Articles on Professional Development

How to Design a Successful Project (c)
Yvonne Andres & Al Rogers, 1995

This article is based on "Telecommunications In The Classroom: Keys to Successful Telecomputing," first published in the Computing Teacher in 1990.

Check out our Hilites mailing list and Projects Registry for some great ideas.

Over the years, Global SchoolNet (Formerly FrEdMail) Foundation has evolved a number of guidelines and principles which have led to many successful collaborative projects involving hundreds of classrooms and thousands of students. Like many aspects of successful teaching, we have found that planning is the key to success.

The guidelines presented below have been validated in numerous highly successful classroom based projects on the FrEdMail Network. These guidelines, along with the template for writing you own "Call for Collaboration" will help guide you through a successful online learning experience with your students.

  1. Design a project with specific goals, specific tasks, and specific outcomes. The more specific, the better; the more closely aligned with traditional instructional objectives, the better. Avoid "sister school" and "pen pal" projects.


  2. Set specific beginning and ending dates for your project, and set precise deadlines for participant responses. Then, make a time line and provide lots of lead time to announce your project. Post your first call for collaboration at least six weeks before the starting date. Repeat your call again two weeks before the starting date.


  3. If possible try your project out with a close colleague first, on a small scale. This can help you troubleshoot and solve both technical problems as well as problems with the basic project design.


  4. Use the template at the end of this article to design your call for collaboration. Then post your call to our HILITES mailing list and we'll forward it to our international mailing lists for you. If you provide us 6-8 weeks lead time, we'll re-post it for you again two weeks before the project begins.

    In your call for collaboration, be sure and include:

    • Goals and objectives of the project
    • grade levels desired
    • how many responses you would like
    • contact person
    • Time line and deadlines
    • Your location and complete contact information
    • what you will do with the responses (The best projects provide some form of interaction; in any case, be sure you provide some form of "payback" to your contributors so they will have incentive to collaborate with you.)

    Also, be sure your call includes examples of the kinds of writing or data collection which students will submit. This is important to the success of the project.

  5. Find responsible students and train them to be part of your project. You're probably already doing this if you are using technology in the classroom. This will be a big time saver.


  6. At the conclusion of the project, follow through on sharing the results of the project with all participants.
    • If you publish any student writing, send a hard copy to all who participated.
    • Have your students collaborate on writing up a summary of the project, describing it, what they did, what they learned, and what changes they would make in the project. Post that message on the network for all to see (not just the project participants).
    • Send a copy of this summary, along with project proceeds, to your principal, PTA president, superintendent, and board of education president.
    • Have your students send a thank-you message to all contributors.

Below is a Global SchoolNet project template.

It will help you better market your project by giving your readers clear guidelines and expectations regarding your project. Teachers should be able to tell at a glance whether or not they wish to participate in your project.

Remember, this is only a template. Please feel free to change in any way which will best suit your particular project.

After describing your project in this format, send it to: We will re-post it on networks
around the world.

--------------------------START TEMPLATE-----------------------------
Please print and distribute this call for collaboration to teachers
you know who may be interested in participating.

Project:       Name of your project

Date:          1 line: Give the starting and ending dates of the
               complete project.  Leave at least 4 weeks before the
               start of the project to permit enough people to respond
               to your call for collaboration.

Purpose:       2-3 sentences: give a brief summary of the purpose of
               your project: What will students who participate in
               this project learn?

Subjects:      1-2 lines: State the curriculum areas which will be
               addressed by this project. Most projects are
               multidisciplinary... list as many as apply.

Grade level:   1 line: Indicate the appropriate grade levels for this

Summary:       1-2 short paragraphs: BRIEFLY describe the project. This
               paragraph should catch the interest of your readers. You
               will have a more detailed description later.

Number of participants: 1 line: Indicate the number of classrooms that
               you wish to work with.

Project Coordinator:
               Give your name and email address. You may wish to
               include your school mailing address and phone number.

How to register: Provide complete instructions for registering with
               you to complete this project. Don't forget to include
               your email address. You may want to request all or
               some of the following information:

        Your full name:
    Your email address:
           Your school:
        SCHOOL address:

    School voice phone:
      Home voice phone:
       Grade(s) taught:

               Hint: When requesting registrations, require potential
                     participants to be as specific as possible about their
                     intentions to participate. Many teachers will casually
                     agree to "participate" and then "forget" or "change
                     their mind" or encounter some other problem which
                     prevents them from fulfilling their commitment).
In addition to the above call for collaboration, you should consider
providing some additional details.  We recommend the following

Timeline:      Break down your project into very specific steps with
               dates, including starting and ending dates where
               relevant. This should in effect summarize all of the
               important steps of the project described below.

Complete project outline and procedures:
               Describe your project in greater detail. Make an
               effort to be specific regarding who does what: what
               the other teachers and students do, what you do. This
               description should give participants a clear idea of
               what you will expect of them, and they of you.

               This section may be one or more pages in length.