Navigating Group Projects In An Online Course

by | Apr 16, 2020
Written by Kendall Job, Marketing & Communications Intern

Ah, yes. The dreaded group project. Attempting to make these painless in person is one thing, but making it work in an online course? That can be a recipe for disaster. Luckily, there are some simple ways to make the experience a little more bearable and even enjoyable, especially if you’re still required to make a group project work in the midst of all the recent changes. Communication and accountability are some of the most important aspects of group project success, with just a few modifications made for those that must be completed throughout an online class. Here are a few tips on how to navigate a group project online. 

Get to Know Each Other 

First and foremost, you’ll want to get to know each other. Even if your group will only ever communicate via email or group message, have everyone share a small introduction about themselves. Explain your strengths and weaknesses so you can divide up group tasks based on what will allow everyone to succeed in their position and lead to ultimate group success. 

Plan and Assign 

Assign tasks and responsibilities early on so everyone is always on the same page and can be held accountable for their individual and group responsibilities. Setting deadlines is extremely important as well so you never miss a deadline and end up losing points unnecessarily. Consider creating a shared calendar with each assignment, who is completing it and the due date. This way, everyone can see the big picture and what they’re all working toward. In addition, there are countless group collaboration apps that can do all of the task assignment and organization digitally! 

Communication is Key 

Communication is one of the most important aspects to group project success. There are several options of group contact you have, such as an online forum with instructor access, a group message, Facebook group or group emails where each member is copied. It’s important to keep in regular contact with one another, ask for updates and follow up with members who may not be working up to speed with the rest of the group. If nobody is in contact with one another, the group will suffer in one or more aspects of the overall project. 

Talk with Your Instructor 

Your instructor is there to teach the material, give feedback and support you and your classmates. Especially in cases where you feel your group may not be doing the best it can, approach your professor and send an email asking for guidance. If you take their advice and there are still no improvements, update them on how things are going. In the case things are going extremely well for your group, let them know about your successes and update them on your progress! 

Prepare for Slackers 

One thing to prepare for going into a group project is realizing the possibility (and usual inevitability) of slackers. Whether it’s just one person or a few, not everyone is always willing to pull their weight, especially in a group project. There is a decrease in accountability when it comes to group work in online courses since you never really have to interact in-person. Realize this fact of life early on and reach out to encourage these classmates. See if assigning tasks that align with their strengths and interests motivates them to work up to speed with the other members of the group. 

Make it Meaningful 

Try to establish early what the purpose and meaning of the project is. While every member of the group may not be the most interested or invested in the topic, one thing you all likely have in common is the overarching goal of a good outcome: the grade. This is why it’s important to divide up the tasks fairly, taking into account each group member’s abilities and strengths so each person will succeed in their list of responsibilities. The more meaningful you can all make the project to yourselves, the more likely you will see an increase in motivation and quality work from everyone in the group. 

These are a few goals to strive for and some methods to use for online group project participation and success. Ultimately, communication, organization and accountability are what make the world of group projects go around. Seeing the purpose and end goal early on will lead to higher motivation and more quality work being produced. Don’t forget to encourage one another and turn each member’s strengths into group success! 

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