a powerful collaboration tool
for student teams
to develop career-ready team skills

Download our PeerAssessment.com Brochure

Dear Colleague,

For three decades I’ve beeen facilitating and researching teams, while teaching IT with student teams at Boise State.  I strongly believe that collaborative learning is one of the most powerful pedagogies available for college students.

Too frequently, however, team dynamics poison the experience.  Peer Assessments could overcome the problems if students could learn from the feedback, but manually reassembling that data into individual reports takes too much time.  That experience led me to design PeerAssessment.Com, helping students to grow their team skills while it cut my workload.

PeerAssessment.Com improves student team success in three ways by supporting:

  1. Individual Accountability for team members (i.e. grading individual contribution)
  2. Team Dynamics Monitoring by the instructor, who can intervene when necessary
  3. Rich Peer Feedback  for students to improve their team skills

 

PeerAssessment.Com is peer assessment done right: it automates the peer assessment process, making it easier to hold more frequent peer assessments that return real feedback to students so they can improve their team skills.  Prepare a peer assessment for your entire class in under 5 minutes. Then PeerAssessment.Com takes care of the rest; collecting and distributing the feedback to students, plus preparing a grading sheet for you.

Please give PeerAssessment.Com a try, and unlock the potential of your student learning teams. Simply Sign In and Register an account, and receive a free class trial.  Or contact me directly, I look forward to working with you.

Dr. Rob Anson
Email: RobAnson@PeerAssessment.Com   Phone: 208.869.2801
Social Director and Founder of Hot Rocks Consulting and PeerAssessment.Com
 &    Professor Emeritus of Information Technology Management
College of Business and Economics, Boise State University

Benefits

Personalized Feedback

Automatically distribute personalized peer and team feedback to students

Save Time

Under 5 minutes to create & launch a peer assessment

Grades Output

Create a student grading spreadsheet in one click

Iterative Assessments

Run multiple, iterative assessments to monitor team dynamics

Instruction Modes

Use for face to face, hybrid, and online classes and teams

Customizable

Ask questions and organize teams to suit your pedagogy and goals

Smartphone Friendly

Harness the power of smartphones to aid learning

Easy to Administer

Administer on an individual, department, or institutional scale

Efficient

  • Set up and run peer assessments in minutes
  • Quick copy questions and/or emails from a past class to a new one
  • System manages student invites and reminders for you
  • Efficient
  • Flexible

    • Ask the questions you want to ask
    • Ask peer-team-class level assessment and feedback questions
    • Administer on individual department or institutional levels
    • Extend assessment periods as needed
  • Flexible
  • Supporting

    • Take your pick: Face to Face or Online
    • Reorganize teams between assessments
    • Support co-instructors and TAs
    • Give students something productive to do with their smartphones
  • Supporting
  • Empowering

    • Free up instructor time
    • Facilitate iterative assessment cycles to monitor and address team dynamics issues
    • Create a feedback loop for students to adjust and learn from their own team actions
  • Empowering
  • Reports

    • One-click student grading spreadsheet
    • Automatically distribute personalized peer feedback to students
    • Download data for analysis or research
  • Reports
    • Testimonials

      "The best tool out there to understand how a team is working." ~Dr. Saurabh Gupta, Associate Professor of Information Systems, Kennesaw State University

      PeerAssessment.Com is a great individual and team tool to improve and acknowledge participation, production levels, personality conflicts and successful project outcomes.

      Christy Suciu, MBA

      Lecturer in Management, Boise State University

      PeerAssessment.Com provides an easy to use tool that takes the work out of assessing the overall performance of teams as well individual contributions of team members on group assignments. I plan to use it for all of my team projects!

      Jim Kroes, Ph.D.

      Professor, Supply Chain Management, Boise State University

      PeerAssessment.Com has been immensely helpful for my students to give safe and constructive feedback to their team peers. I appreciate the direct delivery of results to individual students.

      Katherine Johnson, Ph.D.

      Clinical Associate Professor of Mathematics, Boise State University

      This tool saves tons of time for instructors.

      Shelli Poole, PhD, PMP, MBB

      Associate Clinical Professor, School of Nursing, Boise State University

      PeerAssessment.com is a great way for students to give feedback and get results promptly. I've tried paper, Google Forms and Qualtrics. This is by far the easiest way for peers to give feedback and discover problems. Students find system is easy to use. They can see all the feedback in one place and use it to improve their performance. The whole campus should adopt this tool.

      Caile Spear, PhD, MCHES, FAAHE

      Professor of Community and Environmental Health, Boise State University

      Use of PeerAssessment.Com can trigger needed discussions among team members, facilitating the development of shared expectations.

      Chris Baughn, Ph.D.

      Professor of Management, Boise State University

      PeerAssessment.Com helps discourage social loafing, and if it does occur, students are empowered to influence the grade outcomes.

      Janet Stephens, Ph.D.

      Lecturer in Managment, Boise State University

      Extremely useful tool for any course with group assignments or projects. Easy distribute and collect information you need regarding peer performance--this Fall I launched five peer assessments in each class. Plenty of options available for questions and scales, and reporting helps assess individual grades on team projects. I highly recommend this tool!

      Joanna Gabler, Ph.D.

