Has anyone been feeling like since we switched to virtual or hybrid learning, professors have increased the number of group projects this semester? When I read “Group Project” on the syllabus, I immediately think of the headaches that come from having a group with little participation, poor communication, and procrastination. By the end of the semester, everything becomes super rushed, and the group project piles up on top of my other classes. After many semesters of college and experience with good groups, okay groups, and bad groups, I have learned a thing or two about what can make the group work a pleasant experience for everyone. Whether you prefer to work alone or enjoy working with others, it seems we can’t seem to get away from group projects, so keep on reading and learn ways you can have a great group project experience this semester!
- Create a GroupMe or Group Chat ASAP
It’s still early in the semester and for some people, group projects are just a thing on the syllabus for the last month of school. Definitely not something to even think about right? Well sort of—if there is nothing you can do right now, then that’s it you will get all the information when it’s the right time. If it’s something where you know who you will be working with beforehand or even have some preliminary activities that you can start to work on now, it will be much easier to communicate if you all knew each other ahead of time. Sending a quick GroupMe link to your group members not only shows that you are already thinking ahead about this project but also keeps everyone else on the same page too from an early point in the semester. In these first meetings, you may just be getting to know their majors which can help in bring different perspectives and skills to the project but also get an idea of what everyone’s schedules look like this semester so your group can start thinking of possible times to meet.
- Virtually Meet Outside of the Designated Project Workdays
Some professors may give you a few days in class to meet with your group which can be helpful since you don’t have to worry about finding time in everyone’s busy schedules. If at all possible, try to at least meet once outside of class. The more often, the better, because it gives you time to discuss and decide on decisions together rather than leaving every member to answer themselves which may not work with the answers from other members. Especially when making presentations, meet to make sure 1) everyone is staying on track in regards to timing, 2) everyone is staying on topic and each slide flows, and 3) this gives you time to rehearse. When presentations have time limits, the groups that don’t practice beforehand, it is so easy to underestimate the length of your presentation and go over the limit. Take it from someone who has gotten points taken off for going over the limit, rehearse with your group more than once!
- Create a Schedule and Stick to it
Depending on the structure of your class and the group projects, you may have multiple deliverables throughout the semester or just a few. Most professors are not going to continuously check in on your group and make sure everyone is completing work on time, that’s usually what peer evaluations are for at the end of the project. Every time your group meets, come up with an agenda and assign tasks for each member. If you decide you need to do more research, decide who will research what and when the research needs to be finished so that by the next time you meet, you can move forward and make the most out of your time together. If your group project only has a few deadlines at the end (ex. Turn in the final presentation by this date; turn in your final paper by this date; complete evaluations by this date), set “deadlines” for your group. It doesn’t have to be strict and of course, things come up for everyone which may affect the progress, but this gives everyone a guideline of how to work on the tasks little by little throughout the duration of the project. By the time the real deadline comes up, you all are in a great place and don’t have to be stressed.
- Review Your Presentation and then Review it Again
Most group projects have presentations especially now on virtual platforms where one member can just share their screen and each person talks at their respective times from their own homes. While making the project, your group may opt to use a presentation platform such as Canva or Google Slides which allows for simultaneous collaboration on the documents. These programs without a doubt have their benefits. The issue can come from when everyone decides to split the work and work on their own slides. Even though everyone has access to all of the slides, many people focus on their section and that’s it. When it comes time to present or turn in your presentation, someone (just one person) needs to go through the whole presentation and make sure 1) the fonts match, 2) nothing is misspelled, 3) the design is ubiquitous through, and 4) everything flows together. Imagine waiting until after the presentation is up on the screen to see a slide that looks completely different from the rest or, even worse, one member is talking about a completely unrelated topic. I have been in group projects where one slide completely contradicts everything else in the presentation. This may be an honest mistake, but it signals to your professor that you are unprepared. Don’t let your grade take a hit because you did not go through the presentation before hitting submit!
- Designate Roles for Meetings
This may sound completely Type A controlling, but this can really help keep the group on track and make sure everyone has a positive experience. Since your group is designating the roles yourselves, there is no pressure to have someone dominate the group or ride on the coattails of everyone else. To give everyone a fair chance, rotate the rolls each meeting so no one has all of the pressure. Example rolls can include 1) Leader: someone who leads the meetings and makes agendas for what will be discussed during the meeting, 2) Time Keeper: someone who keeps track of deadlines (both set by the teacher and by your group) and can make sure the time during meetings is being used efficiently, 3) Notetaker: someone who can take notes of anything discussed that they can send to all other members to avoid memory loss once you hit “leave call”, and 4) Observer: someone who pays attention to the participation of all members and can provide feedback at the end of each meeting which can be extremely helpful once evaluations come around, and depending on how many members you have, you can have active participants whose jobs are just to stay involved and help make decisions.
While we may not like having group projects, many of us will have jobs where we have to work on teams either with coworkers you know well or with people from completely different departments. I think we can all agree that group projects can be beneficial especially when everyone brings something different to the table. The trick to avoiding the headache that can come with group projects is to do some planning and set guidelines at the beginning of the project. Remember to stay respectful of everyone and their ideas in the group; it is not about competition, it is about collaboration.
If you have any tips for having successful group projects this semester, please let us know by sending us a message on Instagram so we can help each other!
I wish you luck in your group endeavors this semester! HCXO!