Any time a college or university course requires group work, coordinating it can be a challenge. Especially when all group members are online students and dispersed around the world, that challenge grows exponentially. To make sure you're prepared for that class requiring a group project or other group work, I've outlined some tips for making it a successful experience.
- Know your classmates
Before any group project, it's important to get to know your classmates so you understand their expectations of the course and project as well as their individual strengths and weaknesses.
Utilize your course's online platform to connect, whether it's reviewing student profiles, creating an introduction discussion thread within your group's meeting space, or reaching out to individual group members via email.
- Know the project expectations
Know exactly what the goal of the project is, when it's due, in what format to submit it, the grading rubric, and opportunities for feedback with your professor.
This information should be available in your course syllabus. If it's not, connect with your professor to find out where you get this information.
- Create a functional group structure
The best groups have a clearly organized structure for utilizing each group member's talents and meeting the project's objectives. Take the time with your group members to identify how the group will work together and what each individual will be responsible for - and make certain it's equitable.
Your course platform may have a specific area for collaboration with features that make it easy to connect, plan and monitor. If not, you may want to utilize free cloud-based project management services like LeanKit or Trello. There are many free cloud-based collaborative services out there, so research what’s available and see what works best for your group’s needs.
- Be compassionate and understanding
Each of your classmates enrolled in an online college or university program because it offers conveniences. Some may have a job (or more than one), work a shift different from yours, have family commitments, or live in a time zone half way around the world. It's important to have compassion and understanding for their individual situations and the time they have to commit to coursework.
- Utilize clear communication
Good, clear communication will make your group project successful. Make certain the group knows all the methods for communication, deadlines, feedback opportunities, how to ask questions, and any other communication information your group may need. And don't forget - good netiquette matters. Keep your communication positive and solution-based.
- Keep your commitments
When you commit to the group that you will be responsible for a task and meet a deadline, DO IT. You can even improve the process by submitting your work early. That way people will have confidence you won't be that one student who misses the deadline and leaves them scrambling to get the work done.
- Remember: group work = team work
Working with a team is important. Employers list it as one of their top in-demand workplace skills. Working with fellow students on a designated project helps develop the key teamwork skills employers desire - interpersonal communication, social intelligence, collaboration, and initiative.
By: Kelly Paul
Image courtesy of Jon Eckert at Unsplash.