is it a course that includes a well-designed interface? Engaging content? Some relevant videos? In many cases, what’s merely adequate to you might be fantastic to someone else, and vice versa. The more you set clear expectations and goals up front, the less time you’ll waste later clarifying—or worse, arguing about—what you were supposed to do.

Outline and communicate the project workflow

Your project workflow should describe all of the major, intermittent milestones and goals between your project’s kickoff and closure, including subject matter expert (SME) reviews, design iterations, testing, and publishing. Include start dates, deadlines, and targets for each of these milestones so that everyone involved clearly understands what’s happening and when milestones should be met.

Break up the work

If you’re working on a large project, it’s a good idea to break up the work into manageable chunks with clear owners and deadlines. If everyone’s on the same page, you won’t have people confused about who’s doing what.  

Hold your team accountable

If one team member fails to meet her deadlines or do her job effectively, the whole team suffers. For example, if you finish your design on time but your subject matter expert is always late with her reviews, the entire project schedule can quickly slip. Also, never assume someone else will take responsibility. If you see problems, let your team members know right away, and remind them that to keep the project on track they need to uphold their end of the bargain.

Close out projects

There’s nothing quite like that collective cheer when an e-learning course goes live. But just because learners can start learning doesn’t mean a project is complete. It’s important to sit down with the team and go over what worked well and what didn’t work so well over the course of the project. When you take the time to do this, you’ll help make sure that each project will be better than the last. And while you’re at it, be sure to celebrate the team’s success!


When you follow these five simple project management tips, you’ll notice that your projects will run smoothly and your whole team will have a better understanding of the project goals.

And while your projects are running smoothly, you’ll have the time to relax—and start planning your next e-learning course.

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Joseph Phillips is the Director of Education for Project Seminars, Inc., and the owner of In addition to project management consulting, he teaches project management and business analysis. When not writing, teaching, or consulting, he’s shooting photographs or training for his next marathon.