Group Work

3 Reasons why students can’t work with Facebook groups.

GUEST COLUMN | by Daniel Rock

CREDIT azendooSchool projects are like giant 3D puzzles being built by several people at the same time. These “puzzles” require file sharing, co-editing, questions, answers, and individual task management. Facebook may be the world’s biggest social network, but it is not suited for group project management (putting together a puzzle), especially in today’s tech-savvy educational environment.

When it comes to group projects and classmate collaboration, students spend just as much time looking for information and sharing it with teammates as they do actually working. Today’s student is overwhelmed with an abundance of information, increased mobility and little free time, making organization (in and out of the classroom) one of their biggest and most important challenges.

As students, our first answer to group project organization is to create a Facebook Group. That group page quickly becomes a central hub where we exchange ideas, solutions and documents that pertained to the assignment. A Facebook Group is good for raw communication, because everyone and their mother already use the network. However, when we look closely at what we actually need, and the way we’re using Groups, it becomes evident that Facebook is not efficient—at all.

What is it about Facebook that leaves students needing more?

To understand why Facebook doesn’t work, we should first understand what we need. There are three aspects of project organization that need to be tackled in unison; task management, effective communication and information sharing. The problem is, Facebook can’t offer a single effective solution to any one of these aspects, much less all three at the same time. So why can’t Facebook get the job done?

1) No Notion of Task Management

Leaning back on the 3D puzzle analogy, each task is like an individual puzzle piece. That means that during a project, each task needs to be checked off in order of priority. Whether we as students realize it or not, successful project organization is essentially just effective task management. Unfortunately, task management is the first aspect that we overlook. It is important for students to understand that defining objectives and assigning responsibilities go hand in hand. Each member of the team has their role, and everyone needs to be clear on what is expected of them.

The problem is Facebook offers no notion of task management. Groups are only for information exchange, and overlook the underlying need for individual to-do lists and group task planning. Students simply have no way of seeing, organizing or commenting on the many tasks that make up a project. When it comes to building a puzzle, personal tasks should be open to collaboration. Group work is not several individuals working alone towards a common goal, but a group of people working together in unison.

2) Ineffective Communication

If Facebook comes close to helping us with one aspect of collaboration, it’s communication. But effective communication means exchanging the right information with the right person, at the right time, with the least amount of effort. Unfortunately, as a student, our life is already social network heavy, and mixing personal and professional information makes seeing (not to mention organizing) important information almost impossible.

Everyone is familiar with the Facebook message feed. Like most conventional social message boards, it allows users to present and comment on one idea at a time. That single Facebook comment column is nothing more than a never-ending corkboard, pinning information on “walls” in hopes that the people involved will see it and respond.

Our Facebook message feeds get swamped with useless information about new relationships and last night’s party. So how should students be expected to concentrate on work when they’re drowning in clutter? Facebook understands the communication aspect, however it’s the “effective” part that’s missing.

3) Inefficient Information Sharing

Of course, Facebook allows us to attach files to messages and comments. But what happens when I have multiple documents coming from several sources? Students are forced to use third party solutions for information storage, which simply adds another link in the already cumbersome chain. Having the right info is only half the battle, having it when you need it and being able to find it quickly make all the difference.

It’s nearly impossible to build a 3D puzzle without instructions, and if it can be done, attacking the project blindly is the least efficient solution. Now more than ever, students have trouble getting the right info in front of them when they need it most. The average student spends hours just looking for instructions and guidance. We have so much data stored in so many different places that getting organized is already a challenge, not to mention sharing it with our teammates.

Students need to be able to regroup pertinent information and access it easily. Having everything we need in one place allows groups to benefit from shared knowledge and contribute to the what’s happening in real-time. Information transparency means not needing to go through your timeline looking for last week’s attachment or trying to find that old message from one of your many classmates.

The Bottom Line

All three of these elements need to be addressed in the same manor and preferably by the same solution. Creating a Facebook Group is the quick fix to an ongoing problem because it’s already being used by a majority of students (if not all), but as we all know, education is not about the easy solution.

Effective group organization means knowing who’s doing what at any given stage of a project and being able to synchronize individual work around common objectives. So what do today’s tech-savvy students need in order to learn to be efficient team members, without wasting valuable time? I’m not sure, but my goal is not necessarily to answer that question. I simply want to shed some light on why Facebook Groups aren’t working, and what the future holds for edtech solutions that regroup all aspects of project management into one student friendly platform.

Daniel Rock is Social Media Manager for Azendoo, a collaborative task and team task management platform for work and school environments. Write to: drock@azendoo.com

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