Tuesday, March 1, 2011

Texas A&M Collaboration

My second online collaboration was with a group of undergraduate students from Texas A&M. I was more nervous about this conversation than my first one because I was in charge of organizing the date, time and location of our first meeting.Organizing the group proved to be challenging as it was difficult getting replies from students. An error that I made was leaving things open-ended, which may have held up proceedings. 

Once the scheduling was figured out and everyone showed up, it was time to begin our discussion. I found the best place to start was by asking the group what they wanted to get out of our discussion; that made it easier for me to steer the conversation. As the conversation got underway, I quickly discovered that part of my job would include keeping the students on topic because it didn't take long before they went off on tangents. A difficulty with online chats is that it's difficult to tell how people are reacting to the conversation because there are no facial cues to reveal what people are feeling. I just had to use their replies, or lack thereof, to help me facilitate the conversation. In the end, our conversation went well and I was very pleased when the students told me that after this, they were prepared for their assignment; I had done my job. Now that this first meeting is over, I am more confident moving forward with our second meeting.

Here are the lessons I've learned after doing this collaboration:
  1. Keep the time difference in mind. It sounds really simple but it's easy to think in terms of your time zone, which can make scheduling confusing.
  2. Provide deadlines. If you allow people to respond whenever they like, they usually respond slowly which makes it hard to get anything done in a timely manner.
  3. Keep the groups small. With larger groups, it's difficult to agree on a time that accommodates everyone's schedule.
  4. There is no such as a stupid question. It's always good to keep the lines of communication open because it prevents any surprises and you're less likely to forget anything.

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