Wednesday, 24 December 2008

virtual leadership - lessons from the module

Reflecting on the assignments from this first run of the Module (ok I promise this will be the last mention of assignments), I have been caused in turn to reflecton my own leadership of this virtual team of learners.

One observation is that this of course isn't a team at all but a group as although each student aims to complete and pass their individual assignment, they do not have a common aim or common task to complete as a team.

As the "leader" I supplied the task ( the assignment) and resources to complete it in the form of learning materials, but some individual interpretation of that task was permitted.

Participation in any group activities was therefore entirely voluntary: there were neither rewards offered nor sanctions imposed for not participating.

The only performance management activity undertaken by me was to monitor who was participating in the Discussion Boards and wiki, but the criteria for assessing participation - or team efectiveness - were not transparent.

Individuals were not directly superivised unless they requested a coaching or tutorial session, though I did write to those who appeared not to be participating to check they were able to access everything OK.

I guess that on the one hand my leadership style could be described as laissez faire - I allowed them to work in whatever way they appeared to choose (but without enquiring as to what actually did suit them best...). On the other hand, I tell myself, I am simply treating them as adults who are responsible for their own learning.....

The results then are interesting:

Over half of the group achieved a very good or excellent mark for their assignment. The majority of these were also actively participatory in Discussion Board, Wiki, chat room and tutorials. One could conclude that participation, self-awareness, organisational skills and high achievement orientation went together.

Curiously though, about 1/3 of this "very good - excellent group" had had no contact with me or with one another. They displayed all the same levels of self awareness, application, and achievement orientation without ever having functioned as part of a learning "team". Clearly these were highly self motivated and required little direction to keep them on track - perhaps these are the ideal Virtual Team members?

Of the half of the group in the satisfactory or good range of results, most made little attempt to participate in group work beyond introducing themselves initially: variously they were afflicted by technical difficulties and onerous work demands. Some however missed out important sections of the brief - but by not asking for at least a personal tutorial, they did nothing to help themselves, which was a missed opportunity.

And then there were a couple who appeared not to have particpated at all in the module; did not refer to any of the learning materials or recommended reading resources and did not offer any reflection, but nonetheless submitted a half decent offering albeit working entirely to their own brief.

I can now reflect on this and think of ways in which I could improve the learning experience (and my leadership role) - say by offering marks for Discussion Board participation and wiki contribution to enhance motivation and clarifying the criteria by which performance will be assessed.

However, the really fascinating thing for me is that these results have a lot of parallels in work "teams" - especially where a "hands off " leadership style is being employed and the purpose or overall aim is neither fully articulated or regularly measured.

For a start there is the social crew (they are never alone!) who organise birthday lunches, send one another funny emails and turn up to every team meeting, but nonethless work really hard to further the group's overall aim, which is something they believe in fervently.

Those lone stars who rarely interact but whose work output is high and whose contribution is original, creative, and occasionally pays great dividends for the wider organisation.

The worker bees who attend for the contracted hours and ususally come up with the goods but give team meetings a wide berth, suspecting them to be "soft and fluffy claptrap". Most likely to be flustered by technology or overwhelmed by the amount of paper on their desks (or under it, behind it, etc)

The most worrying of course is the maverick who ignores any direction from the centre, shares nothing with colleagues (information is power afterall!) works only to further their (largely personal) ends, and keeps just enough this side of the "law" to avoid sanctions.... a very difficult one for any leader to manage.

If you recognise anyone here, please believe me, this blog is not based on any actual person, either living or dead.....

Tuesday, 23 December 2008

A year in Twitters (well six months)

I decided to do a trawl back through my Twitter posts for the last 6 months (yes I am only a baby bird: started June 25th 2007). Why did I start using Twitter, what do I use it for and what benefits (and problems has it brought?) The following are just a few samples from my own Tweets.