      Assistant Professor of Marketing, Boise State University

      PeerAssessment.Com is an important tool to get quantitative and qualitative data about each student's performance in online group work assignments &discussion boards. I am very thankful that my program is really digging-in to get this kind of data so students and teachers can reflect upon individual behaviors in group situations.

      Betty Miller

      Manager, Online Faculty/Technology, School of Nursing Boise State University

      PeerAssessment.Com helped me do a final assessment of individual class participation and major project engagement. It's made a difference in cases where I could not determine if a student who seemed to know it all and spoke enthusiastically was really the team leader or not. Sometimes they were trying to make up for not participating or engaging earlier in the project.

      Anthony Martinez

      Lecturer in Managment, Boise State University

      Academic Pricing

      (including Educational Institutions and Non-Profits)

      PeerAssessment.Com Price List

      Pricing is by the class section, with significant savings for larger quantities or smaller classes. Classes are easily shared among instructors.  Also, they do not expire, so when you run out, simply use Refill to add more.

      The Price List took effect on May 20, 2019.  The new pricing will include:

      • Prices start at $25 per class section, with discounts for larger quantities
      • Additional 30% off for small “Seminar-Sized” classes (18 students or under)
      • Campus site licenses also available
      • Unlimited students per class* (over 100 students is charged for a 2nd class)
      • Up to 12 assessments within a class

      Ready to purchase classes to get started?  Simply create an account and log in, then press “Purchase Plan”. 

      Instructions for Purchasing Classes

      About Us

      PeerAssessment.Com is a product of Hot Rocks Consulting L.L.C., owned by Rob Anson. It was designed by Rob Anson and developed by Aaron Day at Thrive Web Design, in Boise Idaho. This tool would be no more than a bygone dream were it not for Aaron’s artistic and technical genius, let alone his infinite patience.

      Dr. Rob Anson has three decades of facilitating and training groups as a consultant as well as a researcher.  He just completed 27 years of teaching at Boise State University in Management Information Systems in the College of Business and Economics. While teaching technical topics and capstone project courses, student teams have usually been at the core of his approach.  Rob’s background includes extensive consulting and research as a team meeting facilitator, using computerized and traditional techniques to assist hundreds of teams from business, government and nonprofit sectors.

      Anson has consulted widely with various groups particularly in the areas of business process modeling, and project management, and has supported or led the implementation of eight campus-wide information systems at Boise State. He has published articles in journals such as Management Science, Journal of Small Group Research, Assessment and Evaluation in Higher Education, Journal of Educational Computing, and International Journal of Management Education. In addition to his faculty responsibilities at Boise State, Dr. Anson is proud to have served as the first Faculty Ombuds and the first Residential College Faculty in Residence.

      PeerAssessment.Com Version 1.0 was hatched in 2009 as a Qualtrics – MS Access prototype, born out of frustration with paper-based peer assessments. In 2011, it was used to design Version 2.0 (nicknamed “PAS”)–a free, fully online version adopted by a growing number of instructors in various disciplines at Boise State and around the country.  It became a mainstay for accreditation of programs within Nursing and Business, documenting learning outcomes related to team-skills.

      In 2018, Version 3.0 represents a complete rewrite from the ground up. It was able to take advantage of numerous technology advancements to become fully mobile (for student aspects) and accessible. The new design added numerous new features to enhance efficiency for the instructor, provide needed flexibility to customize questions, add functionality to enable multiple instructors and campus-wide administration, plus it established a platform that could be easily and quickly extended.

      Resource Library

      Instructional and Research Resources

      These resources are intended to assist you with improving the student teamwork in your classes and/or conducting Science of Teaching and Learning research.  

      I invite you to send me resources you use in your classes to post here and share with others.  Where you borrow items from others, please include the source so that credit is appropriately expressed, and others can follow up for more information.

      PeerAssessment.Com Information

      PeerAssessment.Com Brochure–2 Pages (PDF, 1/10/2020)  The brochure summarizes the key features and benefits of PeerAssessment.Com.  It is in a front/back trifold format.  For more information, please see the whitepapers on particular areas of the application and articles about its use on this page. 

      ONLINE ASSISTANCE: Please log in to PeerAssessment.Com and select HELP in the upper right corner.

      DIRECT ASSISTANCE: You are welcome to contact me at any time for assistance with PeerAssessment.Com or its integration into your course pedagogy.  Email: robanson@peerassessment.com    Phone: (208) 869-2801

      PeerAssessment.Com Reports (PDF 1/17/2020) This illustrates sample pages from the four main reports: Student, Instructor, Grade Report, and Feedback Assessment Report.

      Question Library (Page Link, Updated 7/1/2019)  There are a number of Question Sets that are ready for you to use.  This page lists the available options, including the full set of questions, introduction, and citations.

      Instructor and Student Views of the Questionnaire  (PDF 9/22/2018) The purpose of this document is to help you, the instructor, map what you see during set-up to what your student’s will see filling out the assessment. 

      PeerAssessmentCom Class Purchasing Instructions(PDF, 7/25/2019)  These instructions will walk you through purchasing class units for  PeerAssessment.Com.  The purchasing procedure can be done by either the instructor her/himself, or by another person on their behalf. In either case the purchaser will need to create an account in the system.  After completing the purchase, please forward the program information to instructors who will need it to set up classes.

