As the culminating event of unit 5, we (small, student-created groups) had to turn in a written report and PowerPoint presentation about the social media platform of our choice.
I–like many of my program mates–have done the entire program online, which makes group work somewhat challenging, to say the least. Planning takes on a whole new level when one of your group members, for example, lives on a military base in Germany and the other two are in New York state! A challenge to be sure, but overall it’s been a positive experience. One definite positive is that having to “get together” with a variety of people who could be…well, anywhere…is that I’m starting to get really good at figuring out all the different ways to “meet” people virtually and collaborate on group projects.
Email is, of course, the easy way–we all have school emails and are supposed to be checking them once daily minimum. In my experience, though, it’s not the most satisfying way to communicate with your group, especially when you’re getting down to crunch time on your assignment. There’s often a delay, for one thing, between when a message is sent and when it’s received and/or responded to. Often all the members of your group aren’t on and responding to emails at the same time, and it can be frustrating if you have a specific amount of time in your day to devote to working on a project and no one else in your group is responding to your emails during that period of time.
What has worked best for my groups has been planning ahead for real-time collaboration through Skype and/or Google Drive.
Skype has been especially great for collaboration meetings. The bigger and/or more diverse your group is, the more challenging it is to find times that work for everyone, but it’s absolutely worth the effort. Being able to chat live about your project is crucial for making sure everyone’s on the same page and knows what their and everyone else’s responsibilities are for the project. It’s so much easier to have a discussion (or debate!) when you’re actually listening to your other group members–often much is lost through mere written communication, where it’s often easy to take what someone has said the wrong way or out of context. Skype group meetings, in my opinion, have really helped to bind my groups together and resulted in much better projects.
Working on projects as much and as long as possible in Google Drive has really helped too. Having one document–a paper or a slide presentation, for example–that everyone can contribute to individually on their own schedules AND all at the same time has really helped to keep my groups on target. The comment feature, which lets you highlight a portion of the text and then have a conversation about it–either in real time or separately–allows you to make suggestions and have discussions before changes are made and also often results in better projects in the end because of greater collaboration. If two or more group members are on the same document at the same time, there is also a chat feature that also enhances collaboration. The only downside to using Google Drive is that when you have to convert your final product to a different medium (most of our projects need to be turned in as MS Office products) you lose a lot of the collaborative functions of the platform because it’s no longer a Google product. This makes the last few days with that project a bit trickier.
For our 503 project, my group decided to take a look at Instagram. I was pretty happy with the choice, because it was one platform I didn’t know much about already but one I was definitely interested in. The bulk of our collaboration this time was done through emails and Google Drive. I’m pretty pleased with the results, though I wish I’d been able to wait for my voice to be back 100% from my recent cold before having to record my parts–time and grad school assignments wait for no man (or woman!), however.
What platforms have you used for team collaboration, and how have they worked for you?