Few things are more dreaded by college students than group projects. Not only do dedicated students run the risk of getting stuck doing all the work for potentially lazy or unorganized group members, but it’s also difficult for even the best of groupings to coordinate busy and conflicting schedules. The good news is there are a few things you can do to help guide your group to success. Consider the following tips for turning an unfocused group into group project masters:
- Assume leadership. If no one steps forward to take a leadership role for your group project, don’t be afraid to step up yourself. You will know early on if there are any Type A personalities in the group because they will quickly begin communicating with fellow group members to kick off group meetings. When you don’t see this happening in the first week, you may have to be the one to send the first round of e-mails asking what times the group can get together to brainstorm on the project. Even if a fellow group member becomes the unofficial leader of the group, you can still assume leadership by supporting his or her efforts, returning e-mails, motivating other group members and contributing ideas.
- Get started early. Professors know group projects take time, so they often allow each group several weeks to present or turn in their group project. The temptation to procrastinate will be huge. However, it is vital to the success of your group that you encourage your group to plan ahead, according to Sonoma State University’s Tips for Effective Group Work.
- Communicate via e-mail, phone and chat. While face-to-face meetings with your group are the most effective way to communicate, it’s not realistic to expect all of your group members to be able to routinely meet at one place at one time. For online students, it’s rarely an option. That’s why much of the communication will need to take place over e-mail, phone and instant messaging. The group should exchange contact information immediately after their group is assigned and any decisions that are made during face-to-face meetings should be noted and e-mailed to group members who could not attend.
- Divvy up work evenly. This means that each group member must be assigned a role, preferably according to their strengths. Sometimes pairs of group members are well-suited for knocking out certain parts of a project together, while certain individuals are strong at writing or organizing the information other group members have gathered. Do your best to make sure each group member receives their fair share of work.
- Set up a timeline. Just because you’re not procrastinating doesn’t mean the rest of your group isn’t. Establishing a timeline during your group’s first communications will help keep everyone in the group on task. Many times, professors establish a timeline in which certain portions of your group project must be completed. Use this as a template and build your own mini timeline within your professor’s structure.
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