This week my group and I completed our team discussion. It was my first foray into the online group work realm. I was lucky to have a great group to work with, but I couldn’t help but wonder, at times, if there was a more effective way of collaborating with my group than just through email. Often times, we would be shooting emails back and forth about easy topics that could have been answered in a matter of seconds, but ended up taking days due to everyone’s work and email schedules. An assignment that could have taken an hour to do in person with a group, ended up taking a week to get sorted. So, I am wondering if the benefits of group work are outweighed by the inconveniences of a digital classroom.
The obvious advantages of group work include developing collaboration skills and the sharing of ideas; however, to take full advantage of a group scenario, synchronicity is almost a necessity to do it efficiently. The dilemma that arises is the main reason students take online courses, the flexibility. Despite the conflicting elements presented with online group work, it is a safe assumption that it will remain a dominant component in online courses for the foreseeable future. One must ask then, what tools are available to help streamline the group work process?
Of course, we are all familiar with sharing files on google docs and using skype for video chat, but there is a myriad of other programs available for group collaboration. A great resource for group tools is 20 Collaboration Tools for College Students. Although some of them are quite basic, many of them were new to me. A fair number still utilize synchronous aspects, which doesn’t help with flexibility, but there are a lot of options for sharing information in different virtual settings. Out of the 20 presented, Vyew caught my attention because of the speaking capabilities while viewing a document between all group members. Titan Pad is another intriguing site that allows multiple group members to edit a paper simultaneously. I have not had the opportunity to try either, but I look forward to the possibility when the next group project inevitably arises.