Success in Online Group Projects

Online group projects offer students a different type of academic challenge. (Photo courtesy of mixall11 on flickr)

Online group projects offer students a different type of academic challenge. (Photo courtesy of mixall11 on flickr)

Group projects can be difficult to complete in a traditional classroom setting, let alone via the internet. Oftentimes students are assigned group members based on their current status in class; for example, ‘A’ students are mixed in with less-successful students in hopes to improve their peers’ work ethic and understanding of the assigned material. Unfortunately, this does not always prove to be a successful relationship and can cause stress and frustration for all students involved.  

1. Communicate with your Teammates

It can be difficult to coordinate times for all team members to be online for a Skype study session, especially if there are multiple time-zones involved. Fortunately, email seems to be the most effective use of technology when working in an online-only environment. To get your assignment, and your teammates, off to a good start be sure to send a welcome email and communicate regularly with everyone. Do not, however, expect everyone to have access to read their email every hour; give each member an acceptable amount of time to respond. In addition, by setting check-in dates and deadlines, you can manage your team’s progress effectively.

2. Prepare for the Completion of the Assignment

Once the assignment requirements have been given, be sure you have read the guidelines and any necessary material needed to complete the required work. By communicating with your team members you should easily be able to delegate tasks for everyone to begin working on their own. Once everyone has their portion of the project to complete, regular updates should be provided to team members so everyone is on the same page throughout the process. You will also need to know how far along each member is in completing his/her portion of the assignment so you combine all information effectively before the assignment’s due date.

3. Communicate with your Instructor

In the event that (a) a team member is not communicating or (b) clarification is needed regarding the assignment, email your instructor as soon as possible. This will show him/her that you are focused on your academics and your assignment, but need guidance to proceed further. Unfortunately, instructors cannot force students to complete their assignments, but being aware (early on) of a communication breakdown or lack of support will assist them in the grading process.  Instructors understand the benefits and disadvantages of online education; but without notification, they will remain unaware of the status of one’s assignment or group.

4. Stay Positive

Group projects consume a lot of time; in fact, college itself consumes a lot of time. But by focusing on the light at the end of the tunnel and managing your time well you will be able to complete your project and submit it on time. In the future, this experience can be used in interviews as an example of managing work with a deadline and how you oversaw the process. All-in-all, most students in college want to be there, and even if they aren’t meeting your stringent standards, they may be participating in the project’s overall goal: work experience, academic development, and personal growth.

5. Submit the Assignment

Even if the assignment called for a 10 page paper on toxic chemicals and military and you only have 8 pages of writing, submit your assignment. A point deduction is better than receiving a zero for the project. In the event that an assigned team member did not participate it is acceptable to leave his/her name off of the title page and/or communicate to your instructor regarding the missing member.

Ashley Benson is a distance education professional with five years of experience in the for-profit sector. She has worked coast-to-coast within the United States as an academic advisor, an adjunct teaching assistant and, most recently, a campus Registrar. Through formal education and industry experience, Ashley practices staying informed on the current events and changes within higher education and the students involved.

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