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Failure as a learning experience

Home Forums Keeping on Track (Week 9) Why things go wrong (Activity 9.0) Failure as a learning experience

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  • #4717

    Hi all

    I found Thomas Cochrane’s paper and the other content in 9.1 brought back memories of one particular project I did a while a go. I won’t name the project to protect the participants but you will note there are more failures than successes. My role was as a freelance supplier initially of video content but I ended up writing some of the content where there were gaps and also providing the materials for evaluating user responses to the content. My opinions are as an outsider coming to the project for one year on a part-time basis at the end.

    Key successes

    The project launched and is online
    All stakeholder countries produced content
    The content works on the platform it was built on
    The project is innovative within its subject area

    Key failures

    The project was delivered late
    The quality of the content is not consistent across areas
    Pedagogical requirements were ignored by some areas
    No one seemed in charge
    The post project evaluation was not conducted by some areas
    There were unresolved disputes between different areas
    The content when constructed wasn’t actually used by many people
    Users feedback was not used to change anything
    The platform it was delivered on was very limited by the skills of the support staff involved
    An opportunity seems to have been missed to create a useful tool
    An initial requirements survey was not adhered to

    I’d like to also add that it was difficult coming in as a freelancer to a project that was in trouble and trying to backwards engineer in some structure. I don’t think that there is one person alone that is to blame for any issues. It was just a combination of different factors that compounded some initial failures.

    Personally I actually learnt a lot from this project.



    Sandra – thanks for sharing. We often learn more from mistakes than from things that run smoothly as you can then see clearly how the individual parts contribute to the whole – so I would agree with your takeaway message. I am sure that as a result when you are involved in a project you are more likely to ensure that the issues you raised as going wrong are addressed or acknowledged.


    Elizabeth – thank you for your comments. I think the whole project management area requires more support and training as often a diverse range of colleagues come together without having the appropriate support and resources.

    It is really helpful to see it here as a subject




    Thank you to those who have shared their experiences so far and encouraged me to reflect on a similar experience I recently underwent. I will keep the details sketchy as it is still undergoing development and will hopefully meet with success in the near future, but the project involved introducing a new programme of study.Interestingly, the failures came first but I am hopeful that the overall outcome  will show more success than failure. Here goes:

    Key failures:

    New programme not approved

    Key decision making personnel not consulted( lack of knowledge of processes led to this)

    Time wasted in creating documentation which was then invalid

    Marketing not pulled together into coherent whole

    Internal staff keen, external team resistent

    Duplication of resources

    Key successes

    Better working relationship for more diverse  teams involved

    Regular liaison and expertise identified

    Clearer picture of provision elsewhere

    More evident what our USP is

    Closer adherence to institutional processes and targets

    Joined up thinking- chance of success second time around

    Out of the frustration, a better programme has emerged with a potentially greater rate of success and more support across the institution- that has to be a positive outcome and sound basis on which to move forward,

    As others have stated, a painful but ultimately valuablelearning experience!

    Best wishes




    The success

    Jillian Pawlyn

    Hi Sandra FieryRed1,

    Yes I also went down memory lane – my blog post is here 

    This is also my last activity for ocTEL, thanks everyone… again….



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