Sunday, April 13, 2014

Group Work - At a Distance

Over the course of MEd Program at Athabasca we have had the opportunity to work on a variety of course papers and projects in teams or small groups. I have been very fortunate to have worked with some excellent people for these assignments.  The following are some top tips for building a team, and working together effectively at a distance.

1. Picking the right people: 
While this seems like a pretty obvious one, there have certainly been instances where I didn't go through the due diligence and clearly ended up in a misalignment with my team. Your team is only as strong as a combination of your combined strongest attributes. You should begin by considering what the necessary attributes for a project are carefully and wisely.

While selecting team members there are a few ways to get tho know them...

  • Introduction discussion board, these are like mini advertisements for your possible team!  Check out their likes, and strengths to see what they put forward in that intro.
  • Student Profile, in here you may find a few more things about what they do, and what they have done to give you an idea if this is a good fit.
  • Write a few people to say hello!  I have done this a few times written members to get to know them a bit before spending several weeks writing a paper together!
2. Determining roles in the group:
Sometimes this is formal, and other times informal. But it is important to determine if someone can take the role of team leader, or possibly editor. For example in MDDE601 we were to present a paper to the class, we each took sections to summarize, and then one worked on the paper, another on the powerpoint and the third was the editor for both.  It was an excellent exercise and we were clear on our roles and what each one was to deliver.

3. Defining a communication plan:
For the same assignment we were to touch base every week via Skype. We had deadlines set, and work sessions planned and we would connect to review and revise the work together.

4. Selecting a data management system:
For the purpose of the same assignment we were using Google Docs which is now Google Drive. The primary advantage that Google Drive has was that we could all work on the written content together at the same time. So while one person was editing in one section the other team mates could edit in another section.  

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Putting it all together:
This came together rather well when working on the Systemic Analysis for MDDE603. I had a team mate from a previous class with whom we started the group, we worked together well in 601, so why break what isn't broken!  After looking through the introductions we chose to approach a third member to join out group. They were happy to join and that was the beginning of the journey. 

There were clearly two parts to this project so again we defined the roles, I worked primarily on Part 1, one team mate was primarily Party 2, and the third team mate was the SME and editor.  Given that we had two people writing a significant portion of each half, the editor's role was to review and revise the language and ensure there was a proper flow to the report. As well, providing us with the data necessary to proceed given that the report was on their operational unit at their college. While we were in one of our regularly scheduled Friday night Skype meetings, we could all be working on the one version of the document at one time using Google Drive.  The resulting report was 26 pages long, and earned our team a solid A+!

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