Standing strong amid a pandemic: How a global online team project stands up to the public health crisis


Michael A. Leven School of Management, Entrepreneurship and Hospitality

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The annual instructional virtual team Project X brings together professors and students from across the globe to engage in client projects. The 2020 project was challenged by the global disruption of the COVID-19 pandemic. This paper draws on a quantitative dataset from a post-project survey among 500 participating students and a qualitative narrative inquiry of personal experiences of the faculty members. The findings reveal how innovative use of a variety of collaboration and communication technologies helped students and their professors in building emotional connection and compassion to support each other in the midst of the crisis, and to accomplish the project despite connectivity disruptions. The results suggest that the role of an instructor changed to a coach and mentor, and technology was used to create a greater sense of inclusion and co-presence in student-faculty interactions. Ultimately, the paper highlights the role of technology to help the participants navigate sudden crisis affecting a global online instructional team project. The adaptive instructional teaching strategies and technologies depicted in this study offer transformative potential for future developments in higher education. Practitioner notes What is already known about this topic The modern workplace calls for cross-cultural, digital collaboration skills, and this need has increased potentially after the impacts of the pandemic on moving a lot of work to remote settings—permanently. While instructional virtual teams are being used as part of diverse curricula to add an international, experiential element for students, universities still struggle helping students to acquire the whole spectrum of skills needed for the global digital workplace: virtual teamwork, project management, and comfort on working with digital business collaboration platforms. Virtual team research has studied impacts of the pandemic on organizational teams but there is little research on instructional online teams during the pandemic crisis. What this paper adds This paper adds evidence-based knowledge how virtual instructional teams, and their instructors navigated the broken connectivity situation when a global external health crisis forced students to transition from campuses to home environments in the middle of the collaboration project. It offers practical ideas how faculty used technology to connect with students and maintain class community in cases of inequal access to technology from home environments by using multiple platforms, and both, computer, and mobile enabled communication. It offers examples of student-centered, coaching-like teaching strategies and how these were applied when the global health crisis affected students in instructional teams. Implications for practice and policy The study offers implications for development of digital pedagogies for future; specifically, how to develop students' virtual intelligence and to promote intercultural awareness and collaboration skills in future higher education. The pandemic experiences shed additional light on the need to develop and acquire soft skills among students, for them to be able to navigate struggles and crisis in global, digital real workplace.

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British Journal of Educational Technology

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