Whoa, we’re halfway there (kind of…)

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Source: Student Problems (Facebook)

I know that every week I express my astonishment that another week has passed, but seriously, we’re heading into week 7? Seriously?  This is my 10th and final semester of university, and it’s flying by!

I have no news to share re: virtual team assignment. We’ve heard nothing from the French students since we passed it over to them on the 20th. I’m going to continue working under the “no news is good news” school of thought, and not worry about it.

Here’s a round up of how everything else is going:

TW5212 Workplace Issues in Technical and Professional Communication
I’ve been tipping away at our XML/CSS assignment. I’ve been looking forward to learning XML since last semester, as I know it’s a requirement for any technical writing position these days. I like it- there’s something very comforting about knowing that x does y. It’s a change of pace for me as a former English major, but I LOVE learning these new technical skills. There’s such a buzz in inputting all this code and something actually appearing on the screen! Even if it’s hideous! Other than the trustworthy w3schools website, I’ve been using CSS Tricks for examples.

I’ve also sorted my interviewee for the interview assignment, so that’s another massive relief. I’m meeting with him on March 28th, so need to get my questions in order soon. I’m looking forward to actually carrying out the interview, but securing someone was stressful and a little awkward. That’s all part of the process I guess!

EL6072 – Interactive Courseware Workshop 

We had our Dreamweaver/Flash workshop on Wednesday, and I’m so glad I went! I went home and repeated the process on Animate CC and it’s pretty easy to work with. I haven’t tried anything fancy yet, but if you ever need to make yellow circles bounce up and down the screen, I’m your woman.

I’ve also been working on my proposal for our digital learning resource. I’m creating a resource that will teach older people (or those with lower digital skills) how to keep themselves save online, by learning to recognise fraudulent content. I’m really enjoying the topic, which in a way might be a bad thing, as I keep getting distracted with news articles as I’m doing my research! My next task on that is to put together some interface designs, but I’ll certainly be employing the KISS principle on this one.

EL6052 – E-Learning Theories and Principles 

I’m still enjoying the Twitter assignment, and it’s great to see everyone else getting so involved. My only issue is that I actively use my own personal Twitter, and constantly have to double check which one I’m on before I Retweet something!

We have a digital literacy assignment due today, and it was quite interesting to think about all the skills I don’t have, or could certainly do with improving. I consider myself a ‘digital native’ in many ways, but so often the simple skills can be overlooked. I chose to focus on ‘open practice’, ‘revision of work’, and ‘searching online’, all of which are relevant and useful to my degree and my future career.

RM6011 – Research Methodologies in Applied Language Studies

I received provisional approval on my ethics application today. I need to tweak a few things, and then I can send it back for final approval. I’m trying to somehow put together my survey to have it ready to go once I receive approval, but there seriously are not enough hours in the day!

To conclude, I’m busy but hey, I’m learning!

Virtual Team Assignment: Reflecting on Communication

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Source: Pixa Bay

All quiet on the virtual team assignment front this week. The document went off to the French students on Monday. We have checked in with them, but they haven’t reported any difficulties so far. They’ve been involved since the beginning, so I’m confident they will reach out if they have any issues, and will produce a good translation (not that I would know… my French begins and ends at pain au chocolat).

Having the break from the rush of the assignment has given me time to think about our various approaches and how we organised (or didn’t organise) our transfer of information.

Email

Pros:

  • Easiest way to make introductions right off the bat

Our experience:

  • Some members of the group didn’t use their university email as their main email so I had some doubts over which emails I should be contacting.
  • Not getting a reply to an email is beyond frustrating and confusing. Did they get the email? Do we have the wrong email address? Did we not receive their reply for some reason? Very little correspondence was carried out through email.

Sulis

Pros:

  • Available for the lecturers to view at any point
  • Everything gets posted in chronological order.
  • Has analytics to show how much students are engaging with the site.

Our experience:

  • We only used Sulis for posting our updates to keep track of them ourselves.
  • If this was an assignment with only UL students, this would have been the obvious choice. Personally I feel that since we had so much trouble communicating with the other students as it was, Sulis may have caused even more trouble.

Facebook Group

Pros:

  • Works well on mobiles so great for communication on-the-move.
  • Shows whether members of the group have viewed posts, so easy to tell who is up to date.
  • Can be used as a platform for uploading files, photos and videos.
  • Can be kept completely hidden online.

