Monday, 16 April 2012

Welcome to the HNC Project Unit

You can find the text for your three assignments here as well as general information, published by EdExcel, for this unit.

This is all about the important business of planning and implementing a project. The skills you will acquire will be useful in all walks of life - not just to help you get this qualification. Indeed, as I have illustrated in sessions already, you really do need to use project management techniques in order to organise yourself and stand a chance of getting all the assignments done too!

As well as the basics, you will need to understand some of the bigger words like methodology which get used in this unit. What it's really all about is (a) what do you want to achieve by way of output, (b) how will you actually get there and (c) what research will you conduct in order to make your conclusions stand up?

Obviously you need an initial idea for a project - something you are familiar with and have some expertise in. If a topic interests you then you are much more likely to achieve something and enjoy the research than if it doesn't. Then you need to come up with an end product that is different to whatever may be already out there. there is no point in reinventing the wheel! Although you are unlikely to be employed or doing something specifically as part of your present job if you do have one, you do have to realise that if you were, or you were being paid to do research at a University for instance, then nobody will be happy paying you either in money or time or resources, and usually it'll be all three, unless there is a clear benefit or something of value in doing it.

Then you need to make a plan as to how you would go about researching the topic, analysing the data and then either creating something or writing a specification or recommendations for it.

Milestones are the key to everything. Start at the end and work backwards. Set a target date when everything will be done. Work back from there. Often you will find that to stand any real chance of doing a job properly you may need to have started a few months ago! Maybe that will man your initial idea is not feasible. It's good to find out now than several months down the line and to have to try and fix things then.

Once you have set some milestones then you will have particular tasks that you (or possibly someone else) has to do by certain dates. Because everything tends to be interlinked - ie you can't do B until you have A complete - then it is vital that you keep a close eye on progress through these milestones. The more the merrier in many respects, provided that you don't have so many that it takes longer to write them all down in various resource management tools than to do them in the first place! Monitoring them is key - and you'll need a way to do that that does not easily allow you to ignore what needs to be done.

Whilst a diary or other paper reminder systems are better than nothing, an automatic e-mail or text message saying that by tomorrow you should have sent off X or Y is more effective. there are lots of nice tools on the web and they're free too. You need to try some out. Even if you don't use them the process of reviewing them is required for some of the learning outcomes anyway.