It’s important to plan ahead and establish a vision when engaging in group projects for your online courses.
- What problem are you trying to solve?
- What variables exist?
- What deliverables will be created?
These basic questions can set you on a path for success when working with your classmates.
Being a member of a project team can enhance your learning experience by allowing you to meet your peers (online or in person), learn more about course topics and build your collaboration skills. Group assignments often center around topics that are conducive to discussion and multiple perspectives. Online group projects can help you to develop competencies that extend beyond the virtual classroom. Communication and teamwork are two such professional skills that employers often look for when hiring.
ASU Online student and health education and health promotion major Roxanne Wilcox shares that she likes group projects because planning and collaboration are necessary skills in the health educator profession. She says, “Group projects exemplify practical situations such as delegating, planning, and collaborating with other students to complete an assignment successfully.”
Successfully completing group projects can be a breeze if you keep the following six tips in mind:
ASU Online students live around the world, so there’s a good chance members of your group project live in a different time zone than you. And, thanks to the flexibility of online learning, they may work on their part of the project at different days and times than other members of the group. Therefore, each member of the group should share when they plan to work on their part of the project. Additionally, you'll want to establish early on the best days and times for potential group meetings.
Communication preferences should also be established early. Slack is an ASU digital campus tool that can help you keep track of the time zone your group members are in. When you send a message, Slack will alert you to what time zone your group member is in and whether they have turned on their notifications. In addition to Slack, there are other options such as email, text or other messaging platforms. Each person should clarify the best times to contact them, and the times they’d like to not receive messages, such as late at night or certain days of the week.
Deadlines are another important consideration. Often there are multiple due dates involved in a project. Talk with your team about reasonable due dates for pieces of the project, such as content and presentation drafts. With a clear schedule, group members can make a plan to complete their work.
Online group projects should be a democratic process. It’s important to identify a leader and group organizer who'll keep the project moving in a positive direction. A group member may volunteer this role, or it may be put up to a vote if multiple people show interest.
Each group member can display leadership. However, it’s helpful to have one main point of contact. The leader should maintain a pulse on the progress of the project and assist with holding team members accountable for agreed upon work. Remember, a leader is not a boss, and everyone should have a voice in the project.
Online course projects often have multiple parts. The group should discuss each member's strength and preferences and use that information to decide who will be responsible for each portion of the project.
Also, decide how your group will provide feedback on completed sections. In your peer feedback, remember to always communicate in a respectful and positive manner. Work from a place of wanting to achieve cohesion, rather than rejecting another person’s effort.
Your team should schedule regular check-in meetings to provide project updates and monitor progress. This can help eliminate any surprises and address the direction of the project if needed before the due date.
Roadblocks can be anything from trouble researching the topic, waiting for a group member to finish their portion so you can start writing yours, and more. It’s best to identify these early so the team can work together to move forward.
While your group members are fellow students, they are people first. Individuals are more likely to put effort into a group initiative if they feel attachment or loyalty to the group than if they're only thinking about their individual grades.
Creating a bond won’t take much. If you just spend the first minutes of meetings talking about topics other than the project at hand, that can make all the difference. Show genuine and professional interest in your classmates.
You wouldn’t miss meetings or deadlines without communicating in your job, would you? You should dedicate the same time and effort to an online group project that you would put into your job.
You may even share your experience contributing or leading a project team in future job interviews by using the situation, task action, result method; also known as STAR. An example of this is when a potential employer asks you to provide an example involving teamwork. You can draw on your group project experiences to demonstrate your competencies. Your projects are for school, but the benefits may extend far beyond.
Group projects can be a beneficial part of your ASU Online experience. If your project team sets expectations and boundaries early, fulfills commitments and communicates well, you’ll be on the path to success for this type of assignment.
Additionally, be sure to utilize the resources available to you outside of your team members, such as your instructors and success coach, to work through any issues that arise. Group projects in online courses are designed to diversify your learning, teach you practical skills and promote collective work toward solutions. You never know; you may even make new friends through the process.