By Tori Gushea, August 2015
When a student learns that there will be a group project component to any class, the immediate reaction for most people is that of dismay. Apparently, the general consensus of working on a group project is similar to that of throwing oneself in to a hornet's nest and waiting for the torture to begin. I have found, however, that this preconceived notion of a college instructor's torture device is not only unfounded, but also unnecessary. Advancement in technology and the immediate nature of instant messaging has taken time constraints and other obstacles out of meeting in groups.
Being enrolled in an online program, I have become well versed with the internet and many tools that are available to me electronically. Once my eyes were opened to the different means to connect, group projects no longer seemed daunting. The key to working in groups in an online program is communication. One could argue that communication is the key to the success of any group project, but the basal need for it in an online group project is paramount to any other.
When a group project is assigned, there is a fear of the unfamiliarity with your peers.
Being in an online program, the chances of meeting face to face with your group members is minimal. On top of that anonymity, there is little chance of knowing how well your peers work. What is their work ethic? Are they meeting all of the requirements of the course work thus far? Does their work match the quality of your own? Again, the best way to assuage these fears is to communicate. When the assignments are made and the groups are assigned, the first order of business is to figure out everyone's preferred method of communication and then make an agreement to communicate frequently. Doing so minimizes anxiety and allows for the members to focus on the work and not on the group. Meeting the initial expectations of agreed communication builds trust and creates a more cohesive group.
Everyone has a different computer? No Problem.
Another obstacle that people face is the type of computer that they work with. With different operating systems and programs for word documents, or slide presentations, the compatibility of these programs prove to be challenging. If your group members all work on different operating systems, like Windows, Macintosh or even Linux, then the programs do not really “talk” to each other. This means that projects are difficult to send to one another for approval or review and can make a project more difficult than it needs to be. Online programs like Google Drive, Google Slides, Google Docs, Coggle and so many others, allows for a live version of a project to be worked on simultaneously by all members. This online living document, presentation or slide show, allows for every member instant access to all changes made and can be accessed from anywhere the internet is. These types of programs enables the user more mobility and therefore affords the student the flexibility that the online program promises.
So although a group project for an online class may seem intimidating at first, with the proper approach and a touch of positive thinking, an online group project can be easier than one from a traditional classroom.
About the Author
Tori Gushea has spent 13 years caring for high risk obstetrical patients and an additional 2 years managing combined Pediatrics and Obstetrical units. She has a love for learning and enjoys teaching through peer support, and in her role as staff orienteer.