The downside:

  1. Overload: the more people you follow the more tweets you receive and it is essential to get them into some sort of order: I use Tweetdeck which allows me to put followers into groups and track messages just meant for me. I also switch off @replies. I guess I may miss things, but I’ll just trust the Twitterverse to come up with what I need…

  2. Spammers, scammers, wannabe pornstars and other scuzzy types – but hey you can ignore them and block them

  3. It’s addictive. Switch off from time to time…..

  4. Anxiety when Tweets are not replied to – what does it mean???????

  5. It all gets a bit self regarding at times…
    @hallymk1 the debate about twitter groups rages on 2:22 PM Dec 11th from Netvibes in reply to HallyMk1

Tweeple I follow and why….

Craig552uk: he works at DMU, his avatar is a cute kitten, he blogs about paper cutting and computer code and he’s witty: my friend WeaverMiles “introduced” me via the DMU Twitter group

AJCann: microbiologist at Leicester University, blogs about e-learning and education – occasionally grumpy and ranting, always interesting

Ken Thompson – probably the biggest single Twitter influence on the Virtual Leadership programme and my blog postings. Great website rich in resources at

Sarah Horrigan – edublogger works at Nottingham Trent University; unaffected, self effacing, sensible and good natured blogging *sighs* (with relief and delight)
C4LPT – I followed Jane Hart’s blog and 25 Tools Ning Community before I followed this Twitter microblog. Always up to the minute and full of juicy titbits.

Timbuckteeth: edublogger, wrote some interesting stuff about use of wikis which has influenced my thinking about next year’s course

Redstarvip – punchy, unpredicatable, provoking.

CajunTechie – misleadingly named techie (he lives in Oklahoma) – we met via Seesmic: unofficial social networking and techie mentor (whilst I reciprocate with tips about salsa)

HallyMk1 – all round great guy, mentor in all things e-learning, works at
DMU, edublogger of note, social networking advocate and YouTube vlogger

Sfpeaky – my boss. Nuff said.

Things I have discovered through Twitter:
Random stuff

Discovering random stuff on Twitter is one of the best things about it: not a week goes by (barely a day) when I don’t come across some really useful, bizarre, amusing or just plain random stuff

1. #mewhensmall day: 22nd Dec 2008, someone set up this hashtag and spread the word that we should change our avatars to baby pics. I loved it and joined in:

2. RT gracias a @redstarvip: UN's New Year's Resolutions 1:36 PM Dec 9th from web
3. now we know what Twitter is for 2:26 PM Dec 8th from web (study on procrastination)
4. Thanks to @redstarvip: - very funny and also slightly disturbing 1:59 PM Dec 8th from web
5. experimenting with twittercal 1:06 PM Oct 14th from Netvibes

Juicy “e-learning” learning: My Top Ten (in no particular order)

This is why I really stay with Twitter: it is full of e-learning gems form the multitude of educational bloggers who inhabit the Twitterverse. This has been so useful for me in my own blogging, development of my module on Virtual Teams and as a PGCE student:

1. RT @TheTransitioner: Great resources on Building community with Ning. A slideshare, voicethread and more.. about 16 hours ago from TweetDeck

2. RT @HallyMk1: "Social needs induce users to jump tech hurdles" [everyday in every way I find something cool on Twitter] 6:15 PM Dec 17th from TweetDeck

3. the trouble is I am always finding something new and interesting: courtesy of @c4lptnews 10:18 AM Dec 9th from web

4. @tsurutsuru thanks for the follow and this great link! retweeting here... 4:07 PM Nov 29th from web in reply to tsurutsuru (collaborative learning study)

5. @redstarvip this is what's exciting me right now 9:52 AM Nov 26th from Netvibes in reply to redstarvip (M Wesch on Youtube)

6. this is very interesting: 10:37 AM Aug 14th from Netvibes (also M Wesch)

7. @timbuckteeth and anyone else forgive my typing: that should have been for the wiki post 4:04 PM Nov 21st from Netvibes in reply to timbuckteeth (stages of wiki development for e-learning)

8. Howard Rheingold video on vlogging, seesmic video in education [from] 10:16 AM Oct 23rd from Netvibes

9. enjoying this wiki I discovered about creativity in HE.... 2:20 PM Oct 9th from Netvibes

10. RT @sfpeaky you might find this interesting from @HallyMk1Horizon Report 2008: 7:50 AM Dec 10th from TweetDeck

Other useful things to Tweet about

Work related: keeping my boss informed.
It was my boss who introduced me to Twitter as a way of keeping in touch because I work out of the office a lot. It lets him know what I am working on and we can pass each other little messages about current commitments and ideas. It’s a good social tool too: we can’t “bump into” one another if we are not in the same physical space, but we can virtually when reading one another’s posts. We have tried to interest other members of the team, but not had much success there….