      Giving Peer Feedback

      To The Instructor:
      Feedback is the core of a peer assessment–in the workplace as well as for educational teams.  Constructive feedback, delivered with respect, can generate engagement and turn around an individual’s work behaviors.  Poorly delivered feedback can just as effectively do the opposite. It boils down to this: the more we can build our student’s ability to give constructive, respectful feedback to one another, the more they can add to our education community and to their own careers.

      To that end, this section includes various resources to learn about high quality feedback. Also, check out the Feedback Assessment Report, in PeerAssessment.Com, to assist you in evaluating the peer feedback your students give to one another.

      • Tips for Giving Feedback to Your Peers–Brief whitepaper on giving quality feedback written–for your students.
      • How to Give Feedback the Right Way–5 minute read from Impraise about how to write constructive feedback–for your students.
      • The Power of Feedback–A major research article summarizing research on feedback in education used to aid student learning.
      • Feedback Assessment Report–New report added to PeerAssessment.Com for instructors to evaluate feedback given by each student.
      • How Atlassian Built an Award Winning Culture Using Feedback–Quick peek at a corporate culture based on feedback.

      Download: Tips For Giving Feedback To Your Peers.pdf   or   Tips For Giving Feedback To Your Peers.docx

      Anson, R (2020, PDF or DOCX).  Tips for Giving Feedback to Your Peers. Whitepaper.

      Description: This is a brief whitepaper written for students involved in educational team work who are asked to give feedback to their peers.  It draws together best practices from various authors to help students recognize and author effective feedback for others.

      You are welcome to distribute this whitepaper to your students.  Or, feel free to download the .DOCX version and adapt it to your needs under your own name.

      Access Link: How to Give Feedback the Right Way

      Link to Summary Poster: How to construct meaningful feedback: C.O.I.N.

      Impraise. (NA) How to give feedback the right way.  Accessed on 1/24/20 from https://www.impraise.com/blog/how-to-give-feedback-the-right-way.

      Description: This 5 minute read from Impraise is an excellent source for your students to learn a model  for giving feedback!  “Many people find giving constructive feedback daunting. If you remember to use the C.O.I.N formula, you can ensure you’re giving actionable, constructive feedback that will help your peers, manager or direct report improve their performance.  You can use this Context – Observation – Impact – Next (C.O.I.N) formula to make both positive and constructive feedback more impactful, but since people find it more challenging to give constructive feedback, this is what we’re focusing on.”

      Download: The Power of Feedback

      Hattie, J., & Timperley, H. (2007). The power of feedback. Review of Educational Research, 77(1), 81-112.

      Abstract from The Power of Feedback:

      “Feedback is one of the most powerful influences on learning and achievement, but this impact can be either positive or negative. Its power is frequently mentioned in articles about learning and teaching, but surprisingly few recent studies have systematically investigated its meaning. This article provides a conceptual analysis of feedback and reviews the evidence related to its impact on learning and achievement. This evidence shows that although feedback is among t he major influences, the type of feedback and the way it is given can be differentially effective. A model of feedback is then proposed that identifies the particular properties and circumstances that make it effective, and some typically thorny issues are discussed, including the timing of feedback and the effects of positive and negative feedback. Finally, this analysis is used to suggest ways in which feedback can be used to enhance its effectiveness in classrooms.”

      Sample Feedback Assessment Report (Includes actual student comments entered into PeerAssessment.Com, with names changed.)

      The Feedback Assessment Report in PeerAssessment.Com captures responses to the open-ended questions–one Peer Assessment and three Team Assessment. All the responses that one student authored to their team and team members are displayed on one page.  Within the PDF file, reports are sorted by author name.

      This PDF report makes it easy to read and evaluate the feedback authored by each student.  It can be used to assess and guide students to provide higher quality feedback to their team members.

      A couple ideas for providing grades and/or feedback to students:

      • Print off the report. You can handwrite suggestions and a grade on the paper to hand back.
      • Open the report and your electronic gradebook/rubric grader in windows next to one another.

      Article Link: How Atlassian built an award winning culture using feedback

      Citation: Impraise. (NA) How Atlassian built an award winning culture using feedback. Accessed on 1/24/2020 from https://www.impraise.com/blog/how-atlassian-built-an-award-winning-culture-using-feedback

      Description: Atlassian has built a thriving, award-winning, corporate culture using feedback as a cornerstone that we can learn from in our classroom. This 10 minute read talks about the foundations for a corporate culture of feedback.  Atlassian believes that peer reviews are an integral part of getting the whole picture when it comes to employee performance. […] When you involve your colleagues in your performance evaluation you cut through the competitiveness and elevate collaboration. This approach focuses on development, and strengthens the team.”

      Remote Student Teams

      Teamwork is tough enough in the best of circumstances.  It is even harder when adding challenges students face in teams–simultaneously learning content, figuring out your instructor and team members, plus (often) no team member has authority and experience to sort it all out.  Then imagine trying to pull your team together remotely.  You can’t look them in the eye, shake their hand, or buy them a beer to work it out.  And don’t get me started about factoring in Covid-19!

