Academic Resources

Group Work

Working in groups give valuable insight into how tasks are undertaken in the workplace. When working with others, tasks are able to be broken down into multiple tasks that can then be distributed evenly, making a large project more manageable. Group work also allows members to bounce ideas off each other as well as learn from each other. Members also can contribute different skills, allowing the group to produce better work than could be accomplished alone.

Contents

Stages of Group Work

  • Group formation - Find out who you will be working with in the group. Identify strengths and useful experiences members have had. Determine how to use those strengths and how the group will work together

  • Group Planning - Figure out what needs to be accomplished and how long you have to complete the project. Decide on how the tasks will be divided and how the group will remain in contact as the project moves forward.

  • Implementation of the plan - During this stage it is important to stay in contact with your group rather than operating as unconnected individuals to insure that everything is completed on time and meets everyone’s expectations.

  • Completion of activity - Once the project is close to being finished it can be helpful to regroup and combine the separate tasks into a cohesive project.

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Tips for Group Work

  • Get to know each other. This doesn't mean to necessarily know each other on a personal level, instead get to know your peers based on how they work. Is someone a natural leader, or is someone more introverted? Think of what you can do to make sure everyone's personalities are balanced in order to get the most out of your group work.
  • Be inclusive. Once you've figured out how your group members work, make sure everyone has a say in your project. Brainstorm ideas with each other and make sure to encourage ideas from group members who are quiet contributors. A simple, yet great way of including the more introverted group members is asking them: what do you think?
  • Set a goal. Come to a conclusion of what your group members want out of your group work. Do they just want a passing grade? Do they want to go above and beyond? Consider the time restrictions when setting goals, and make sure the goal is realistic for the entire group.
  • Assign roles. Now that your group has gotten to know each other and has a goal for their work, there needs to be a way for everyone to keep track of one another. An easy way to do this is to assign roles, based on individuals' strengths, such as group leader, organizer & note taker, progressor, and time keeper. When everyone responsible for another, group work tends to run more smooth.
  • Have a clear communication plan. Oftentimes when group work fails is when communication ceases to exist. Figure out one way that is best to communicate with each other. The best methods of communication, especially when groups do the majority of work online, is through one outlet that has easy access to all files and conversations. Refer to this list of useful tools to use while working in groups. In addition to using these tools,  use Google Drive to store group files, that way each member has access to read and comment on each other's work.
  • Divide tasks equally and assign deadlines. If your group work is a large project, it is best to break it up into smaller tasks. Doing a large project all at once causes more stress around the group. Instead, give each other these broken up tasks based on individuals' strengths and set a deadline. 

If your group needs additional help, Learn Higher provides a great resource to help define roles in a group, and help overcome challenge group members face.

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Useful Tools for Online Group Work

  • Google Drive is a live, online file creator and cloud storage. You can upload files from your computer or create text documents, Power Point styled presentations, spreadsheets, forms, and drawings. It is excellent for group work as you don't need to email edited files back and forth. With given permissions, group members are able to edit and comment on each other's files.
  • Canvas groups work just like a Canvas course. Instructors usually assign students their group, but students are able to create groups as well. You can utilize announcements and discussions, have live conferences with each other, and use Canvas' collaboration tool which shares Google Drive or EtherPad files. 
  • Kerika task boards are a great way to keep your group organized, communicated, and on task all in one place. This tool utilizes task cards, which can be used as a way to keep track of tasks in large group projects. On a task card, you can add attachments  to your work (which automatically uploads to Google Drive), assign the task card to group members, create a due date, mark the status of the card, as well as chat about the task. 
  • Facebook groups are a good way to keep communicated with group members, though be aware that Facebook is designed to be a social media outlet and not a tool for education. If group members are self disciplined enough to not become distracted, Facebook is able to create status' (which can be used as group discussion boards) as well as add photos and files of assigned tasks.

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Further Reading: