10 Tips for Succeeding in Virtual Teams

March 27, 2014

Almost all of the online courses I teach involve group work of some kind. Some groups thrive in their virtual teams and others fail miserably. After observing what works and what does not, here are ten tips to those who are new to online collaborative projects:

  1. Give one another the benefit of the doubt.
  2. Be kind to each other. Point out one another’s strengths.
  3. Refrain from commenting on each other’s weaknesses.
  4. When in doubt, assume good intentions. Tone is very difficult to “hear” in online communications. If you find yourself miffed or offended, take a step back. Are you sure that you are not making an assumption about the other person’s intention? Then ask yourself, “Is this really the hill I want to die on?” Forgiveness is important in virtual teams.
  5. Focus on supporting each other through the process.  No one gets left behind and if there’s an assigned leader, that person doesn’t forge too far ahead. Instead, keep the group together and moving forward.It’s a journey and your job is to make it up the mountain together.
  6. Be flexible with one another. Scheduling can be especially challenging in an online context. Change up the meeting times to accommodate people from different time zones. Don’t expect the same person to always get up at 2:00 a.m. for a meeting.
  7. Ask what you can do to help or what others need most from you. Don’t assume that your virtual team mates know your strengths.
  8. Avoid writing frustrations down and sharing them. If you need to work out issues, find a way to talk about it (e.g. Skype or phone).
  9. Sometimes you are right and sometimes you are wrong. It’s not about being right or wrong. It’s about working together.
  10. Everyone is responsible for making back-ups of the work along the way. If one person’s system crashes, they get a virus or their laptop is stolen, the other members of the team all have copies of the back-ups. Using online storage such as Dropbox or Google drive is a great idea, but it’s not the only idea. Back everything up.

Working in virtual teams can be challenging, but that doesn’t mean you can’t do it. With a bit of patience, common sense and a good sense of humour, you’ll be surprised how much you can achieve in a virtual team.

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Resources for learning and teaching Arabic

January 7, 2014

http://img.ehowcdn.com/article-new-thumbnail/ehow/images/a05/6m/ih/learn-arabic-writing-800x800.jpgThis semester I am involved in a Calgary Board of Education (CBE) pilot project to teach Arabic in a blended learning course at the high school level. I’ve been working with a fantastic team of educators comprised of an instructional designer, a curriculum development specialist and a native speaker of Arabic who will take on the challenge of helping the students learn. Here are some resources for others who are interested in teaching or learning Arabic online.

20 Free online resources for teaching and learning Arabic

Professional Resources for K-12 Arabic Educators (Harvard University) – http://cmes.hmdc.harvard.edu/files/NEAAT15Oct2011Materials.pdf

Arabic K-12 Teachers Network – http://www.arabick12.org/materials/websites/teacher_sites.html

American Association of Teachers of Arabic (Resources page) – http://aataweb.org/arabic_resources

Center for Open Educational Resources and Language Learning (Arabic) – http://www.coerll.utexas.edu/coerll/projects/arabic

Becker’s Arabic page – http://www.uni.edu/becker/arabic.html

National Middle East Language Resource Center – http://nmelrc.org/Arabic

E-Arabic Learning – http://www.dur.ac.uk/daniel.newman/elearn.html

Arabic Voices (Listening comprehension) – University of Texas at Austin – http://www.laits.utexas.edu/aswaat/index.php

Arabic Online – http://www.arabiconline.eu/resources/

University of London Language Centre – Arabic Resources – http://www.soas.ac.uk/languagecentre/teachers/resources/arabic/

UCLA Language Materials Project (Various entries for Arabic Resources) – http://www.lmp.ucla.edu/Default.aspx

National Capital Language Resource Center (Arabic) – http://www.nclrc.org/teaching_materials/materials_by_language/arabic.html

Comprehensive list of resources from Mohamed Esa, McDaniel College – http://www2.mcdaniel.edu/german/startalk-arabic/ArabicLanguageCultureResources..pdf

