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:
- 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.
- 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.
- Keep the groups small. With larger groups, it's difficult to agree on a time that accommodates everyone's schedule.
- 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.