I’ve never been a leader. I’m more of a follower or maybe you would call it an observer. I usually sit back and watch what’s happening and then chime in when my help is needed. I like to think of myself as wiser and older, and I offer my wisdom where and when I think it’s most beneficial.
When I volunteered to be team leader for the final project in my first class at Franklin University, I surprised even myself. I’m not sure what made me do it. Maybe I was trying to impress or maybe I was trying to break the mold and do something different for a change. The final project is based on team-building. We were given a list of movies and asked to pick two from the list. The teacher then broke us up into teams based on our preferences. There are seven teams. Each one of the movies features a group of characters in various stages of becoming a team. For the assignment, we were asked to work together to choose a stage of team building we wanted to discuss and the roles that various team members play in the movie. Then together we come up with ideas for a PowerPoint presentation. The team leader puts together the PowerPoint slides. We then give the presentation live over the computer (with headphones and microphone). Each team member will talk and present one or more slides.
It’s been an interesting project. At times it’s been fun and interesting. It’s also been frustrating. My team (including me) is a group of four women. Three of the four of us get along great, and we’ve been collaborating and communicating. The fourth member is mostly absent. She professed to only checking her email once or twice per week. She’s only responded twice in four weeks. I was feeling bad about that and getting a little angry until we had one of our online MEET sessions last night.
The MEET sessions involve using a software system where the teacher offers various times, and we pick one that works best. Then you log in at that time, wearing your headset and microphone. It’s like an hour in a classroom over the computer. You can hear each other and see things on the screen; you just can’t see each other. The teacher leads the session and goes through PowerPoint slides. We respond either verbally or by clicking on things on the screen. It works rather well, and it’s new to me and kind-of unique. I like it. At my last online school, we never did anything like that. We recorded ourselves giving speeches and answering questions, but none of it was live. You did it on your own time and submitted it for later review. There was no interaction or immediate feedback. In last night’s MEET session, I found out that I am not alone in having communication issues within my team. In fact, others are suffering worse. One poor man is on a two person team and doing all the work by himself. His team member won’t cooperate. Another lady brought up the fact that she doesn’t check her email very often. She said, “When I signed up for an online class, I didn’t know I had to check my email every day.” I wanted to respond, “Duh. How did you think you were going to communicate online with other people?” It never ceases to amaze me how silly some of the comments are. Online educators are striving to be more interactive and less like a correspondence school situation.
A correspondence school usually mails lessons and examinations to a student, and the student does all the work on their own time and then mails it all back in. I seriously think some (socially awkward) people are expecting that same sort of situation. I am finding here (and at my last school) that there are people who wish to remain anonymous and don’t like it that the school isn’t promoting that type of environment. I think at one point in my life I might have preferred that myself, but I’m proud to say I’ve grown (and grown up) some.
I did pick up some helpful tips last evening. Most classmates found that communicating with each other by email isn’t always working. In the age of cell phones, most people text message each other. It’s more responsive. That is one thing I am going to try with my recalcitrant team mate. I do have her cell number. We also have the option of using the MEET software, and I’m trying to set that up. The teacher also suggested that as the end of the assignment draws near, reluctant team members often surface, eager to participate and be graded for it. I am hoping that she is right.
The next component to the project that I will struggle with is the peer evaluations. I know one team mate who will not score high in terms of communication and cooperation. I am just hoping that my team mates are not too harsh on me as a leader.
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