Mastering the Group Project

Many distance learning institutions, as well as traditional colleges and universities, utilize group project assignments throughout the required coursework.  There are many unique benefits to group projects at the college level; various studies show  that students can retain information better and are able to view the assignment from various perspectives.  However, mastering group projects can be difficult for even the best of students. Performing well on a group project requires the ability to get along well with others, some management skills, excellent communication, and a lot of teamwork.

Group projects can be challenging for even the best of students. (Photo by juhansonin)

The first step toward mastering the group project is establishing communication between group members. Many distance learning institutions will have established a mini discussion board for members of the group to use to communicate with. Using the group discussion board is as important as using the traditional class discussion board, it is a primary method of communication between group members. Some groups may find it useful to establish other methods of communication as well. Setting up times for a live online chat can allow for instant communication and make the process of getting started on the project more expeditious. Other methods of communication to consider include exchanging phone numbers and personal email addresses (if you are comfortable enough with the members of your group), and the use of Skype and other similar services.  Establishing a specific amount of communication required, either by asking that each group member check in and post on the group’s discussion board a certain number of times per week or by establishing live chats, can help ensure that all members of the group stay on-task.

When working on a group project, take all opinions into consideration. Listening to what every group member has to say is beneficial, because each group member brings something different and unique to the group. By taking the time to hear each member of the group out, you can learn what each group member will excel in and get a better feeling for how the project should be divided up.

Divide up the project equally. The type of project determines how the work should be divided. For each type of project, consider the whole scope of the project, from start to finish. Break the project down into steps and assign each group member a specific set to be completed.  In many groups, an unequal distribution of the work leads to conflict later. By making sure that the work is equal and every group member is contributing the same amount, you can help ensure that your group project will go smoothly.

Establish frequent check-ins and reasonable due-dates. By establishing frequent check-ins, where the group members share what they are working on and how the process is going thus far, you accomplish two things. First, it ensures that all the group members voice their opinions on the various decisions made as part of the project. Second, it helps to make sure that no one is procrastinating, waiting till the last minute to get their portion of the assignment done.  When considering the due-date, make sure that the date you pick is reasonable for everyone. Allocate enough time for each member to complete their part of the project without undue stress. However, make sure that you also leave enough time for the team member compiling the project to complete their portion without feeling rushed.

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