Working with virtual teams to develop online courses presents multiple challenges. Managers, designers, developers, and faculty content experts must all be able to communicate and collaborate effectively, and primarily asynchronously, across time zones. Online project management applications are available to help provide shared workspace and an overall structure for the process.
This post summarizes a Sloan-C poster session I presented with Noel Broman last week. We currently use Basecamp to facilitate the course development process with small teams. This service is a paid one, but there are others – many others, with a range of pricing schedules as well as free options. Take a look at this list of 15+ Project Management Tools.
Reviewing the Options
Consider how your team might use an online system and what features they need to get the work done.
- How many people need access to the system as a whole? To an individual project?
- How many projects do you have running simultaneously?
- What is your budget?
- Do you want/need a social networking component? (personal profiles, etc.)
- What features do you need?
A short list of features to get you started:
- Milestones and benchmarks
- Automated notifications
- File storage
- File version control
- Check-in/Check-out function
- Internal communication (email, instant messaging, conferencing)
- Collaboration space (whiteboards, wikis)
Benefits and Challenges
From my own experience the following features make a positive difference in the process:
- Version control of documents – Ending the need to ask the question: who has the latest development guide?
- Visibility of milestones – calendar feature with email reminders ensures that dates and deliverables are openly posted and available to all members of the team.
- Task assignment – creating to-do lists and assigning specific tasks to team members by name
- Project templates – once you set up a project area with the milestones, etc. you need, you can copy it for use with other, similar projects.
A few things we are still working on:
- Learning curve – take the tech skills and experiences of your team into consideration when making a selection and allow time for everyone to experiment with the interface.
- Training – most of these applications come with guides and tutorials of some kind, but these may not be enough. Consider creating a sample project that everyone has access to just to try out all of the features and practice with the tools without fear that they will break anything.
Are you using a specific tool or feature that you can recommend to the rest of us? Do you have questions about using an online project management system? Please post your ideas and questions.
Image credit: stock.xchng