When Your Class Becomes Your Reality

Communicating in global virtual teams

A few months ago, registering to take a Communicating in Global Virtual Teams course might have seemed like the perfect opportunity to skill-up before joining the workforce.

For Emma Chanleap Bradley ’20, this opportunity proved to be way more fruitful—a real-time, crash course in successful, remote collaboration amid the global coronavirus pandemic.

Of Serendipitous Intent

An undergraduate course led by Associate Professor of Business Communication Kristen Getchell, Communicating in Global Virtual teams is designed to teach students how to engage, collaborate, and communicate in remote teams around the world.

During the course, students also take part in a six-week Virtual Business Professional (VBP) project. Bradley’s project has allowed her to work in a team of students from other schools and time zones—all working together on a social media assessment for Starbucks.

She originally took this course because of her interest in consulting as a career. Yet, she said, it also has given her great ideas as to how to be “an engaged and effective communicator” in other courses, and “helped ease some anxieties regarding the uncertainties of moving online.”

A Web Wide World

Though Babson was one of the earlier institutions to transition online as part of its community-wide effort to slow the spread of coronavirus, Bradley learned of other schools shutting down before Babson, and started planning for the ‘what if?’.

“Honestly, it was really scary to hear that schools were shutting down and moving online,” she said. “There was a lot of uncertainty surrounding our health and safety being … what classes would look like if they were to move online … (but) I never had any concern about this course specifically because it has prepared us well to communicate in virtual teams, and I’m really glad I decided to take it.”

Getchell agreed. “While, like most faculty, I was concerned with the transition, I am so excited to see what these students can do,” she shared. “As I said to them in our last face-to-face session, I’d like to see them be leaders during this online half of the semester.”

Learning on the Job

Even though students in this course were already, and unknowingly, preparing themselves for this type of situation, they still underwent changes, challenges, and will need to continuously learn how to adapt.

One thing Bradley says she is still able to count on, no matter what, is the Babson mentality.

“We are all impacted by these tough times, and certainly some more than others, but I think there’s something to be said for myself and my classmates who continue to show up to classes online and get the remote work done,” she said. “I believe that most Babson students are more extroverted, ambitious … and tend to be very success-driven which serves to motivate even during a pandemic.”

In her VBP project, Bradley herself is the only Babson student and serves as team leader. Simultaneously, she is finishing her Babson undergraduate degree and completing a remote internship.

Advice for Global Virtual Teams

“It’s so important to be present and available for the rest of the team,” advises Bradley.

Open communication is key, she said. Remote teamwork “requires a lot of trust and interdependency. … Success will only come to a virtual team when all members understand that there must be collective effort and engagement.”

UPDATE on May 5, 2020:

The VBP project includes several smaller assignments focused on building virtual team communication and centers around one major formal report assignment for Starbucks, Audi, or Google. The reports are team scored by faculty in the program, and the winning three are forwarded to company representatives who pick a winner and provide feedback.  There are 90 teams from universities around the world, and no two students from the same school are on the same team.

This year, Babson’s first year, three Babson students finished the semester on two of only three winning teams:

  • Rahul Garg ’20
  • Jack Flynn ’20
  • Tony Doan ’22

All students who complete the program are given a Virtual Business Professional badge from USC.

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