How can students (and lecturers) at University effectively collaborate in teams in a secured environment, communicating, co-ordinating and aligning their efforts in a way that prepares them for and reflects the methods used by businesses?
It’s not news that most work today gets done in groups. Since I have started my Master’s in Public Administration in September I have had fourteen assignments (it’s an intense course I know!), six of which involved some sort of group collaboration. Anyone entering working life today will find the tools of the job in a state of extreme flux, breaking the barriers of ‘ownership of a task’ where individual workers will complete their job, in favour of sharing tasks and simultaneous group editing.
Last week we had to prepare a large group debate. The task was assigned on Friday, the debate was on Tuesday. As usual when doing these kind of postgraduate courses, people try to juggle studies with other projects and only two of the five members were in class. We had to review examples of regulatory policies from different countries, answering three main statements from the point of view of Consumer Associations. Not a problem.
First thing was for those in class to inform the rest of the group of the details of the task, and that we were in the group together. I find that for brief, rapid communications, WhatsApp is the best solution. Bear in mind that it doesn’t have the highest levels of security, so I always make sure to only use it strictly for conversational uses and avoid sharing anything confidential on it.
Via WhatsApp we were able to agree on what to research and assign a task to each one of us.
The next challenge was to allow everyone to do their work over the week end without ruining anyone’s plans. Cloud technologies can really empower groups’ needs by allowing anyone to contribute at a time that suits their schedule. Sharing a document on OneDrive was key to make this happen.
Whenever I accessed the documents I could see who was editing it at that time.
And thanks to Skype for Business, I could easily start a conversation, chat or video call with them by simply clicking on the Skype logo on the top-right.
This feature allowed us to hash out our ideas and finalise our stance the night before the debate, allowing everyone to contribute to the work around our busy schedules.
When to use what
I think the main point here is understanding when to use what application. Although it has a poor record of compliance with data protection law, WhatsApp is great for quick communications with a team. OneDrive for Business on Office 365 is better suited to sharing documents on a secure cloud, given also that your IT team can help you retrieve lost versions of your files (this is not always possible on DropBox, or with others we’ve tried). Finally, Skype for Business is great to share your screen, video chat and generally have a near-real-life experience as if we were meeting in person – and we can give each other feedback on our presentations skills to camera!
Educators need to feel confident about these apps to implement them in their teaching curricula. If you’re interested to learn more, please get in touch with Hable to arrange a workshop. We can discuss with your senior team how to unravel the whole potential of Office 365 and design enhanced learning experiences for your students. And of course we can collaborate with you to tailor the content to your organisation’s needs!