Have you ever had the unfortunate and scary experience of standing around the scene of an accident, everyone in shock, not sure what to do? Well, while group work in an online school may not be an accident, there are definitely some similarities between a wreck and some groups that I’ve been in. It’s that moment where nobody knows what to do and nobody takes charge. In your online school group as in an accident, you need to work together as a team to accomplish a task. In both there are windows of opportunity that can pass by if you hesitate. Therefore, it’s best to plan ahead about how to address group settings before you get there to help save you time and headaches of disorganization.

There are a couple of roles that jump out from the start as important ones and depending on the task at hand there may be more. Establish up front the need for the following roles and ask others how they feel about them: the role of an organizer, the role of a general editor and the role of a final editor.

The Organizer. This individual should resist the temptation to become the “boss” or micromanager. They are mainly responsible for helping the group set deadlines, create specific and actionable tasks, making sure that someone “owns” all tasks and that the project all in all is moving forward according to goals and timelines. It may also fall upon the organizer to be in contact with the professor about the progress of the project. An organizer must make sure that they can follow through or the group may lose structure and focus.

The General Editor. This person runs through all portions of the group’s work, sews it together in a unified voice, checks for spelling and grammar mistakes, adds necessary transitions between parts, and gives the paper or project a cohesive feel. A good editor is one that is comfortable in their ability. It may need to be someone who isn’t, but this may elongate the time it takes the project to become completed significantly. Choose the best person up front to save stress down the road.

The Final Editor. While the general editor spent time making the individual papers from the individual group members, the final editor checks for adherence to style and form. They look over the bibliography, double check sources to make sure they are correct. They may also be the one who submits the final project to the instructor.

Now there may be a chance that others have felt forced into roles in the past that they didn’t feel good about. Be aware and look for signs of such repulsion towards someone taking charge. If this does happen you may talk with that individual privately and ask about their concerns and see how they would carry the project forward. If they push back to your initial efforts to organize the group, this little reassurance that you’re not there to force anyone will most likely be more than anyone else had done with them before. Share with them your enthusiasm to have them on the team and contributing towards the end goal in how they feel best.

Good luck organizing roles for good and effective team work in your online school!

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