Heard of the app Houseparty? It’s a fun video calling platform that allows groups of friends to talk and play games in real time. Now, imagine I told you that you would have the chance to do that on a regular basis during the school year (with a little bit of work thrown in too!). Sounds exciting, right?
Well, for all of my fellow rising McIntire fourth-years, this situation was a reality after classes last spring were converted to online midway through the semester. One of the core skills that you learn at McIntire is how to work in a group setting, an invaluable talent to learn before acquiring a real, full-time job. And, due to the pandemic, we were forced to learn how to manage working in teams while also juggling being thousands of miles apart.
While it was sad to not be able to spend hours in Comm study rooms with my teammates, we experienced plenty of positive outcomes that came from our sudden transition to online group work. For one, we became much more efficient at completing our tasks. In person, my team could meet for five or so hours, with four of those hours being spent on discussions not directly related to the assigned project, causing us to have to plan follow-up meetings to actually finish our assignment. However, once my team became virtual, we found ourselves being much more focused on finishing the work upfront (that didn’t mean we didn’t have fun—we just were able to prioritize more easily with everyone sitting in front of their computer and looking at the same shared screen).
Additionally, since we were at home while video calling, I was able to learn a lot more about each of my team members’ previous experiences and background. A few of my team members gave house/apartment tours, and we met several of each other’s siblings when they would accidentally walk into the room. While there are definitely limitations to being physically apart and, in our case, being in different time zones, we found that we were still able to have fun while also producing even better results.
Lastly, and while I’ve spent a lot of time saying how online group work might not be as boring as you think, honestly speaking, it just isn’t the same as being in person with your teammates. Of course, some things are just out of our control, and the best we can do is make the most of the situation we find ourselves in. I can say with certainty that having online group work last spring gave me practical skills such as how to properly use Zoom/Webex technologies, how to present professionally on a video call, and how to connect with someone else across the screen (this last skill being a huge benefit for virtual recruiting, which I predict will be the standard going forward). So, I’d recommend that students approach online group work with enthusiasm and to try to make the most of it, both in terms of professional development as well as connecting with your teammates, out of the unique circumstances that you’ve been given.