Collaboration is an essential skill. Online groupings present unique challenges. You have the normal stresses of group work such as pairing with unresponsive members, poor work quality, and not doing work at all. But, aside from the normal stresses of group work, you get to work with others in different time zones, coordinate with others using different technology, and even communicate in ways that make it difficult to understand someone’s personality or tone, such as email or texting.
Here are some tips to be ready and prepared to engage in group work.
Suggestions for group work:
- Create a plan: Create a black and white outline of deadlines, responsibilities, and check points. Use a spreadsheet to keep track.
- Communicate in writing: communicate with group and classmates in forums that can be accessed by the instructor, such as email, group chat, google, or messaging boards. Go as far as copying the instructor.
- If all else fails: Contact your instructor and explain the problem, sooner rather than later.
Tips and tricks:
- Pick members with similar schedules when you can. Avoid different time zones and opposing work schedules.
- Personal characteristics: Roles should be strength- and interest-based where possible.
- Create a calendar and timeline for the group work and all items on a spreadsheet.
- Pick a group leader. Then, you will not shuffle your feet.
- Communicate. Establish guidelines for when, where and how your group will communicate with each other. Pick a comfortable forum to communicate.
- Schedule extra. Add communications closer to deadlines.
- Manners matter. Be honest, but respectful in a group. If you don’t like the direction of something, then speak up.
- Ask for peer evaluations from the professor and send him/her weekly updates.
Important items not to be missed:
- People get sick.
- Documents get deleted.
- Unexpected and unaccounted for issues happen.
It is wise to set an earlier due date for the group members' project items than the project due date. The extra days before the due date provides a cushion and prevents problems.
Understand this…group work is needed in every field around the world. My mother-in-law is a Director in Research at SAS, where she works on computers every day and speaks to her teams around the world to complete projects under her supervision. She tracks everything and does her part. It is her responsibility, as it is yours to do your assignments.
Keep smiling, the project and group work will be over soon enough. Get the exercise and place the story in your belt for your next job interview or paper.