      Fortunately, a few weeks back an email from Trello dropped in my inbox.  Trello markets a fantastic, flexible tool for teams to manage their project work–teams in my senior projects class have used it for years.  Both Trello, and their parent Atlassian, have extensive experience with remote teams–creating tools to support them, and using them internally.  They leveraged this experience, together with other companies known for innovative remote teams, to create a free online guide called “How to Embrace Remote Work: The Complete Guide to Setting Up Your Team for Remote Work Success“.  The actionable advice, while directed at teams in the business world, applies as well to student teams in an educational setting.

      My goal here is to make this information even more relevant, and digestible, for you and your student teams to access. I cooked Trello’s Remote Team Work Guide down even further, pulling excerpts and adding some further material.  Then I collated and edited the excerpts to focus it, in an abbreviated fashion, on topics student teams need to master in order to work remotely.

      Download Remote Student Teams section in single document — Feel free to use this distilled guide in whole or in part.  But please make sure to give credit to Trello for making the original guide available. *

      The topics include:

      • Critical Collaboration Tools for Remote Student Teams
      • Choosing the Right Communication Tool
      • Video Meeting Etiquette
      • Holding Productive Video Meetings
      • Creating a Strong Remote Team Culture
      • Fast Team Building Activities for Remote Video Meetings
      • Additional Resources for Remote Teams

      * I am not affiliated with Trello or Atlassian in any way.  I am only a grateful customer.

      Critical Collaboration Tools for Remote Student Teams

      Your team needs to pick a few basic tools for team collaboration, and set up some explicit guidelines for using them. Everyone on the team needs to use the same tool set, or there is a real chance they could self destruct. (Note: I’ve resorted the list below in order of priority for student teams.)

      1. Document Storage: Whether it’s Google Drive or Dropbox, teams need to pick one document storage tool and stick with it. Using different group storage, or individual storage, is a recipe for losing or overwriting documents if someone is out sick or leaves the team.  Also, as important as the storage space, is a simple to follow plan to organize it with standards for naming files, using folders, and versioning.
      2. Writing and Reviewing Documents: In addition to storing documents, student teams need a way to collaboratively create and review them. Within Google Docs, teams can create/comment/chat back and forth in real-time or asynchronously.  Students especially need to know how to use Comments, Version History and  Share to recognize Google Docs potential for teams. 
      3. Video Meeting Space:  Video conversations are second only to in-person gatherings as a means to understand someone’s tone, meaning, and reactions. They are also invaluable to building more cohesive team relationships. Remote teams can be as effective as in-person teams by adopting a tool like Zoom, Skype, or join.me that supports video cameras and screen sharing.  Video meetings take some work to become productive. Some practice applying video meeting etiquette and productive video meeting techniques is a priority.  Plus help students use screen sharing strategically to focus the team and get work done. 
      4. Shared Plan: Teams need to know what each member is up to and where projects are in different phases. Without a roadmap or planning tool, managers get sucked into hours of meetings that could be eliminated by having an updated overview that’s accessible at any time. Trello is a visual project management tool that is hands on for the team.  It is used to both manage tasks progress and organize work products for the task itself.  In my experience, students love Trello once they have a clear plan for how to use it.  I start them with a template and some norms for using it, then let teams evolve from there. Like any project management technique, Trello requires some discipline.  
      5. Collaborative Discussions: Across a project, teams need to be able to engage in a variety of different conversations to generate, refine, link, research, and debate ideas. Today’s leader in organized team chat rooms is SlackI would suggest Slack for longer, larger and more intensive student projects, or where it is leveraged across a program of classes.  In my opinion, it is much more than the standard 3 credit classes I normally teach requires.  
      6. Common Calendar: Using the same calendar tool makes scheduling meetings immensely easier within a team. Whether it’s Google Calendar or Fantastical, giving team members equal access to a shared calendar will put a stop to endless email threads discussing schedules and time zones.  I do not push Google Calendar with my students, as many have other work preferences, our LMS manages assignment duedates, and Trello is usually sufficient for team projects.  However, students have a devil of a time figuring out when they can meet up.  A super simple app called Doodle is great for finding when we can all get together.

      Sources/For more information

      Choosing the Right Team Communication Tool

      There are so many ways to communicate at work that it’s overwhelming. Every day, I find myself asking the same question: should I email, instant message, phone, video, or text this information? It’s a mundane question, but it’s important. Because if you don’t choose the right mode of communication, you’ll be ignored, misunderstood, put on the back burner, or dismissed with a vague, insufficient response.

      The tools below are listed from most to least communication bandwidth.  Video, second only to face to face, has the largest bandwidth to simultaneously convey our words, tone of voice, gestures, expressions and full array of non-verbal information.  That bandwidth allows us to express our meaning in multiple ways to ensure we are correctly understood.  Consequently, when using tools with less bandwidth–phone, text, and email–there is a greater chance we will be misunderstood.

      VIDEO

      • Pro: Video is the next best thing to in-person communication. The real-time communication of video makes sharing information fast and reliable, which makes it easier to convey complex topics and resolve sensitive issues more quickly and with less misunderstanding.   Also, video is just naturally more engaging, personal and sociable.  So it is indispensable for building trust and forming relationships.
      • Con: Effective video communication requires appropriate video technology. Bad video communication can make for extremely infuriating and ineffective communication.

