In this Case Study the key issues which have been highlighted are things like the virtual team challenge. Usually there are a lot of expectations surrounding team-based work. It becomes even more challenging when a team is working 26 days in a month from geographically dispersed locations. It becomes quite difficult to also hold virtual meetings. The study also digs deep into a team working virtually and looks into compatibility with computing platforms. The report however, does not stop at these challenges and instead provides solutions too as to how these issues can be dealt with.
This memo actually emphasizes on the idea of the challenges a team faces when working together virtually and also discusses about the ways these challenges can be resolved.
The report presents a certain case of Jake Santora who has got himself into an Executive MBA program. He is in a learning team with a lot of different other people who are pursuing the course from different locations. Now, Santora has his concerns about working with so many different people in a team as he believes there are always a lot of expectations from the group work.
Thus for him working with a team is quite a challenge in itself. Firstly, there are challenges with technology. The team members use different computing platforms. While some use windows-based software others are into Apple computers. With different operating systems there is bound to be a problem in case of group assignment where one needs to merge together the results. Secondly in a virtual platform there will always be problems of passing and sharing information. The biggest challenge perhaps for the team was to determine how to share documents in between them. In a team assignment, members usually need to make contributions all at the same time and therefore email is not the best solution. The ones who provide email service tend to limit the maximum data that can be sent through mails. Also, sharing a work online can always lead to duplication and errors.
Thirdly there is always an issue on how the team would coordinate its work over a period of time. Some of the assignments are usually one off projects with short deadlines and might be managed after one or two meetings. However, there are other works which are huge and can easily go on for the entire duration of five months. Team members thus need to have a mechanism to manage all these data and timelines and keep them accountable and updated.
Exhibit 3, features Popular Synchronous Communication tools which are used for effective communication for people residing in different geographical locations. These are common online platforms where if somebody has access to internet he can come online and attend a meeting. The challenge here is that not everyone can be available all the time owing to their locations and change in time. Exhibit 4, on the other hand is the collection of popular asynchronous storage solutions which let people store data online. These are huge online storages that can hold massive files. Here too, one needs an internet connection to access each other’s files. These can be used by team members at any place, any time according to their convenience.
A team can use storage tools in Exhibit 4 to complete a written assignment. All the team members need is the same user id and password. Once they have that they can access the storage anytime and continue with the assignment. Usually in online storages like these the date and time of the last update is also given and therefore a team member knows who all were handling the assignment prior to him.
To coordinate their activities better team members can opt for the project management services given in Exhibit 5. All four of them, Basecamp, AceProject, Mavenlink, Smartsheet are relatively easy to use and are free for the first month. Excepting Mavenlink others are quite stable on mobile platforms too which make them accessible from anywhere around the world.
Except these, Microsoft Project can also be used as it is quite easy to set up and use. However, it does require a lot of maintenance from the project lead once the fractions of assignments start pouring in.
The Solutions For the Challenges
There are challenges which can crop up while working with a virtual team but then there are quite a few solutions to those.
Like for example sharing information can be done through synchronous meetings. These can be held in person using Ivey’s space in Toronto or by scheduling them in the workplaces or homes of team members. A face to face meeting is always more desirable as it allows for the passing of nonverbal communication cues such as body language, eye contact, smile and handshakes. Also, the team can obviously use online tools such as Skype to hold meetings.
Mixing meeting types can get difficult with some members of the group talking face to face while others are connected via social media. However, in this case this is likely to be the way forward in terms of meetings. The third challenge that the team needed to overcome was to find a way of asynchronous document sharing. For this case a Dropbox or Google Drive can be used to resolve the matter. Both are online platforms where documents can be stored and shared.
Next, there were concerns about how the team would coordinate work overtime. The solution to this might be a ‘master’ Excel spreadsheet which can provide real-time updates to the people working in the team. Also, there are additional virtual tools such as online chatting, screen-sharing, instant messaging, co-browsing, collaborative writing, white boarding, private social networking, web presenting and even real-time 3D collaboration.
Factors Which Need to be Considered for Team Based Activities in Educational Programs
The project leader from the very beginning had said that working in teams in educational programs usually creates a lot of problems but then there are advantages too(Lightner, Bober and Willi, 2007). These teams are very crucial to the course. Firstly the team helps in bolstering an individual’s own effort and confidence. When members are working alone on a project they tend to lose focus from what they are trying to achieve as they do not have anybody to consult with. Therefore the there is no one to judge if he is doing it wrong or right or whether he is achieving the desired results. When the same person is working in a team he tends to get appreciation from his team members for the hard work he puts in (LaFasto and Larson, 2001). These praises helps him gain more confidence and he focuses more on getting the job done in the right manner (Fransen et al., 2015).
It also helps all members prepare for the classroom experience. Students in this particular program have already completed their studies and are in placed in different companies. They are geographically dispersed across the world. This is a program where students have to pursue a course online and unless they feel they are a part of this they would not be too focused on the assignments they have to complete to get the degree (Bennett and Kent, 2017). These students therefore are brought together in groups where they are put into a virtual classroom with others (Martin, Parker and Deale, 2012). These students thus have a platform where they can exchange ideas and thoughts which help them in completing the projects successfully.
There are obviously a lot of challenges which affect a team who are sharing an online platform for work. Communication is perhaps the biggest problem in these cases. However, nowadays there are a lot of ways to cater to these problems. Though the team head believes it will be quite a tough challenge to overcome, he has a lot of tools at his disposal to make life easier for himself and for his team mates. Together they can turn into a cohesive unit if they can build trust-based relationships.
Bennett, R. and Kent, M. (2017). Massive open online courses and higher education.
Fransen, K., Steffens, N., Haslam, S., Vanbeselaere, N., VandeBroek, G. and Boen, F. (2015). We will be champions: Leaders' confidence in ‘us’ inspires team members' team confidence and performance. Scandinavian Journal of Medicine & Science in Sports, 26(12), pp.1455-1469.
LaFasto, F. and Larson, C. (2001). When teams work best. Thousand Oaks, CA: Sage.
Lightner, S., Bober, M. and Willi, C. (2007). Team-Based Activities to Promote Engaged Learning. College Teaching, 55(1), pp.5-18.
Martin, F., Parker, M. and Deale, D. (2012). Examining interactivity in synchronous virtual classrooms. The International Review of Research in Open and Distributed Learning, 13(3), p.228.