A happy ending.

Celebrate with champagne popping
Photo source: http://all-free-download.com

Our grade for the Virtual Team assignment was returned today and I am pleased that I received favorable feedback. I was fortunate to be paired with my classmate Fionnuala, who was both proactive and contributed significantly to the assignment. Despite some team members contributing very little to the assignment, we created a usable final document and developed excellent working relationships within the team. I think this assignment helped develop my social and interpersonal skills, emphasising their importance when working on an international team. In my opinion, it was an excellent learning experience for participants. It helped prepare students for international collaboration in the real-world.

It is difficult to believe that the semester is nearly over. Assignments and reports are slowly being submitted one-by-one. This semester’s assignments are enjoyable and encourage students to demonstrate their creativity by creating an e-Portfolio and podcast. I realised the importance of good project management skills, not only during the Virtual Team assignment but also by managing my other assignments simultaneously.

This blog assignment provided new sources of information which will prove useful when developing my Summer project. Part of this blog assignment specified creating a blog roll whereby I would link to other relevant blogs. My blogroll now contains links to numerous eLearning and design experts who share their knowledge freely, thus will be a helpful resource for me. I also tweeted these blog links to my Twitter followers for my EL6052 assignment, so hopefully they will also benefit from these blogs.

In hindsight, I should have created a blog when I first began this M.A., as it would prove beneficial to keep relevant links in one place. Creating a blog for my development project may be beneficial. It could act as a useful resource when writing my dissertation, highlighting any difficulties I encountered during development. It would also be nostalgic reading in a few years time!

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Nearly there!

Near mountain top
Photo source: http://www.pixabay.com

It’s the end of week 9 and the end of the semester is fast approaching. I have mixed emotions about completing this semester. Occasionally during this postgraduate course, I couldn’t wait to submit a report or assignment, whether it was up to the expected standard or not. I simply wanted to be finished with it. There is always a sense of relief when you receive the “Assignment submission” email from Sulis. I will miss the challenges that this course brought but it will be nice to return to “normal” family life.

I graduated from UL in 1999, anxiously returning fifteen years later to begin my postgraduate studies. Initially I didn’t know what to expect or whether I would be able to begin academic life again. I now know this has been the correct choice and one I am very proud of.

I am currently juggling five different tasks:

  • My weekly blog entry
  • Regularly updating my Twitter feed
  • Creating an ePortfolio
  • Preparing content for my podcast
  • My project proposal report

I enjoyed writing blog entries each week, however, all of my blog entries discussed my experiences throughout the virtual team assignment. In hindsight, I should have written other entries discussing this M.A., such as frustrations encountered and any positive experiences.

The Twitter assignment is an interesting one. Twitter is a social media platform I have avoided on purpose up until this semester. Honestly, it never appealed to me. I now understand the merits of it as a useful resource when researching the latest trends in your field.

The ePortfolio assignment is enjoyable and I will keep it updated after I complete this semester. The only difficulty with this assignment is having to brag about your best qualities. This is something that does not come natural to me or to many people I would imagine. I do see the merits of it, however, and the importance of selling yourself in the digital world.

My podcast script is still in its infancy. I chose my topic last week and plan to discuss my favourite sport and hobby…soccer. I look forward to creating this podcast and using Audacity again.

Finally, I am proofreading my project proposal report. At this stage, it feels like I have been writing this report forever. My meeting with my participants last week was fruitful and my report is almost ready for submission. Neither grammar nor vocabulary were ever a strong point of mine. Throughout this M.A., my biggest struggle was with report writing and it always took second place to any development assignments. Any aspect of the course that I found difficult, however, was always accepted as a challenge. I am now looking forward to the biggest challenge of my academic life during the Summer.

 

 

The stats don’t lie!

Finish sign
Finish line!

It’s week 9 and I am glad to write that the deadline has passed, despite the lack of collaboration, we submitted our document on time. Delivering a completed project on schedule may not always happen, especially when working on an international project. Factors such as time difference, cultural differences and communication issues can affect a project schedule.

