How to make the most of virtual group work

Group work is something that all high-school and university students are familiar with, and it often has a bad reputation among students because being accountable for a larger project with other people is not always easy, and it’s often harder to reach a desired mark. As a fifth-year university student, I’ve gained skills through a variety of group projects, and I’ve been able to put these skills into practice for my final semester of courses while in the virtual setting. For  Advanced Market Planning, my group and I are working on a marketing plan for a non-profit company, and we have already created a background report on the company which we received the highest mark for in the class! If you’re curious about how we made this happen, read on for some tips from my fellow group project members and myself!

 

Maintain online communication

Although classes are completely virtual, group project communication is quite similar to before the pandemic. It’s essential to create a group chat with your teammates to ensure you can keep each other up to date or inform each other if something comes up that limits your ability to work on the project. The difference in the virtual setting is instead of in-person meetings, all meetings are calls and video calls. These calls typically take place on Zoom during class time, but outside of class, it’s important to have a designated team member set up Zoom or Google Meet links.

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“Consistency is key. It’s important to continuously meet with your group at least once a week so you can all be on the same page. Try to schedule a virtual group call during the same time each week, as this also keeps the team accountable to know what needs to be done, and luckily, there are many channels to do so, such as Zoom, Google Meets, Facebook Messenger and more.”

  Eduardo Rodriguez, Global Management Studies & Marketing Management 

“Similar to Eduardo, I think it’s important to allocate weekly meetings that act as touch-points for the group to discuss important information and ask questions. A weekly touchpoint keeps group members engaged as isn’t too burdensome given busy schedules.”

  Aysha Malik, Marketing Management Co-op, Law & Business Minor

 

Have a devil’s advocate

To avoid groupthink when brainstorming and working on reports, groups should always have at least one member who is a devil’s advocate. This ensures that the group is thinking critically about the problems they are solving or the research they are doing. 

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Focus on group members’ strengths

It’s okay to not be great at everything – that’s what the real world is like and why group projects are great. When you form a new group it’s essential to have an open conversation with your other group members about what your strengths and weaknesses are, and what you would prefer to work on. After this, your team can strategically assign tasks based on each other’s strengths. Of course, it’s important to remember collaboration is key for optimal results, especially during the brainstorming stage.

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“My number one tip for virtual group work would be utilizing some sort of planner, whether it’s an agenda or online calendar. I know I’m stating the obvious, but balancing a full-course semester with multiple group projects plus arranging meetings all at once can be overwhelming. I dedicate a colour to each course so I know what group responsibilities need to be done and have a clear understanding of priorities. As well, when scheduling meetings and working with group members, it’s important to be extra mindful and understanding of group members. Times are tough right now and checking in on fellow group members can be impactful.”

  Jordan Lai, Marketing Management

 

Set internal deadlines

Large group projects often have deadlines that are two or more months away, but they also have a variety of small components. If you leave something like gathering primary research until the last minute, you won’t have enough time to gather an accurate sample and then analyze it. It’s important to always look ahead when doing group projects.

“Try to set internal deadlines as a group. This should include small deadlines for various parts leading up to the main deadline. This is important because online classes have created an environment where the workload can add up quite quickly. It’s crucial to hold each group member accountable, and get the work done before the final deadline to have a bit of time to edit and ensure that there’s a flow in the project.”

  Deepeka Sarup, Marketing Management

 

Be the member you wish you had

Being the member you wish you had means to go above and beyond when working on the project, and offering your group members help when needed. If you notice an area of the assignment may be harder than others or you notice a member is struggling, it’s important to jump in and offer help. This also means you should not wait for other group members to do things, but take initiative and do things yourself when you see something that needs attending to. This may mean being the member to reach out to the professor when the group has questions, or being the member who is writing the meeting minutes when you have a meeting. Beyond this, a great group member is one who is always open to new ideas. 

 

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“Initially, I anticipated online group work would be more challenging since the social and interactive aspect working with others is not available. However, after actually working with my group online I found that it was actually much easier and quicker to communicate. Since everyone is online most of the time reaching out and discussing tasks is much more efficient than meeting in person.”

  Aysha Malik, Marketing Management Co-op, Law & Business Minor

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