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Managing eLearning Scope Creep: A Comprehensive Guide for Project Managers

Published 9 months ago

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The availability of the highest form of technology has made e-learning the most sought-after method to deliver training online. It's far more effective than traditional training. But as they say, e-learning doesn’t just happen; it needs vigilant design and implementation. It's always better to define the scope and goals of your project before you kick off.


The success of most e-learning projects heavily depends on the preparation you do before you even start crafting the e-learning course. In the initial stages, the big challenge for you is to scope your e-learning project properly. Scoping a project can be a bit complex, but when you understand how e-learning project management best practices operate and put them into practice, it becomes effortless.


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What is the Project Scope in e-Learning?

The term e-learning project scope is used to define all the limitations, duties, roles, responsibilities, timelines, and deliverables, and it often covers the cost of the project as well.


The Importance of Defining Project Scope:

When you have a proper project scope, it makes sure that you and your stakeholders know exactly what the project aims are, when it will be done, and, most importantly, what will be dispatched. It will also cover the cost and the people involved in it. And when you don’t define your project scope properly, there is always a risk of derailment. This results in several scope creeps, high-cost delays, and bleak stakeholders. You must align the scope with the requirements and assumptions of your stakeholders and evade scope creep, which usually adds more unwanted features that are not important.


By enumerating what is included and what is not in your project, you can avoid risks and constraints that may affect the project.



Benefits of setting a clear Project Scope:

Benefits of setting a clear Project Scope

Gives you a roadmap:

This allows the team members to refer to the project scope anytime during the project to align with the project goals.


Oversees stakeholder expectations:

It's always a big challenge to handle the requests and expectations of your stakeholders, who may have different objectives, outlooks, and beliefs than you. However, a clear project scope sets the guidelines to make sure that everyone knows the precise goals and objectives.


Helps in planning:

When you clearly define the timeframe and constraints in the project scope before you start, it helps you plan things better.


Prevents scope creep:

You must be good at project scope management as it sets the boundaries of your project and helps to mitigate issues that may switch away the focus of your project from the original plan.


What is Scope Creep in eLearning Projects:

When your project’s content and objectives deviate from the original plan and increase beyond what was agreed, and that too without meeting the increase in resources or budget, this is called scope creep. This can happen to any project and destroy it in many ways. This usually happens when project stakeholders constantly call for changes, add new needs, or struggle to define the scope of work at the project’s outset properly. Scope creep can trigger increased costs, setbacks, a decline in quality, and dwindled client satisfaction, making it all-important for project managers to handle and govern the scope of a proj

ect productively.

eLearning Scope Creep

Impact of scope creep on e-learning projects:

The impact of scope creep differs substantially according to the complications and size of the project and certain conditions surrounding the scope creep. Although there are some aspects of the project on which scope creep has an impact.


Labor costs shoot up: When the scope of a project becomes larger, further resources may be needed and this leads to higher labor costs.


Setback: The pace of a project gets slow because of additional scope and takes longer than planned to finish. The lag caused by scope creep can raise the overhead costs. Expansion of the project also leads to decreased productivity among team members.


Effects material costs: Changing the project scope means you need extra materials or equipment, and this triggers additional expenditure. Additional resources and materials provided for new requirements add to the budget and your cost overruns.


Quality decreases: The quality of the product dwindles drastically because of high pressure to deliver. The raised scope of a project doesn’t have enough time and resources to focus on quality and this leads to lower quality outcomes.


Drop in customer satisfaction: When the customers don’t get what they want, they may be dissatisfied and become annoyed when the project takes longer and costs more than planned earlier. This can also lead to insecurity among team members.


Cause misunderstandings: Changes in a project plan can lead to misunderstandings and strife between project stakeholders, and this affects e-learning project success.


Trials in execution and project planning: Planning and execution become difficult because of changes in the scope of a project. As the changes impact the timeline and budget the cost of scope creep can be very high if a project is big.


