Month: March 2017

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………