Teaching Project Management

Until I started this post, I didn’t realize it’s been three months since I’ve blogged. This was partly due to a hectic fall term, so I’m taking advantage of a few relatively quiet weeks to finally write something new. I was inspired, actually, by the fact that I’m doing something different this term: for the first time in three or four years, I took on a course I’ve never taught before. In fact, I’m co-teaching a course we’ve never offered before in our program: Project Management.

Since I spent a few weeks in late December working out the syllabus with my co-instructor, I thought I’d write a brief post about some of our plans for the course. Incidentally, for anyone who might be teaching (or preparing to teach) a course with a project management component, Circuit, the magazine published four times a year by the Ordre des traducteurs, terminologues et interprètes agréés du Québec, recently released an issue focusing on project management. Debbie Folaron’s article on what to include in a PM course is very helpful, while many of the others (like this one describing a freelancer’s first experience as a project manager) can serve as case studies in the classroom.

The bulk of the coursework we eventually settled on revolves around two main activities: a group translation project, and a group corporate website. On the first day of class, students formed their groups, which they’ll be working with for the rest of the term. To help them choose their team-mates, I adapted an activity I first heard about from Egan Valentine, who teaches at the Université du Québec à Trois-Rivières. On the train back from a conference at the Universitat Autònoma de Barcelona last summer, Egan told me about his online class, where students formed groups early in the term by posting profiles of themselves on the discussion forum in much the same way that translators typically do on websites like Translatorscafe.com. So for our class, we spent some time looking at job ads for translators and project managers and brainstorming about the skills these jobs require. Students then had a few minutes to prepare a brief profile of themselves that we could tape onto the classroom walls (don’t worry–I brought in low-tack tape so we wouldn’t ruin the paint), and then they could walk around and browse the profiles to help them choose team members for their mock translation company. Once they finished, each group chose a name for themselves.

Now, the students spend anywhere from a quarter to half the class each week collaborating on activities that range from preparing a quote for a large translation project to working out a revision and review process for their group to follow. In addition, over the course of the semester, students will have time in class to prepare a functional but fictitious website on wordpress.com. Last week, they worked on their About pages, where they discussed their company’s strengths and posted a profile of each team member. In three weeks, after we’ve had a chance to discuss issues like international standards, they’ll prepare a statement about their quality control process. Two weeks after that they’ll add a blog post describing how they’ve handled their translation project, and at the end of the term, they’ll prepare a FAQ page where they can respond to questions a client might ask a translation company, such as who owns the content of translation memories and whether crowdsourcing is a viable solution for a large, multilingual translation project. I’m hoping that these exercises will help them consider the issues faced by project managers while also making them more familiar with a platform like WordPress in case they need to create their own websites when they enter the professional world.

I’ll write another post about the course once it’s finished and I’ve had the chance to reflect on what worked well and what needs improvement. If anyone else has taught a project management course, I’d love to hear about how you run the class.