@sfpeaky RT @markhawker: "Our NHS, Our Future" online follow-up from Lord Darzi's Next Stage Review(s) 10:25 AM Dec 16th from TweetDeck in reply to sfpeaky

@sfpeaky Here's a thought- a step on from Ning community maybe? 4:31 PM Oct 31st from Netvibes in reply to sfpeaky

@sfpeaky,@tesstrace reviewing Bb for FLM next year with Euan, completing on line induction, writing oD leads newsletter, sorting out cohorts 2:20 PM Aug 7th from Netvibes in reply to sfpeaky

Blatant self promotion:

I admit to using Twitter to get interest in my blog, to get feedback, to promote the module I am teaching. To feed my need for recognition- Discovery is the new cocaine:

just posted: virtual team module reflections 10:10 AM Dec 19th from TweetDeck

e-learning programme for leadership: celebrating the first year in operation! 1:12 PM Oct 17th from TwitKit

posting wiki assessment criteria and self and peer assessment guidance: students response to new form of assessment is very enthusiatic! 12:25 PM Oct 19th from Netvibes

pleased I finished the article what I wrote (sic) about web 2.0 in leadership development. 12:47 PM Oct 10th from Netvibes

making a Jing screencast about my students' first wiki!! my entry on the Top Ten tools for e-learning. 10:12 AM Sep 5th from Netvibes

@sfpeaky yes and added myself to elearning professionals Twitter directory: time to get serioso..... 6:14 PM Oct 20th from web in reply to sfpeaky

Passing on the stuff I have learned/found elsewhere:
@stujohnson those twitter tips I promised: and 3:19 PM Nov 27th from Netvibes in reply to stujohnson BT adoption of social media. 2:02 PM Sep 27th from Netvibes

posted by one of my students: 10:08 AM Sep 10th from Netvibes

this is am-aaaa-zing!!!!! 5:04 PM Sep

Chatting to friends
About the weather, news, traffic alerts, my social life, listening to music ( , sharing photos ( , making jokes, posting videos…….

My first post:

discovering twitter, writing a newsletter for MHSC providers, proofing an e-earning programme that goes live in 2 months! HAVING LUNCH : 0 12:51 PM Jun 25th from web
My last post:

Thanks to everyone for the follows, and for letting me follow you …..
and here’s to a Happy New Year!

Friday, 19 December 2008

Trust and communication

image by Nick in exsilio

Marking assignments could be a chore but I feel as if I am witnessing the results of some very interesting action research projects and listening in on some very thoughtful and at times profound reflections on what it is to be part of a dispersed or virtual team.

First conclusion I come to is that working remotely is nothing new in the NHS and certainly not in Scotland. In particular Community Health practioners of all disciplines have long been used to working away from base and their managers have had to be creative about managing such teams even before the advent of mobile phones.

Secondly, for such teams, mobile technology doesn't get much better than a mobile phone (Blackberry if you are lucky) and access to collaborative spaces like blogs and wikis is a pipe dream when you are constantly out on the road. Text messaging is essential for quick updates and social networking. (See also Ken Thompson on Bio Teaming: )

Thirdly, building Trust is the foundation stone for all virtual teams. Without Trust communication breaks down, messages get misinterpreted and more mistrust abounds... a vicious cycle.With trust, teams become more creative and more productive, and the leader trusts them more, and the team trusts in the leader more: a virtuous cycle. And what builds trust? Communication.......

Fourth - communication requires structure: netiquette is helpful and aids clarity, regular messages from the leader to all the team maintain a sense of belonging and being kept in the loop, having a place to find and deposit information for and by the team is helpful (a shared drive, a wiki, an intranet space - some sort of virtual noticeboard)

Fifth - training is needed to ensure everyone communicates in the best way for the team. Students came up with some intriguing ideas - putting a Christmas e-card on a shared drive to see who could access it; organising a Chritmas social event via the team wiki; getting the team to design and manage the induction of a new team member so s/he could get quickly immersed in the team norms.

