Building Virtual Teams’ Communication Skills

In all of the classes I teach teamwork is required. Usually it’s in the form of a Collaborative Midterm. Students in online classes consistently suggest that the online environment makes it difficult to do team work. Years in both settings have taught me otherwise.

When a World Literature student’s Process Paper included the following observation:

I learned that not only is it hard to communicate with others than over a website and not face to face but that if you get on the computer frequently every day that there shouldn’t be any problems!

I responded:

Notice how you ‘fix’ the problem of communication with frequent contact. This is no different from traditional group work. This suggests that the problem is not one of location, proximity, or context (class vs online), rather one of will, accountability and perseverance.

When another student in the same class wrote:

It’s much different than doing a project in a normal 16 week, in person class, where the group can communicate face-to-face and all objectives and ideas are much clearer.

I responded:

In what ways is it easier? People in traditional classrooms are every bit as likely to take control, slack off, choose confusion, fail to communicate, or be accountable as in an online class.

I’m sure someone has collected the data on this. In the meantime, the benefits of teamwork continue to outweigh the challenges of any given learning context. Those who did not earn full marks were invited to “revise and resubmit using Gocsik’s guidelines”.

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