Learning project management is a complex process, because it requires to develop a high amount of hard and soft skills, good judgement in decision-making, problem solving, ability to work in cross-functional or cross-disciplinary project teams.
Real-life project environment dictates that developing these skills and competencies by learning only in traditional ways in universities and other academic institutions is not enough anymore.
The key is being able to create a self-directed learning environment which is as close as possible to the real environment where the knowledge will be applied. Combining contextual learning content, online business simulations and knowledge application in your own life can be a great jumpstart for beginners in project management.
Enroll in contextual online courses
These types of courses offer examples of real-world situations which demonstrate the relevance of the topics to the learner. In this way, the abstract project management concepts ‘make more sense’. They are embedded in the story and help students learn about them, creating clear connections and contextual meaning. For example, a course for beginners in project management “The Junior PM”. Enrolled learners watch a series of engaging animated videos which reaches them through methods and tools being used in the day-to-day life of a junior project manager. After each topic you have to answer some short questions with feedback to check your knowledge and retain the information better. The course gives a clear view of the responsibilities and practices of managing a real project: how to get support and communicate with project stakeholders, manage time to meet the deadlines, assign resources wisely, stay in control of the project, etc.
Play online business simulations
As a learning tool, business simulations offer a safe environment to practice project management online. Such games create a space of freedom to make wrong decisions and mistakes without having to face negative consequences and receive valuable feedback instead. It becomes an active learning playground where you can test yourself in confrontation to typical project constraints, pressure, risks and problems. Additionally to simulating the entire project flow in a very short time you can also develop awareness on importance of effective project management and informed decision making. One interesting simulation which can also be tried as a demo version is “Simultrain” where yo can manage your online project, take decisions under pressure and review your results.
Manage your life events as personal projects
This is especially relevant for total beginners in project management. If a person has never managed a project in a company it doesn’t mean he/she has never done it at all. What is a project anyway? You can manage your thesis writing process, organization of a family celebration, or holidays with your friends as a personal project. If you are learning about project management tools and methods, you can apply them in your own life and observe their effectiveness, follow the challenges you face while applying them, because it is possible that you will experience that while working as project manager. For example, you can use a Work Breakdown Structure to organize what needs to be done and a Gantt chart to schedule sequences of activities in your personal project and it will be way more valuable than just reading about them in the book.