      PHONE

      • Pro: When video or in-person communication is not feasible, use the phone to communicate information that’s sensitive, complicated, or immediate. A phone call is more intrusive and formal than a text/chat, but is less so than video. Talking things through is how we fix miscommunication, so it’s one of the clearest communication methods we have.
      • Con: It has generational issues–young people are less inclined to make a telephone call or answer a call. Also, there is no electronic “paper trail”to check our memories so we could walk away with different memories about what was said or agreed to.

      TEXTING 

      • Pro: Texting allows for more relaxed collaboration and discussion than email. And because it’s a more familiar way to communicate, you can build closer relationships with colleagues as you include memes, gifs, and emoticons. Rapid give and take responses is perhaps the best thing about instant messaging.
      • Con: If your topic is too complicated or includes too many people, texting can become messy and burdensome.  Also, many of us formed texting habits of quick give and take with our close friends who intuitively understand each other.  However, if we apply those texting habits to work team communications we can quickly end up misspeaking or misinterpreting, with consequences.

      EMAIL

      • Pro: If it’s not timely information, email is super convenient.  You can send general information to a whole host of people on your own schedule, and receive their replies on their schedule.  It is especially important when a record of the communications is needed. Its longevity and formality means you need to pay more attention to what you say and how you say it.
      • Con: Email is less effective in establishing a human connection; it’s formal, faceless, voiceless, and often tone deaf. Also, without this human connection, it also raises the probability of miscommunication.

      Sources/For More Information:

      Video Meeting Etiquette

      If you aren’t that familiar with the additional expectations placed upon you in a video meeting, that’s okay. We’re here to help you learn the dos and don’ts of video meetings. Take the following information into consideration so you don’t find yourself committing a major faux pas at your next team meeting. Or, share this with a coworker to help them out the next time they’re making one of these mistakes.

      PREPARE

      Make sure your technology works correctly–before the meeting starts!

      • DO: You need to do a few test runs with a friend before your first big meeting. Open up the video tool your team will be using and try it out.  Especially important is the mic and camera.  Make sure they work.  And see how it looks and sounds from another computer, before you know you are ready.
      • WHY: You don’t want to delay a meeting with an important client–or even your colleagues or friends–because your video system isn’t working properly.  Just make sure everything will run smoothly before you start the real thing!

      Be on time

      • DO: This is standard for any meeting, but worth a reminder. It is especially important in a video meeting, as it can be a bit harder to catch up.
      • WHY: When you walk in late, you’ll be making noise and distract anyone who is speaking in the room. Additionally, when you’re on time for a meeting, it’ll make getting set up with technology easier and less painless so the meeting can start on time.

      Wear work-appropriate clothing

      • DO: While it might be tempting to work in your favorite sweatshirt all day, wear at least what would be appropriate if the meeting were face-to-face.  Doesn’t have to be extra fancy and formal, just make it appropriate.

      READY TO ROLL

      Frame the camera correctly

      • DO: When you’re on video, make sure you frame your camera in a way that feels natural and allows you to look at the camera. Try to sit at eye level to the camera lens and position yourself so that it shows midsection up.
      • WHY: Placing the camera too high leaves other participants staring down at you like a bad tv show. If the camera is too low it will create unflattering and awkward angles.

      Get the light right

      • DO: Make sure that there is enough light on your face and in the room.  Your entire face should be lighted and easy to read.  Don’t create shadows that make you look like a shady character from a 1930s horror film.
      • WHY: Poor lighting conditions have an enormous effect on your video quality.  Make sure your non-verbal expressions are easily see.

      SHOWTIME

      Look into the camera

      • DO: It takes some practice, but you need to look at the camera lens, not at the pictures of people you are speaking to.  Look into the camera.
      • WHY: Looking into the camera lens is the equivalent of looking into the person’s eyes. If your camera is not on your monitor, this takes some practice to get comfortable. Not looking into the camera will make you come across as more aloof and not paying attention.

      Pay attention

      • DO: Do NOT check emails or work on your PowerPoint presentation during video meetings!  Likewise, prove to your colleagues that you are paying attention by keeping your camera on, and on you.  Turning off your camera during a meeting invites others to question your engagement.
      • WHY: Not only does research suggest only 3% of people can multitask effectively, but you also look rude to your participants.

      Mute yourself when not speaking

      • DO: Make it a practice (out of common courtesy to your colleagues) to mute yourself when you’re not talking. For most video conferencing software, it’s as simple as the click of a button.
      • WHY: Even when you think you’re being quiet, most microphones will pick up minor background noises, like coughs, sneezes, or typing. These sounds can easily distract other video meeting participants and potentially even cause annoyance.

      Sources/For More Information:

      Holding Productive Video Meetings

      How often are your meetings productive? Be honest.  Between meeting attendees arriving late and your coworker loudly typing an email at the other end of the conference table, it can be hard to stay focused. If you’re holding a video meeting, it can be even more challenging to manage your time effectively.

      People are more likely to multitask and miss a point if they don’t have someone next to them to hold them accountable. It’s harder to communicate deadlines and deliverables, and technical problems can stop those attending remotely from hearing or seeing everything in the meeting room. According to the online collaboration company Wrike, 46% of those surveyed answered “rarely”, “never”, or “some of the time” when asked if they leave meetings knowing what the next action item is.