I have also paused to reflect on my own experiencing of managing a virtual learning group - specifically one set within the Scottish NHS.

Technology is difficult and unstable: not everyone is able to access the Wimba classroom we set up so remote sessions of the normal classroom style were not a great success. Not everyone has webcam, headset and mic.

However chat on Blackboard worked well: it could equally be Skype or MSN chat. OK it was like herding cats at times, but the students enjoyed the "meeting" space and it added a much needed social dimension to the module. We covered topics related to the assignment and students shared ideas with one another about team building, developing trust and improving communications.

To inject a bit more of a personal element into the process I set up a video introduction (early in this blog) and used Jing from time to time to teach about the technological aspects of the course. These were well received. I think on reflection that podcasting would really add something here. Regular updates on key topics could be posted so that students could access them in their own time - again mostly out of work time so that NHS firewalls don't block media.

I have also since discovered - and gained access to - a community space within the NHS Scotland e-library where a discussion board and document sharing space could be set up specifically for this programme. This could provide the answer to the firewall problem and would leave students with a legacy - a space where graduates could continue to meet after the end of the programme and which they could colonise for their own work teams' use, instead of having to try and set up their own wiki with all the attendant access issues. I think there is an important learning here about using the avialable technology and what is already familiar!

My own e-learning coach asked me to think about what more I could do in terms of "teaching" on this module.....

I am not keen to lecture - with Wimba or podcast - and the evidence suggests that the learning materials on Blackboard are well accessed and provide a sound basis from which students can tackle the assignment.

Providing a space where they can discuss their responses to that material seems to me to be the key - but instead of the activities we currently have, I think the discussion boards would be better used in

  • getting students to read articles and present their responses,

  • setting up small groups to work together on short focused tasks

  • presenting short case studies or issues for discussion in the style of an action learning set

I also think a social networking element is needed: one comment that struck me is that virtual teams lack a space where they can bump into one another for a quick chat. Something like Twitter might be the answer here, if, once again, people can be persuaded to try it or can find their way around the technological problems of accessing it.

ah well - back to the marking now!

Friday, 12 December 2008

NHS messaging system

One of the things (maybe the only really important thing) that students on the Leading and Managing at A Distance Module (part of the Frontline Leadership and Management Programme for NHS Scotland) have consistently complained about is the lack of IT support. It is fitting then, on the final day of the current run of this programme that a new email system for the NHS is being announced.

The important words are right at the end - better support for mobile messaging! Hallelujah!

Monday, 8 December 2008


One of the reasons some people give for not wanting to work from home is that they fear they will find too many distractions there. There now appears to be a mathematical formula by which you can judge the likelihood of you completing a task - or maybe for working out what it takes to keep your team focused on the job in hand.....

Sunday, 7 December 2008

A new look

as we near the end of the module, I am going to be doing some tidying up: a new layout, for one, as I felt the old style template was a bit cramped.

I will also be removing all module members from the authors list: you can still read and comment, but I am preparing for the blog's new role beyond FLM.

At De Montfort we are putting together a number of "bite sized" modules for work based learning in SMEs (that's small/medium enterprises) and there's been quite a bit of interest in this module for preparing managers and team leaders for "remote" working: not surprisingly in an age when people are more and more concerned at both the econmics and the environmental damage of ceaseless travel - to, from and around work.

I shall continue to post items of interest and would appreciate your feedback, comments and contributions.

Thursday, 4 December 2008

All in the mind

I was listening to a fascinating edition of Radio Four's All in the Mind driving home yesterday: there were two topics that caught my "ear"

The first was about the use of Blogs by people with mental health issues, and how these were being used for support, developing self awareness and informing the public at large about the reality of mental illness - dispelling stereotypes and fears.

