How I survived group projects: Tips for students.


Let's face it, we all hate group projects for one reason or another. In fact, it often involves one or more members of your group failing to do their part or just being unavailable for the most part. Personally, I hate having to pick up the slack at the last possible second just to avoid a failing grade or messy presentations. I don't think it's fair at all for anyone that works hard to have to struggle that much, so I thought I would share several tips and tools I use to survive group/team projects. Working in teams can be really stressful and frustrating. I personally have always hated team projects, but when I entered college I found myself struggling even more, especially since my chosen major required more teamwork than most others. Trust me, I definitely understand your plight. I've had issues like being unable to contact members of my group, confusion about who was supposed to complete what, and team members turning in mediocre work or just not doing their part at all. The sad part is that in a college setting, most professors and teachers won't accept any of these excuses. You either have a completed project or you don't. it's either good or it's not and you have to accept what ever results you are given. I don't know about you, but, I definitely could not accept that, so I eventually took charge and found several methods to make the best of any group projects I was given and make sure I got the kind of results I wanted for myself.

Planning

  • When you are first placed on a team for any project, you should immediately begin to strategize and plan, regardless of how much time you have to complete a project. Have a discussion with your members about their work loads and other activities that may conflict with your group.
  • To make things simple (assuming that you have decided on a topic/theme), separate the work among your members. The more important parts of your project should be given to people that are dependable. Don't get me wrong, I am simply referring the members who have the time and energy to devote towards heftier parts of the project. Believe me even if it seems unfair, it works out better for you in the long run. I once had a group member who worked ridiculous hours, but was also in charge of a large portion of the project. Let's just say that in the end there was a lot of rushing to throw something presentable together.
  • Discuss how you are going to complete your project from the start. Including what tools you use, how much time you will devote to the group and your project, how you will communicate, when and if you will meet up as a group and when you want to have the project completed. If extra funding is needed you may also want to consider financial situations and how you will split the cost of the project.

Schedules

  • This is simple really, regardless of how the work was divided, everyone should be always be doing something. To ensure that this happens your best bet is to create a schedule or rather a timeline. Depending on how much time you have before your project is due, I suggest setting aside between 2 to 3 days during that period for each member to meet up and to present what they have done so far. This allows you to hold your members accountable for the work that they are supposed to be doing and also gives you time and the opportunity to fix any issues and address concerns so that may come up.

Communication

I can't begin to stress how important it is to communicate in a group. As a matter of fact there is really no excuse for no communication, unless your members are just being jerks.

At the beginning of your project, make sure that you collect your members contact information, I mean both emails and phone numbers. So as a group you all need to determine the best way to communicate. Whether its through regular text messages, BBM, Whats app, or Google Chat. There are so many different ways to do this. You shouldn't have to, but in terms of group projects, you should always message the entire group, this way everyone can be aware and keep track of what is going on (Keep in mind this is just an insurance plan). Even your emails should CC the entire group and sometimes even your teacher/professor.


Team Apps/Tools

There are several useful apps for team projects, that I often use and they help me to keep track of my group as well.
  • Google Docs: If you did not know google docs allows you to create live documents online. This is really useful in a group because google allows you to create collaborative documents, meaning that all your group members can add to and edit a document at the same time. There is even a live chat feature, which gives you the chance to chat while working. I love it since I can also see who is working and when they are working. It's a great way to work together without having to physically meet up.
  • Dropbox: It's a great document sharing app, but it isn't really needed as much since you can also share documents straight from your Google Drive.
  • Microsoft Online: This works in a similar fashion to Google Docs all you really have to do is invite your members to edit and your document can be accessible anywhere there is an internet/wifi connection.
  • Asana: This is a team scheduling/project management app. If you are really into organization, then these kind of apps allow you to set tasks on a timetable and allows your team members to mark them complete.
These are all simply ways I have used to keep up with my group members and to make sure that I have a back up plan when/if my groups go haywire. How do you manage with group or team projects? Let me know in the comments.

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