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The Role of the Project Manager in Scope Management:

A project manager must set up a definitive scope of work, review the content as needed, and update it periodically. And try to be proactive in the beginning and stop scope creep from occurring.


Define project scope:

The project managers must define the project scope in the beginning. Without solid objectives and a well-drafted project scope, scope creep may occur due to regular changes to the project's deliverables. The project manager can easily handle the e-learning content development challenges by adding specifics to the project scope.


The project scope must cover specifics like:

  • Precise project objectives

  • Deliverables that must be finished

  • Specified timeline for project completion.

  • Milepost for every deliverable

  • The approximate value of the project


The reason for most failing projects is extreme scope creep. They overrun the set budget and pass over the deadlines because of regular changes in deliverables. The responsibility of a project manager is to direct the project scope control for e-learning properly and avoid scope creep.


Common Causes of e-Learning Scope Creep

Belated scrutiny of poor content: It happens sometimes that the client provides the eLearning development team with content that doesn’t align with training goals. This is a big issue, particularly if no one observes the matter until the storyboard is in the evaluation process.


Changes in content: This is obvious, clients usually approve the project content and then decide to alter it later. This creates problems because the development begins immediately after the client reviews the storyboard and ratifies the content. When you change the content during media development it leads to high-cost rework.


Changes in content between media development can impact things like:

  • Outline of the course

  • Storyboard

  • Animation work

  • Test questions

  • Length of the program

  • Way of delivery and more.


An expanding review lineup: Clients are usually enticed to cast up more people to the review affair as eLearning development progresses. Most importantly, everybody has good ideas. And it's not possible to execute these plans and respond to dissent feedback after the storyboard is ratified.


Clients' setbacks: Due to various reasons clients sometimes pass over their time limit in a project plan. They may have to balance changing orders and experience setbacks when pulling content for the developer. This can seriously affect the project timeline.



Influence of stakeholders: Stakeholders play a very crucial role in eLearning projects. Whenever they fail to define the scope of work at the beginning of the project appropriately, it can lead to scope creep. This triggers uncertainty and misconception between the stakeholders and the project team, causing setbacks, cost push, a drop in quality, and reduced customer satisfaction. Not only this but modifying the scope of a project also influences budget and time limits. As a result, planning and executing the project effectively becomes difficult.


Importance of effective communication with stakeholders:

It's very crucial to have effective communication, as it helps to pin down prospective scope creeps early on. This way, you can take proactive steps and address them with ease. Besides, adding all the stakeholders to the communication process encourages a sense of ownership and responsibility. This helps prevent random alterations to the project scope. You can establish clear lines of communication by keeping everyone well-informed and having a well-defined project scope that is regularly reviewed and amended as needed.

Importance of Change Control Process:

The Change control process is practiced for the entire scope of the project. This is a part of eLearning project management. The process is planned to ensure that project launch (cost, quality, time, and interests) will not be subject to any modifications without proper agreement. Not implementing the process accurately will most likely lead the project to end with scope creep.

Scope Change Request Process:

A formal or informal request from the clients to change the project scope, requirements, or deliverables is called a change request. A project manager must handle this properly otherwise it will hurt the project's quality and success.


The change control process is an exercise that helps you handle the change request properly and makes sure that they are even with the project's goals and benefits. It consists of five steps, which we refer to as the 5Cs:

5 Scope Change Request Process

Change Identification:

This involves recognizing and documenting any changes that happen or are requested in the course of the project.


Change Analysis:

This is all about evaluating the impact, feasibility, and significance of the proposed changes on the project scope, cost, quality, timeline, and client satisfaction.


Change Approval:

This is related to assessing and approving or denying the change requests by the proper authority, like the project manager, sponsor, or steering committee.


Change Implementation:

Change implementation means carrying out the approved changes and reforming the project plan and documents properly.


Change Evaluation:

Change evaluation is the measuring and assessing process of the result and benefits of the changes, and seizing the lessons learned.