      Don’t arrange a call if something simpler would suffice

      • Do: Use video conferencing tools when a text or email doesn’t suffice. For example, when you find yourself writing multiple paragraphs or a topic would be easier to discuss “face-to-face”, then a video meeting is a good idea.  Likewise if you need to make sure they got the message.
      • Why: It is all about making the best use of your time. If the issue isn’t pressing or doesn’t require more than a couple of sentences for clarification, you’re better off writing out the message.

      Use an agenda

      • Do: Create an agenda that outlines the topics to cover, who is responsible for what, and how long the meeting will take. Then, include 5-10 minutes at the end to share final thoughts, discuss next steps, etc.
      • Why: An agenda is critical for a productive conversation. Distributing an agenda before the meeting makes everyone aware of subject material and saves time from unnecessary and irrelevant brainstorms. And finally, meeting agendas help you, the organizer, keep track of the meeting–what was covered, what still needs to be discussed, and action items and next steps in order to move forward with a project.

      Appoint a meeting facilitator

      • Do: The team should designate a meeting facilitator to keep track of the agenda and conversation during the meeting. Either rotate the job or assign someone permanently; but someone needs to be responsible for the meeting. The facilitator is responsible for the following:
        • Review the agenda. Start by reviewing the agenda.  Then come back to it to move the group from one item to the next.
        • Guide the conversation. Keep track of discussion topics and help attendees stick to their time limits. Your time and your colleagues’ time is extremely valuable; it’s inconsiderate and unreasonable for team meetings to run over the allotted time.
        • Referee the conversation. The point of a meeting is to give information to and get feedback from the group.  That can’t happen if one person dominates. The facilitator respectfully asks questions like “What do you all think of this?” to create an opening and encourage those who have not had the chance to speak.
        • Wrap up. Five to 10 minutes before the official cutoff time, bring the conversation back to a plan of action to complete the next steps. It is good to reiterate details like deadlines, timelines, and task assignments.  But most important is to make sure everyone leaves the room united around the mission of why the team gathered in the first place.
      • Why: A 2019 study of Remote Work found that interruptions and being talked over are two of the biggest meeting challenges. These, in addition to managing the organization and flow of the meeting, are the facilitator’s primary responsibilities.  Doing these effectively can be the biggest single determinant of the group’s ultimate success.

       Designate a note-taker

      • Do: The note-taker is responsible for noting the topics discussed under each agenda item, and recording agreed upon action items, decisions, task assignments, and deadlines for deliverables. After the meeting, the note-taker should share documentation with the entire group for their review and post it to the group’s online storage.
      • Why: If the meeting is important enough to hold, it is important enough to record its decisions and task assignments.  It helps those who missed the meeting catch up.  And it also prevents rehashing the same decisions made at the last meeting, or people not knowing what tasks they are assigned.

      Sources/For more information:

      An asynchronous meeting is one where the participants are not all meeting at the same time.  Instead of, say, 4 hours meeting face to face or remotely via video, we can meet over a one week period where people come and go.  This overcomes important scheduling obstacles.  But in turn it opens up more challenging coordination issues.

      As with any meeting, you still need time frames, goals, agendas, and rules.  But for an asynchronous meeting, you need to take them a bit further:

      • Start and stop times also needs dates and clear time zone accommodations
      • The goal(s) may need more explanation to keep everyone on the same page.
      • The agenda will slowly unfold over hours or probably days.  For example, two days for brainstorming solutions, another two days for rating and discussing them, and then three more days to generate tasks to implement the top idea.
      • Rules are much more elaborate, especially if new collaboration tools are used.  Participants will need more detailed instructions on what to post, where to post, and how to post it.

      The following articles discuss some of the art and science of facilitating asynchronous meetings.  Because the tools play a much greater role in this arena, tool capabilities tend to become integrated with the facilitation.

      • 10 things about remote facilitation we (AJ&Smart) wish we’d known sooner (Ushakova, 2020) —  This is from a collaboration tool maker called Miro.  What makes this article so helpful is that it contains tips from a pair of  very experienced remote, different-time, meeting facilitators.  They confidently point out, “Trust us when we say – remote facilitation has a lot to offer if you know how to do it correctly. We might even dare say… Remote facilitation can make your workshops better.”
      • Not In Real Time: How To Run An Asynchronous Meeting (Amin, 2020) — While asynchronous meetings can be very productive, it takes that much more preparation and more culture development to make these work.  This article will help you understand the challenges and gives some practical advice for harnessing these.
      • Some collaborative tools supporting Ascynchronous (and other types of) meetings:
        • Miro — “The online collaborative whiteboard platform to bring teams together, anytime, anywhere.”
        • MURAL — MURAL enables innovative teams to think and collaborate visually to solve important problems. People benefit from MURAL’s speed and ease of use in creating diagrams, which are popular in design thinking and agile methodologies, as well as tools to facilitate more impactful meetings and workshops.
        • Stormboard — Use Stormboard’s shared workspace to generate more ideas, and then prioritize, organize, and refine those ideas to make your meetings, brainstorms, and projects more productive and effective.
        • Cardsmith — Inspired by sticky notes on a whiteboard, Cardsmith is a versatile, online tool for visual collaboration.
      • The Definitive Guide to Facilitating Remote Workshops (Tippin, Kalbach & Chin, 2018, sponsored by MURAL) — This is aptly subtitled, “Insights, tools, and case studies from digital-first companies and expert facilitators”.  And is the most practical and complete guidebook I have found for facilitating remote interactive workshops for teams engaged in work or learning.  Part 1 hits the basic 3 T’s–Teams, Tools, Techniques–with tips and key questions about each.  Part 2 focuses in on 6 Essential Factors, such as Time Zones and Transitioning to Online.  Part 3 includes 3 case studies. Part 4, Digital First Practice, includes a detailed remote workshop agenda annotated to explain key considerations.  Part 5, Remote Friendly Methods, takes 6 generic activities of a workshop (eg, Warmup, Diverge, Converge, etc.).  It breaks each method down into how to run it and provides a clear example. It concludes with Part 6, Checklists and Guides, that includes a helpful 1 pager of its Digital-First Principles.

