The deadline for the submission of our Virtual Team assignment is looming and we are awaiting news from our French translators. They have informed us that they are making good progress and will be ready on time for submission. It is always at this point in a collaborative project that I get nervous. The cynic in me feels that everything went a bit too smoothly and that we will surely pay the price eventually. I truly hope not. Thus far the team has worked well together, forging an almost immediate rapport and producing a very nice piece of instructional documentation. However, my one complaint with the methodology employed to develop this document was, what, I believe to be, our over dependence on email for group collaboration. Despite suggestions about other, more conducive, more collaborative medium and initial engagement with the Sakai (Sulis), learning management system (LMS), the team retreated to the relative safety of the old favourite, email.
While I value email for the transmission of private messages, I am not convinced about emails’ abilities as the sole medium for the delivery of cooperative content. The continuous checking of inboxes and tracking backwards and forwards through emails to follow thought progression and outcomes is confusing and time consuming. Group trust can be eroded when responses are not immediately forthcoming and message sentiment is not immediately and completely understood. There can be no clearly labelled dashboard to act as a guide through the tangle of interconnected conversations, no nicely itemised index of tasks and time frames to keep track of and mark off. Nowhere does email offer me the option to drag and drop media into a message and have others comment easily within one screen. Searching email is another nightmare. There is no means by which I can access an index of files, media etc., all email can offer is a rudimentary search of subject’s and contacts.
Email still has its supporters. A recent article in the Atlantic championed the email cause, calling email ‘the cockroach of the internet’! The article suggested that, in fact email was to be heralded as the ultimate open-platform, decentralised medium for information transmission and even innovation!
I’m happy to keep using email as the primary means of receiving my River Island offers and messages from friends and colleagues that are too long or too personal to share on any other platform, but for me, team collaboration must take place through a medium with a lot more flexibility and synchronicity.