Can we do it? Yes we can!
“Alone we can do so little; together we can do so much.”
– Helen Keller
Teamwork. Both Ken Haycock and Enid Irwin recognize how much we, as students, dread it. Haycock goes so far as to say that “working in teams seems to be the bane of every student’s existence.” We’ve all been there. A group project where we had to pull the weight of someone else who just can’t be bothered to contribute. After that, I think the idea of group projects is ruined. When I found out that there were group projects in both 202 and 204, I was horrified. How would that be possible in an online learning environment?
I scored above a 45 on the San Diego Community College survey, so in theory I am ready for online learning. But just because I am computer literate and comfortable online, does that really mean I’m ready? I know I have the computer skills. That was never a concern for me. I knew when I was looking I wanted to do an online program because there is more flexibility in scheduling. My only concerns with an online program (aside from group work) were self motivation and time management. However, I have found that when I am working toward something I love, I am extremely self motivated. I found during my undergraduate years that the classes I was most motivated to complete early were the classes that I was excited about. I know the end results of this program are to get my MLIS degree and work toward becoming a librarian. So motivation isn’t really an issue. But time management was a concern. I am not always the best at sticking to a certain time frame, but one of the first things I did once I started was create folders for school information and for each class. Then I bought a planner, and on the first day of classes I went through and added all of my reading assignments and homework due dates, and that has been one of the most helpful things I have to manage my time. I feel pretty successful at time management, I have the motivation to do the work, and I am extremely comfortable in an online environment. So while I know I can handle the setup of taking online classes, how does that translate to working in groups?
As Enid Irwin recognized, the lack of control is one of the biggest problems with group projects. Not having a way to meet physically perpetuates this lack of control we feel. Luckily, there are a lot of ways we can try to take back some control and learn to function as a successful online team. I think it all starts with communication. Both Haycock and Irwin discuss clear communication. As SJSU students we are lucky – we have quite a few resources at our disposal to communicate with other students. First, we have Blackboard IM. The group chat function is great because not only can we all be online talking, but we can save the transcripts. Next, we have Collaborate. We have the ability to have, and record, a group conference, we can use the whiteboard to get points across, and it is as close as we can get to physically meeting. Another thing we all have are gmail accounts. In 203 we all needed to set them up in order to use Google Docs, so that’s another easy way to communicate and easily share the work we are all doing together. In my group for 202, two of the members were editing our document at the same time, and found they were able to use Google Chat and discuss what they were doing, so we have decided we might use that for communication in the future – that way we can all make changes and talk while we’re doing it. Last, we have the discussion boards each teacher has set up for our specific groups, which is a great way to get the process going and get to know each other. Of course there are many web services that are available, like Skype, among others, that can be used for communication, but within our program, there are already 4 great ways to communicate.
I think one of the most important points Haycock made is that “effective teams start with self awareness.” How can you be a successful team member without knowing your limitations? Irwin also talked about the importance of learning the skills of the members in your group. One of the first things my 202 group did was list what our strongest skills were and where we felt we were lacking. It was helpful to get it all out there. I think Margaret Carty summed up group work nicely when she said “the nice thing about teamwork is that you always have the others on your side.” We need to remember that we are not enemies, and that we are all working toward a common goal. Teamwork doesn’t have to be scary or stressful.
There are many ways to prepare for online learning, and more specifically, working in teams. Both Ken Haycock and Enid Irwin gave us many great tips to get started, and I have found myself referring back to their lectures a few times since the semester has started. I believe I will be a successful online student, and hope to be a contributing member of some great teams throughout the course of this program!