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Eight essential tips for remote interdisciplinary teamwork

Rocío Elizabeth Cortez Márquez and Elia Esther Mendoza Carabeo give advice on making interdisciplinary teams work online

27 Jan 2022
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Research management

Sponsored by

Elsevier logo
Elsevier helps researchers and healthcare professionals advance science and improve health outcomes for the benefit of society.
An online meeting. University professors and lecturers need to learn to work together online in the new normal

Created in partnership with

Created in partnership with

Technologico de Monterrey

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In soccer, the players, coaching staff, medical teams and the club’s board have a common goal: win games to claim the championship. Each member contributes in his or her way according to their specialism, abilities and strengths.

This is a great example of interdisciplinary teamwork, where the various areas of expertise of a group of people each add value to a project. For universities, the pandemic brought with it the added challenge of not being able to be physically together, meaning remote collaboration was required and has now almost certainly become a practice that will endure over time.

But how can academics, who can struggle to work with other disciplines at the best of times, achieve interdisciplinary team success without the “presence” component? In this article, we share some strategies for management and collaboration in designing online courses.

Establish flexible roles 

Each member can and should contribute using their own specialty in terms of profession, abilities and personal interests, from instructional designers and teachers to tutors and academic coordinators. Identify the diverse profiles available and organise the group into a team with complementary skills and a common goal. And make sure that everyone is mutually responsible for the result.

Implement strategies to generate creative ideas 

It’s a good idea to plan exclusive ideation sessions in which all team members can participate without any restrictions or limitations. To help activate thinking outside the box, apply a methodology or strategy that encourages creativity, such as design thinking, blue ocean strategy or the Scamper technique, among others.

Create a virtual learning community for your team 

This should be a shared space to interact, create knowledge, exchange information, publish results and socialise. Even a digital network should develop a sense of identity, belonging and loyalty, favouring human and emotional connection. Fairly basic tech tools such as Microsoft Teams, Google Docs and Workplace can be used promote collaboration, but always ensure everyone involved is comfortable with a platform before implementing it and provide training for anyone who isn’t.

Design content in real time 

Be sure to create moments of synchronous collaboration where the entire team meets together. Apply methodologies such as think tank, bootcamp and startup, among others. Such sessions allow the team to obtain solutions in a staggered manner and promote team integration by focusing on short challenges and concrete results.

Use emotional connection activities to build trust 

Remember that this is a group of people from different disciplines who do not necessarily know each other in person. Thus, schedule moments within work sessions to strengthen group bonds via emotional connection activities. These help build trust in the group and foster a sense of belonging. It’s easy to add a fun element to icebreaking and integration activities using tech tools such as Wheel Decide, Jamboard or Padlet.

Schedule recurring meetings to monitor progress 

Assign the same time every week to review progress with the team. The session must be short to be effective; no more than one hour. Bearing in mind the need to be agile, ask each team member to bring a summary of their work and activity status to the session.

Lean on apps for real-time monitoring 

Several digital applications, including Asana or Slack, can help manage teamwork remotely. These platforms are highly effective because you can use them to perform multiple functions, such as register collaborators, view a dashboard with project progress in real-time, identify critical points and instant message between colleagues, among others.

Close the project 

Call a virtual meeting at the end of the project in which you acknowledge teamwork, record lessons learned, hand over the project to management and release the team. Additionally, be sure to monitor the operation of the project and use analytics tools to document continuous improvement.

An interdisciplinary team must be prepared and able to adapt to new ways of managing distance collaboration. The benefits include optimisation of time, flexibility and welcoming international and multicultural experts.

Rocío Elizabeth Cortez Márquez is a teacher and academic coordinator at Tecnológico de Monterrey, Mexico. She has more than 10 years of experience in classroom, hybrid and distance educational models.

Elia Esther Mendoza Carabeo is a teacher and leader of educational innovation at Tecnológico de Monterrey. She has more than 18 years of experience in innovative educational models in face-to-face, hybrid and distance learning.

Research management

Sponsored by

Elsevier logo
Elsevier helps researchers and healthcare professionals advance science and improve health outcomes for the benefit of society.

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