Just 2 weeks ago, I was a complete newcomer to not only the world of PMO, but virtual courses entirely. Having worked in retail for the entirety of my student life, the idea of diving into a new industry was both intimidating and exciting! As a recent graduate, the thought of 5 days of online lectures was a harrowing throwback to my worse-for-wear Wednesday morning 9ams, but despite my apprehension, swapping coffee cup markings for the many acronyms of the PMO was informative, entertaining and challenging – all the preconceptions I had!
I enrolled on the PPSO (Project and Programme Support Office) Essentials, a fantastic entry-level PMO qualification pitched with graduates in mind, as it requires no previous knowledge or experience. (Although I was secretly apprehensive I would be surrounded by PMO geniuses!) Despite my nerves, I promptly downloaded Zoom and prepared for 5 days of virtual learning.
Getting Ready for the Virtual Class
We began on the Monday with a tech-check, ensuring both our cameras and microphones were working, and ensuring that the wealth of online collaboration tools used such as Miro, Trello and Menti were accessible to all delegates. These small, yet significant, levels of support definitely made all the difference; although we were not in the traditional classroom setting, we had on-hand support for the duration which was very reassuring, especially for those of us who are not particularly tech literate (thanks Melissa!)
Before the course began, I was under the (false) assumption that we would simply be logging in, listening to a lecture-style delivery, and covering pages of reading as homework. The reality could not have been further from the truth – the virtual nature of the course did not inhibit the creation of an interactive environment so pivotal to quality teaching and learning.
Group Interaction and Discussion
Eileen, our trainer, ensured group participation and discussion throughout, encouraging us to ask questions and provide input as to how we could apply the course content to our everyday work responsibilities. Furthermore, the functions of Zoom were heavily utilised – we were regularly divided into ‘Breakout Rooms’, in which we were able to complete group activities on Miro and Trello, allowing delegates to share ideas between each other, discuss real-life application to the content and contribute to an online flipchart – for example ‘sticking’ virtual Post-it notes on discussion boards. Such boards were steered by questions ranging from “What is control?” to “How do you make mashed potatoes?” (Believe me – there are so many more components than you could possibly imagine!)
Bangers and Mash
The use of real-life examples, such as that of making sausage and mash, believe it or not, help to illustrate how we can unconsciously adopt practices of the PMO in our everyday, non-work related experiences. We discovered how to use activity diagrams by ‘cooking dinner’, we explored risk management by ‘painting our hallway’ and approached the business case by ‘building a wall’ brick by brick. My concerns about a purely lecture-based course were completely misplaced – we were able to establish a great rapport with each other, address any concerns we had, and partake in stimulating activities that helped solidify our knowledge. The mock exam questions between each section were presented as mini-quizzes on Menti, leaving us thoroughly prepared for the type of questions we’d be tackling in our exam.
Despite my prior assumptions of the delegates being PMO experts, I was pleasantly surprised at the diversity of experience between delegates – from those just beginning their PMO careers to others looking to establish a PMO in their organisation, to absolute beginners such as myself. The PPSO Essentials course can be a great start for novice PMO professionals, as well as a dive back into education after a break, whether that be five years or fifteen. The variety of our experiences only enriched the group discussions, and we were able to apply the course content in contexts we could all understand. Furthermore, the structure of the course follows an easily digestible structure, broken down into very manageable modules including ‘The PPSO in Context’, ‘Business Case Techniques’ and ‘Quality Management’, making it impossible to sit the short exam feeling unprepared.
So, what’s the verdict on my first experience of a virtual PMO Learning course? Well, thoroughly impressed! This course challenged my previous perceptions of boring online lectures with no room for questions or group interaction and has proven that despite COVID-19 posing clear challenges to providers of education, virtual experiences can be just as rewarding and informative as those that take place in a classroom. With a great trainer, enthusiastic delegates and an internet connection – PMO certifications are just as accessible as they were 6 months ago, even in a global pandemic.
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