How to deliver better project management training online

Learning activities for a memorable experience

Is this a real challenge?

In today’s world, there is no doubt that we live in an increasingly digital age. With so many people working from home or remotely, it has never been more important to be able to effectively manage projects. 

Project management is an essential part of any business. However, delivering effective project management training can be difficult. 

So here’s my question for you: Do you want to deliver BETTER project management training online?

If you answered YES, take a look at these ideas on how to deliver online project management training that sticks.


To be more specific we are going to address LIVE training, that type of training where the trainer conducts learning sessions in synchronous mode to a group of 10 to 15 participants.

Executive Summary

In this article, we will discuss some tips on how to deliver better project management training online and we will touch base on the PM Starter Activities pack (1) a set of activities that you can run using Colltrain to support project management training delivery. 

Honestly speaking all of these can be applied to a certain degree to any type of remote training. 

Nevertheless, I consider that this approach may even be more useful for PM training or for technical and management training in general as very often the ratio of content to be delivered per time unit could feel overwhelming for many. 

That ratio could lead to a poor overall experience, the sentiment that the training is rather theoretical than practical, and here and there partial or full disengagement among the participants.

The tips for a successful remote training delivery

These are my four tips for you to create a successful online project management training.

Tip Number 1

Offer participants the opportunity to know each other.

After a two-year Pandemic, we’ve learned how crucial that step is. No connection between participants leads to withdrawal, fear of embarrassment, and the reluctance of taking lead or playing roles during breakout rooms. On the contrary, when participants get along, the degree of collaboration skyrockets and the learning experience becomes memorable.

Tip Number 2

Simplify the content

A lot of content could flood the space making people get lost and lose control of their learning journey.

Strive to present just the essential information. Everything else can be read by the participants at their own pace outside the training room.
People just hate somebody that does PowerPoint reading. It adds no value and it is a waste of time. Try to make a summary and stick to key ideas and messages.

Tip Number 3

Make it interactive, grow the engagement

Add team activities and games to the basic content in order to boost experiential learning. Run activities that infuse FUN but at the same time expose participants to key concepts like role assignment, the importance of planning, team and stakeholder collaboration and learning from mistakes. While some people learn by doing others learn by observing their teammates and reflecting on their way of doing things.

Tip Number 4

Unleash team learning

Infuse the training with team activities followed by the debrief sessions. Encourage participants to take a leadership role and coordinate team activities. Don’t forget about adding the observer role. One has the chance to play the role of a catalyst in another participant’s learning journey.

This could be the secret to a unique experience for the ones that discover it for themselves.

The tools

Experiential learning activities designed for Project management training

Let’s see what tools could be used to support these four strategies.

Connecting people and topics

PM Interview

A pair discussion where participants discover each other’s experience with project management, relevant connections with real-life activities that can be seen as projects and share their personal secrets when it comes to working productively with people. After participants get back from breakout rooms they introduce each other to the whole group.

Why is it appreciated by the participants? 

  • Lower stress
  • They feel appreciated when they are presented by others
  • They discover how similar their experiences may be to the ones of others

How does it support learning objectives?

  • It gives the trainer the opportunity to introduce key characteristics to the project manager role
  • It provides an opportunity for a smooth transition to introducing the training agenda 
  • Increased level of energy

Successful vs failed project

Success is relative to specific situations but there are some very easy to recognize and often seen signs of it. By contrast, some time is easy to make an inventory of the success factors by taking a look at why the projects fail.

Why is it appreciated by the participants? 

  • No good or bad answers
  • Participants enjoy brainstorming like activities
  • They have the opportunity to share their own beliefs about what could lead to a successful project.

How does it support learning objectives?

  • It connects the participants even better
  • Participants co-create for the first time
  • You start to recognize the leaders inside the group
  • Participants work for the first time using the platform (colltrain.com) so they overcome the fear of technology. 

PM concepts discovered through experiential learning

Four magic letters

A very engaging experiential activity using a set of letters similar to Scrabble, but with a little twist – participants are asked to define a process of producing the highest achievable number of four-letter words, in rounds of two minutes. The focus is both on results and on defining a replicable process. They play in rounds and step by step the experiment with planning, execution, retrospective and implementation improvements. Usually, they improve on their initial results so the debrief is very generous in terms of insights. 

Why is it appreciated by the participants? 

  • The format of the activity adds a little bit of competition between the teams
  • Observers report a “first-time” experience of high value

How does it support learning objectives?

  • Without any previous lecture, participants are able to outline concepts like assuming roles inside the project team, planning, organizing, 
  • Some of them focus on the value of team collaboration, some on the importance of defining a good solution right from the start
  •  Increased level of energy and the “shock” that online training can be fine too

Project Brief

A summary description of the project co-created by the team. As the participants are provided with a set scenario, they are able to co-create an initial formulation of the vision, benefits, the initial list of deliverables and objectives and last but not least the project approach. The use of a predefined format to ease the development of the project brief.

Why is it appreciated by the participants? 

  • They make useful connections between the current formulation and what they are using now (for example – Project Charter)
  • They understand why these topics are key to creating a common understanding among stakeholders
  • For many of them, this is their first opportunity to formulate the project’s vision 

How does it support learning objectives?

  • It covers the specifics of this topic
  • It creates the foundation for the project simulation
  • It sparks the conversation around how detailed the writing of the Brief should be in relation to project specifics

Risk assessment matrix

A practical activity to experiment with how to evaluate the probability and impact of the risks for a certain project scenario. 

After the risk register is developed assigning low, medium and high values makes it possible to prioritise them according to their score.

Why is it appreciated by the participants? 

  • Risk assessment is very often neglected in many organisations so it is a joy to see how it’s done
  • There is a certain magic that surrounds the topic so being able to see how to get  agreement on probability and impact inside the group is rewarding in terms of experience


How does it support learning objectives?

  • It covers the specifics of this topic in terms of practicality
  • It offers good opportunities for discussion related topics: the importance of prioritizing risk management tasks, how risk aversion of the group can influence the final assessment
  • It enables the topic of risk management strategies to be applied to each case

Learning value realization

Better Project manager

Let’s reflect and share

Participants work with sticky notes to make an inventory of what can help them to become a better project manager. Great activity for training closure.

Why is it appreciated by the participants? 

  • They are allowed time to think conscientiously and come up with their own perspectives on what could really help them to work better in their role
  • They can draw inspiration from what others are sharing looking for similarities and differences
  • Their own story is getting crystalized and self-confidence is developing

How does it support learning objectives?

  • It provides increased retention
  • It closes the learning cycle
  • Clears up the short memory buffer pushing valuable knowledge to long-term memory

Elements of Value (A, x3)

Evaluating and consolidating a shared understanding

As participants are challenged to work in small groups (2-3) the open discussion helps them get a better understanding of the elements of value they acquired during the training session by looking from three different perspectives.

In many ways, you achieve something similar to what you get by running “Better Project manager” but these ones can be run between sessions as well.

Conclusion

In conclusion, online project management training can be more effective when supplemented with the right activities, following tips and using the right tools for collaboration and team learning. By following these guidelines, online PM training can be more beneficial for both students and instructors.

Make Online Training More Effective with the right PM training activities

Start exploring project management starter pack (1) now!

About the author

Marian Stirbescu has been providing project management training and PMP exam preparation training since 2005. He loves making complicated topics easy to grasp and enjoyable by using experiential learning. He has developed these activities in Colltrain so other trainers can make project management training online a better learning experience.