Communication, Collaboration, and Project Management Tools for Producing and Managing Group Projects at a Distance

Article excerpt

Producing and managing group projects at a distance is a prevalent practice, not only in business, but also in education, particularly in online programs, training, and workshops. As online courses, programs, and training proliferate, it is important for online students to be aware of tools that can help them manage working in groups at a distance, no matter how many miles might separate team members from their peers, or how many hours their resident time zones might differ. Although many online instructors are already building in activities to capitalize on various collaboration tools available within the platform or course/management system they might use to deliver instruction, there are many other tools that students might consider using not only to create and track their individual and group efforts, but also to communicate more effectively. This article shares several communication, collaboration, and project management tools that online students might wish to use to help them produce and manage their team projects at a distance. Clearly, there are many other tools that exist in each of these categories; one can conduct an online search to find more. And, as apps continue to grow for both the Android and iPhone/iPad markets, the number of tools available will only grow.

COMMUNICATION TOOLS

Effective and timely communication is key to the success of any group project. Asynchronous communication such as e-mail often works very effectively in online environments. However, occasionally, synchronous communication is needed. Many course/learning management systems have chat tools that may be activated by the course instructors, but other synchronous tools exist. The following tools provide team members the opportunity to have synchronous communications, and in some cases, to record them to review again later. Moreover, some such as Anymeeting and Vyew, also allow members to discuss and critique a draft presentation or product they have created.

* Anymeeting: http://www .anymeeting.com/

* GoToMeeting: http://www .gotomeeting.com/fec/

* Mikogo: http://www.mikogo.com/

* Skype: http://www.skype.com/

* Vyew: http://vyew.com/

* Yugma: https://www.yugma.com/

COLLABORATION TOOLS

Teams that work at a distance often need to brainstorm ideas, produce outlines, and drafts of their work, including final products. Some tools, such as Google docs and wikis, allow different members to contribute to the same document or tool simultaneously, while also saving the changes made by individual members. Not only do these tools keep track of individual efforts and drafts, but they also serve as a "home base" for housing important group documents eliminating the need to transfer files back and forth via e-mail or some other tool. …