My third grad school class is officially over. Whew! This one had me worried. Not so much because of the assignments or the topic (Media and Technology), but because of the group projects. Ug.
Group projects are never fun, but add the online element and things can get downright tricky. There was no set time for this class to meet, for example, so try to imagine getting 5 people together, virtually, on a regular basis to work on assignments. Not.so.easy.
In addition to logistics and technology (someone was always in the wrong 'room' or their webcam wasn't working or their microphone wasn't working or their laptop battery was dying), imagine what it's like to work with complete, and sometimes invisible, strangers via e-mails and chat rooms. There is no taking turns. People are typing answers to questions asked 5 minutes ago, while three other questions have been asked. No one knows who's answering what. And it's really, really, really hard to convey intent through e-mail and chat. Say something funny and it comes across snotty. Say something supportive and it comes across as condescending. Say something constructive and it comes across as critical. Ug.
Finally, no one's in charge. I had the unfortunate role of team leader (assigned randomly by the instructor), but there was no power in that. I'd go to team meetings with an agenda (e-mailed prior to the meet-up), but did anyone follow it or read it? No. People barely read the assignments before our meetings. And if they did, they didn't always understand the project. And if they did understand the project, they, in all honestly, might just not be grad school material. I had to turn in a crap PowerPoint for a grade, for example, because the 4 other members of my team loved it. I'm not trying to be a jerk, but I really work in this field; if I had presented that PowerPoint to my boss or administration, I would have been laughed at. And maybe fired.
Luckily, it all worked out in the end. All the As I received on the assignments canceled the Bs received on group projects and I ended the class with an A to keep my streak going. Only 8 classes to go. This is going to be a long 5 years.