Videoconferencing with the Rural Riches group: ‘The most important thing is to develop some discipline’
The Rural Riches research group convenes for coffee on a daily basis. Remotely, that is, to prevent the spread of coronavirus. It is the perfect way to stay connected, exchange ideas, and socialise. ‘We now are more in touch with each other than in the usual situation when we are all at the Faculty.’
At 10.00 hours, daily, the research group members of Rural Riches log on to Skype to start their meeting. It is clear that it serves multiple purposes. ‘It replaces casually dropping by to someone’s office.’ Postdoc Martine van Haperen explains. ‘We talk about anything,’ PhD candidate Mette Langbroek clarifies, ‘We discuss how things are going, on a personal level as well. We give advice, and share our current activities. And we show each other our cats!’
It is not all fun and cats though. ‘Last Thursday, we spent the whole day discussing our database,’ Professor Frans Theuws adds. ‘People had warned me that this would not work, a Skype session from 10.00 to 16.00 hours. But it actually went quite well. The most important thing is to develop some discipline.’ The group uses the share screen functionality to show powerpoint slides, maps, and pictures.
Already, after only 1.5 weeks, the daily Skype meetings form the basis of the team’s collaboration. ‘But we remain to be in touch with each other during the day,’ PhD candidate Jip Barreveld elaborates. ‘We also have videoconferences in smaller groups whenever necessary.’
The future of videoconferencing
What does this mean for the future of academic collaboration? ‘I am certainly going to miss our Skype meetings when we all can go back to the Faculty,’ Mette laughs, while Martine reflects on the future: ‘Videoconferencing is going to get big now. That would really be beneficial for the environment. This is the occasion to further develop this technology and make it mainstream.’
Tips on Working from Home
This article offers general tips on working remotely, based on experience gained from the Centre for Innovation's experience working with teachers and faculties at Leiden University for the last 8 years, focusing on specific tools available to staff members.