I must say that we made the correct decision when choosing Slack as a collaboration tool for this project. Despite it being free software, it’s functionality met our requirements and was sufficient for use in this project. It also enabled us to exchange documents between each other, thus helping keep track of when documents were exchanged. This was helpful with keeping record of document revision.

I learned a valuable lesson about document revision control during this project. After we had amended the English version of document, our French translators were confused about which document version required translation. By viewing message history and documents exchanged in Slack, it was easy to establish the correct document thus saved our French project members having to redo their work.

Another feature I like about Slack is the weekly summary reports that it provides. These reports contain details such as:

  • number of messages sent
  • number of attachments exchanged
Slack weekly statistic summary
Spike in statistics!

It was interesting to see how an approaching deadline caused a significant increase in statistics!.

Disappointingly, there wasn’t an exchange of goodbyes upon completion of the project. After “working” with these people for a number of weeks, I thought someone may suggest connecting on LinkedIn, but that did not happen.

In spite of being a 100% online student myself, I did manage to build up a good working relationship with Fionnuala. Not only did we exchange queries about the virtual team assignment but also discussed our frustrations and delight about finally submitting our completed document!

Reinventing the wheel!

Photo source:  https://www.hcwbenefits.com

 

It’s Week 8 (March 15th), less than five days to go to submission. I didn’t expect to spend two hours last night creating a completely new document so close to the deadline. You may ask “Why did I do that?”, after all, this is a collaboration project!

I was frustrated. I simply felt that standards acceptable to some U.S. members would not be sufficient for submission.

Could their reasons be:

  • They do not like working in a virtual team.
  • This assignment may only be worth a small percentage hence they feel it is not worth the effort.
  • This is their first semester studying technical writing.

Considering the above statements, was it my responsibility to take the following actions:

  • Follow my gut feeling and create the document (English version) by myself. Have a backup document in case there is a lack of effort on the part of other team members.
  • Acknowledge that the assignment is only worth a small percentage and prioritise my other assignments.
  • In the introduction stages and through “small talk” throughout the project determine the strengths and weaknesses of all project members.

I had expected “lost in translation” difficulties when communicating with our French project members, however, I have been pleasantly surprised. Their English vocabulary is excellent and they can easily understand the content that is “casually” written in Slack. I understand that this may not always be the situation when working on international teams. You may have to carefully structure your sentences and choice of vocabulary used.

Another valuable lesson learned while completing this assignment!

Two heads are better than one!

Two teachers are better than one
Photo source: http://www.teachwire.net

It’s the end of week seven and we have one week to the submission deadline. Since the beginning of the semester, I have been keen to complete this assignment well in advance of the deadline. As it is difficult to know what workload other modules may bring, I feel it is important to get as much preparation completed in the early stages.

I have found this semester to be quite challenging due to a learning curve of using technologies such as Twitter, Weebly and WordPress, while also preparing a research proposal for a development project. Although Weebly and WordPress are relatively easy platforms to use, it does take time to familiarize yourself with the more advanced features of each. Due to work and family commitments, I do not get the opportunity to spend as much time exploring the potential of these social media platforms. Unscheduled collaboration time with your virtual team mates also impacts on this time.

A major failure of this project team has been our failure to agree or schedule a time each week whereby all project members would be online. This resulted in frustration for some team members and significantly affected project progress.

Having checked online numerous times over the last few days, I was patiently waiting for the final version of the translated document.  Finally, our translator Li, posted his translated document and offered to obtain screenshots from the French version of Facebook. I appreciated his offer of help, as I had not thought of requiring different screenshots for each language. I think this highlights how valuable a proactive team member is to a project. They can offer input or suggest requirements that a project manager may not have thought of.

I am hoping that all project members will be proactive in the final week, combining to produce a professional looking user guide.

On time departure from Paris……

Project Schedule Management
Photo credit: http://www.nutcache.com

In spite of a very slow start, this project is well under way and we are approaching the finish line. Persistent communication and encouragement has resulted in excellent input from both French and U.S. students. I am relieved to write these words now but did not foresee earlier in this assignment.

