As students shift from high school into college, there are big changes in the classes and expectations. College classes take a lot more self-discipline to stay on top of assignments and turn things in on time because attendance is not always required and there aren't often reminders of due dates. One of the biggest changes is working with others. The real world entails a lot of collaborative work, so professors love to assign group projects. For people who are used to working strictly independently, these projects can be very hard. Even those who enjoy groups find it hard to navigate the many personalities that need to work together. There are several steps to take that can make group projects easier.
As you start, keep the due date in mind, so that the group is sure to meet well in advance. It's easy to think you have plenty of time and that in a group there won't be as much to do. However, group projects are usually guaranteed to be a lot of work and worth a large percentage of the class grade. That's part of the reason a professor makes it a group project. Starting early allows time for any problems and changes that need to be made.
When the group meets, set clear assignments for each member, as well as expectations for the next meeting. It's also important to recognize and discuss everyone's strengths and preferences. Some people willing admit they aren't the best at researching, but know they're quite good at setting up graphics or visual aids. Delegating aspects of the task that play to individuals' strengths will help make the project successful.
As the project gets going, it's very tempting to just work individually until meeting up together again at the end. The problem with this is that even with clear assignments, there could be some overlapping work or aspects that don't match. By meeting on a regular basis, the group can make sure all their work is dovetailing and correct any issues as they arise.
Use Technology to Your Advantage
Sometimes it's just not feasible for all the group members to get together. Besides email communication, there are online programs that allow all members to upload and review each other's work when they can't meet. Many programs also offer group calendars that will keep track of deadlines and due dates.
Whether the project is done early or not until just before the due date, be sure to meet one final time to go over everything. If you have to give a presentation; practice individually, but also practice together. Waiting until the day of the presentation gives no time to make any corrections or adjustments.
Talk to Your Professor
Professors want you to succeed, so if you're having issues, don't be scared to talk to them; they're there to help. Sometimes, it's good to just clarify the assignment or have your work reviewed. Also, be prepared to speak up if a group member hasn't pulled their weight. You should always be compensated for you work, so if you've done more than other members, speak with your professor. Try to explain why you deserve a higher grade, but attempt to do so without applying direct blame. It's important to emphasize the work you did, rather than the amount someone else didn't do. If other group members completely dropped out let the professor know that you did the project on your own. Don't let anyone else take credit for the work you did.
There are always going to be advantages and disadvantages to working in groups. The important thing is to do your best, and by coming prepared, it sets you on the path to getting the most out of the assignment, and out of college.
Ryan Ayers is a writer who creates informative articles in relation to education. In this article, he offer tips to new students about group projects and aims to encourage further study by getting an Online Masters Project Management Degree.