Throughout your academic career, you have probably had experiences working as part of a group, and probably discovered that group activities pose their own, unique challenges. As a student enrolled in an online course, you will soon discover that many instructors will continue to use group projects as a way to support student learning and collaboration. Why is collaboration important? It comes down to the idea that deeper understanding happens when we are able to make more connections, and one way to make meaningful connections is by sharing ideas or questions with other course participants.

While most instructors will have a system in place to help organize groups, it is important that your group establish a framework at your initial meeting to ensure you successfully complete your objectives. At your initial meeting, it is important that you address some of the following common concerns:

  • When is everyone available to meet?
  • How frequently will you be meeting?
  • What communication platform works for everyone in the group? For example, will you be using Zoom, Skype, Bluejeans, MS Teams, Google Chat, etc.?
  • Who is responsible for setting up the meeting space and sending out the link to join?
  • Between meetings, how will group member's be communicating? Email? Text? Slack?
  • Who will be responsible for what? Set clear tasks and deadlines so that everyone can collaborate and contribute easily. For example, will someone be responsible for organizing all the content, or putting together shareable documents?
  • Recognize that there are students learning from different time zones. Working together does not always have to be done in a synchronous video-on session. Consider what work and communication can be done through chat and a shared online document.

Like all team projects you have had experience with, there are often still challenges with group dynamics and the fulfilment of responsibilities - this is no different in an online environment. It is important, however, to not let technology be the reason you do not meet your collective goals. Technology can be very powerful if used to its capacity but it does, however, require that we do some pre-planning with our other team members.

Helpful hint: When creating shared documents to collaborate on with other students in your group, be sure to name it clearly so that anyone can find. Consider using the course title and assignment name (e.g. UNIV 101 Intro Video). Also double check that all group member emails are correct when adding them to the share settings.

IMPORTANT: When working as a member of a group in the online environment, it is important that everyone still follow the appropriate guidelines and conventions of netiquette. For more information, please reference the Code of Conduct and the all the information in the Communication section.