National Foreign Language Center – Online Reading Skills Lessons in Arabic – http://readarabic.nflc.org/?page=to_the_learner

Arabic Language Resource website – http://www.azifoon.com/arabic-learners/online.htm

Institute for Innovation in Second Language Education (IISLE) – Arabic resources – https://sites.google.com/a/share.epsb.ca/languages-epsb-ca/arabic/opportunities-for-parents

Language Acquisition Resource Center – Arabic – http://larc.sdsu.edu/arabic/

Teachers of Critical Languages (Arabic) – http://www.tclprogram.org/TCLP/lessonPlansBrowse.php?cat=233&programCat=1

Arabic Without Walls (UC Davis) – http://arabicwithoutwalls.ucdavis.edu/aww/

We Love Arabic (blog) – http://welovearabic.wordpress.com/

Bonus resources (books)

Ryding, K. C. (2013). Teaching and learning Arabic as a foreign language. Washington, D.C.: Georgetown University Press. Find out more at: http://press.georgetown.edu/book/languages/teaching-and-learning-arabic-foreign-language

Wahba, K. M., Taha, Z. A., & England, L. (2006). Handbook for Arabic language teaching professionals in the 21st century. Mahwah, NJ: Lawrence Erlbaum Associates.

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If you are interested in booking me (Sarah Eaton) for a presentation, keynote or workshop (either live or via webinar) contact me at sarahelaineeaton (at) gmail.com. Please visit my speaking page, too.


How to use Scribd to publish your own documents online: A free, downloadable, step-by-step guide

September 2, 2013

With a new school year about to start, a great online tool for teachers and students to know about is Scribd. This online service lets you publish all kinds of documents, including:

  • Resources (like the guide I am sharing with you in this post)
  • Slide presentations
  • Digitally created books
  • Basically any document you can save in Word or .pdf format.

Here’s a preview, step-by-step, “how to” guide for you:

View this document on Scribd

To download a free copy, click on the download icon next to the word “Scribd” at the bottom of the frame. (It looks like an arrow pointing downwards.)

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If you are interested in booking me (Sarah Eaton) for a presentation, keynote or workshop (either live or via webinar) contact me at sarahelaineeaton (at) gmail.com. Please visit my speaking page, too.


10 Tips for Creating Successful and Sustainable Online Communities

August 7, 2013

NingI have set up a number of online communities throughout my career. Here are my top 10 lessons learned over the years:

  1. An initial time investment of 25 hours to get your online community set up is not unreasonable. It’s easy and fast to sign up, but there’s more to it than setting up an account and a profile. In the beginning, you need to build a foundation for ongoing and sustainable social interaction between your members. You need to create a community that provides value, resources and a sense that time there will be well spent.
  2. You also need to collect and add some quality content to populate the site from the very beginning. Do not wait until you have a critical mass of members, assuming that high quality content will simply appear. Set the example for what type of content you expect by populating the site with some initial contributions yourself.
  3. Most popular content includes “how to” information, tips, lesson plans and very practical hands-on type information. Avoid lengthy diatribes, theory or “heavy” philosophical material. Multi-media content is also popular.
  4. It’ll work best if you “seed” the community with at least half a dozen (or more, if you can get them) key individuals who are well-known in the social group. These “founding members” should be hand-picked by the administrator. They are folks who will be seen as trusted authorities or influencers. Get at least half a dozen founding members fully signed up (including their profiles and photos) before sending out a mass public invite. You may have to follow up with them once or twice to nudge them, but it’s worth it. Seeding your site with a few key influencers can help build the online community quickly and effectively.
  5. People will have a look to see who else is part of the online community before they sign up themselves. If they see people they know, trust and like on the list of virtual community members, they are more likely to sign up themselves.
  6. Ask each of your “founding members” to contribute one piece of content — an article, a blog post or something that will bring value to the community. Part of the success of your Ning will depend on having quality contributions from a variety of members.
  7. Plan on updating your online community at least once a week. One of the biggest downfalls of online communities is that they stagnate because no one contributes.
  8. Approve new members. Human spammers or spam bots may try to sign up for your online community. Some services that offer online communities give you the option to require that new members be approved. If your service offers that option, I recommend accepting it. It’s a little more work upfront, but it keeps the quality of your online community high… which will keep your members happy.
  9. If you do get spammers in the community, eject them immediately. No apologies and no questions asked. If necessary, you may need to apologize to community members for spammer activity and let them know that you have taken steps to ensure that it doesn’t happen again.
  10. Invite contributions from members on an ongoing basis. Send out periodic and personalized e-mails to members letting them know that you have showcased their work or you’d like to invite them to contribute. Avoid sending form letters or messages that are not personalized. Sending occasional personal e-mail communications will be more effective than mass mailouts or “blasts”. By the way, this goes beyond a form letter that simply has the person’s first name in the salutation. That no longer counts as genuinely personalized communication. Add a comment about the person as human being. Ask about their spouse, kids, pets or latest project or vacation, using specific details that lets the sender know it is not really just another form letter.