      Creating a Strong Remote Team Culture

      Some people are wary of remote teams because they fear a lack of team camaraderie. It’s true that there are no silly interactions in the kitchen or casual hallway “stop and chats” on remote teams.  However, with effective planning, these social moments can be baked into a remote dynamic.  Talking with people in dozens of remote teams confirms that you really can create a strong remove team culture.  There are two things you need to do.

      First, establish a clear set of norms or “rules to live by” with 100% buy-in across the group.  Here are a few good ones to consider.

      1. Always assume positive intent. Tone and nuance can get lost over texting or email, so assuming your colleague is coming from a positive place helps with any potential misunderstandings.
      2. Keep important information accessible for everyone. Make sure to log side texting decisions, record video meetings, and always post notes in public spaces.
      3. Embrace communication across distributed time zone work schedules. This takes planning ahead: No decisions are made last minute. It may seem like extra work, but it’s actually more organized.
      4. Expect Structure. Establish a process, structure, and agenda around meetings and updates so everyone can follow along no matter their location. Assign a meeting facilitator and note taker to ensure key decisions are captured in writing
      5. Different Yet Equal. Accept this fundamental reality: All remote team members are equal, but their experiences differ. It’s OK for co-located teammates to get together in person. But be considerate. If it is a company-sponsored event, provide an alternate perk for remote folks.

      Second, keep people communicating through a healthy system of meetings, events, and habits.  Here are two types of social interactions that you can easily set up for your remote team:

      1. Company-Wide Town Hall — This should be an open forum for questions, discussions, and (short) team presentations occurring periodically. Why does the Town Hall work? It’s curated, plus it’s energized, as well as democratic. It’s on a set schedule, and you get to see each person’s face in their own video screen. Try doing that in a room of 100 people!
      2. Oh Hey There, Mr. Rogers — As companies grow, you can’t guarantee everyone knows or talks to everyone else. Enter “Mr. Rogers,” a 15-minute weekly random grouping of team members who connect on a video chat to, well, just chat. Post-session, a screen capture of the members and highlights are logged. Why does Mr. Rogers work? It reveals common interests and sparks conversations that can be picked up at the annual offsite. It provides a break from work talk and builds personal relationships at a reliable cadence.

      Sources/For more information:

      Fast Team Building Activities for Remote Video Meetings

      Even video conferencing, which allows you to pick up on facial expressions and some body language (which constitutes 55% of communication), has its limitations. When the person you’re talking to is a two-inch-tall disembodied head that magically transforms into a buffering wheel every 15 seconds, deciphering facial expressions and body language can be a challenge.

      But remote meetings don’t have to be that awkward. Building rapport and understanding helps fill in the communication gaps during those technologically-challenging moments. Here are five quick icebreakers to help your team kick off your next remote meeting on the same page.

      1) Point Your Camera Out The Window

      One of the great aspects of videoconferencing is that it allows you to catch a glimpse of an unfamiliar city in real time, without ever leaving the comfort of your office. If you live in Minnesota and someone is joining your meeting from New Zealand, you’re going to want to peek out their window. The opportunity to play tourist for five minutes will be fun for everyone involved and will help the team get common perspective of their surroundings.  If people in the meeting don’t know where everyone joining is located beforehand, you can turn it into a fun guessing game.

      2) Desk Show And Tell

      Explaining the story behind a piece of artwork or an accessory on your desk helps other people get to know you better.  Alternatively, you can use the objects on your desk as the basis for a game: Which item within reach would you take with you if you were stranded on a tropical island? I already know my answer: My laptop charger. In lieu of a proper rope, it would be the ideal instrument for rappelling up trees to pick coconuts.

      3) Two Truths And A Lie

      This is a popular segment on Jimmy Fallon, and there’s no reason to believe it won’t be popular during your remote meetings. The rules are simple: Write down three statements, two of which are true and one is false. Read all three statements out loud and give everyone else a minute to guess which of the statements is false.

