9 Geology 201 Laboratory Manual Project: team management perspectives

Joyce McBeth and J. Normand

Joyce M. McBeth & J. Normand, Department of Geology, University of Regina (URegina)



Update and project management ideas to share

We are hoping to wrap up our GEOL 201 Lab Manual project this summer. This is a project we have been working on since January 2021, and we’ve just completed our third iteration of active trials with cohorts of students in our program. If you would like to take a peek around, here is a link to the project: https://opentextbooks.uregina.ca/labmanualgeol201/ 

In this bootcamp presentation, we shared our experiences with project team management. Isaac tells us that the approach we have used to structure and manage our team is a bit different from other groups working on OER projects at URegina, so we thought we would share some information in this chapter of the 2022 OER Bootcamp pressbook in case it is helpful to others. We don’t claim to be perfect by any stretch of the imagination but we are making progress, so here are our lessons learned: things that worked, and things that didn’t work so well too.

Structure of our team

Our project team consisted of a leadership team, a team of undergraduate student assistants, and a tertiary review team. Table 1 below presents a summary of the team members’ roles on our project.

Table 1: summary of GEOL 201 OER project team structure and team members’ roles


Lab instructor (Normand)

Lecture instructor (McBeth)

content generation

project oversight and budget management

Teaching assistant (Crawford)

assisting with undergraduate student supervision

additional content review, figure editing, feedback on efficacy with different cohorts

Undergraduate student assistants

Senior undergraduates

did the bulk of the editing, alignment with pressbooks/word docs for printing

“Consultants” – second year undergraduates

have taken the course and used the lab manual, applied their eyes to the documents to consider issues such as accessibility, EAL considerations, clarity, recommendations for  additional content that would help their learning
Tertiary review team

Other instructors who teach the lecture portion of the course (L. Robbins, O. Salad Hersi, T. Raharimahefa)

High level review and feedback

Present/future cohorts of students using the manual

Feedback form, performance statistics, informal and formal feedback responses
We found that the team structure worked well overall. We chose to have multiple part-time undergraduate students on this project rather than a single student for several reasons:
  • more people, more ideas, more energy – we found that each student provided a unique and helpful perspective to improve the project,
  • backup in case one or more of the students obtained a summer job position that required them to step back from the project, and
  • to designate some of the undergraduates in “consultant” roles, where they would approach the document with a critical eye and specific objectives, generally centred on addressing accessibility issues but also inviting other constructive criticism relating to their experience using the manual in the course.
The undergraduate team members generally had other jobs or commitments and we were budget limited, so having a team of part-timers on this project worked out well. The upper level undergraduates had the theoretical background to provide creative and knowledgeable ideas to the new figures and content for the revised manual, and worked efficiently to complete the tasks we assigned. The second year student consultants brought specific insight as recent lab manual users along with their specific unique perspectives on accessibility issues (for students with learning challenges and for international students) to help us make improvements.
Specific examples of changes we are integrating as a result of input from our consultant students:
  • exemplar exercise for the capstone project in the course: our second year consultants indicated include an example project would help to guide them through the final project structure. This was deemed particularly important to ensure that during times of remote learning students had the tools they needed to navigate this project. The cohort that completed the labs during remote learning struggled more than others with this project.
  • specific section rewordings for clarity
We found the graduate student’s role was closer to the role of the undergraduate students on the project; we had originally planned that they would take on more of an organization and motivating role with the undergrads but in the end that wasn’t practical given their research commitments and the way the team work flowed (all good!). The graduate student helped to prepare new ideas and figures that addressed high-level conceptual challenges for the students using the manual (e.g., flow charts to identify rocks and minerals). They provided an extra set of eyes for review and their insight on how the manual worked in practice (since they had TAed the labs) was invaluable. In future, we still recommend including a graduate student on project teams because if the undergraduate team members have to step back the graduate student could assist with wrapping up aspects of the project that require more independent action.
So far, we have underutilized the tertiary team members, partly to save their efforts for the final push on the first edition of the project. This is an aspect of the project we plan to address as we move into the final phase of the first edition of this project this summer. We will distribute a pdf copy of the entire manual for the other instructors to review, hopefully in July 2022, and then integrate their suggested edits into the final version prior to printing in August 2022. We will bank major suggestions banked in the to-do list for future editions of the lab manual. An outcome we hope will follow from involving these instructors is to provide them with the background on the lab content to help them better align the topics and concepts they cover in lectures with the labs in a timely way.
For future cohorts of GEOL 201 lab students, we plan to include a review page at the end of the manual and instruct the students to jot down their comments during the semester. For example, sections of the manual they found difficult to understand, sections where they needed to look up external resources to enhance their understand (e.g., you tube, other lab manuals online, textbooks), and spelling errors. We’ll use this feedback to iteratively improve the manual in future editions.


Our team communications consisted of weekly meetings between the leadership team and senior undergraduates. We also used discord for rapid communications and review between meetings along with emails. For document review by the consultants team, which occurred at far less frequent intervals, we coordinated via email and discord and distributed and collected the MS Word edited documents via a Google docs folder.

Importance of weekly/biweekly meetings: our aim was to meet weekly to biweekly in summer 2021 to review progress and examine documents together to provide feedback for the undergraduate student assistants. This worked fairly well, though summer holiday plans, field work and courses, and other factors sometimes led to challenges in making this work. overall though, we strongly recommend scheduling weekly to biweekly meetings to help move projects forward in a timely way, it helps all members of the team with accountability. Especially the leadership team, since we are all juggling a lot of other projects too! For summer 2022, we are scheduling 30 min weekly meetings, to catch up briefly and set our plans for the week.

Broader benefits of diverse team

  • additional EDI and accessibility insights

Future additions/edits on this project


[still adding content, 2022-05-11, stay tuned!]



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University of Regina OER Bootcamps Copyright © by Joyce McBeth and J. Normand is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 International License, except where otherwise noted.

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