Collaborative tools assisted the team in streamlining project activities time. Collaborative tools ensured that the whole team had a real-time update on the project progress because all members were duly informed about their tasks. Kirschner (2003) explains that picking the most suitable combination of collaborative tools is not easy because some factors have to be considered. The project approach was the main determinant of the collaborative suit to embrace considering a large number of collaborative tools available. There were several issues that were considered when choosing the best collaborative tools including the cost of application, ease of use or complexity of the application, resources needed to use or run the application, and the application’s compatibility with this project. The group decided to break down the different sections of collaboration in the project for easier decision-making. The first part was online meetings and video collaboration, followed by online document sharing and collaboration and finally collaborative file sharing and storage.
The team used GoToMeeting for online meetings and video collaboration. This tool was very effective as it allows group members to discuss and brainstorm any concept in the project regardless of the distance. Its features allow collaboration on a single document on a shared screen. It supports real-time editing. This tool has a free thirty-day trial after which they charge $49 a month.
The team used Google Docs for document sharing and collaboration. Google Docs required all the team members to have Google accounts on an active Internet feed. This tool is free for all users and it converts documents into a compatible format making it suitable for members without Microsoft Office tools. The main advantageous feature of this tool is that members do not have to send emails and attachments, or worry about information loss because documents are cloud saved automatically and continuously. Google Docs is easy to share, edit, collaborate and save.
Finally, for collaborative file sharing and storage, the team used KeepandShare. KeepandShare offers an easy and smart option for document storage and organization. It ensures that if a team member is unavailable for his or her project, documents are accessible to all the other group members. The information is stored on a web account. The tool is free for the storage of one hundred documents and this means that unnecessary documents are not saved. The team combined this tool with Zotero that offered a solution to research-based collaboration. This ensured that the team members saved and organized their research using Zotero for easier access and collaboration. The team members needed a registered account to enjoy this tool for free.
These tools were important for this task because they ensured that team members interacted virtually in the overall group work. They facilitated a timeline approach in the project execution solving some important tasks like to-do lists for individual members. However, despite using these tools, the group encountered some problems with these collaborative tools (Brown, Huettner & James-Tanny, 2007).
The first problem was bandwidth. All the tools that the team used relied on the Internet connections, and when some group members were in low coverage areas, bandwidth problems hindered effective communication as Kirschner (2003) ascertains. In the case of video conferencing, members had to wait for low traffic times for effective real; time interaction. This problem was solved by using other suitable methods of communication when the bandwidth was congested.
There was also a problem with cost. Members had to incur some expenses in the project work and this called for the assessment of the cheapest options to handle the project. The team solved this problem by opting to use free collaborative tools and avoiding overhead costs where it was possible. There was an initial problem with some members who were not conversant with the application of the collaboration tools. This problem was solved by choosing user-friendly collaborative tools that were easy to use, collaborate, and edit documents. Other members trained users on how to use online help to assist them on how to use the available collaborative tools. There was also a problem with file storage that was a result of limited storage by KeepandShare. This dictated that a maximum of one hundred documents be stored at any given time for a free account. The team accommodated this by ensuring only important documents were stored in the collaborative file sharing and storage tool.
The above solutions worked fine in alleviating the problems encountered by the team although the group felt that it could have been more comfortable and efficient with some other tools. One of the collaborative tools that the team wished to use was Skype because its group call video is more interactive and collaborative as discussed by Bonfiglio, Mellia, Meo, and Rossi (2009). However, Skype offers only a one-week free trial and the members were unwilling to pay for the service. The team also wished they could access a larger collaborative storage tool and the option was to pay $49.99 per year for storage of up to one hundred thousand documents in KeepandShare. The team also wished to use CutePDF for online collaboration of PDF files, but the license was $49.95 for a single license making it unsuitable. The team was still able to perform optimally despite these limitations.
Bonfiglio, D., Mellia, M., Meo, M., & Rossi, D. (2009). Detailed analysis of skype traffic. Multimedia, IEEE Transactions on, 11(1), 117-127.
Brown, M. K., Huettner, B., & James-Tanny, C. (2007). Managing virtual teams: Getting the most from wikis, blogs, and other collaborative tools. Plano, Tex: Wordware Pub.
Kirschner, P. A. (2003). Visualizing argumentation: Software tools for collaborative and educational sense-making. London: Springer.