Our experience:

  • It took a long time to get everyone on board, and I had to send out the link a few times
  • Turns out, Facebook seems to order posts by popularity as opposed to date, so it got awkward trying to find certain posts after a while.
  • We ran into issues towards the end when trying to upload new versions of the Word document, which led to minor confusion when trying to get the final document

As you can see, we never really managed to establish a concrete method of communication. Looking at my list, in an ideal world, the group would introduce themselves via email and then move over to Sulis for discussion, and document sharing. We don’t, however, operate in an ideal world. This assignment has been an experiment in virtual collaboration, and I’ve come to appreciate the need for minimal methods of communication.

Virtual Team Assignment: All’s well that ends well

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At the start of the week, I found myself getting very frustrated about the lack of collaboration within the group. It’s really annoying to feel like you are constantly yelling (well, typing) into a void.

A couple of people reminded me, however, that on the larger scale of things, this assignment is not worth a huge amount and I calmed down and started trying to let it all wash over me. Sure, I care a great deal about my grades, and always want to put forward my best, but at the end of the day, we have a perfectly lovely looking document, even if the group work wasn’t smooth sailing.

The document is heading for translation tomorrow, Monday 20th. This week was pretty busy as we tried to get everything consistent to hopefully make the translation easier on our French counterparts. We also wanted to have the images and icons sorted, so that the French students could offer their input.

Everyone eventually got in contact this week. The workload has certainly not been evenly distributed, however. Toni and myself had most of the document put together at the start of the week.

One of the American students, Caroline, was very eager to get stuck in this week, which was great. She worked on both writing instructions, and proofreading. She had some good ideas about presentation which made me see the benefit of having several heads working together. It definitely would have been cool to have all 6 of us working together, as you can never have too many perspectives. 

Another one of the American students offered some input this week, and worked on the glossary of terms. The other two students have given little or no input, really. It’s a shame, but they really came on board too late. We tasked one of the students with proofreading, however she came back saying she found nothing wrong with our unedited document. As we all know, there is always something wrong! The document had not been edited or proofread at all at that point, and we made plenty of changes going through it afterwards. This just goes to show that we are working from different bases, and I guess not everyone is engaged with the assignment. 

So that’s week four. Our document looks good, and I’m looking forward to seeing what Nicolas and Didier think!

 

 

Virtual Team Assignment: Powering ahead

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Week 4. Ahhhh! 

It has now been exactly two weeks since we received our groupings for this assignment. As of Monday 13th February, we have 7 out of 8 group members “on board”. We have yet to hear word from the 8th member.

At this point, myself and Toni have written almost the entire document. I’ve left spaces with headings for the others, but they haven’t been filled in yet. Being honest, I could write them myself in the time I spend sending emails and updating the Facebook page.  I had allocated the image sourcing to one of the American team members. However, time is ticking by so I’ve begun to gather the screenshots myself. Perhaps this is the wrong way to go about it, but I see no other choice. It’s too stressful and we are too busy with all our other commitments to just leave it on the hope that it will be done. We have tried waiting. We have reached out over and over. We’ve been patient, offered help with communication methods, juggled email/Facebook/Sulis, left the roles within the group very flexible. But it hasn’t worked. So here we are.

One of the American students appears to be working on some instructions for tomorrow, so it’s great to have someone else on board. She also seems agreeable to helping with the proofreading. I posted a light deadline of Friday on Facebook this evening, because while the weeks are difficult enough, the weekends are even worse communication-wise!

It’s disappointing, as this could have been a fun project. With everyone collaborating, there would really be very little work for each of us to do. Instead, I’m left with a rather bitter taste in my mouth and far too many negative feelings.  And yet, being the hopelessly forgiving person I am, I’m still hoping things turn around in the next… 6 days. 

Virtual team assignment: rallying the troops

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We’re nearing the end of week 3 and things are moving along, albeit slowly.

As of this evening (Thursday 9th), we have had contact with 2 of the 4 American students. Unfortunately it’s been hard to get input even from the students who have made contact, so Toni and I have had to power ahead with help from the French students, Didier and Nicolas. They have both been far more involved at this stage than I would have expected, so that’s a positive! 

