Ahhh – group projects – either you love ’em or you hate ’em. Where do you stand?
If you love them, great! If you hate them, you better learn to love them because many courses, even online ones, require a group project. Group projects are important, and can be very helpful in your learning. You may need to work in groups for different projects at work too, so here are some tips for having a successful group project.
Find a Team You Can Work With
Sometimes this won’t be possible because your teams will be assigned for you, but if you can, try to choose people you’ve worked well within the past. If this is your first group project, then try to find group members who have a different set of skills than you do. That way, you can share the responsibilities of the project with others who have knowledge in areas that you may be lacking. It’s important to have a group where some members’ strengths outweigh the weaknesses of other members – this is how you learn from your teammates.
Don’t Be the Weak Link
Everyone knows who these people are, and nobody wants to be one. It’s important to not be the “slacker” of your group. Not only could this affect your grade, it also isn’t fair to your teammates who have put in extra work to pick up your slack.
What do you do if you are the one picking up the slack for someone else in your group? If it happens a few times, it is worth sending an email to make sure that your teammate understands the importance of the project. If it continues to happen, the entire group should have a discussion to fix the problem. If the problem persists, then you may have to bite the bullet and do more than your share of the project. Your team can talk to the professor and let them know the situation and that you’ve tried to fix it on your own. Typically, this will negatively affect the grade of your teammate that chose to not participate and you will get the grade you deserve for the project.
Set a Schedule
Group projects can be particularly difficult for online students because you may have teammates in a different time zone, or even a different country. My best advice is for each group member to send out an email to everyone with days and times that work best to “meet.” Then, pick one- or two-hour time frames each week, depending on how intensive your project is and how much time you have to complete the project. For these meetings, you can set up a teleconference or video conference with Skype or another similar product. Outside of those weekly meetings, your team can rely on email to share your thoughts or progress on the project.
Break It Down
In your first meeting, you should discuss the different steps of the project and determine the best way to break it down into smaller pieces. Decide whose skills best fit which portion of the project and assign deadlines for when each person will have their section done. If one individual’s portion must be done first, make sure that time frame works for them.
It may also be easier to work in a smaller group within the group on certain sections. If you have six people in your group, you may break down further into teams of two or three to tackle pieces of the project – if you could benefit from more than one mind. A good way to make this split is either by skill set or by available times that you both have in common.
Make Your Final Touches
Make sure if it is a presentation or a paper, that you edit the final product. Not only will you want to look for grammar and spelling, but if five people wrote different sections, you’ll want to make sure there are good transitions between the multiple parts and that there is a consistent flow throughout. If you decide to have the whole group edit it – I caution you – make sure you send it to one person at a time to ensure all edits are reflected. Another option is to use Google Docs to edit so that different people can edit the same document without having to resend it to the team.
Don’t worry – you will make it through your next group project, I’m sure of it. It may be a struggle at times, but I guess what doesn’t kill you makes you stronger, right? You may have a great experience and begin to love group projects, or you may learn some things to make your next project go smoother. Good luck, and let us know what your previous group projects have taught you!