Managing Scope Creep

2 years ago I was the head facilitator of a 1:1 program that was intended to develop an internal working body of knowledge on the administration, technical requirements, infrastructure shortcomings, and general how-to in our school with its own unique resources and context. On the recipient end (i.e. students and teachers), the 1:1 program was going to take place in two high school classes; Geometry and U.S. History. While many aspects of the project were fixed by a school calendar and the amount of students and teachers in those two specific classes (Portny, Mantel, Meredith, Shafer, Sutton, and Kramer, 2008), this did not stop the issue of scope creep (Laureate Education Inc., n.d.). And among all of the stakeholder groups involved (e.g. administrators, teachers, students, parents), the scope creep always came from students and parents.



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One part of the program was to pilot the use of interactive, digital textbooks as replacements for traditional, paper copies. We wanted to get feedback directly from students and teachers if the content, in a digital, multimedia form, was better received by the students. Another goal was the cost feasibility of using an iPad with all digital textbooks versus the costs presently incurred with shipping fees. This was positively supported by parents as even if there were no demonstrable learning benefits,; the single-form factor and computing power for virtually all school tasks and tools was an incredible benefit that parents would support regardless. As the program progressed, this is where the scope creep routinely came from.

We were able to demonstrate that we could provide students with a single iPad, secured from student tampering, and free of games and other distractions that the parents were highly concerned about. Eventually as they saw their students using the iPad as a tool, rather than an entertainment vehicle, they assumed it would be very easy to simply expand the pilot program’s textbook offerings to the students participating in the program. The logic simply was, we see that it works, so let’s just replace the rest of their textbooks with digital ones. This way the students won’t have to carry a giant load of books, just a single iPad which they already have. While our school had purchased some additional textbooks in digital form (and some students were in those classes), it wasn’t so simple a process to do which parents routinely did not understand.



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The act of downloading a book is relatively simple. But when other students in the class do not have the digital books, or supplied with an iPad by the school, suddenly it becomes an issue of inequity-making it easier for some students and not for others. The teachers in the classes out side of the pilot program did not have access to digital copies of the book as well, and as we discovered with the Geometry textbook, they did not match up perfectly with their analogue counterparts. Entire problem sets would be different, and we had no way to review this for the other texts. 

If the scope was increased, all of these problems would have been added to an already exploratory, learning process. At the same time, there was no realistic way that I, as the head facilitator, could have added more files to their iPads since I was working a full class load and trying balance to administrative tasks in my own prep time. 

While increasing the scope was impossible from a resource perspective, we still had to manage the students and parents’ expectations of it by routinely sending home letters about why it could not be done, despite it being possible. We understood their perspective and the positive motive behind wanting more, but we diplomatically had to remind them it would cause other inequities with other students, as well as more work that simply could not be completed at that time. This is what Budrovich (n.d.) described simply as not over-promising, and the notion that the good was the enemy of the best. Parents and students ultimately wanted a better functioning capability over a good one.



Laureate Education, Inc. (Producer). (n.d). Overcoming “scope creep”. [Video Podcast]. Retrieved from


Portny, S. E., Mantel, S. J., Meredith, J. R., Shafer, S. M., Sutton, M. M., & Kramer, B. E. (2008). Project management: Planning, scheduling, and controlling projects. Hoboken, NJ: John Wiley & Sons, Inc.