Teaching Project Management


Prof. Dr. rer. nat. Christiane Gresse von Wangenheim, PMP is doing a great job of teaching project management through games and class room activities. Many of the ideas described below are based on Dr. Gresse’s work.


1.       Introduction.

In recent times I have had the opportunity to teach Project Management for students in intermediate and final semesters of IT careers at the Instituto Tecnologico y de Estudios Superiores de Monterrey.  Now I want to share the educational experiences in this regard.

Because students have not graduated yet and hardly have the experience necessary to qualify for the PMP certification, the primary choice offered to them is to obtain the CAPM credential.  I think it is worth noting that the university encourages students to obtain several other certifications before the end of the study, such as ITIL practitioner.


CAPM Credential.

PMI says: that “PMI’s Certified Associate in Project Management (CAPM)® is a entry-level certification for project practitioners”.

“Designed for those with little or no project experience, the CAPM demonstrates understanding of the fundamental knowledge, terminology and processes of effective project management”.

It’s designed for less experienced project practitioners.

We know by this reference that as of July 2009, there were 8,976 active CAPM certified individuals worldwide.  PMI lists on its website the requirements to obtain the CAPM credential…

A secondary diploma (high school or the global equivalent)


At least 1,500 hours experience

       – OR –

23 hours of project management education by the time you sit for the exam.


Exam syllabus

The CAPM® exam is based on the A Guide to the Project Management Body of Knowledge (aka the PMBOK Guide).[3]

The Certified Associate in Project Management (CAPM®) Credential Handbook,[4] notes the distribution of questions from the PMBOK:

Chapter 1 Introduction (4%)

Chapter 2 Project Life Cycle and Organization (4%)

Chapter 3 Project Management Processes for a Project (11%)

Chapter 4 Project Integration Management (11%)

Chapter 5 Project Scope Management (11%)

Chapter 6 Project Time Management (11%)

Chapter 7 Project Cost Management (9%)

Chapter 8 Project Quality Management (7%)

Chapter 9 Project Human Resource Management (7%)

Chapter 10 Project Communications Management (7%)

Chapter 11 Project Risk Management (11%)

Chapter 12 Project Procurement Management (7%)

The exam consists of 150 multiple-choice questions with four answers per choice. The exam must be completed in three hours.


2.       Problem.

Rather than focusing on basic project management practices and skills, regular CAPM preparation courses try to give the student a fundamental understanding of PMI’s A Guide to the Project Management Body of Knowledge (PMBOK).

But, from my point of view this approach has a problem. Students can “repeat” all PMBok content with no real understand of the concepts.

So, the goal is to teach during a semester, all the concepts related to project management, not in a real project, but in the controlled environment of the classroom.


3.       Solution

The given solution is to teach project management concepts over the semester by using books, test simulation software, mind maps, study cases, project management simulators and games.

3.1 Books

“A Guide to the Project Management Body of Knowledge, Third Edition,” which is the official guide from the PMI it’s a must.

I recommend my students to use another book, specific for CAPM exam preparation.

3.2 Test Simulation Software

I also suggest them to take sample tests. There are many companies that provide online up to date, sample test.

3.3 MindMaps

The next resource for organizing the study process is the use of mindmaps. Teaching using Mind Maps allows me to get through to the students in a way that they can understand.

ThinkBuzan blog suggest 7 Mind Mapping Uses for Teaching (http://www.thinkbuzan.com/pl/articles/view/7-mind-mapping-uses-for-teaching), including:

Creating Handouts, as the inherent color, images and visually appealing layout of a Mind Map engages students instantly, making even the most complex topic easy to understand and interesting.

Encouraging Discussion and Independent Thought, as the nature of the Mind Map encourages students to forge links between topics as well as forming their own ideas and opinions, and Student Assessment, by encouraging students to express ideas and make self-evaluations.

 3.4 Case Method

The next approach is presenting the students with a case, putting them in the role of the project manager facing a problem (using the case method -http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Case_method- )

For this, we can use actually school work or cases presented by the teacher.

Again, this encourages discussion and Independent Thought and helps students to generate ideas.

3.5 Project Management Simulators

To actually gain learning experience I suggest the use of Project management simulation tools.

From Wikipedia (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Project_management_simulation): “this provides an interactive learning activity that helps to impart to students the PM competencies by confronting trainees with the situations and problems that arise in real world projects. Seeing the consequences of the decisions they make”.

For these activities we can use commercial simulators or classroom games. Commercial simulators include:

Sharkworld (http://www.sharkworldgame.com/aboutsharkworld.php)

Sharkworld offers aspiring project managers the opportunity to gain experience with several aspects of project management in an attractive and motivating setting. The game creates a convincing virtual environment in which projects develop in real time (accelerated). The player is forced to act to problems immediately and intervene properly. The game is propelled by an underlying suspense story. It deliberately blurs the line between reality and fiction, to form a lifelike test case for aspiring project managers.

Forio Poject Management Simulation (http://forio.com/sim-store/demos/harvard-project-management-simulation.html)

In this online simulation, you learn how to successfully complete a project initiative, while managing cost and time. As the project manager at Delphi Printers and Peripherals, you are tasked with managing a product design team to develop a new and innovative consumer printer. You define the project scope, schedule, and resources needed to complete the task.

Other simulators options include CalTrans Project Management Simulation: (http://www2.dot.ca.gov/hq/cpsd/PM_sim/) where you play Durka, new project manager for planet terraforming. You’ll get a stack of projects, and an interface to review data and communicate with team members and stakeholders.

3.6 Project Management Games.

In my last course, I prefer the use of Project Management Games:

The project management game (http://thatpmgame.com/). This game is centered on a common project management scheduling tool known as a Gantt chart. Basically the goal is to assign your staff to various tasks on the Gantt chart in such a way that the project is completed on-time and under budget.

This helps to understand the use of the Gantt Chart and how to manage human resources in the project.

Dr. Gresse work includes (http://www.inf.ufsc.br/~gresse/subpaginas/ProjectManagementTeaching.html):

Detective Game – what killed the project: Deductive tabletop game with the objective to monitor and control a software project using Earned Value Management.

Earned Value Management Board Game: Board game with the objective to monitor and control a software project using Earned Value Management.

Leadership exercise: Dealing with difficult people

Applying SCRUM: Welcome to SCRUMIA. Group exercise with the purpose to plan and execute a sprint of a hypothetical project applying SCRUM as part of a project management course.

Paper tower competition: Group exercise with the objective to monitor a project for the construction of a paper tower using Earned Value Management.

agile42 – The Agile Coaching Company (http://www.agile42.com/en/) offers many options, like:  Scrum Lego City (http://www.agile42.com/en/training/scrum-lego-city/ ), a game that let the student experience what it means to be agile, and the Kanban Pizza Game (http://agile42.com/en/blog/2011/09/23/kanban-pizza-game/), that let the student experience principles behind Kanban.

The site Games for pm learning (http://gamesforpmlearning.com/) has a tool that help us compare between many PM games available, including all of the above.



Ivan Rivera – Recived a Masters in Management of Information Technology by the Tecnológico de Monterrey and is a Certified Project Manager by PMI and Stanford University.  Ivan has over 10 years of experience managing projects with strong restrictions on scope, time, cost and quality, aligned to organizational strategy.  He has developed a strong foundation in business through various management positions in business services.