Group assignments often come with challenges. In the past many of us have handled most or close to none of a group project. Students may have different goals, different deadlines, and even different understandings of the assignment. However, there are ways to mitigate challenges when, and even before, they arise.
ESLTECH provided our class the opportunity to engage in a group project. Unlike past assignments in other classes, where the work is distributed among the group early, only for communication to arise toward the deadline, and finding out that little of the project is completed and some students have done nothing, this project was intended for us to use different strategies within group projects.
Our project focused on analyzing a case study where a student, Sarah, was having difficulty with her group project. We were to analyze and identify her problems, provide solutions and recommendations, and include an intro and conclusion, add audio, and create a PowerPoint presentation. This project required a fair and early distribution of work, but was also an online project, where as face to face interaction was limited. However, we worked through the project quickly, communicatively, and with little stress by mitigating problems before they arose and mitigating them when they did.
Here’s what worked for us:
Finding an early means of communication:
- Early in the project our group emailed each other and discussed the most effective means of communication. We found that our group would work best by using text messaging. This is the primary form of communication that we used throughout the project. Identifying this allowed for the group to communicate with ease, individually, and within a group message.
- Our group typically responded promptly to messages from other group members. Questions and group conversations were answered and scheduled quickly, usually within the day, but sometimes within the hour. I feel this was one of the largest contributors to our group’s success. It showed that every member of the group was willing to work effectively and to contribute to the project. It also allowed for ease of setting up an online discussion.
Can’t communicate face to face? Communicate in an online forum:
- We decided to set up an online discussion for our group on the OSU Carmen Canvas page. From such, we were able to all come together to discuss important aspects of the project in one place. While we did not meet face to face, we were able to tell who was present within the meeting. Each member attended the discussion.
Identifying purpose, goals, expectations, internal deadlines:
- In our online Carmen discussion, we identified important aspects of the project, including the distribution of work, expectations of the work, and our own deadlines. We agreed to finish the work at least a day ahead so each member could finish their part and so we could have an extra day in case anything would arise. The distribution of work was fairly equated and discussed. Each member picked what they wanted to work on.
Problems arise, finding a means of compromise:
- Toward the last day of the project our group was finding little time to record audio due to outside circumstances. As such, the member who was unable to record audio compromised by writing a script for their audio. The script was recorded by another group member. In past projects I have worked on, if there are outside circumstances limiting the time for work, the member of the group would often not due the work at all and would expect another group member to finish their part. However, in this case, the compromise allowed for the project to be completed fairly, with no hard feelings.
Personal – working on my slide throughout the project:
- One aspect that eased stress during the project was working on the project throughout several days. One day I set out the layout for my slide. The next, I specifically found what I wanted to talk about. Following, on the last day, recorded the audio. Breaking my part into smaller parts meant that I wouldn’t have to work on the entire slide on the last day.