Communicating in today’s business world means more than just delivering speeches and writing reports. Webcasts and document sharing forms that connect people from disparate locations are now the norm, making communicating as a team an essential skill. Teamwork can be more productive with the right collaborative tools and understanding of group dynamics. Fortunately, there is an abundance of online services that make it easy for teams of people to collectively create and edit documents and share feedback. These include:
GoogleDocs is a service for collaboratively editing documents that many people find less cumbersome than the “track changes” feature in Microsoft Word. You don’t need a Gmail account to use Google Docs, but you do need to create an account. It’s free and very easy to set up. (Note: This service works well for plain written text but is not so good with charts).
Yackpack lets people in different locations talk in real time and even record and send audio. This is a great way for groups to stay in touch – and there is no typing involved. You do need a microphone for this. If there is not a built-in microphone in your computer, the Office of Business Communication can lend you one. This video provides a decent introduction to Yackpack.
del.icio.us helps you store and share your bookmarks on the web so you can access them anywhere. By assigning a collection of bookmarks a certain tag, they are made available to all members of a team. For example, Team 1 in ITEC 200 could agree to tag all its reading and references as "ITEC200Group1."
del.icio.us is also a great research tool. You can find people with common interests and resources based on descriptive tags instead of keywords.
If your professor lets you assemble your own teams, use these questions to determine the best teammates for you:
Are you a work-ahead type or a procrastinator (or something in between)?
What is your style of work and do you prefer working with others who have similar or contrasting styles?
Do you and your potential teammates have compatible schedules?
Do you and your teammates live mostly on- or off-campus?
If your professor lets you choose the size of the group, try for smaller teams - with four, three, or even pairs of people. Research suggests that "social loafing" (otherwise known as free-riding) occurs less in smaller groups.