At the beginning of the project I was keen to reach this stage, the return of the translated document. I often wondered whether I would have to go into my attic and search for my old French dictionary from my teenage years! Luckily not, as Li and Marianne have returned a translated document to the team.

I am very impressed with the effort they made. I also appreciate Marianne’s mail stating it would not be feasible to return the document sooner, as per my earlier request to our translators. This has shown how important it is for all team members to have an opinion and to express that opinion to their team.

We must now discuss formatting options with Fionnuala and the U.S. project members. I believe at this stage there is a more positive feeling within the team and collaboration will be easier.

In hindsight, this virtual team assignment has been a wonderful learning experience. It has taught me that other cultures have a different approach to projects. Some team members may be reluctant to take a lead role or even be apprehensive about being the first person to post online (We are studying this topic in module EL6052 this week). Personally, I am hesitant when posting online initially, however, I become more comfortable as time progresses and become more open with my communication and expressions.

Roll on week 8………

Reactive or Proactive?

Proactive And Reactive Keys Showing Initiative And Improvement
Source: http://abhinavpmp.com

It’s Week 6 and our French team members are in control of the document. Time to sit back and relax?…..unfortunately not!Rather than wait for an update from our translators, it was time to be proactive.

I contacted the U.S. students in an attempt to improve communication among the team. I again asked project members if they would consider using a WhatsApp group. I think real-time communication is more effective as it may act as a reminder for project members. For example, if I text the group informing them I am online it may action them to join me. Email, however, is a passive technology as people only check email occasionally. However, I didn’t want to make people feel obliged to exchange mobile numbers, as it may not be customary to do so in their country. Doing so may have a negative impact on the project.

I also posted online, asking the group how they felt we were progressing and did they feel that there were any tasks we needed to work on. I feel it’s important to encourage others and be positive for contributions already made. This can entice them to contribute further to the project or in an ideal world, assume responsibility for the project!. Not with this project unfortunately.

As I posted online, Andrew replied immediately. I sensed some “small talk” might give me the opportunity to lead to my next big question…where are the graphics you promised last week?! This assignment has taught me the importance of carefully considering choice of vocabulary before posting online. Communication is bad enough already, I cannot imagine what it would be like if someone took offence to any of my posts!

The Translators are coming…..

https://www.howtogeek.com
Photo credit: Howtogeek.com

It’s the end of week five and I must say this semester is moving along very quickly. This assignment seems to be taking up a lot of my time, especially when trying to co-ordinate people’s efforts. Although I am repeating myself, it has been a stressful and frustrating experience so far.

Having assumed lead roles at the beginning of the project, both Fionnuala and I seem to be the only project members concerned about completing the document as our deadline looms. Despite previously attending workshops on campus at UL, I have not spoken with nor met Fionnuala. We have, however, developed a “virtual” bond as we both strive to finish this assignment. We suggested to the project group that we create a Whatsapp ™ group, however, only Fionnuala and I were the only members who exchanged mobile phone numbers. In hindsight, a WhatsApp™ group should have been created during the first week of this project. It would enable real-time communication, resulting in quicker decision making.

Most notably, our U.S. project members do not seem overly concerned about this project nor the impact of them not contributing to it. Andrew assumed responsibility for creating graphics and promised to upload a finished document last Sunday (Feb 19th), however, a week later there hasn’t been any communication from Andrew!.

As a result, we missed the deadline (Feb 20th) for sending the document to our French translators. Fionnuala contacted me early on Tuesday morning (Feb 21st) and asked me to completed Andrew’s tasks. Upon completing these tasks, I sent the documents via email to our French translators, also copying Fionnuala on the mail. Noting that the U.S. project members are on a break from March 13th – 20th, I asked our translators whether it would be possible for them to return a translated document in advance of these dates. My reason for this was both Fionnuala and I would be the only members available to modify the graphics and layout of the translated document before the March 20th deadline. The translators replied indicating it would not be possible as they were informed they have three weeks to return the translated document.

