Teams in the Virtual Classroom A Sharing of Practical Experience
The rise of remote workers has demanded a change in the way employees work together. Incorporating team projects and providing support for team success in the classroom will be instrumental in helping organizations continue to achieve success in incorporating virtual teams into their workplace and culture
The future of economic growth in an increasingly interconnected global economy will rely on employees who are educated and trained in the skills required for new jobs. Many of these new jobs and skills required to be successful in them have evolved due in large part the increase of virtual work, brought on by the still unknown long-range impact of the COVID-19 pandemic. Manpower (2020), an internationally recognized staffing and talent management organization, reported that in the United States 69% of employers reported talent shortages, more than 3 times higher than it was a decade ago. Their findings also reported that globally this number is 54%, the highest in a decade.
According to the Job Outlook 2020 survey conducted by the National Association of Colleges and Employers (NACE), employers cited their top requirements for graduates included proof of problem-solving skills 91% and the ability to work in teams 86%. The online learning methodology, which is an option for students and one that is growing in popularity (Clapp, 2016), can be an integral part of preparing workers to gain the skills required by employers.
As seen in the NACE (2020) data, the ability to work well with others in teams is seen as a key skill that employers look for in educational program graduates. The American Society for Quality (ASQ) defines a team as “a group of people who perform interdependent tasks to work toward accomplishing a common mission or specific objective” (2020, para 1). Robinson (2020) discusses the rise in virtual work and virtual teams accomplishing the organization’s work due to the impact of COVID-19 and cites studies that predict this will become the new normal for workers going forward. Berry comments on the composition of virtual teams, “Virtual team members may be located across the office, but almost as easily across the country or across the world and may rarely or perhaps never meet face to face (2011, p. 187) and suggests that virtual teams that are designed, managed, and implemented effectively can produce results 24x7 irrespective of location. On the downside, however, if the teams are not effectively constructed and managed, failure is the likely result.
The virtual classroom should act as a model for skills development which then can be applied in the workplace. In the Purdue Global University School of Business and Information Technology, the MBA program courses are 6 weeks in duration. Team projects can be a component of a course requiring high levels of support for students who will need to work together accomplishing assignments possibly with others who they have never met. This type of team is like a project team, where members are brought together for a limited period of time to complete a task. These team members may come from different departments or locations (stakeholdermap, 2017).
This researcher incorporates team projects into one of the core classes in the MBA program, Business Fundamentals. Students start working in teams in the first week of class, in anticipation of beginning work on a competitive business simulation, which lasts throughout the class and a final report is required on the team experience in the final week of class. As this class is early in the program, and team skills may not be developed, extensive support has been incorporated throughout the 6 weeks to ensure students are able to go through a successful team experience.