Whenever I interview CAS students one aspect of their reflections that stands out is that much learning derives from projects. And most frequently that learning involves working and collaborating with peers and adults from other schools in a district, or even from other states, counties and countries. Whenever a CAS student steps up to lead a project then that learning is accelerated and accentuated especially if any project team members are based in a different location. Separation can make it hard to collaborate.

From ProjectManager.com here’s a list of 5 tips that help solve collaboration problems.

#1: Don’t rely on email
: It’s tempting to rely on email when you have a team split across several locations. Email makes it easy to copy everyone in and it is fast. But it isn’t an effective way to collaborate.

Inboxes get very full and it often becomes difficult to follow the thread of a conversation. Make it a rule on your team that once you’ve hit 7 emails in a chain you use another way of getting in touch with each other.

#2: Use collaboration tools: 
There are lots of tools that are better than email for collaboration. For example, the chat feature in ProjectManager.com makes it easy to have real-time conversations with other team members, wherever they are based. You can also host discussions and share files, which are all key to building good working relationships with your colleagues.

Make sure that everyone knows how to use the collaboration tools. It’s best to choose tools that are intuitive and don’t take much training, if any, so everyone can start using them immediately. This also makes it a lot easier for anyone new joining the team as there is no learning curve.

#3: ‘Meet’ regularly: 
It might not be possible to meet face-to-face, but you can make plans to meet up virtually on a regular basis. Schedule weekly conference calls, webinars or collaboration sessions where you can discuss progress and what needs to happen next on the project.

If you can get everyone together once or twice during the project then try to do so. This is particularly important at the start and towards the delivery phase of the project and can really help build trust in the team.

#4: Make it easy to chat
: You might want to know what’s going on, but don’t force your team members to communicate through you. If you insist that they run all communication through you, you’ll quickly become a bottleneck and it will actually be harder to collaborate. Let them chat to each other. Use other methods, like status updates and meetings, to find out the latest news instead of trying to funnel all the team’s communication through you.

Trust them to make the right decisions and to let you know if anything important comes up that should be escalated to you.

#5: Make it fun: 
It’s hard working with people that you can’t see and don’t get the chance to meet up with. Many virtual teams find it easy to collaborate with each other once they have been doing it for a while, but at the start it can be challenging. So make it fun! Share photos of each other at work or of the tasks you are working on. Upload videos to your online file storage. Host a quiz with the discussion feature of your software and give out virtual prizes. There are lots of ways that you can make it fun to be part of your project team; you just have to get creative!