The Group Project Survival Guide
On paper, group projects are a great way to collaborate and learn with and from your peers. In practice, they can be rife with struggles. That’s not to say they’re useless — quite the opposite, in fact. Working with other people is a crucial skill, even if it’s not always easy.
Still, when your grade rides partially on the performance of your classmates, it’s natural to feel stressed. Staying organized and communicating solely through the internet can present a unique set of additional challenges. But don’t worry — we’ve got a few key tips to help you finish your project with your grades and patience intact.
Start a group chat.
As soon as groups have been assigned, start a chat with your group via text, email, social media, or a platform provided through your school. Be sure to decide on one definitive communication platform in order to avoid the confusion caused by multiple chat threads. A group chat also allows you to get to know each other a little before delving into your project.
Utilize video calls if possible.
If your technology allows it, video calls are a great way to talk face-to-face when you’re all in different locations. There are a number of free video communication software choices available for group video chats.
Pin down a timeline and project parameters.
Right away, you’ll want to make sure everyone in your group is on the same page about your assignment’s requirements. As a team, consider the deadline, breaking down which tasks should be completed and when they’ll need to be finished.
Don’t be afraid to lead.
If you have an idea, don’t be afraid to voice it. Are you great at organizing? You can make suggestions about how to break up the work. You don’t have to wait for someone else to make a comment or suggestion — you can be the one to get the ball rolling.
Don’t do everything yourself.
Leading doesn’t mean doing everything yourself. No one wants to be the person in a group project who gets stuck doing everyone else’s work. Even if your classmates are dragging their feet, you still don’t have to finish their work for them.
Share the floor.
If you have a natural inclination toward leadership or you’re generally outgoing, it’s easy to volunteer so many suggestions that no one else gets to share their ideas. Engage your leadership skills to ask your partners questions and help delegate tasks, but don’t dominate discussions with every single thought that comes to mind.
Encourage group members to share their skills.
Everyone has different talents. Work together to establish what each of your strengths are, and delegate tasks accordingly.
Facilitate active communication along the way.
If something’s not working, speak up compassionately and firmly. Be specific and professional, taking care to avoid personal jabs. By the same token, if someone does a great job, tell them! Genuine compliments help motivate people to do their best work.
Also, if outside circumstances prevent you from finishing your assigned tasks on time, let your group know as soon as you can. Illness, family emergencies, and computer problems can happen to everyone; just don’t leave your partners in the dark.
In the event of the worst-case scenario, reach out to your instructor.
As the deadline approaches, if no one in your group is doing their part and you’re starting to panic, don’t hesitate to send an email to your instructor explaining the situation. When composing this email, don’t get personal — simply be direct and explain exactly what’s happening. Nearly all instructors understand the nature of group work, and they won’t blame you for your classmates’ poor performance.
Remember: At the end of the day, you can only control your own behavior.
As you do your part to encourage a good group dynamic, bear in mind that you can’t predict or control what other people will do. When working collaboratively, this can sometimes be a challenge. However, if you focus on what you’ve been assigned and communicate effectively, you’ll be able to feel good about your contributions to the group project.
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