As a Blackboard marketing professional, I often communicate the virtues of virtual collaboration. What resonates most these days as it relates to virtual collaboration are the cost savings that can be achieved from travel avoidance. You can save a lot of money by shifting learning and working online using real-time communication tools like web conferencing, IM, and Skype. Some of our Blackboard Collaborate customers have measured it as $2,000 per meeting. The annualized savings is quite impressive.
Based on our customer stories and my own experience as a remote, home-based worker, I am convinced that live online collaboration can result in solid outcomes – more learning, increased productivity, improved focus, and solid relationships with people in your virtual community, whether colleagues, bosses, or like-minded professionals. So why would you work or learn any other way?
This was the question I struggled with as I traveled on business to 3 cities within 36 hours – Boston, Washington DC, and New York City. It cost me money — money I could have saved if I had just connected with my colleagues from home. After all, tools for collaboration and conferencing are easily accessible, simple to use, and don’t require fancy equipment. But, I chose to shake things up and get out on the road instead.
While away, I took advantage of opportunities to collaborate virtually. From New York, I put aside an hour to attend a virtual user group meeting in Atlanta, the fourth city visited at no cost during my 36 hours away from home. As my colleague and I listened to our customers’ use of our platform, we sidebar-discussed how we could help them share their accomplishments with many more educators.
The mix of real and virtual travel resulted in one the most productive 36 hours I’ve had all year. While I enjoy working remotely, I was reminded of how a little bit of face time and physical nearness can so enhance the experience. And that even though you are in a different physical location, you can still connect virtually with others and accomplish things while you are away. Through it all, I kept up with my to-do list and tightened personal bonds with many.
Those in academia have come to realize that a blended approach to learning – mixing campus lectures with asynchronous programs and live online classes – can result in better learning outcomes. If we apply the approach to business – mixing office visits and web meetings – we increase productivity. After all, communicating, interacting, and problem-solving is learning regardless of whether you are working towards an academic or business goal.
I’m now back at my home-base, reflecting on my blended travel. There are many cool new tools for online collaboration that can make your day much more productive. But a pinch of traditional human interaction every so often can really make the gravy.