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Villanova Friday: The conclusions

Villanova Friday logoFor the last 8 weeks I have been taking the Maximising IT/IS Team Effectiveness course with Villanova University. I’ve been blogging about my experiences of the virtual learning environment in this series.

Over the years I have tried classroom courses, a weekend project management courses and distance learning. The Villanova experience added to the range of learning methods I have tried. Here are 4 things I learned from the course.

1. You have to be disciplined

You do need to make time to listen to the lectures and do the exercises. It is very easy to get sidetracked, or to conveniently find something else to do. I benefited from having made the commitment to blog about my activities weekly. This gave me focus and a deadline for my weekly lectures.

You could replicate this by having a study buddy, or creating a study schedule. You may also be able to study at work, so you could block out time in your calendar each week to listen to the lectures (with headphones) in the office.

2. Watch the time zones

The majority of the course was delivered via pre-recorded lectures and personal study. Once a week there was a ‘live’ session hosted by one of the lecturers. These were scheduled to fit around the lives of working Americans.  As dedicated as I am to professional development, I did not want to stay up past midnight to join the sessions.

Listening to the recorded sessions was not that easy either. For example, in one session someone had trouble with the audio equipment and wasn’t able to make her point. It felt like there was a lot of chatting about the software.  This is fine if you are in the room and the discussion means something or affects you but it wasn’t valuable to listen to after the event.

If you choose to do a virtual course with ‘live’ elements, make sure they are at a time that you can actually participate. You will get much more out of the sessions by joining them in real time.

3. Audit your investment

If I had paid for an employee to do a virtual learning course, I would be auditing how many hours that employee had dedicated to learning the material. There is nothing to stop you from skipping sessions.  This course was a certificate course and although there were concepts that were new to me, the content was not at an advanced level.

Consequently, the fact that I missed out the lectures in Week 5 and didn’t take all the lectures in Week 2 made no difference to my ability to pass the online tests.

An employer could spend a lot of money on this course only to find that the employee has passed but not truly benefited.  Equally, you could spend a lot of money on the course and also cheat yourself out of a proper learning experience.

Project mangement certificate

My Villanova certificate

4. Access to course materials

I am no longer able to access the online course materials. Luckily, Villanova provided all the material on CD and print outs of the slides in three bound books. This is a great reference for the future. The books will act as an index for the CD so that I can quickly find interesting lectures and play them again.

Check with your online course provider that you will have access to the course materials in some format after the course has ended.

Would I take an online course again?

I would take an online course again, and I would take one with Villanova. I found the staff at Villanova professional and easy to work with. The course materials were well-produced and were delivered quickly.

If I took a virtual learning course again I would make better plans to have more time for self-study.  Overall, the course was interesting, well-delivered and useful.  And I passed!  My certificate came very quickly, with its own frame.

I was offered a complimentary place on this course. My thanks go to Villanova University for the opportunity.

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About Elizabeth Harrin

Elizabeth HarrinElizabeth Harrin FAPM is a professional project manager and award-winning blogger behind A Girl's Guide To Project Management. She's passionate about demystifying project management and making tools and techniques work in the real world. She's also the author of several books including the PMI bestseller, Collaboration Tools for Project Managers.
Elizabeth lives in the UK with her family. She uses her organisation and project management skills at home, and also to help other bloggers at Totally Organised Blogging.


  1. gypc_dave says

    4 April, 2011 at 12:21 am

    Congratulations on finishing the course, Elizabeth. I completed an entire MS in IT, specializing in project management, online with Capella University. It was an interesting way to spend all of my spare time for a year and a half, and I agree that you have to be disciplined in order to be successful with any online program. It can be difficult to catch up if you fall behind, and I saw more than one classmate drop out after a few courses due to time management issues.

    • Elizabeth says

      5 April, 2011 at 10:58 am

      It is so time consuming, isn’t it, to study in your spare time. It really takes dedication, and support from those around you. Congrats on your MS – I’m not sure that I now have the discipline to do the same, as I found this 8 week stretch plenty.


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