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Project Kick-Off

posted Feb 14, 2014, 2:22 PM by Jennifer Maddrell   [ updated Mar 19, 2014, 6:20 AM ]

Welcome to the kick-off of the first service-learning project facilitated by Designers for Learning! Please see the Project Description for a summary. Over the next few weeks, the focus of the project will become clearer as the project teams better understand the client's needs, as well as the opportunities and constraints. To that end, this page provides an introduction to the project, including the next steps planned to refine the project's focus.

Project Teams Announced: I will start the project kick-off with a formal introduction and welcome to the Project Team! Please see the roster of participants on the Project Team page, as well as the Project Team Chart, that includes the client team members, student volunteers and their faculty sponsors / advisors, as well as other volunteer advisors and subject-matter experts.  A huge THANK YOU to the entire team! Please note that each person involved on this project is a volunteer with the client, Grace Centers of Hope, and is participating pro bono. Here is a brief description of the roles on the Project Team:
  • Designers (Student Volunteers): While we had hoped to have enough interest to secure 12 student volunteers on three project teams, the Call for Volunteers resulted a much larger pool of volunteer applications than we expected. Given the that each student volunteer is sponsored and advised by a college faculty member, we expanded the project to include a total of 23 students on five project teams.
  • Coordinating Designers (Student Volunteers): With nearly double the anticipated number of volunteers, it became necessary to include a point person on each team to help coordinate activities not only within each project team, but also across the five different project teams. The Coordinating Designers have the same types of responsibilities as the other designers on the team, but will also take on the role of being a point person / team leader for his or her respective team. A primary function of the Coordinating Designer role is to ensure the team is making forward progress toward achieving the project's goals, and to coordinate the team's efforts with the other Coordinating Designers, the Project Manager across all project teams, and me (Jennifer).
  • Project Manager (Student Volunteer): A student volunteer has been assigned as Project Manager. The Project Manager will be the primary client liaison on the project, as well as the coordinator of the five project teams. 
  • Faculty Sponsors / Advisors: 19 college faculty members have sponsored the 23 college students from 15 different instructional design programs. The faculty members will advise the students through the duration of the project.
  • Other Volunteer Advisors / Subject-matter Experts: In addition to the Designers for Learning project facilitation, other professionals have volunteered as advisors and subject-matter experts to the project.
Project Kick-Off: Project teams have 11 weeks to complete the deliverables for this pilot ... from the February 15th kick-off to the May 3rd deliverable due date. That is not a lot of time, particularly considering most of us have never met, few are from the same school, and some students are relatively new to design. However, I know we are up for the challenge!

Community Engagement: A goal of this project is to create an open and transparent design process to encourage feedback from others not part of the project team. To that end, an open collaborative design space has been set up at While the Project Discussion Board is "view only" outside of the project team members, a Google+ Community has been set up to facilitate additional discussions about the project. 

First Steps: The following highlights our first steps as we kick-off this project:
  • Team Introductions: We have an amazing group of volunteers, but most don't know each other. Only a few students are paired with others in their college programs. As such, there will be the inevitable "first day of school" awkwardness as teams begin their introductions. I ask all project team members to please help to get things started by introducing yourself to others on the project. I would like to request that you spend the first week engaging in informal communication with your project teams in a "getting to know each other" spirit. An introduction in the Project Discussion Board and an email to your project team members is a great start, but think about ways you can incorporate other means of communication, such as Google Hangouts, Skype chats, private discussion forums, etc. In your introductory emails, ask your team members to share their communication preferences, including times to meet, preferred means of communication, etc. Also, try to get a sense of their strengths and experiences as designers. In general, please spend the first few days of the project opening up the lines of communication on your team, and begin to establish roles and norms for your team members.
  • Refining the Needs / Opportunity / Constraints: The Project Description offers a general overview of the project as of the start of the project. Over the week, we will continue to refine our goals through the following planned activities, events, and forums:
    • Live Webinar:  We will incorporate live webinars as a way to keep participants on the same page across teams. Please mark your calendar for Tuesday, February 18th at 10:00 a.m. CST for our project kick-off webinar. Kim Philip and the client team from Grace Centers of Hope will join the web conference to share with us their goals and needs for this project. 
    • Recorded Webinar Recording: If you can't participate in the live webinar, the recordings will always be linked from the project website.
    • Client "Wish List": A Google Doc has been set up for the client to document major "wish list" items. It will be up to the project teams to review these items, and to work with the Project Manager and other Coordinating Designers to either incorporate these items into the design plan ... or not ... and to manage the client's expectations through effective communication. 
    • Project Discussion Board: While project team members are encouraged to determine their preferred methods of communication, a Project Discussion Board has been established to help facilitate "macro" project discussions, including a forum for team member introductions.
Next Steps: Beyond this first week of team introductions and kick-off discussions, we will be tackling our next set of design hurdles, including:
  • Team Design Plans: While the Project Description offers a high-level overview of the project, each of the 5 project teams is responsible for creating a design plan for the team that will guide the design and development of the team's project. The Coordinating Designers are responsible for ensuring consistency across the teams. The design plans will be prepared as Google Docs and are stored in the Google Drive Folder.
  • Ongoing Project Management: A major hurdle for any project is project management. This hurdle is larger for our group of geographically dispersed participants. As such, a significant focus will be to establish project management protocols. The Project Manager and Coordinating Designers will be charged with working with me (Jennifer) to tackle this challenge.
  • Project Updates: As project facilitator, I (Jennifer) will post periodic Project Updates on the collaboration website, including a weekly project summary and plan for the upcoming week.
  • Addressing the big project questions: At project kick-off, we have a lot of "big" questions ... just to name a few ...
    • How will we ensure consistency in designs across teams? 
    • How do we ensure we aren't duplicating efforts ... or missing important gaps? 
    • Where are we going to house the materials we create both during development, as well as when we submit our final deliverables to the client?
Questions or Comments?
Please contact me at with any questions or comments. I am so excited to get started!

Thank you, all!

Jennifer Maddrell