Things to consider in technology-mediated collaboration

This situation is new for all of us, both teachers and students. Together we are learning a new way of collaborating, so let’s try to understand and help each other.

Technology-mediated communication skills are also essential in working life, so it is good to develop them during your studies. Now is the perfect time to practise them! These skills can include the following:

  • familiarity with different collaboration platforms (e.g. Teams, Zoom, Google Docs)
  • the ability to participate and make others participate in technology-based learning environments
  • your attitude towards technology-mediated communication:
  • Are you open to learning new things? Do you have the courage to try? All of us are here to learn together!
  • Do you view technology-mediated collaboration as “a necessary evil” or do you think it is the same as face-to-face cooperation?
  • Is it more difficult to collaborate online, or could it even be a chance to improve the quality of collaboration? Technology offers many different ways to interact.

Some practicalities:

  • Find out what technology you need to participate. Ask your teacher if you cannot find enough information in, for example, the course learning environment or in the guidelines sent to you.
  • Make sure your devices (camera, microphone, internet connection, headphones) work.
  • Find out in advance how the discussion platform (e.g. Zoom, Collaborate LTI, Google Meet) works. If you are not sure how to use the platform, ask the teacher if you can practise using it, for instance, 15 minutes before the session starts. If you feel you need to practise earlier, do not hesitate to contact the teacher.
  • Participate in the remote session in a peaceful environment – don’t do anything else at the same time.
  • If you remain silent for a long time, mute your microphone. It improves the sound quality of the connection.
  • If the connection is weak, it can be better to use video conversation at the beginning and then move to audio only.
  • Prepare for a potential failure of the network connection by making sure that you have quick access to the link of the session.

Interaction and participation:

  • Agree within the group how to express that you want to say something (e.g. by pressing the “raise hand” button or by actually raising your hand). When working via video, small sounds or other nonverbal clues typical of face-to-face communication are not necessarily noticed.
  • Everyone is responsible for the success of the discussion: online it is necessary to talk about the progress of the discussion and pay more attention to everyone having a chance to participate. You can ask less active participants about their opinions, for instance.
  • Clear and preferably short speaking turns make the conversation more fluent.
  •  If video is not used, one should pay special attention to ensuring sufficient mutual understanding. What are the reasons for staying silent, for example
  • Agree on the communication channel to be used if a participant suddenly drops out from the session (e.g. the network connection breaks up or something unexpected happens). In such a case, you can utilise the chat feature of the application, WhatsApp or email, for example.
  • Listening is extremely important! If you can’t make out what the others are saying, ask them to repeat. This may be needed much more often in technology-mediated communication than when working face to face.
  • Make sure that the tone of the conversation is respectful and constructive. An investigative, analytical and critical approach does not mean being rude or offensive. Disrespectful communication should be addressed within the group and also reported to the teacher.
  • At the end of the session, it is polite to thank each other and say goodbye.