Best Practices for Evaluating and Approving Scope Changes:

You must stick to your best practices to effectively handle project scope and change requests. This comprises merging stakeholders and clients in the scope definition and confirmation process to make sure their needs and expectations are clear and pragmatic.


Furthermore, a thorough project scope statement should be generated and used as a reference for change analysis and scope control. Besides, a direct and formal change control process should be fixed and documented in the scope management plan. A change request form or system should be used and duties and responsibilities for change identification, analysis, approval, implementation, and evaluation must be assigned to record and trace change requests.



Asking clients about the change request and explaining to them about the impact of changes is also important. Finally, you must trace and control the project scope and performance regularly. You can do this by using the scope baseline and project management plan as the ground for comparison and deviation analysis. The lessons learned should be fused into future projects by documenting the evaluated results and benefits of the changes.


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Tools that can assist in managing scope changes:

When you manage an eLearning project, most of your effort goes into keeping the project on track. Managing project scope in online learning is demanding. Many things can go into pot in any project. But the most aggravating one is when a client or subject matter expert keeps trying to alter the project. To manage things like what will be delivered, how many review cycles the project will comprise, and how the project will be implemented you can use an eLearning project management tool to keep all of these tasks on track and on time.

To bring more clarity to the course development process and to make it easier for SMEs and contributors to see the updated version of the course along with each other's feedback, consider using a tool like Articulate Review. This allows you to put modifications into context in a fashion that everyone can see. This way, by minimizing back and forth, you can identify latent issues before they result in project delays.


You need a decision-maker to step in when there is a conflict between SMEs. You must be clear about who's accountable for what and at what level of involvement to provide you with a clear way when an issue arises. An accountability matrix can help you in this matter.


How To Avoid Scope Creep In eLearning Development:

Scope creep is certainly a project manager’s pet-hate. And there is this one question that always comes to their mind how to prevent scope creep in e-learning? It can be a subtle issue that leisurely creeps into your project and causes it to become more demanding, over budget, and tardy.


But you can escape the net of scope creep easily by following a few simple steps. You should take these steps before your instructional designer commences working. Three easy and applicable steps to follow to avoid scope creep. Let's take a look below.


Outline the project thoroughly:

You should know what you are up to. Make a storyboard with all the eLearning project success factors. Be meticulous about how many quizzes you will make, how often a branching scenario will occur if you have one, and whether will there be a voiceover. Make sure to define where it will come from, if not throughout the entire course. When you state everything precisely in a written format, it will be your companion when you fight the scope creep.


Call on written approval:

After you finish writing all the details, analyze it with your client and ask for his approval. Make sure that your client acknowledges everything and knows what you will be doing and won’t be doing. Assuming things will not help you, try to be as clear as possible. Ask for written approval from your client after he has understood everything. They should know that you will start working after getting their approval. And importantly, any alterations after that will be regarded as extra work.


Figure out how many feedback repetitions are in scope:

Usually, two feedback repetitions are too much. The first-time clients go through your work and mail you a batch of feedback. Then you implement it and send it back, now they get one more chance to analyze it and see if it is now as they wanted it to be. Now whatever comes after this is extra work and added cost for the client.


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Summing up:

It is important to set up a transparent and well-defined scope of work at the onset of a project. By regularly reviewing and reforming it when needed, it can help you avoid conflicting results. Project managers should make sure that everyone is in agreement by constantly communicating the project’s goals, objectives, and scope, and that alterations will be made in a restrained and planned way.


Fathoming what scope creep is, its sources, and how to handle it successfully is an essential part of a project manager's job. Scope creep can be managed by executing procedures like clear project definition, clear communication with stakeholders, progress monitoring, and change tracking and documentation.


These things can help alleviate the adverse impact of scope creep and make sure the project goes as planned to deliver its intended objectives. When you manage scope creeps properly, it leads to improved project effectiveness, healthier client satisfaction, and enhanced project end results.


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