Scheduling and Budgeting Tools for Instructional Designer Project Managers

One of the most vexing aspects of an instructional design (ID) project is accurately estimating schedule and budgets during the planning phase of project management. The project schedule and the project budget, when approved by key stakeholders and the project proponent, are tools used to track and monitor the project in terms of the first two of the “project triple constraints” of time, resources, and scope. The project manager (PM), their supervisors, and other key stakeholders use the approved budget and schedule as a baseline when measuring the project’s progress from initiation to delivery.

So what are some PM information tools that will help PMs accurately estimate costs, effort, or activity durations? For me, I am familiar with what is probably the “granddaddy” of PM automated tools, namely Microsoft Project™. MS Project has been around for at least two-decades as I recollect and maybe longer. Though MS Project has a wide range of powerful scheduling and budget estimation tools, the cost for this tool is somewhat pricey. Therefore, I focused my search this week on tools that were in the public domain as free or available at a low cost.

One of the free PM tools that caught my attention was LibrePlan. For starters, the name suggests its “free” cost attributes.  From Robin Muilwijk at Open, a tool with support for task management, resource allocation, tracking, Gantt charts, and much more. ProjectLibre is a good alternative to a commercial software product like Microsoft Project. (2014). On the actual website for LibrePlan is this description, “The open source web application for project planning, monitoring and control”.


One of the features that I liked in LibrePlan was the fact that it provides separate applications for project initiation, Work-Breakdown Schedule (WBS) builds, and resource allocation loads. These applications are titled – Project Lists,   Resource Loads Queue-based Resources Plan.  A great feature of LibrePlan is that these applications are linked and integrated – a feature that makes MS Project so effective for PM.

I am interest is AGILE processes as they relate to PM so another PM tool recommended by Robin Muilvick piqued my interest. Agailefant is a free, for up to five people, cloud based tool that is tailored for AGILE methods and processes.

Agilefantlogo                                Agilefant

One of the best quips on the Agilefant website was this testimonial, “Many project management tools only get used because of management enforcement. Front line code warriors like Agilefant, because it helps them instantly take control of their tasks and time.” (Agilefant, 2014). By way of clarification, Agilefant is geared for software designers using Agile methods; however, I feel that with some modifications, Agilefant would be an effective application for Instructional Designers in the distance learning field.


Muilwijk, R. (2014). Top 5 open source project management tools in 2014. Retrieved from:

MS Project (2014). Retrieved from

LiibrePlan Open Web Planning. (2014). Retrieved from:

Agilefant – Simple and Easy. (2014). Retrieved from


5 thoughts on “Scheduling and Budgeting Tools for Instructional Designer Project Managers

  1. Wow! Thank you Ralph. These resources are so timely for my current situation at work right now. I appreciate the fact that you started out with a foundational resources like Microsoft Project. I truly am just starting out and haven’t had a chance to engage with this tool yet. You gave me the opportunity to go to the site and search around a bit. I will bring this to my next facilitation meeting. We are just at the starting point of how to organize ourselves as a new ID team in a very traditional, conservative Fortune 500 insurance claims training and education department. I think these tools will be of benefit.

    I agree with you that free is always an intriguing eye-catcher. So, I appreciate what LibrePlan has to offer. While free will get you some information, I do see one would need to register for full access. I am having a difficult with my new job in that they do not want to support (financially) such things. So, I debate if I get it for myself and consider it an investment in my career or push my organization to move towards supporting this new team they have developed, but then squander around in my frustration from 9-5.

    Thank you for the food for thought!

    • Hi Z and thanks for the reply. Between you and me the applications and tools are great, but before I ever even enter one datum I first sketch out the “plan” on a whiteboard, legal pad or more often lately a cocktail napkin. Cheers!

  2. Ralph,

    First of all I wanted to tell you that I like your WordPress Template. I may try it our. I have heard Microsoft Project referenced many times over the past few weeks. I went to their website and spent some time exploring. I could not find a price. I would have had to fill out a sign up form to find out. It looks as though you can use it on a month to month basis. I assume that if I ever work as a PM the company I work for would provide me a license. I think I may like the product, but for now I am will be using free applications.

    • Hi Chris,

      Most of the vendors now, or at least the ones I follow, use a cloud-based subscription service for their applications and software. These subscription services tend to be lower cost and for me I like the fact that after your contract year is over, you have the option of moving on to another vendor.

  3. Hi Ralph,
    Thanks for sharing the resources you found. I normally skip over free resources unless they provide some value (or I just can’t afford a commercial license of similar software), but these look like they could be really useful. I will be checking these out for future use!

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