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  • Writer's pictureAlexander M. West

Camera Shy: Moving Online

These last couple of weeks have been an interesting and novel experience. Since my last blog, Champlain announced that we would be moving instruction online for three weeks ultimately decided that we would be finishing the remainder of the semester remotely. Of course, at first there was a sense of excitement that came from being able to cater to a new schedule and experience. However, this change ultimately brought many new challenges to an already challenging production cycle. Those of which stem from a team of individuals working remotely at every corner of the United States with a wide range of readily available equipment, resources, and motivation! Needless to say, these last couple of weeks since the announcement have been about the challenges of remote working, quarantine, and working through them to salvage as much as possible with everything going on in the world as well as with each of our individual struggles within the pandemic.

When we received the notification that we would be online for at least three weeks, we sat down as a team to have the difficult discussion about what that meant for our project. We talked about the schedule shift because we lost a week due to an extended break and looked at our project plan as it stood from before the changes. Once we had come to terms with what was going on and what we still wanted to accomplish, we all talked about how many hours we could contribute on a regular basis. We understood that many of our team members had needed to transition away from their regular work spaces and work. Due to the fact that almost everyone was now back in their hometowns, away from the resources that we needed in order to be utmost productive, the hours that everyone could contribute lowered from what we originally had planned and many team members expressed concerns with being able to work consistently due to the new obstacles that came with working from home.

As a team, in order to best accommodate everyone and ensure the health of our overall experience, we had a stressful conversation about what needed to be cut from the project plan as a result to the new circumstances. In the end, we decided to cut out the second polish phase due to the fact that there’s nothing we can really do to salvage that phase unless we were to be given more time on the project or we were able to invest more time than expected in the coming weeks. After discussing what we needed to cut and get rid of, we talked about how we could overcome some of the unanimous challenges of remote work such as unproductive autonomy, loss of in-person opportunity, and hardship in tracking progress.

Due to the fact that we were remote, we knew that we wouldn’t have easy access to working with other people in a way that we were used to; we didn’t have a space to congregate and work together through a plan or through problems. To solve this, we set up specific times where we can expect specific people to be working on the project as well as be able to be contacted. Everyone made sure their schedules were up to date and visible in their calendars to aid this procedure as well as to remain aware of when everyone would be working on the project. We later discussed how to alter updates so that the team was consistently updating one another on the progress that was being made. This lead to us deciding that we needed to continue with our screenshot and visual updates but we really need to have a visual for everything that is done now, not just some things. For the last remote challenge of just general updating we made sure that we are going to continue daily scrum and make them as in depth as possible so things aren’t lost or people aren’t confused.

These discussions happened about three weeks ago now, and all in all most things have gone well. We have done daily scrum almost every day, with the exception of days where everyone ends up being busy and can’t work on the project. Everyone has kept up with the visual updates and kept everyone updated in terms of who is working on what as well as when it is being worked on and then completed. The biggest thing that has fallen through the cracks recently has been work meetings. In the beginning we discussed having work meetings, however we never sectioned out a definite time. For that reason, we are now getting into the swing of being in calls while working in order to retain a sense of group dynamic.

However, this lack of definite time has lead to awkward work hours and a consistent unavailability of help between disciplines. Ultimately, this has slowed down the development process. On top of all of this, the team has struggled to find the time to contribute to this project in general. Motivation has plummeted due to the environments we’ve all needed to quarantine in and as much as we wish we could move past it, it’s a very difficult conversation to have. Moreover, due to the fact that most of the team is now working from their childhood homes, family life is getting in the way of being able to work in a large way.

All of this is to say, very bluntly, that working remotely has been rough. Part of it is because of the quarantine and not being able to do much outside work, part of it is not being able to work face to face with other people while having people in a room to bounce ideas off of. This combination has killed a lot of my motivation to work on the project and part of it is because of the fact that I can’t readily get feedback on what I’m doing. However, I would rather have this experience now than in a couple of years while I’m working a big job and struggling to get my work done. I can see the benefit of learning how to manage this situation and these circumstances early on in my career and I can confidently say that I have a better understanding of what it means to work remotely. However, I also have been able to quickly understand the benefit and immense productivity that comes from genuinely working with a team in the traditional sense of being together, working together, and moving forward as a unit.

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