There are very specific personal skills that are essential to success as a student in an online environment. First, they include familiarizing oneself with the circumstances of online education and becoming comfortable functioning in this environment that is such a different experience from traditional classroom instruction. Since all of the coursework is online with very few (if any) required meeting times, it can’t be understated how important it is to be self-motivated, self-disciplined, and, above all, manage one’s time well. The flexibility is a bonus, but can also be the source of stress for the procrastinator.
For a team to be successful, online or otherwise, Haycock emphasizes the importance of first establishing a group goal. With clearly defined performance goals, individuals should know their roles and what they are expected to contribute to the collaborative project. Irwin and Haycock both discuss the value of trust, since one of the major apprehensions in doing group work is based on a feeling that others will not pull their own weight and will negatively impact the rest of the group (and ultimately the grade of each individual). This is why personal accountability and responsibility to the group are keys to success. Since groups are self-managing, equal participation and regular and open communication are essential, as there is no superior overseeing the work and delegating tasks to individuals.
I appreciated Haycock’s treatment of conflict within a collaborative environment and how to best deal with it. Most people have a strong aversion to conflict, and reasonably so. We mostly strive to keep the peace, but conflict can actually be a good thing if the issues at the root are addressed respectfully. It’s crucial to be very aware of how we convey our messages in writing, since we miss a lot of the nuances of communication. An email message can be (mis)understood as having a tone very different from what the sender intended and result in friction. The more we work together, the greater the likelihood that conflict will arise. When passive- aggressive behavior, power struggles or a silent festering of negative attitudes enter into the group dynamic, it can become toxic. Clear communication should involve clarifying the team’s goals, reaching compromises, and developing an improvement plan. Conflict can actually be highly productive if it is handled the right way.
Some of us are naturally more independent than others and tend to feel more comfortable going it alone in many aspects of life, but the very essence of work in a library/information setting is mostly collaborative. We need to cultivate these invaluable skills that will make our work more productive and rewarding and, hopefully, fun! Libraries are community-oriented and will require us to become adept at working with the public, as well as with one another within the organization and/or across organizations. From planting a community garden to political organizing, from raising children to operating in a structured work environment, the end result of collaboration is almost always worth more than what individuals are able achieve on their own.