The second was about techniques to persuade people to do what you want them to do. There were some useful "tips" here which have given me food for thought about this module next year - indeed about the programme as a whole. Getting students to engage with the on line Discussion Board is a constant struggle for tutors, and much thought has been given to the use of incentives like awarding marks, assessing postings etc. One of the thoughts I had from listening to this short article was that it needs to be sold much more as "the place to be", to generate a sense that everyone is using it so I will miss out if I don't.....

The second point though was about email and how it is a really terrible medium for persuasion because it is so cold and impersonal. The speakers main tip here was to make the email as personal as possible: using names, informal signatures or logos/colour etc.

Combining the two issues: it is noticeable how much better used the wiki forum was than Blackboard, initially, on this module. My guess is that although it was unfamiliar and difficult to access at times, it did have a much more informal look about it and there was a more personal touch in things like the profile pages which helped us get to know one another a little.

I know that some students have gone on to develop informal group sites or wikis for their teams as means of keeping in touch in a less formal way than email and work-based intranets allow. It will be interesting to see how these are taken up over time....

Tuesday, 25 November 2008

Virtual Meeting anyone?

How would you like to meet in a virtual world? with desks and chairs you can sit in, interactive screens you can watch Powerpoint displays on; chat facility, not to mention the ability to fly?

I completed my Second Life Basic training last week and have been back for a few brief visits, exploring this strange virtual world.

I really like the space University of Leicester have created with their Media Zoo - there are boats to sail on, beanie bags to lounge on, even a dog... and this is a picture of me in their impressive conference centre.

I wonder what it would be like to hold a virtual meeting here, instead of Blackboard or the Wimba classroom? In my training I was only interacting with one or two people - the teacher and another student. The difference between this and Wimba was that the tutor could literally show me where to go and what to do (or his avatar showed mine...).
Nonetheless, I managed to end up in the water a couple of times - not to mention flying into trees. Now that doesn't happen in meetings very often!

Anthropological study of YouTube

There are dark days in e-learning/ virtual leading, when you feel lost in the onslaught of information, new sites, software possibilities. When communication is not as clear, ordered, humane, and considerate as it might be, and sitting at your PC, you feel isolated, unsupported and wonder .... well, just what is the point of it all?

And then, you glance randomly at a Twitter posting, and a whole new world of insight opens up.

Well that's kind of a snapshot of what I was going through at various stages of yesterday evening. I found this video so exciting, I postponed watching Spooks....

Be warned: it is long, but if you are at all fascinated by the phenomenon that is YouTube,wonder where all this blogging and vlogging is taking us, or are simply curious to know what your kids are up to - persevere....

Wednesday, 19 November 2008

Coaching in Organisations

In the final weeks of this module you are asked to explore a coaching approach to "distance" management - that is, moving from micro managing the team to a supportive, objective-setting stance that recognises the distance and the autonomy of the staff concerned whilst firmly contracting to get the job done.

I have been sent this link:

which shows how a number of companies are developing coaching within their organisations. I thought it might be helpful....

Monday, 17 November 2008

My first Wimba session as facilitator

well, the hour flew by and in spite of my initial concerns - if not cynicism about the medium, it was surprisingly effective.

Signal strength varied and so one person never really succeeded in joining us, one only heard intermittently and a third had only chat facility though she could hear and see the screen: the other three managed to have conversations chiefly about the assignment criteria, how to develop a wiki and latterly about developing trust in teams.

In the last instance, the team members (including the one who could only add chat input) gave some good ideas to the person with the issue - so that it became a bit of an "action learning" session.

The issue was a central one to the module: development of trust in a virtual/dispersed team: especially where there are ancient and deep rooted tribal differences.

Feedback was very positive - I felt there was real learning and sharing: the voice and webcam helps to create a more grounded kind of contact than just chat. And that's what students said too."Like being with someone in the classroom"

Great fun, very useful, will definitely do it again!

Tweet Tweet Tweet

and while we are on the subject of simple communications platforms - here's a nice little blog post I came across about the many uses of Twitter (and yes - I found it on Twitter...).
what stood out for me was the following quote:

A diffuse kind of ad-hoc educational institution emerges from the twittersphere in this way. There is no teacher and no student. We’re all teaching and learning from each other.

