Some people love working in groups – it comes naturally to them and they are happy to collaborate with, or manage, a team towards the completion of a common goal. For others, working on group projects can be the most frustrating, infuriating, annoying, and/or confounding principles of higher education. Class assignment groups are mixed with students that have unique points of view and methods to approaching tasks. Often times, people working together in groups (by assignment or even by choice) may not agree on everything and may have difficulty working together as a team.
Here is some advice on how to make the best out of your next team project:
1. Assign Roles
Everyone in the group should do a fair share of the work, but how do you know who should do what? Divide up the project tasks so that each group member has at least one responsibility. I recommend letting everyone choose their own roles since each member will have a better idea of their own strengths and weaknesses, which will result in a happier experience and overall better outcome. If there is a certain task that nobody wants to be assigned to, try breaking that task up into smaller parts for everyone to complete together, or perhaps excuse whoever takes the role from doing as much as everyone else. Assigning group duties will ensure everyone is pulling their own weight and working together towards completion.
Conflicts can easily happen when trying to schedule a meeting time between several college students. Sometimes it’s nearly impossible to find a time between everyone’s classes, work, activities, and social life (wait, do those exist in college?), but a great way to find out everyone’s availability is to compare schedules on websites such as Doodle. Be sure to schedule at least the next group meeting (if not all of them) before departing, otherwise it will be hard enough just trying to coordinate with everyone not face-to-face. Speaking of coordinating; be sure to establish the most reliable form of communication.
Constant and frequent communication is key. If there isn’t clear communication between team members, problems happen. Once, I ended up researching the same stuff as my group partner and we had to ask for an extension. Another time, a team member didn’t even know he was in our group because he was absent the day groups were assigned and nobody let him know. On more than one occasion, my groups have had fundamental disagreements about the main thesis of our presentation. Get my point? Headaches like these can easily be avoided if communication is kept through each member of the group. Teams cannot function efficiently without communication. Everyone should have a way of contacting each group member (email, phone number, etc.). I suggest creating a contact sheet for everyone to have. Don’t be the group that gets left stranded on presentation day because the team member responsible for bringing in the finished product is nowhere to be found, and no one has his/her phone number.
4. Collaborate Online
Collaborate together online outside of meetings to continue working on the project. Email works, but may be the slowest and not the most effective method for group projects. Facebook has become a great place for people to link up and join group pages to share ideas and files. I like to use Google Drive whenever I am working in a group project. Google Drive is just like Microsoft Suite software, except it is all free and stored online in The Cloud. Google Drive can be used for word documents, spreadsheets, presentations, forms, drawings, maps, and more through downloadable apps. Why use email to send files back and forth when everyone can work remotely on the same file at the same time, live! I recommend checking it out if you haven’t already because you can even see who has contributed to what sections of the file. And this is a perfect way to work on the project without having to have everyone get together. All work can be assessed at any time, from any location with internet.
Group projects are not always easy, but working together as a team is a life skill necessary for college and beyond. It will come easier with more practice and with time, you will be an expert on how to work as a team.