Things need to get done. There are many many projects going on between clubs, student government and the programming board.
Students are spread all over the campus or all over the community. Getting them into the same room consistently is incredibly difficult. Miscommunication is rampant and leads to team damaging blame: Shauna thought that Raj was completing x, Raj thought Jennifer was doing it.
Advisors need to know what is happening. Depending on the school, and the importance of the project, advisors try to stay up to date to a varying degree – somewhere between “tell me when it’s on fire” and “I’ll tell you (the students) every single step”.
Current Solutions on Campuses
White boards in the office. Problem: changes and viewing all has to be done “in-person” and students hardly do anything “in-person”.
List-serves. Problem: everyone gets all the information, so they stop paying attention.
Direct e-mails. Problem: one leader bottleneck with workflow management slows the team. (Some super type A’s can pull it off, but delegation is difficult so leaders tend to rely on a small group they can trust, rather than integrating new people.) E-mail has serious drawbacks.
Web based collaborative software: manage tasks, communication, files, and people through a simple to use web based application, accessible to any member of the team at anytime.
These tools are always available, and provide accessibility for information (new people can see how stuff works) and transparency for responsibility (everyone can see who is supposed to be doing what.)
There are many solutions all trying to address similar challenges.
This blog isn’t about summaries as much opinions, but if you’d like to poke around yourself, here’s a start.
For those with less time / inclination, here’s the opinion: Start with Basecamp from 37signals.
1) Easy. Adoption is the hardest part. With Basecamp there is an incredibly quick “get”.
2) Free to try and pretty cheap to buy (approximately $24-50 a month). Cancel anytime, so don’t worry about the summer months!
4) Effective. It’s about communication. Increasing communication increases effectiveness.
But, but, but . . .
Time: James O’Donnel’s answer.
Money: No way you can spend a couple hundred? There is a open source solution for free. The problem is that it is not as easy to use. If this reduces adoption and there is no return on your time, free gets expensive.
Know-how: Chill out. It’s free, just try. Likely you’ll surprise yourself. If not, build rapport with a student by asking for help.
A Final, Slightly Highfalutin, Argument for Basecamp specifically:
Basecamp is built on a philosophy and a very opinionated one at that.
It is decisively simple. The rest is up to the user. I love this for education, because it forces the users (the students) to think. To think conceptually. There is no “right way” built into the software. It’s up to the users to figure out the best way to use what is there. It forces them to develop, hone, and communicate their own opinions to relate to the tool. What a great skill and what a great educational by-product of solving your collaboration challenges!