Understandably technology doesn’t always work and some people may be uncomfortable using collaboration platforms. Jenny reported that her university email address doesn’t work and to use her Gmail account instead. It seems so far on this project, the U.S. students prefer to communicate using Slack and the French students prefer emailing me directly. Perhaps the French students do not feel comfortable posting online when not using their first language. The project now lies in the hands of the translators and we wait for the returned document. Using my experiences of this project so far, I will be asking them for regular updates in case Fionnuala and I will need to translate the document ourselves!.

The more the merrier!

the-more-the-merrier

I am glad to report this week has been the most productive so far. With our Université Paris Diderot translators due to return to college next Monday, our priority this week was to have a draft ready for them upon their return.

An important lesson learned this week was that some people will not be proactive when working on a project. They may even be reluctant to assume any form of responsibility on their part when working as part of a group project. As a result, the workload must be given to other project members who already completed their given responsibilities.

boat

A project manager must be diplomatic when distributing these additional tasks to other project members who are already actively engaged in the project. It is important not to inundate project members who are already cooperative.

dont_upset_the_apple_cart_doormat-r144cdb4d5c2246e9892527f7a60bafd4_jigps_324

Within Team 8, both Fionnuala and I seemed to be the only project members keen to begin a draft of the instructions. As there was little activity on Slack I decided to email all team members. Jenny replied stating she couldn’t find an invitation to join our Slack site in her university email account. As a result, I also sent the invitation to her Gmail account. This incident reinforces the importance of gathering the correct contact details of all project members at the start of a project. This glitch meant that we were without Jenny’s services until this week, hence it impacted our schedule.

Upon completion of the second draft of my instructions, one U.S. project member, Andrew, offered to create graphics for my document. Katie also offered to create the graphics for Fionnuala’s document.

250px-a_rolling_stone_gathers_no_moss

By the end of this week, all project members had finally joined our group in Slack. Andrew also offered to take on Katie’s responsibilities, should she not be able to complete her tasks. Project members were now offering advice to each other and willing to take responsibility for project tasks.

I look forward to next week when our French project members return and we have a team full of collaborators!.

Momentum………..finally!

momentum-1

According to Newton’s first law of motion, “an object either remains at rest or continues to move at a constant velocity, unless acted upon by a force.” That law could also apply to our assignment. At the beginning of this week our collaboration tool, “Slack”, certainly lived up to it’s name as there wasn’t any contribution from either the French or U.S. students!.

Finally, there was contact from another U.S. student and also from the second French student….albeit brief introductions.

uphill-battle

It has been  a very frustrating week due to the lack of communication from the other parties, thus stalling our assignment. In spite of emails, posting in Sulis and on Slack, it seemed that both Fionnuala and I were going to be the only contributors to this assignment. A lesson I learned this week is that without having your full project team on board, decisions cannot be made and responsibilities cannot be assigned. It highlights some frustrations that may be experienced if working as part of an international team.

Although a project manager hasn’t been agreed upon, both Fionnuala and I are sharing the responsibility. In order to lead by example (and hopefully entice the others to take part), I created a Facebook account and documented the steps involved. I also added details of the various privacy settings options available. Once completed, I uploaded the draft document to our Slack site for all teammates to access.

50-useful-proverbs-all-english-speakers-should-know3.jpg

According to Logware, “you must strike while the iron is hot and keep striking”. On Friday, Fionnuala detailed the tasks involved for our project. As we discussed this on Slack, Andrew (U.S.) joined in the conversation. Initially his responses were minimal, however, by the end of the conversation he agreed to contact the other U.S. members and took responsibility for sourcing graphics. As the French students begin their week long break today, I suggested that we have draft documents available to them when they return on February 20th.  As we now knew our responsibilities for the forthcoming week, we signed off to begin our tasks.

In spite of the many collaboration tools available for use by international project teams, each project participant must be willing to partake, communicate regularly and perform their role in order for any project to gather momentum.