So if you still don't know what it is, now's the time to find out... about twitter

Saturday, 15 November 2008

keep it simple, stooopid

I enjoyed this post - which is a quote from another blog..... just passing on goodies here, really.

The point is one I take to heart - we cannot wait around for the technology or the firewalls to catch up with our need to connect: we have to use available technology, make the links that we can and get cracking!

I am planning to set up a site for my team which spans a number of faculties, so we can share our professional profiles, register our interests, share documents, chat about common interests, work on projects together and find out who is available for delivering new programmes to coporate clients. Sharing links to some key websites would also be a great idea.

I am a big fan of : it actually does provide the simple, single site that Scott Leslie fears we may not be able to lay our hands on yet, and one or two of you have already started to discover how handy it can be for your own group communication needs - for those who haven't yet, explore!!

Thursday, 13 November 2008

Virtual conference

On line conference - social networking and learning
I am currently "attending" a conference hosted by Leicester University. It involves a face to face event in January but prior to that there are both synchronous (on line "live" ) sessions and asynchronous ones (discussion forums, podcasts, videos etc).

Today I particpated in a forum discussion about the usefulness of podcasting and was directed to view/hear a few examples. I also watched a recording of a Wimba classroom session where a lecturer facilitated a small group discussion about different on line media in education.

Next week I will be being trained in the basics of Second Life (that's my "avatar" above...) and attending a small group session on line all about mobile learning.

The conference is making me aware of how much scope there is for developing models of e-learning that are not constrained by Blackboard and which give greater freedom to the learner to pick and choose modules/activities.

Friday, 31 October 2008

Any one Linked In??

I saw this today - a kind of Facebook for grown ups and professionals with cool applications (you know, not Vampire bites or cute bunny hugs) like Huddle workspace so you can share documents and work on projects together. Here's the Huddle video:

I think this might be something I try out with my team. We are attempting to set up a cross faculty network of "talent" we can draw on to develop learning programmes for clients. I have started to set up a Ning community, but it has limitations. With this I could envisage everyone having a Linked In profile detailing their CVs, and using something like Huddle to collaborate on tenders and programme design....hmmm!! Sounds promising!!

Wednesday, 22 October 2008

nuff said

the blog is dead: it's official:

Tuesday, 21 October 2008

Self Managed Teams

once again I am indebted to the Bioteams site - and to Ken Thompson - for bringing this to my intention.

Self managed teams are a different kettle of fish to the remotely managed team - but sometimes, in the absence of a leader on a day to day basis, self management is the only option.

There is an interesting interview/video included which discusses some of the themes relevant to the performance management section of the programme: avoiding micro managing, trusting the team to manage situations effectively.

Paul Tesluk talks about taking time to get to know team members, to coach them and respect their individual contributions, role modelling by the leader.....everything you have been talking about in the discussion boards really

Wednesday, 15 October 2008

If your soccer team played like your work team.. an interesting question posed by Ken Thompson of in this video:

NLab Social Networks Conference 2008 - Ken Thompson from IOCT on Vimeo.

He explains his thinking about bio-teams, plays some good games! and poses some thought-provoking questions.

What if your work team played like a football team? Would they be better or worse? Is working in your team as exciting? (for football team substitute any high functioning group of your choice.... Ocean's 11???).

Ken gives a live demonstration of how social networks can be a used as a collective brain using simple text messaging techniques. His central theme is about collective leadership - no one leader has all the answers all the time. He also suggests that short messaging creates dynamic, mobile teams whereas we are locked into "document culture".

I'd add "discuss", but only in the chat room, I guess!

Tuesday, 14 October 2008

5 common mistakes in using blogs

I have been pondering on the uses of blogs in this module: the following article has helped me in my musings...

I think the author make some good points about clarity and trust, busy-ness and perceived value.... what has emerged for me is that I like blogging and use this space to add richness to the learning materials we started with; but it doesn't lend itself to a place for discussion. Blackboard and the wiki do that.

If by setting up this blog I have found a repository for my own reflections and maybe taught one or two people how to use them for their own purposes, than I am happy enough with that.

I note that comments are becoming fewer on here... so I will do a belt and braces and post on Bb too......