Over the past few years, I have noticed a curious trend. Five years ago, fewer people knew what online communities were all about. Those who knew signed up without much resistance and contributed generously. Now, more people know what online communities are and understand how to participate in one, but at the same time, people are getting pickier about what they sign up for. Even though more people have higher technology literacy levels when it comes to understanding both the concept and the “nuts and bolts” of online communities, that does not necessarily correlate to a willingness to sign up for one.

The trick to creating a sustainable and successful online community is continually providing value to members, without overwhelming them. You must respect their time, their privacy and their willingness to engage. Time and energy are valuable personal resources. If you want someone to spend time and energy in your online community, make it worthwhile for them.

An online community is not a sales platform and nor is it a space for one person to broadcast their ideas or opinions. A community — whether it is online or in real life — must be interactive, engaging and supportive for everyone.

Ning is my favorite online platform for online communities, especially for education and non-profit. There is a cost, but it is minimal. The Ning name is also trusted and well-known. I don’t think you need to budget tens of thousands of dollars to have a custom-built platform.

(Note: I have no affiliation to Ning and receives no financial or other benefits from promoting them. I just think they are a good service that’s worth recommending.)

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Share or Tweet this: 10 Tips for Creating Successful and Sustainable Online Communities http://wp.me/pNAh3-1Do

If you are interested in booking me (Sarah Eaton) for a presentation, keynote or workshop (either live or via webinar) contact me at sarahelaineeaton (at) gmail.com. Please visit my speaking page, too.


5 Signs your child is a cyberbully

April 1, 2013

Sarah Eaton's education blogParents, educators and even children are aware that bullying is moving out of the playground and into virtual spaces. According to the American Humane Association, 15% to 20% of children bully others online.

In a previous post I talked about signs to help you figure out if your child is being cyberbullied. But what if your child is the cyberbully?

Here are 5 key indicators that your child is harassing others online:
  1. Is secretive about online activities. The cyberbully does not want to be discovered by parents, grandparents, teachers or others who may hold them accountable.
  2. Quickly switches computer screens or closes the screen when you enter the room or walk by. This is a tactic often used by people who do not want others to discover what they have been doing online. Watch for indicators that your child works to quickly minimize an online browser, close a web page or change screens within a second or two of you approaching the computer they are using. This is a sign that your child does not want you to know what they have been doing online.
  3. Uses the computer or mobile devices late at night or when he or she is unsupervised. Inappropriate online behavior is more likely to occur when the bully feels that no one is watching or supervising their actions. They feel less accountable for their online activity when left alone to misbehave.
  4. Gets extremely upset if computer privileges are revoked. While almost any child in today’s world may get upset if their technology privileges are taken away, the cyberbully may become particularly sulky, defensive or angry. The virtual space is where they feel all-powerful and free of consequences, so when that privilege is revoked, they may feel completely disempowered or oppressed.
  5. Uses multiple online accounts or accounts with a fake name. The cyberbully is likely to take the time to create multiple online accounts using public e-mail systems such as Hotmail, Google or Yahoo, since they feel these are less easily traceable. The cyberbully will often lack the courage to represent themselves online in an authentic and transparent manner.

