Thursday, January 26, 2012
Dear ‘Cozy-Team’ Fellow-Members:
While the primary focus of Week Three has been to study the role of cultural differences in virtual education communities, I have also ‘discovered’ some important issues of secondary (for this week only) interest in the assigned readings.
In this post I am going to focus on the important question: ‘How can a group such as ours work best in this online community?’
In terms of successful group collaboration, I was impressed by the assigned reading that described a survey of online graduate students as to their ‘online team experiences, challenges, communication, social and cultural influences, and suggestions for improvement to the virtual team experience’ (Khalsa, 2010). I am going to reproduce here some of the quoted comments from the students. Please note that the emphasis is entirely mine.
“The team experience was such a joy, [and] the team members were able to communicate OFTEN, share ideals, [and] set GOALS and OBJECTIVES. The team members were extremely knowledgeable in their field of expertise and SHARED constructive criticism and positive interaction.”
“When deadlines approached, and TEAMWORK was needed, the process was clumsy, frustrating, and often times counterproductive. We did not meet our deadline because we had a very difficult time working TOGETHER. The frustration of the group didn’t improve until the topic of respect and trust had been addressed.”
“With my individual paper, I had greater CONTROL [over] the process and outcomes (content, research approach, writing style, editing, etc.). But I did not have input or other ideas or feedback … With the team paper there was corroboration, brainstorming and more support to write, research, and edit the paper. The challenge was to harmonize different points of view, writing styles and AVAILABILITY SCHEDULES. Doing this also trained us to work in groups, to be tolerant and supportive of the group.”
“Suggest a format for [team] members to reintroduce themselves with tombstone data, time zone, industry, restrictions [and/or] other commitments for the period.”
“Discuss the topic, workloads, and schedule [of each] team member.”
“[Seek a] common understanding of the requirements of the assignment.”
“Communicate on a daily or at least REGULAR basis.”
“Discuss a method of communication … Our group used too many forms and it caused delays.”
“Get the team to choose roles and communicate those roles BEFORE the work actually begins.”
“Ensure [that] the team members have a similar time frame for working on the course [since] some prefer early week [and] some prefer weekends.”
In conclusion, the above article listed the TOP PRIORITIES for ensuring successful interaction in virtual learning teams:
- Provide flexibility and democracy for choosing team members, topics, and group roles;
- Each student needs to provide the team tombstone data, time zone, industry, restrictions/other commitments, etc.
- The importance of GUIDELINES should be emphasized: this should include team norms and styles, a detailed timeline, a description of the communication PROCESS and FREQUENCY, rules of cultural etiquette, and DIVISION OF RESPONSIBILITIES (roles)
- A group leader needs to be clearly named even if the leader ROTATES from week to week
I think that we can function far more successfully as a cohesive group if we incorporate these ‘suggestions’ more fully!
David D. King