Tuesday, 7 October 2008

Sunday, 5 October 2008

Team communications technology

A health-related team comms case study: may be useful as a starting point for this week's chat theme!!

Wednesday, 1 October 2008

Ten Commandments for bloggers

One thing we/I didn't do before setting up this blog was to set out some "rules of engagement". Here are some that have been suggested elsewhere.

This doesn't, however, refer specifically to issues of taste and decency.

I had cause recently to delete a posting from this site because I felt it was bit "near the knuckle" (although pretty funny I admit). I was operating from my own sense of what is and isn't OK, but I didn't discuss this with the group. Maybe I should have?

What do you thtink should be included in a set of "netiquette" guidelines for the blog, wiki and discussion boards?

Tuesday, 30 September 2008

Learning Styles don't exist.....

This goes against a lot of things I thought I knew about learning - especially thinking about e-learning or communicating via technology.

Saturday, 27 September 2008

firewalls and new social media

Saturday just happens to be my day for catching up on my blog reading, so forgive me if I add another item of interest today:

interesting parallels between BT and NHS, I thought.....

(and I got this from the DMU Pathfinder blog)

and on a more serious note...

(again I have to thank Ken Thompson for bringing this to my attention)

pulling together a few threads

I have been reviewing a number of postings on Blackboard, the wiki and here on Blogger, and co-incidentally, re-reading one of Week 6's featured articles about Factors in the Success of Virtual Team Working.

One of the issues that seems to get everyone exercised is the sense of equity of contribution.

My own view is that some people are more temperamentally suited to group working and love the chat and on-line socialising, others need the peace and quiet of an evening's study alone with their pdf's.....I also know that whilst some people get off to a quick start and make lots of useful contributions, others are facing technical, personal and work issues that prevent them gaining access to the various media.

Secondly, in the same article , was an interesting point about "compensation": if some group members are especially quiet, others seem to work harder to make sure the job gets done. Indeed it can seem as if some people are dominating the discussions, whilst others are not saying enough.

and finally, I resonated with the point it made about blurring of boundaries between work and home - another facet of "compensation"

The study provided evidence of how teleworking stimulates greater consciousness about the relationship between work in the workplace and work at home.
Research Group members were conspicuously concerned that people might presume they were not working properly (becoming “invisible” to the rest of the organisation), indeed to the point of over-compensating.
The diaries they kept showed that they consistently worked longer hours (on average by more than one hour) when teleworking.
An issue for virtual team leaders has to be about managing such diversity. What do you think?

Friday, 19 September 2008

Team communications

this looks like a handy little innovation for team communications. It reminds me of one of the principles that Ken Thompson talks about - the need for "one to many" signals at times....when passing on simple alerts to a team.

Thursday, 18 September 2008

Meeting the new FLM students

Just back from three days in Scotland meeting tutors and students. (below: tutor Sarah Fraser with students and Raigmore Life Sciences building)

A big difference this year is that enrolments all happened by post, rather than on the induction day - so this week we were able to sign people into their DMU email accounts, get them up and running on Athens and Blackboard and give them a head start with the programme's distance learning elements.

The Scots are very warm and welcoming - and its just as well because the weather was atrocious! I saw some sunshine on the horizon, very briefly at dawn on the third day.... then it started raining, again! Thank goodness I came home to warmer weather today - I have been chilled to the bone.
Next week Linda and Kerry are off to Aberdeen to repeat the exercise with students from Grampion, then I am back in Edinburgh and Glasgow the following week.....I will be taking my winter coat and a pair of wellies this time.

For me, as I mostly only ever get to talk to students on the phone, blackboard or by email, its great to meet some of our distance learning students face to face.

Research on e-learning points to the importance of having some sort of face to face event to kick things off - and this is equally true of virtual teams.

Monday, 15 September 2008

Free stuff......

I recently came across this interesting site where you can easily publish, edit and maintain your own website for free. For anyone wanting to be creative: Weebly


If you are looking for Office compatible software - for free - try: Open Office


Or genuine MS Office 2007 very cheap Software4students

(It's all legal too!)

Size matters!

