Our group met. That may not sound like big news, but it actually is. This is the first time all four of our group member met at the same time in the same place. Earlier meetings had two or three of us – this time all four.
Although Thomas and I started an idea, it was important that we all have input to our project and much of our time was spent assuring all ideas were put on the table. I am rather certain that nearly all group roles Sitearm discussed were manifested in our meeting (lasting 1.5+ hr). Members requested information and opinions, planted new ideas, clarified information, as we all tried to coordinate and shape this information into a presentation outline.
No group work is easy, and there is often disagreement – but that is one reason we work with others: to get new and different ideas. The trick is to discern between them, then mold them together. We tripped along for a while and found our way to an outline we agreed upon for the presentation. Details to come later (and I don’t want to give away our presentation).
One difficulty in coordinating virtual group work is communication. How do we effectively share information among group members separated by space and time (and time zones). We have tried e-mail and some posts in Facebook and a few Tweets. Last night we agreed that Facebook seemed to work best for everyone. I, however, will be redundant and share information in all of the channels to help assure it gets to everyone in a timely manner. No, I do not consider it “overkill.” (If you “follow” me you will see that I Tweet about this blog post and slap it up on my wall in Facebook. And if you “follow” me, you will see other messages that may be cryptic to you, but my group members will understand as we continue to share information.)
Sharing information is also a difficulty with face-to-face groups, but in a different way. In virtual groups (or any virtual communication) the “media richness” affects the communication. When not face-to-face, fewer cues, particularly nonverbal cues, are shared in each message. Since it was one of the first times we met, we also had to develop our relationship as group members – part of our “forming” stage. Sharing the information in our meeting helped with this, but, again, the computer mediated communication slows this process. (Some argue it helps in building relationships, but that discussion would be a tangent to the current post.)
We could not use voice (sorry – my technical difficulties when connecting to SL from a large USA university – kinda ironic, isn’t it?), so we conducted our meeting through chat in Second Life. (No wonder it took 1.5+ hr you say… Yes, that was part of the issue.) Messages shared had to be repeated, clarified, reworded, etc., in order to convey the complete meaning and assure that others understood. This not only takes time, but opens the door to misunderstandings. Yes, believe it or not (he says ironically) (adding the text cue here because you cannot see and hear the nonverbal and paraverbal cues to indicate irony in the statement when typed), we did have some misunderstandings. Trying to clear these up takes time.
We took the time to resolve most; we did come to a group agreement on the general theme and some divisions of information for each member to present; we did decide on a time for out next meeting.
So progress was made! We had a successful meeting.