Online Learning and the Idealization of Team


Throughout this particular module a few words have been mentioned again and again; culpability, organization, preparation, and motivation. The essence of it all is that in order to be successful in your endeavors as both an online student and a member of a team you must accept personal responsibility for all of your tasks no matter how big or small. The goal is to mold yourself into a well oiled machine.

Now of course that doesn’t happen over night. You have to work at it. In almost everything I read, including the online readiness assessment sponsored by SDCC, being an online student takes plenty of dedication and will constantly test your time management skills. Which was in a way surprising to me. I think that many people assume that taking an online class will be so much easier than attending a lecture. Online is on your own time, you’re not required to attend any session, and most assignments are done asynchronously with your fellow students. But the more I read the more I realized that online learning is the complete opposite. In the Tips for Success section on D2L, a survey conducted of SLIS students found that they actually spent more time working on online classes than they had while attending traditional lecture based classes.

Needless to say my mind was somewhat blown. But when you stop to think about it, it makes sense. Everything is on your own time. You don’t have a professor lecturing to you while you take down notes. You must read it and take notes on your own reading. You must complete and remember your own assignments instead of TA’s breathing down your neck asking you when you’re finally going to turn in that paper.

The Is Online Right for You? article said it perfectly, online learning is not for those who don’t want a challenge. In order to succeed you not only have to be self-motivated, you have to be disciplined, outgoing, and your own advocate in everything you do. No one is going to hold your hand here. You’re going to have to plan your own lecture series instead of just anonymously attending one. Adopt some of those Strategies for Success. Make a calendar for yourself, log on the same days every week, create folders. Do whatever you need to do to remember when things need to be done even if you have to paste sticky notes to your face. Just be engaged, communicate effectively, and enjoy yourself. If you do there’s nothing that can stop you succeeding.

Now for the scary about. Group work. I know, your first inclination is to run away as fast as you possibly can. I can’t say that I blame you. Working in teams is hard. There’s no way to get around it. As Ken Haycock put it group work is”the bane of every students existence.” The “monster” in every library school in Irwin’s words.

In my experience, working in a team usually goes down somewhat like this.

At first everyone in the team shows up to the meeting with some sense of dread. There’s always a period of silence when no one knows what to say and people talk to their friends instead of the group as a whole. Finally, some brave person speaks up and basically says: so what does everyone think about the project? Usually they get a few grunts in reply. This is the person that usually becomes the famed team leader of Haycock’s presentation. Then little projects get divided up, something Irwin says you shouldn’t do and is probably right, everyone takes something, and the team leaves feeling somewhat pleased with how things went. Then comes the work period. Now in my experience, there are always two or three people that work religiously on the task they’ve been given and when the group meets again are totally prepared. And then there’s the one person that lost their notes, forgot what their role was, and in essence has nothing to contribute and aims to get someone to take over their part so they don’t have to do anything. So the other two or three take over that person’s role as well and work themselves frazzled.

Jaded, perhaps, but that’s widely been what I’ve experienced. In light of this, Dr. Haycock’s version of team seems at best idealized. His “team leader” more like a den mother than anything else. What kind of consequences can you establish for someone who doesn’t care at all about the team, the project, or the school?

I’m not saying teams aren’t important. If they work as they’re supposed to, as Haycock and Irwin state they should, everything would work splendidly. As Haycock and Irwin advise, setting the tone of the project and evaluating everyone’s strengths is the key. There are few groups I’ve ever been in that can follow Haycock and Irwin’s keys to success. But when Haycock’s four stages of team growth are fluidly gone through it’s a beautiful process. When everyone participates, sets group goals in advance, and communicates with each other at each stage of the project it’s sure to succeed. A project is more than the sum of it’s parts. It’s a living, breathing organism and needs to be treated as such.

Just as online learning needs your full attention and motivation, so does working in a team. Neither can be treated lightly and if you accept the various challenges both offer you’re sure to learn a thing or two you might not of know before.

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