A concise article from Bioteams author Ken Thompson on choosing the right sized group for the job:

Monday, 8 September 2008

The three rings of team commitment

Another interesting posting from the Bioteams site: a useful model to consider when planning team formation or group tasks. Could also be useful in analysing team roles:-

Sunday, 7 September 2008

Saturday, 6 September 2008

The need for structure

I just posted the following on Blackboard - and the wiki:

"I had thought we would use the wiki for collaborative work on documents/projects where called on by the activities in the learning materials. However, I see this is now taking off as a great networking site in its own right and the ability to add photos and videos etc makes it more fun. A disadvantage is that not everyone can access or edit whilst at work.....

I envisioned the blog being used for: longer reflections on the materials, interesting articles and websites; sharing videos; responses to activities that specifically asked you to post your reflections on the blog. Again - not everyone can access form work: currently this is the least used site though I am not sure why. Any comments?

Blackboard is still the main place for course information, announcements, discussion about the materials and problems. It seems that everyone can access this from work but one or two have difficulties with their broadband connection from home. I see this as the "official" place to meet. What do you think? "

This is an important discussion point: new teams coming together have to quickly establish norms - especially for communication, to ensure that everyone is included and important messages don't get lost. In communicating with a dispersed team it is perhaps doubly important to get some clarity early on about communication channels.

But how good are we at doing this in "conventional" teams?

Email distribution lists aren't perfect; people are invited to meetings they don't need to attend, others aren't invited who should be part of the decision making, conversations happen behind closed doors that affect our jobs.....Sorting out our communication protocols is important work that is often overlooked. So it's good that we are addressing this as a "team"!!

Thursday, 4 September 2008

Something I just read and wanted to share

I got this on Twitter from Ken Thompson who runs the bio teams site.....

could be useful to remember for those of you wanting to set up your own sites at work:

  • invest time in reaching your readers, not money on the tech kit
  • have someone looking after the site who knows what they are doing
  • make sure you have agreed the right measures of success

Monday, 1 September 2008

Face Book and Virtual Teams - who'd have thought?

I found this group site on Face Book which may be of interest:

It lists some interesting web sites and articles. It occurs to me too that Face Book itself can be a great tool for keeping in touch with a group. It's certainly worth exploring the technology - and who knows - having some fun too?

Here's an interesting website it lists (if you can't access the FB page)

Tuesday, 26 August 2008


Here's an interesting take on the theme of collaboration and the use of the internet.....

Monday, 11 August 2008

JINGle all the way.....!

Check out the Jing Project website

I can see this having great potential for virtual teams - to teach one another how to do things on screen - and share what they are doing!

I have used this to train admin staff in how to use Blackboard and my team on how to set up a personal homepage.....

Can anyone see potential in this technology for their own virtual teams? Why not have a go at creating a "Jing" and sharing it with the rest of the cohort?

Sunday, 10 August 2008

Internet meltdown

One of the problems I find with internet based sources is that the volume of trafiic is overwhelming. It's not unusual for people to have hundreds of emails each day - going on holiday just leaves us dreading the backlog when we return!

Having a blog or wiki alongside these, plus a Facebook group, and running several searches for new learning material each day means that by the end of the week I have too much to read, to many things to remember to log onto, too many listings in my Favourites - and if, as I do, we move from office to home PC or log on with a wireless laptop whilst sipping a latte in Caffe Nero - then how do we keep track of everything?

A recent discovery for me is the personal homepage such as this one by Netvibes. (see also Pageflakes)

How could these be useful for more than just personal learning and collecting together all our bits and pieces? Well, it is possible to create a public face for your page, so that others can keep track of things the group is working on : this for example is a Pageflake for DMU's elearning community

This stuff is all free too - open source, accessible anywhere, no fancy software requirements.... and needs no more technological skill than it takes to post an email or attach a file.

Saturday, 9 August 2008

25 tools

I have recently joined a community called 25 tools which includes a link to a training programme in how to use web 2.0 tools..... saving me a lot of blogging time. If you want to explore the technology for on line communication and collaboration, I suggest you have a look - I have listed the site under useful links too.
This link takes you to a quick digest on a slideshow and links to all the tools listed.