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At some point in your college years, you’re going to have to do a group project for class. The main challenge in these situations is making sure that everyone knows the goals of the project and does their fair share of the work. Here are my top five tips for making group work go as smoothly as possible.
Get contact information distributed at the very first meeting.Everyone should have phone numbers and email addresses for the rest of the group. You need to be able to let each other know if you are running late, can’t find the meeting location, or need help with some aspect of the project.Meet in person on a regular basis, and communicate via phone, email and chats in the interim.Try to set up a regular meeting time, be it weekly or bi-weekly, that works for everyone. Sure, things will come up that means the group has to reschedule or someone has to participate in the meeting via the Internet, but having a general time blocked out on your calendars will make it easier to ensure that everyone leaves time in their busy schedules to work on the project. Between meetings, communicate with the group regularly using collaboration tools. Email each other updates on your progress, participate in one-on-one or conference calls, and chat online as needed.Divide the work and provide a due dateTo keep the project moving and on schedule, each group member should leave a meeting with a clear task to complete before the next meeting or by a certain date. Try to keep the division of work as equal as possible. If you just need to write a two-paragraph introduction for one stage while everyone else writes long sections of a paper, you should take one of the heavier or more time-intensive portions at the next meeting.Send a follow-up/summary email so everyone can see the division of labor in writingAfter each face-to-face meeting, type up your notes and email them out to the entire group. Be sure to highlight the ‘action items’ that need to be completed before the next meeting in some way, whether that be using bold or italicized or red text. Ask your group members to read them over and make sure you didn’t get anything wrong or miss anything. That way, everyone will be on the same page as each individual sets out to complete their assigned tasks.In these emails, be sure to include an attachment or link to the most up-to-date version of the project so that members can review and reference it as needed.Make sure everyone gets to review and approve the final project before submittingNo single individual should do the final revisions and editing. Give each group member a chance to look over the project and suggest any changes they think are necessary before you turn it in to your professor. There are two ways to tackle this. The first option is to use a tool such as Google Documents, which allows all members to view, edit or comment on sections of the project. The second option is to set up a rotation so that when one group member is finished with their review, they send it on to the next member in the line-up. The last member should send the project to the entire group for their personal records.What are your best tips for succeeding at group projects?
Photo: Group meeting. By CEJISS, via Wikimedia Commons