To celebrate and reflect upon National Telework Week I thought it would be appropriate to share how the tools we have been using & perfecting for learning can be used in a Telework environment.
Once upon a time a teleworker would have their head tilted to squash their phone against their shoulder while juggling typing and shuffling papers while they tried to explain a concept or have a discussion with a team member in the office. Work was couriered, emailed or uploaded at one end – and then there was a delay while the other person accessed it and checked it over or reviewed it. This method of working was a little clunky but could also make the teleworker feel disconnected from their company and work-peers.
Shared spaces like virtual private networks, online office suites and other collaborative spaces have changed all of this. They allow us to work on the same documents and projects at the same time. There is no delay in getting the information from one team member to another. Messaging and communication tools clearly show who is available and when.
Audio-visual tools such as video conferencing allow us to talk face-to-face to as well as giving us the power to look at the same screen while working through an idea or concept. Collaboration tools also offer us virtual whiteboards we can use for brainstorming or to scribble a diagram or graph while we are talking to help convey our thoughts and ideas. These real time interactions give teleworkers more opportunity to be involved in decision making and discussions about the project or business.
In my work supporting Online Learning we have been using these technologies for some years. And there are some that do a brilliant job. Lot’s of them are at a low cost (some free) due to the economies of scale with web-based tools. Here are some slides from a recent workshop on the use of online collaboration tools which discusses relevant tools (note: this is just a small number of examples – not an exhaustive list).
A challenge for teleworkers has always been the potential to feel isolated and miss out on social opportunities. The same tools that can be used for collaboration and to improve team work can often be used to set up social spaces to build a sense of community within an organisation – whether it is to facilitate real time chats, share stories or be a little silly. This sense of community can help to build relationships and trust and improve the life/work balance of our staff.
As a final thought, as well as being more efficient – people who were unable to telework in the past can now do so. Educators who once had to work on-site now have the option to teach using online tools and flip classrooms. Combined with better Internet connectivity this should allow some skilled teachers in regions where they had trouble to find work to teach and facilitate online. Now we are back to learning and education…
Let’s all hope that in future we will not need National Telework Week!
PS: We are currently in the process of comparing 15+ Online Video Tools for Online Learning (and probably for Telework) – so stay tuned for this. If you want to subscribe to our Newsletter via this site’s front page (http://www.brightcookie.com/) you can receive this update when it will be released.
Since I try to practice what I preach – this blog entry is coming to you from my home office !
Additional note from Cat: Being based in our Perth Brightcookie office doesn’t mean that I feel isolated from the Adelaide team – far from it! I hear the phone ring in the Adelaide office and can even answer it and transfer it. I can see who is online, busy, or out to lunch. I use G-Talk to send a message or ask a question, just as I would by popping my head into their office. Team meetings are conducted via Skype over a cup of coffee. Folders and files are shared and when I’m stuck, I can even share my desktop. In many ways it’s just like being in the Adelaide office – so much so that sometimes the Adelaide team forgets that there is a significant time difference in summer!
Image at the top courtesy of Visua.ly (http://visual.ly/work-home-fridays-join-movement)