We have done our best to reach out to all team members. While we are going ahead with making decisions, we are keeping everyone updated via email. We are also documenting everything on Facebook, and have posted on Sulis to cover all our communication bases. It would be great to have everything confined to one communication method, but it’s not feasible right now as we don’t have all the team together in one place. Hopefully by the weekend we can work through Facebook alone!

Toni and I have sort of naturally navigated towards a joint leadership role within the team, as we take turns passing on information to the others. We have chosen Google Slides as our topic and have tentatively assigned roles to everyone on the team as follows:

Toni – Instructions  for creating and editing slides
Nicola – Instructions for importing slides, and sharing slides with others 
Jerel – Sourcing of screenshots/graphics
Robert – Instructions for commenting on slides, and downloading slides as a PowerPoint 
Candace – Editing/ensuring consistency across instructions
Caroline – Proofreading 

I have created a Google Doc, which we can all contribute to and edit. Google Docs has limited design options though, so the document will need to be fixed up in Microsoft Word later on. I’m enjoying the process of writing the instructions (guess I’m in the right MA, hey?), and looking forward to seeing our finished product! 

Transitioning to blended learning

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It’s funny, when I was first thinking of applying to this MA programme (around this time last year, actually!), I was set on staying at home in West Cork and working completely online. This was entirely for practical reasons. By the time the course rolled around though, I managed to secure part-time work in Limerick which allowed me to move back and study on campus.

Having attended nearly all of my classes on campus last semester, I was really comfortable with that setting. I enjoyed being there for the lectures, and it was great to really feel a part of such a close-knit, intelligent, optimistic (usually!) group of people.  That camaraderie can be so helpful when the stressful part of the semester hits. So when the timetable came out this semester and I realised I would only be able to attend 1 out of 4 modules on-campus, I really had to adjust my ideas about how I interact with the course.

The good:

  • The flexibility of this course means I can easily continue working, which I’m really grateful for
  • I was never very good for getting involved in the online discussions and would feel a little intimidated by the idea, but this semester I’m pushing myself to jump right in
  • I listened to a podcast the other day on the couch with a mug of tea and some biscuits, what’s not to like?

and the strange:

  • I always feel like I’m catching up, even though I’m generally looking at the resources as soon as they’re up
  • It would be nice to have someone to immediately turn to when I’m working with the new software applications
  • In Weeks 1 & 2  I felt very Not Involved. However, I took a step back, got myself organised and I’m feeling more of a balance moving into the third week

It’s an adjustment, but one that I think can only be for the best. Last semester I had to adjust from undergraduate to postgraduate studies, and this semester I’m learning what it really means to be in charge of my own studies. It’ll be grand!

Virtual team assignment: making contact

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On Monday, myself and a fellow student (Toni) received our group details for our virtual team assignment. Together with four American students and two French students, we will be creating instructions for a collaborative technology. 

Myself and T were eager to jump right in, and introduced ourselves to each other on Monday, and to the rest of the group on Tuesday morning. Thankfully, we received very swift replies from the French students, who both seem very excited about the project. Unfortunately, as of Saturday 4th, we have not heard back from any of the American students. While it’s frustrating that we can’t get settled on a topic just yet, we’re staying hopeful that things are just off to a slow start and everything will come together early next week. 

Wanting some form of structure, I went ahead and created a Facebook group and sent the link to all my team members. Facebook was the common choice among ourselves and the French students, so I’m hoping the American students are on board with the group. Having used Facebook for group projects and presentations during my four undergraduate years, I find it the quickest way to contact everyone. It’s also useful for uploading and updating documents. Privacy is of course the biggest concern, however, the group will be set to secret (only the people in the group will even be able to see it exists), and members don’t need to be friends with each other on the website to be in the group. 

Here’s hoping Week 3 brings more progression. We have a lot to get going with: 

  • Hopefully we will hear from the American students
  • We have a tentative topic, but of course want input from everyone first
  • We have to decide on American vs British spelling. The French students have no preference so it’s likely to be a coin toss.
  • We also have to decide on how we will split the work. I have some reservations about splitting it into too many parts (group leader, writer, graphics, etc) as I’m not sure the work load would end up entirely even. We’ll have to see.

That’s it for Week 2. I felt uneasy about this project when it was first issued, and it has been frustrating so far. However, as technical writers/instructional designers, it won’t be uncommon to work on international projects and have to deal with all the obstacles that come with that.