takes a virtual twist
After just a few
weeks at the Kellogg School, students are already seasoned
pros when it comes to working in groups — “regulars”
in the second-floor meeting rooms of the Donald P. Jacobs
Center who are adept both at parceling out work and taking
in assignments. Most groups use a flurry of back-and-forth
email messages to figure out who is working on what and when,
but sometimes the technology isn’t sophisticated enough
to coordinate the actions of four or five students and multiple
That may be about
to change, as students this spring test new software that
promises to take virtual teamwork to the next level.
and students are cautiously optimistic about this trial, but
note that experiments with several other tools in the past
five years have failed to meet student needs fully.
The software being
tested now works a bit like a customized Web site, allowing
groups to gather notes, paper drafts, Internet links and data
in a place accessible to all the members. When someone is
working on a document, the software can bar others from accessing
it, and the tool can help students track their progress, chat
with one another and engage in ad-hoc collaboration.
“In a sense,
it’s like sharing the same file drawer,” says
Catherine Grimsted, Kellogg School associate dean of finance,
planning and technology. “You’re working on a
project and everything you have is right there at your fingertips.
and the tools have to come together with the ways that people
actually behave and process information,” Grimsted adds.
“At Kellogg, we don’t say, ‘Here’s
your tool. Now change your behavior.’”
But with some
1,300 Kellogg students each involved in multiple group projects
at any moment, it’s worth seeing what the latest generation
software has to offer, says Derek Yung, a second-year student
who is vice president of technology for the Graduate Management
Association and is working on the pilot program.
If the pilot proves
successful, real-time group collaboration could become part
of life at Kellogg within a year.
a particularly difficult finance class with weekly multiple
assignments. The night before one tough project was due, group
members signed off on a final version around midnight —
or so they thought.
Ten minutes before
class, a group member showed up with a revised version of
the paper. He had continued working well past midnight, unbeknownst
to his peers.
know which version to hand in,” Yung says. “If
we had this tool, we would have known someone was still working
on the paper.”