As most of us know, group projects are a thing to dread. Not only do they mean sharing a grade with someone you’ve probably never met before, but they also require trusting that everyone will do their part of the workload. Over the years I’ve suffered through my fair share of group projects and this year (yes, even if it is all online) is no different.
There’s plenty that can go wrong: disagreements, deadlines, general frustration, and the additional stress of working around more than one person’s schedule. I’m not sure if it’s actually possible to enjoy a group project–I have had group members drop out the class mid-project, wonderful experience–but behold, a few tips I’ve learnt for making group projects a little less painful:
1. I think we all know this one, but communication is key. In fact, the most important thing that makes a successful group project is ensuring that everyone is on the same page. If I have a really busy workload and will have difficulty with meeting often I try to be upfront about that. I’ve had group members say they need a specific grade too.
2. Set goals and timeframe: Priority varies between students and that can be stressful. As students, we are always busy juggling multiple courses and as individuals we decide what deserves the most attention. Sometimes the group project that is due in three days is not at the top of the list when there’s an essay for a different class due the day before. It’s good to communicate with every member what your priorities are and how much time you are able to invest.
3. Time management: Set a time frame and stick to it. What frustrates me the most about group projects is the amount of time spent in discussion rather than working. Yes, discussing the project is absolutely necessary, but this can get out of hand. In my experience, the information gathered from a three hour discussion can easily be accomplished within one hour if you tell your group members you only have that hour.
4. Divide and conquer: Another downside of group projects is that we lose control over part of the assignment. I’ve learned that it’s best to divide up the work immediately and simply do my best on my own parts. Everybody works in their own way, and group work requires accepting that other people do what suits them.
5. Reach out to professors: If there’s a real issue within the group then get in touch with your professor, they are usually understanding.
At the end of the day, group projects exist to teach us how to work with others. In undergrad this may be an awful experience but it’s something most of us can’t avoid. But, if you’re lucky, you might come away from it with a few new friends!