After gaining a diverse set of valuable insight from several roundtable discussions with industry giants and innovative clients, we launched the Second SafestWorkplace webinar series beginning in June. We continued the series with DoYou Miss Your Markerboard? as Mark Coxon, Tangram Sales Director of Technology, and Joe Way, USC Director of Learning Environments, put their heads together and discussed best practices and recommended tools for integrating collaboration within teams working from both home, office and classroom.
If you work for a business with a ‘work is done here’ culture, then you’re likely experiencing a bit of culture shock, says Coxon.
When organizations made a quick shift to 100% remote work back in March, the transition to digital collaboration began. Most picked up tools in the immediate scramble, ie Zoom. But Zoom is a tool not a strategy, says Coxon. So now we find ourselves in an audit phase to evaluate the way we’ve been working and we’re asking ourselves, ‘What’s missing? Where is the gap?’
How do we establish an equal space for everyone in a collaborative setting, both those physically and digitally present? The problem we’re facing is that innovation tends to happen when people are in the same room, bouncing off of one another like atoms, says Coxon. A physical workspace allows for stacking tools so that multiple flows and tasks can coexist and continue on past the meeting itself. However, the online collaborative tools we’re currently working with are too linter and the process takes too long. Therefore, innovative companies are understanding that Zoom isn’t enough— there’s a big piece missing.
We need to go from survive to thrive, says Coxon.
Joe Way was in the process of transitioning USC to greater remote and hybrid learning before everything hit in March. What schools are working with now is a short-term solution to a long-term problem, says Way. And because some students and faculty won’t be comfortable returning to the physical classroom, universities need to transition from survival mode to a sustainable solution if they want to facilitate fruitful learning environments.
The reason to be together is to mind map, to take ideas and turn them into something tangible. That is extremely difficult to do on a Zoom call because everyone won’t be engaged, says Way.
Can you teach and lecture on Zoom? Absolutely. But the issue lies in the inability to gauge how much of it is actually absorbed because the reality is, people are getting better at multitasking while on Zoom calls, says Way.
The questions the faculty are asking are changing, and that says a lot to me. It tells me they’re adapting. It also tells me that Zoom is not sufficient. You have to do more to create an engaging and effective teaching space, says Way.
As faculty members return to their classroom, their own environment, it will be more engaging for students, virtual or not, because the faculty members will be more engaged themselves. There’s a familiarity that we all want but we’re all lacking, says Way. And as much as we can return to the original collaborative environment, the more effective it will be.
How can workers, students and faculty alike experience an enhanced learning and collaboration while in separate spaces?
For both office and class, the ability to do breakout groups on most collaborative platforms is often overlooked. For example, on Zoom, the presenter can assign participants into breakout “rooms” for a certain amount of time. Methods like this increase engagement, participation, and often eliminates the need for follow-up calls.
Most spaces aren’t set up for presentation/presenter mode. Taking as small of a step as having a secondary camera (360-degree camera or a presenter-tracking camera) that better emulates an audience view makes it easier for the viewers to process what is being shared because it feels more familiar to in-person meetings or lectures.
Tools like Prezi allow for dynamic presentations where you can incorporate your content as a part of your video background. This may not seem revolutionary, but the reality is, the brain can’t simultaneously read and listen—those 5 seconds that your content is up is 5 seconds where your voice is tuned out. So concurrent words and vocals can make all the difference.
Having a video wall in the classroom that displays a faculty member’s virtual students allows for them to feel more connected and engaged to audience responses and participation. And to further bridge the faculty-student disconnect, establishing Zoom office hours where students can jump in at any time allows for a more relaxed conversation outside of the formal virtual lectures that typically take place on the platform. We need to learn how to engage everyone, not just the people in the room, says Way.
It’s safe to say, we’re all missing the high-energy whiteboard collaborative sessions with our coworkers. Here are some product and software suggestions to help bring the whiteboard online and enhance digital brainstorm sessions:
Brilliant ideas are most often born out of organic, serendipitous interaction and the best conversations happen free of agenda. On the other end of the spectrum, Zoom calls always have topics and tasks, and relationship-building is ultimately left out of the equation.
A recent study of meetings rendered the outcome that of an hour-long meeting, only 17 minutes are actually task-focused and the other 43 minutes are spent on miscellaneous topics. These issues we’re facing now aren’t new—they existed in the office too. They’re just more obvious digitally where we can’t overlook or make up for shortcomings. In order to make our digital meetings more meaningful, we have to rethink the purpose of a meeting itself.
A solution may be to lay out roles for participants ahead of time, giving purpose to everyone’s presence rather than allowing for passive existence. Roles create accountability and engagement, but most importantly, keep the collaborative momentum moving forward, even when the innovators are miles apart.