Online Tools for Collaboration between Staff and Volunteers

In preparation for today’s web conference conversation on Online Tools for Collaboration between Staff and Volunteers,  I wanted to prepare a few thoughts about how a task force of six people have come together for the past two years to volunteer their time to create a social media training.

The training is designed to help Extension Master Gardener (EMG) volunteers learn about using social media to share research-based information in a volunteer role with EMG programs across the United States. The virtual task force has been glued together by their passion of helping volunteers learn to use social media to “Learn. Reach. Teach” in a Extension volunteer role, and made possible by a myriad of online tools and collaborative approaches.

EMG Social Media Training

A list of online tools for collaboration between staff and volunteers

Today, Steve Judd (co-task force member, and chair of the eXtension Network Literacy CoP) and I will discuss some tools we used to collaborate and create the online training.  Here is a quick list with a brief description of how the tools were used:

  • Doodle Polls – scheduling meetings across time zones.
  • Google Hangouts – F2F like video conferencing with colleagues
    • Uber Conference app for Google Hangouts (a way to bring people together in a Hangout despite firewalls and internet connectivity issues)
    • Google Hangout event (scheduling the meeting)
  • Email updates and reminders – perhaps this is a given, but it was still an important way to communicate progress, help people find links to documents,  and send meeting reminders to the team.
  • Drupal – a CMS that served as a container to chronologically organize meeting notes.
  • Boomerang – a way to send email in the wee hours of the morning so they hit the team’s inbox at 9 am.
  • Boardthing.com – a way to brainstorm and organize ideas for putting the training together.
  • Google Sites – first a way to organize the content of the site. Secondly, a way to offer the site without having to log in with a password. Thirdly, the comments feature also provided a way for team members to have and keep track of conversations around content sections.
  • Google Drive
    • Google Docs – putting thoughts together and enabling discussions around them
    • Google Sheets – organizing team assignments, user testing results and priorities
    • Google Forms – creating knowledge checks
    • Google Slides – putting slide presentations together
  • YouTube – a way to embed videos into Google Slides and Google Sites.
  • Word Docs –  a tool used for gathering user testing participants feedback (sometimes communicating with tools that people use most frequently is best)
  • WebEx – a way to allow user testing and focus group participants access to a phone number and video conferencing options, while also enabling the recording of focus group feedback.
  • Flickr images and wikimedia – a place to find CC images, acknowledge attribution, and share images
  • Qualtrics – a way to create a certificate quiz that auto-generates a certificate to the participant (without having them create a password for a LMS).

Following the announcement of this session last week, Jerry Buckho, colleague and fellow Network Literacy CoP member, asked a few questions about online tools for collaboration:

  • What did you do to help the team to keep moving forward?
  • What approach did the team take towards completing the various tasks? Who contributed to what and how was it decided?
  • Did you have to work through any issues w/ team members having lack of access to tools/resources?
  • What kind of time structure/temporal framework did the team adopt? Is all work done via team meetings, or something more fluid?
  • How did you work w/ the differing experience levels of team members w/ distance collaboration & the tech/tools you used?

I thought these questions were helpful as I prepare my thoughts for today’s session. On today’s call, we will likely discuss some of these questions or similar aspects.

{Update: the recording is posted via the same link provided} The Online tools for Collaboration between Staff and Volunteers web conference discussion will be held today (9/29/2015) at 2pm ET.  If you have an interest in online collaboration and tools, join us!  If you need to see what 2 pm ET is in your time zone, check the link, it should convert to your timezone!

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