Succeeding with a group

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Group work is a key component of online courses. You will most likely be contributing to regular group discussions or working on assignments as a group. Avoid the frustration that can come with group projects by understanding how successful groups work and cultivating your skills as a good group member. Keep in mind the following tips:

Understand group roles

Every group needs a leader and secretary/coordinator, positions which may be assigned by the instructor at the beginning of class. The leader should help keep the group on task to complete assignments. The secretary/coordinator collects and submits assignments. However, these are not the only roles in a group. You may find yourself contributing as brainstormer, critic, practical thinker, or detail person depending on your personal strengths and the group needs. View some group models.

Keep relationships strong

Commit to spending time in maintaining healthy relationships with the group. Take a proactive role in resolving conflicts, starting with yourself—be willing to admit when you are wrong and ask for forgiveness. Help each other resolve conflicts.

Welcome everyone’s ideas

The most successful groups create an environment where everyone feels free to share their thoughts. Be purposefully open-minded in reading others’ opinions and always give positive critique. Be willing to compromise. Try holding a brainstorming session in which anyone can speak freely with no critiques.

Be patient

Expect that your team members will have different learning styles and learning speeds, and be willing to go at the pace of the group.

Stay on task

First clarify as a group what exactly the assignment requires. Then divide and conquer—make sure everyone understands their task and that the drudge-work is shared equally. If the discussion starts bounding down a rabbit trail, encourage the group to stay on-topic.

Follow established “netiquette”

  • Keep your communication concise.
  • Avoid using all-caps for emphasis, as it is considered shouting.
  • Be wary of sarcasm, which could easily be misunderstood without the cues of your facial expression and tone of voice.
  • In threaded discussion, quote the relevant part of the passage to which you are responding.

Pull your own weight

If you are late for discussions or late handing in your part of the assignment, you let down the whole group. On the other hand, if you do all the work, you short change the other participants' learning opportunity. You have to find the balance.