Scope Creep

I’ve been a language learning textbook writer for over a decade now, and I’ve written about 20 books, all of which have been designed to teach the English language. Several years ago, though, I moved to Thailand and noticed that there were not any good Thai language learning books or programs on the market. I started doing some research and found a set of old Thai children’s story books. The books were written by the Thai Department of Education back in the early 70’s, and were used as grade 1 to 6 reading books in the public school system. They are no longer in print, and there would not being any copyright issues.

maniI didn’t speak, read, or write the Thai language, but I was confident that with my knowledge of the language learning process I could use these books to design a Thai language learning program for non-native speakers of Thai. So, I got the help of a local university professor and Thai teaching specialist to begin teaching me the language.

Simultaneously, I would be using my new linguistic knowledge coupled with my old pedagogy knowledge to design a proper language learning program. What I came up with is the two-book Thai language learning series you see to the left.

The idea was to learn to read and write the language before learning to speak it, the reason being that people need to learn how to pronounce the letters of the alphabet before trying to speak the language (not everyone agrees with this). Anyway, I designed the books with that underlying assumption.mani-1

As the books came together, I decided that having old-fashioned paper wasn’t enough, so I decided to make a computer program that would help with learning vocabulary and pronunciation. I chose the BYKI learning platform and designed a computer-based learning program that went along with the books. At this point I was aboutmani-software a year into the project and had spent a considerable amount of my time developing a product that was just about ready to be released.

Still, though, I thought that it needed one more thing. The computer program I had designed was not online; you had to load the software on your computer and use it there–somewhat old fashioned, I thought, so I decided to make an online component to the course that would be more relevant in today’s marketplace.  Including an online section would also allow users to learn the program on more than just laptop and desktop computers–they could use mobile phones and tablets too.

mani3So, again, I increased the scope of the project to include the creation of a new language learning website. I have quite a lot of experience designing websites, but making an interactive language learning website proved beyond my skills and I had to enlist the help of some professionals! Eventually, though, the site did get built.

Unfortunately, the scope of this project was nowhere near done growing. I had made a big mistake in the beginning assuming that the original story book series taught the entire alphabet in the first of the 6-book series–that’s the problem with writing a language learning program for language you know nothing about! I later found out that new letters of the alphabet continued to be added up until the third book of the series. The 2 workbooks I created were only based on the first story book, which meant that in order to teach the entire alphabet, this 2-book series would have to be turned into a 6-book series!

Today, about 3 years after coming up with my initial project idea, I have finally completed the full 6-book series! I have not, however, had the time, mostly due to completing this master’s degree, to finish the online and software-based parts of the program, so the ever growing project is still not finished!

As this project is a personal one, my  poor research and planning have not upset any clients or caused any big financial loss. Still, though, it has cause me a few headaches, and I really hope to put a stop to the scope creep and finish it soon!

mani-55

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3 thoughts on “Scope Creep

  1. Hi Ryan,

    This is such an ambitious project and not only because of the addition of those software and online components, but because it is a whole new world, new language, with a different alphabet. I would like to develop an elearning course to prepare students pass the IELTS test that is so important for international students here in Australia and also for people applying for visas to stay here. But I’m not sure if I’m ambitious or if it is within my possibilities to do something about this. It would be like in your case a personal project.

    I never heard about that BYKI platform but I’ll check it out.

    Thanks for sharing your experience. I hope you blog later on about the progress.

  2. Ryan,
    I really enjoyed reading about your project. I do hope that the outcome of your project is successful. It is very important that before starting a project we do research and speak to individuals that have had similar experiences for some advice. Seeing that the scope of your project got bigger, of course the timeline will be expanded. It’s great that you haven’t suffered from any great financial lost. I do wish you the best of luck on completing your project.

  3. Wow what interesting work Ryan. As I read your post all I could think about was the budget. I t would certainly be interesting to see how the budget expanded as a result of the continual change in scope. I recently work on a project where we were unable to produce our work product within the budget established in initial project documents. Much to my surprise the client was so happy with the end product that the budget was not how they defined the success of the work. I have a feeling that you feel the same about the project described above.

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