Category: Collaboration

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.

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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!.

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.

Communication is key!

Communication is key!

Upon reading the Virtual Team assignment specification, I noted the importance of establishing contact in the early stages with other team members. Due to time differences and varying break times throughout the semester, I understood the need to establish contact early in the week. Using Sulis, I created a post introducing myself, however, the only other post was from my University of Limerick classmate Fionnuala. In order for the project to gather momentum and to gather input from other team members, I created two new topics in Sulis. Firstly, I asked for team member’s preferred choice of topic and secondly, I was keen to establish an agreed collaboration day and tool. I was hoping that by being proactive it may encourage responses from our international team mates.

slack

I suggested Slack as a potential collaboration tool for our team. Slack is a free tool that enables public or private visibility of conversations within your team. It enables communication amongst team members via direct messages, exchange of files and making individual or group calls. Fionnuala agreed to test it out, therefore I created a new team in Slack called “team8-global.slack.com”. In the meantime, Li Guan (based in Paris) posted in Sulis and also agreed to evaluate Slack as a potential tool. I sent invites to both Fionnuala and Li so that they could provide feedback.

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This week highlighted some issues that arise when working in an international team. Typically a team face-to-face meeting is not possible hence technology is heavily relied upon for communication.  In my opinion, the lack of communication issues highlighted the need to establish a project manager who will be proactive in the initial stages, ensuring everyone participates. According to Brett Harned, “if you’re not making a strong effort to communicate with your team, you will likely fail”.

I understand that I will need to persist with contacting other team members as it is impacting any decision making thus may impact assignment milestones. A lesson learned this week is that communication is key!.