Cyberbullies often feel like victims themselves. In my next post I’ll talk about characteristics of cyberbullies and how harassing others online may be just one sign of deeper mental or emotional illness.

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Related post: How to tell if your child is being cyber-bullied http://wp.me/pNAh3-1w4

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References

Amercian Humane Association. (n.d.). Cyber Bullying Prevention and Intervention.   Retrieved November 19, 2012, from http://www.americanhumane.org/children/stop-child-abuse/fact-sheets/cyber-bullying-prevention-and-intervention.html

Hinduja, S., & Patchin, J. W. (n.d.). Cyberbulling: Indentification, prevention and response. Retrieved from http://www.cyberbullying.us/Cyberbullying_Identification_Prevention_Response_Fact_Sheet.pdf

PureSight Online Child Saftey (Author). (n.d.). What should I do if my child is a cyberbully?   Retrieved November 19, 2012, from http://www.puresight.com/Cyberbullying/what-should-i-do-if-my-child-is-a-cyber-bully.html

StopBullying.gov. (n.d.). Warning signs.   Retrieved 2012, 2012, from http://www.stopbullying.gov/at-risk/warning-signs/index.html#bullying

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If you enjoyed this post, please “like” it or leave a comment. Thanks!

Share or Tweet this: 5 Signs your child is a cyberbully http://wp.me/pNAh3-1AM

If you are interested in booking me (Sarah Eaton) for a presentation, keynote or workshop (either live or via webinar) contact me at sarahelaineeaton (at) gmail.com. Please visit my speaking page, too.


How to create excellent online discussion board questions

January 26, 2013

This semester I have incorporated an activity into my online courses. Students are required to facilitate the online discussion board for one or two weeks, depending on which course they are in. We use an online learning platform called Blackboard, but there are a number of different platforms available.

Here is a handy 1-page resource I created to help my  students develop and facilitate great questions that enhance learning, keep participants focussed and encourage in-depth online discussions.

View this document on Scribd

Click here to download your own copy of it: How to facilitate a Blackboard discussion

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If you enjoyed this post, please “like” it or leave a comment. Thanks!

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If you are interested in booking me (Sarah Eaton) for a presentation, keynote or workshop (either live or via webinar) contact me at sarahelaineeaton (at) gmail.com. Please visit my speaking page, too.


5 free downloadable resources on effective E-learning principles

June 26, 2012

Here are some excellent downloadable resources that clearly outline basic e-learning principles in clear, easy-to-understand language:

Six principles of effective e-learning by Ruth Clark (Free 10-page .pdf from the eLearning Guild)

E-Learning: A Guidebook of Principles, Procedures and Practices by Som Naidu, Ph.D. (a free 100-page .pdf book published by the Commonwealth of Learning)

Efficiency in e-Learning: Proven Instructional Methods for Faster, Better, Online Learning by Frank Nguyen and Ruth Colvin Clark (Free 8-page downloadable .pdf from the e-Learning Guild)

E-learning Tools and Resources: Putting Principles into Practice by Wendy Chambers (A 41-page .pdf. I’ll put in plug for Wendy here. She’s a personal friend of mine and I can tell you, she really knows her stuff.)

Back to Basics: Using Adult Learning Principles to Create E-Learning Success by Steven R. Aragon (a 10-page .pdf. Note: This document opens in a separate window.)

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If you are interested in booking me (Sarah Eaton) for a presentation, keynote or workshop (either live or via webinar) contact me at sarahelaineeaton (at) gmail.com. Please visit my speaking page, too.


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