      4) Team Coffee Or Team Lunch

      It’s scientific fact that eating together promotes bonding. Most companies that pride themselves on having a strong company culture have picked up on this, and just because your team can’t physically meet at the same restaurant doesn’t mean that this tried and true team-building ritual is off limits. It’s fairly straightforward to hold team lunches remotely via videoconferencing: Have food, eat in front of the camera. It may feel weird, but it works. Breaking down virtual barriers by breaking bread is simple to organize and something everyone will have in common.

      5) Summarize Your CV In 60 Seconds

      Everything becomes more exciting when a time limit is involved. Your colleagues are going to want to know a bit about your background, but they don’t want to know about it in Proustian detail. By forcing everyone to summarize their careers in 60 seconds, you’re not only sharing information that will help cement bonds between team members, but you’re doing it in a way that would nab solid ratings if your meeting were broadcast on TV.

      Bonus Activity!   Your First Paid Job

      This is Rob’s favorite for new teams just starting out. Give each person 1 minute to identify their very first paid job and one thing they learned from it (relevant to the team’s task at hand?)

      Sources/For More Information:

      There are many other resources available related to remote teams.  I would like to point out a few in particular:

      • Team Mindset Lab Resources Page — The Team Mindset Lab at Boise State University mission is to “conduct high-quality research in the field of team development and performance to bridge the gap between research and practice.”  They are developing a set of short, practical papers called “Leading Effective Teams from Home”
      • Preparing Student Teams for the Workplace (Galbraith and Webb, 2013) — This has some excellent information specifically directed at best practices for instructors preparing students to work in Teams.  “his paper will provide best practices for creating productive teams in the classroom in preparation for the workforce.”
      • Enhancing Student Collaboration in Global Virtual Teams–Kohut 2012 Journal of Effective Teaching (Kohut, 2012) — Kohut makes the point that global virtual teams are widely used in industry, but few students have experience working in this environment.  The paper provides ideas for creating a Global Virtual Team experience for your students, addressing topics like group composition, student responsibilities, team cohesion and communications, problem solving, team deliverable requirements, and evaluating tasks.
      • Facilitating Team Processes in Virtual Team Projects Through Web-Based Technologies and Instructional Scaffolds–Pazos 2015 (Pazos and Magpili, 2015) — This article also addresses remote student teams. It talks about associating activities and tools to provide a “scaffolding” to help student teams become more effective.
      • What students think about groupwork in business education-benefits challenges student suggested solutions–Lee 2016 (Lee, Smith and Sergueeva, 2016) — This study draws input from students to form a set of recommended best practices for instructors to apply for improving student teamwork experiences.  They suggest “… instructors should focus more on the earlier stages of group development by assigning groups based on students’ strengths and weaknesses, offering a better introduction to groups, and assigning more group-related time or meetings during class.”

      Peer Assessment Research

      Citation: Anson, R., Poole, S., & Fairbanks, A. (2020, February) Developing Nursing Student Communication and Teamwork Skills: Automating Peer Assessment. RN Idaho, 42(4), 15. Retrieved from https://s3.amazonaws.com/nursing-network/production/attachments/242818/original/RN_Idaho_FEB_2020.pdf?2020

      Description: This article examines the key role played by communication and teamwork in healthcare quality, and how peer assessments–using PeerAssessment.Com–can improve the teamwork skills of nursing students.

      Download: A Peer Assessment System to Improve Student Team Experiences

      Citation: Anson, R. & Goodman, J. (2014) A Peer Assessment System to Improve Student Team Experiences, Journal of Education for Business, 89:1, 27-34, DOI: 10.1080/08832323.2012.754735

      Download: Developing and Assessing College Student Teamwork Skills

      Citation: Hughes, R. and Jones S. (2011). Developing and Assessing College Student Teamwork Skills, New Directions For Institutional Research, 149, 53-64.  DOI: 10.1002/ir.380

      Abstract: Some form of team-oriented work is employed in most, if not all, organizations today. It would seem, then, that an important role for higher education should involve developing critical teamwork skills among students so as to prepare them for success in life. This very point was highlighted in a 2009 poll conducted on behalf of the Association of American Colleges and Universities (AACU), in which 71 percent of employers said they wanted colleges to place greater emphasis on “teamwork skills and the ability to collaborate with others in diverse group settings.” Many studies, in fact, have identified teamwork as one of the most valued and necessary skills among college graduates. This article describes research on team member contributions to overall team effectiveness, and various applications of this research to developing and assessing teamwork by students on team and group projects and assignments.

      Download: Improving the Effectiveness of Students in Groups With a Centralized Peer Evaluation System

      Citation: Brutus, S., & Donia, M. (2010). Improving the effectiveness of students in groups with a centralized peer evaluation system. Academy of Management Learning & Education, 9(4), 652-662.

      Abstract: We describe the impact of a centralized electronic peer evaluation system on the group effectiveness of undergraduate business students over a pair of semesters. Using a quasi-experimental design, 389 undergraduate students evaluated, and were evaluated by, their peers using a web-based system that captures peer evaluations in quantitative and qualitative formats and allows for the reception of anonymous feedback. Results show that the effectiveness of students, as perceived by their peers, increased over semesters. This effect could be directly linked to the use of the system. The results of this study underscore the benefit of centralizing peer evaluations for the assessment of important skills and their development in higher education. The implication of these results and possible avenues of research are detailed.