Collaborating in virtual space

Almjeld, Jen, Natalia Rybas, and Sergey Rybas. “Virtual Teaming: Faculty Collaboration in Online Spaces.” Kairos: A Journal of Rhetoric, Technology, and Pedagogy 17.2 (2013): n. pag. Web. 11 November 2013.

Jen Almjeld is an assistant professor of English at New Mexico State University. Her research interests include digital literacy, new media, and online identity formation. Natalia Rybas is an assistant professor of communication studies at Indiana University East. Her research interests include feminist and critical studies of technology; online teaching and learning; and critical cultural communication. I could not find much information on Sergey Rybas other than that he is an assistant professor of English at Capital University in Ohio. Based on content in the article and in the other collaborators’ online profiles, it can be presumed that he attended graduate school at Bowling Green State University, and it is likely that he is related to Natalia Rybas.

In this article in the Praxis section of Kairos, the authors recount their experiences teaching three different classes at three different universities in two different regions, using a collaborative project that teamed students in all three classes with one another. The idea to design a project that would combine students from each class arose out of a social meeting among the three professors, old friends from graduate school who were interested in similar things.

The three classes were organizational communication, writing in the professions, and online identity. The project, in which students used Wiki software to help local organizations tackle problems of global or national importance, had several goals, including teaching about multimodal composition, collaboration in virtual space, and several different types and contexts of writing and organizational communication. The article describes how the students from the different universities interacted, how the teachers modeled collaborative behavior and designed the project, and how students formed new identities based on their roles in the project.

This article, overall, is fascinating. The idea of having three classes work together despite covering different (but related) subjects and being geographically separate is incredibly ambitious, but from the testimonial, it sounds like it worked fairly well. I think that the most interesting aspect of the article is its description of how the teachers had to coordinate their separate class schedules and model the collaborative behavior. I was left wondering one thing, though: Might this have worked better if the three classes had been designed as essentially one class, taught by all three professors, touching on each separate subject, offered at all three universities simultaneously, and scheduled in concert? I didn’t really get the sense that the way it was done offered a concrete advantage over a more comprehensive team-taught course. Perhaps it was just not logistically possible at the time; I’m sure such courses will pop up in the near future around the country, if they haven’t already.

At any rate, this is one of the most interesting articles I’ve ever read in Kairos, which is quickly becoming one of my favorite publications.



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2 responses to “Collaborating in virtual space

  1. I agree that the classes might have worked more fluidly if they had been one class taught at three different locations. But it appears that the focuses (foci?) of the three separate classes allowed each to bring something different to the table.

  2. Yes, that does seem to be the case. I think that aspect of the project is very interesting. Both models — three different classes in three locations with a common project, and one class offered in three locations — could have their uses, I think.

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