A recent job advertisement for an Instructional designer listed the following required qualification:
“Able to manage multiple projects simultaneously and work under ambitious
time frames in a fast paced, high-pressure environment”.
Judging by our assignments for this final taught semester, we will certainly be prepared for working in such environments. There are several modules underway, each with its own challenging assignments, and each one requiring a different skill-set.
This week saw the start of our virtual team collaboration. We have been charged with creating an instruction document in both English and French and will be working with students from the University of Central Florida and Université Paris Diderot.
While doing some research into virtual teams, I came across an interesting article this week in the UIE Brain Sparks blog. Misconceptions about Collaboration, written by Dan Brown, discusses people’s misunderstandings around collaboration. My takeaway from his article was that collaboration is about establishing a framework for making decisions and ensuring that each team member is doing the work for which they are best suited. This advice is particularly true when working in a virtual team. Having made initial contact with my counterparts in France and the US to introduce myself and to suggest possible topics, it is a case of playing a waiting game.
I am concerned about how a group of 8 individuals is going to collaborate across different time zones, languages, learning styles, organisational styles, personalities and communication styles. The uncertainty inherent in this project goes against my natural need for order. I take a systematic approach to assignments and this project is not under my control. Rationally, I know that the project is worth 20% of the final grade and shouldn’t demand a great deal of my time, but by the same token, I would rather commit to it fully and do it well. It’s an odd situation where you find yourself rationalising a less than satisfactory situation by telling yourself that the result doesn’t really matter anyway.
Apparently communication barriers, feelings of isolation, and a lack of rapport are all common in virtual teams. I hope that our team can avoid these problems, but as we have not yet received responses from some team members, I guess we will have to just wait and see how this project evolves. In order to progress the project, myself , Nicola (the other UL team member) and our French team members have been exploring various topics. However, there is a reluctance to commit to a particular topic until there is consensus among the entire group – something that can’t be achieved yet as we have not heard from everyone in the group. We are also communicating via Facebook, WhatsApp and email. By next week I hope we will have decided on one form of communication, as checking different social media may slow and muddle everything. Hopefully these initial teething problems will be resolved soon.
Another consideration for this assignment is that this is an artificial scenario. Yes, we do have deliverables and deadlines, but in a real-world scenario it is unlikely that team members would not make contact immediately. Our team is most likely composed of collaboration novices. Therefore this project is ideal for highlighting situations which may occur in ‘real life’. Better to confront the challenges of working like this on a low stakes project than in paid employment where your job is on the line.