Projects vs. Operations

blog image

In the world of instructional design, it is important for the designer to recognize when a potential job is a project or an operation. What’s the difference? “Projects are defined as temporary endeavors with a beginning and and end. Once you have completed all of the steps in designing, developing, and delivering the training program for the launch, your project work would be considered over, and operations would have begun” (Cox, pp. 6). In thinking about the ADDIE model of instruction, it provides a clear beginning and an end. It starts off with an analysis, works its way through design, development and implementation; and finally ends with an evaluation of the whole project. Operations hold a more permanent place in whatever environment they function within. “Operations are defined as permanent endeavors that produce  repetitive outputs. Resources are assigned to operations are expected to perform basically the same set of tasks according to the policies, procedures and guidelines that you put in place for your business” (Cox, pp. 6). In the case of ADDIE, the development and use of operations might come from a project.

So, let’s take a few minutes and look at what projects and operations might be in the classroom. Let’s take a look unit within a curriculum:

Unit: Illuminated Manuscripts

Major Summative Assignment: The students will be creating an original illuminated letter for a class-wide illuminated alphabet book which will be distributed to the local elementary schools in the district. (Each class will be making a book, so there will be more than one created.)

Project Aspects: The whole process involved in making the illuminated alphabet book falls inline with the ADDIE model, and here’s how:

    • Analysis: The teacher will analyze the curriculum, the students capabilities and skill sets, the desired outcome, etc.
    • Design: The teacher will design a model that meets the needs determined by the analysis and addresses the goal of the unit.
    • Development: The teacher will develop a differentiated lesson that uses the designated model to achieve the goal and desired outcome of the unit.
    • Implementation: The teacher will implement the lesson in the class. The students will create their illuminated letter for the illuminated alphabet book.
    • Evaluation: The students and the teachers will evaluate their work, and the overall project, making sure assess the success of the overall unit.

Operation Aspects: The teacher will utilize the classroom management and instruction practices they have developed and refined over the year. The students should be acquainted with these, and have a clear understanding of what the expectations are in the class. For example, if a student misuses a material, the process is a repetitive one. The teacher would provide the same consequence for each student who misuses a material. Another example would be the presentation of the lesson. In the art classroom, there is always some form of demonstration before the students use the materials. Therefore, this process is also repetitive, and in intended to be similar in procedural outcomes.

If you look at any business, school, or home life, I bet you can find projects and operations. We are involved in them non-stop! However, it is important to understand the difference and know that they both serve a purpose and affect one another.

Before you head out, check out these links, they shed some additional light on the differences between operations and projects.


Cox, D. (2009). Project management skills for instructional designers: a practical guide / Dorcas M. T. Cox.. Bloomington, Ind.: iUniverse Inc

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Google photo

You are commenting using your Google account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s