Online classes can be fun. There are times when you work on your own, and other times when you can participate in an online discussion. Occasionally, your professor will assign a project, to be completed by an assigned group…but how is that accomplished, when you never meet any of your co-workers in real life? How are virtual projects successfully done?
What I’ve found tends to happen is one of two things: Once you are in communication with your project partners, you never hear from them again (in which case you wind up doing the project entirely on your own), or else someone else muscles their way in and selfishly directs the total output of the group. This article is about how to handle a virtual online project in a group, in such a way as to not be pulling your hair out at the end of it.
An online project has several elements: You have a virtual instructor, who teams you up with several (usually three or four) other students; you have an assigned project you are to accomplish as a group; and you are in communication with your group partners, either through email or chat room; and the project usually consists of something resembling a Microsoft PowerPoint presentation, or other virtual slideshow.
The key here is to realize you are all connected. Unless you want to do the entire project on your own (and believe me, there are people who are MORE than willing to allow you to do that for an easy grade), you need to encourage your team mates to participate. Try to spread the work equally as much as possible. Also, try to keep in mind other people’s talents and abilities, and gear their part of the assignment towards their likes. Once you do that, it’s relatively easy to identify who will take responsibility for what part of the project.
You will need a coordinator/leader, someone who does the actual typing and connecting of the project parts, and you also need to keep everyone focused on the outcome. Make sure everyone understands what is required, and when the project is due, in order to meet timeliness goals for the class.
If the project is massive, and is expected to take place over several weeks, try to keep a schedule of what parts of the project are due by a certain time. You will find that by scheduling, you will stay on task better. Coordinate online meeting times for everyone’s schedule for maximum participation. If you find that one (or more) members are not able to participate because of time constraints, try to work within the less flexible scheduling problems.
Should there be any personality conflicts, the leader should be the one to step in and resolve any issues. Try not to be too critical of other people’s work, but strive for a combined effort. Disagreements are inevitable, but compromise is also possible in the worst circumstances.
Finally, make sure the finished project is acceptable to all the participants, once it’s complete. The leader should be the final arbiter of any disagreements, so that when the project is finished, everyone is satisfied with the product. Make sure everyone understands that the overall grade for the project will be much better in the long run, if everyone works together.
Group online collaboration can be stressful. But like any other social situation, if you purpose in yourself to be patient with others, try to learn from others, and learn from your own mistakes, you will find that the grade you receive will be better, and you will enjoy the experience that much more.