How To Create More Effective Group Projects
In college, group projects can be a real pain in the tailbone. As a person who has endured plenty of study groups, group work, and group projects, I can attest to that personally. I am not saying that these always fail, but it requires a lot of planning and time commitment. You usually have three types of people in a group: the want to do it all (the leader or the delegator depending on the person you work with), the middle person (the person who does their fair share and gets their task done), and the freeloader (the person who doesn’t have their stuff together.) I will talk about the three types and how to deal with them.
The Three Types Of People In Group Projects
In my experience with group projects, there are usually three types of people. The Do-It-Aller or Delegator, The Middle Person, and The Freeloader. By finding these people in your group, you can better function with group projects and steer them in the right direction using the tips I give below.
The Do-It-Aller or Delegator
I think that these people are on two sides of the same coin. I say this because it’s basically like flipping a coin when you get a leader because they may want to do all the work, or they may want to delegate it out to group members.
When I see a group I am in starting to lack balance, I like to step in and be a task delegator and liaison for the group. I don’t like to take all the work and make it mine, because I am just too busy for that. I also don’t think it adds to the education of group members. Some leaders take it upon themselves to do all the work. If you see this happening in your group, step up to the plate and get a few tasks for yourself. I know it’s easy to let one person take the reigns. If it’s a group speech or presentation, you can really tell if one or two group members took the reigns and the others just sat and watched.
The Middle Person
This person is pretty straightforward. They don’t push themselves out as leaders, but when the leader delegates a task to them, they get it done and know their parts. These group project members are amazing for delegators because they have someone to depend on, so they don't end up doing the entire project by themselves. If you don't have time to be a leader, be the middle person.
The reason that anything with the word “group” in it assignment-wise gets a bad rep. You’re going to have this problem once or twice in your college career. A person who likes to sit back, relax, and piggyback on the rest of your group members. Whether you are a leader or a middle person, it is your job to get them to do their work.
- Set clear deadlines on when you need their work done.
- Work on the project with the person by doing group work sessions at the library.
- Alert your professor when group members are unproductive (hopefully, they can give you pointers on engaging the student.)
You have to give that person incentive to do their work by being clear that you will not stand for freeloading.
Tips To Creating More Effective Group Projects
Group projects will be a part of your collegiate career (and honestly, any career.) Over the years, I have found the tips below to be the most effective when dealing with group projects.
Get Clear On The Assignment
Before you divvy up the assignment, take a few minutes to read and understand the assignment. You should work to figure out:
- What is the main objective of the assignment?
- What is the assignment's finished product (a group paper, portfolio, presentation, etc.?)
- Who is responsible for tackling which piece of the project?
Exchange Multiple Forms Of Communication
From Day One, keep communication as open as humanly possible. Exchange email addresses, phone numbers, add each other on Facebook/Twitter. Make sure you have at least two ways of contacting everyone in your group (preferably one for fast communication and another for slow communication.) Nothing is worse than having a good idea, wanting feedback instantly, and waiting for hours to get information back.
Settle Meeting Dates As Soon As Possible
People need to know the time commitment for things. Depending on the project's lengthiness, try to meet at least once a week if the project is due in two weeks or more. If you have less than two weeks, try to meet at least twice and discuss in class.
You shouldn't create impromptu meetings with no prior planning. Some of your group members won't be able to drop their tasks to come to the group's rescue. Emergency meetings are not good. Send an email or text your group members instead.
Make Your Meetings Productive
Don’t just come to a meeting and talk. Make it productive. People have other schoolwork, extracurricular activities, and jobs to do. Come with an action plan of things you want to work on or discuss. When I am on any part of a meeting, I don't like leaving it thinking nothing got accomplished, or the meeting was pointless. We live in this time where just meeting is sometimes seen as productive, but that is not the case. Do not equate meeting with productivity.
Create an agenda of what you want to talk about before your group meeting. Depending on the type of project you are doing (group paper, presentation, etc.), you might not need to meet as much.
Deadlines are important because without them, we all run around like chickens with our heads cut off. Come up with deadlines everyone agrees on for certain aspects of your project. Keep in mind that you should be bouncing ideas off each other to make your project better. A project should be finished at least one meeting before the last meeting. The last meeting should be used to tweak and perfect the project.
Have Fun, Meet People, But Remember This Is Your Grade
Don’t be afraid to step up, lead a little, and delegate some tasks. It’s nice to have fun and meet new people that you wouldn’t have necessarily worked with before, but it’s also your grade that’s in jeopardy. If the group isn’t going in the direction you thought it would, step up and lead a little. I hope you all have enjoyed my tips on creating better school-related groups.
Tools Your Team Can Use In Group Projects
Finally, let's cover a few tools that will make your group projects much smoother.
It can be challenging to find a time that works for everyone. You can use Doodle to pick the time that works for everyone in your group. Doodle is a free tool that you can use. You can set up times across several days and ask everyone to pick meeting times that they can attend. Once everyone has entered their information, Doodle can help you find the best time for you and your classmates.
If you need to collaborate on a paper or a presentation, there is no better tool than Google Drive. With Google Drive, you can share a presentation or a document with your group members. You can all edit your individual slides or paper parts. It is much easier to edit everyone's work, leave comments, and ensure that everyone is keeping up with deadlines. If you wanted to do a work session in real-time, this is probably the best way to do that.
If you don't have time to meet in-person, Zoom is a great alternative. No more excuses from that group member who just so happened to forget about your meeting and go home early for the weekend. Plus, if you don't have space to meet together, you can always easily pull up a Zoom meeting.
Do you have someone on your team that feels a bit sketchy? Would you rather not give that person your actual phone number? You are in luck because you can use a free Google Voice number instead. When they ask for your number, give them a Google Voice number. It will look real, and it can route phone calls to your actual number.