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Working with an Online Group on a Project

In the past, when I listened to other professionals talk about their experiences while earning their master’s degrees, it seemed like the group projects were what they remembered most.  This past fall, I braced myself while pulling up the syllabus for my first class, hoping that there would not be any group projects.  It would be so impractical, with everyone living remotely; certainly the professor would not consider such a preposterous idea.  But there it was; one of the first assignments was to form into groups of 4 or 5.  My heart sank.  How in the world was I to find a group, let alone complete a project with them?

I started to read posts by others, asking for partners.  Silly me for panicking, as everyone else was in the same predicament as me.  Soon enough I was part of a group.  Two of the members had been part of a group before and they suggested that each week, a pair of us should tackle the bulk of the work and then have the rest of the members review it before turning it in. The experienced students took the first week and it went well enough.  The second week it was my turn with another student.  She and I worked hard and communicated through e-mails, phone conversations, and text messages.  We turned our work over to the other members feeling we had done quite well. The feedback we received from our team was rather harsh criticism.  We both felt insulted and it was tempting to start a bicker fest.  Instead, my partner and I thanked them for taking the time to review our work, decided which concerns were legitimate, and made the changes.  Our grade was much higher than the grade on the first project.  Phew, I did not let anyone down and made it through my first group assignment.

Since then I have learned a few things about working with others online:

  1. Keep an open mind. You are in a group to learn from others and for them to learn from you.
  2. Speak up. Your grade will be affected the same as theirs. If you feel like the team is missing the point of a project, you owe it to yourself and them to say so.
  3. Be flexible with your time. You might have to get up early or stay up late in order to communicate with others living in different areas of the world.
  4. Do not criticize without making suggestions to improve or correct the project. It is a group effort, after all.
  5. Show appreciation. If you cannot offer compliments on a piece of work, you can offer gratitude for the hours and effort spent.
  6. Maintain your sense of humor. Others will appreciate it and it will make you more approachable.

In the future, I will not be afraid of group projects. In a short period of time, I have made some wonderful friends solely because of these projects.  I have learned that being receptive to the ideas of others leads me to fresh ideas of my own.  I have also been inspired by the way some of my team members have handled challenges both in the group and personally.  Finally, I have been reminded that there are other people in this world, besides my family and close friends, upon whom I can rely.    


About the Author

Donna Yoder

I grew up in two places - the high peaks of Colorado during the school years and a farm in Michigan during the summers. My senior year of high school I moved to Michigan and after graduation enrolled at Michigan State University for my undergraduate studies. I moved to Colorado permanently in 1992. I have enjoyed 24 years of accounting and business consulting work. Even more than that, I enjoy my husband, 3 sons, and a rambunctious collie. In my free time I enjoy walking, running, figure skating, and reading about shipwrecks in the Great Lakes.

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