There’s a phrase that applies to group dynamics that says “Too many cooks spoil the soup.” The more members you add to a group the more complex the dynamic becomes. It gets harder to meet everyone’s schedules and the input gets more diverse and sometimes creates a bottleneck to moving forward with any specific actionable items. Here are some tips to help groups work together in online college settings.
The first thing after introductions and setting group roles that you are going to want to do is to set up times that the group can touch bases on the progress of the project. All of your group work won’t be together, but set up a schedule that lets everyone check in regularly with their parts of the project. This is important and gets everyone on the same page as to how communication will occur. Setting the expectations up front & planning specific times to report milestones in the project, task completed and general progress.
Meeting together at the same time may not be an option, so you’ll have to do your best with what you are given. Many online college groups come together in forums set aside for the purpose of helping students collaborate. It’s a bit delayed, but if everyone commits to checking it daily you should still be able to continue with your project. To establish some clarity in a forum setting you can post a list of all the assignments and who’s taking what role and ask everybody to respond if they agree with it.
There will be times when you’ll need to hold a conversation with the group or an individual member that you are collaborating with on a certain part of the project. If you have established times from that each person in the group will be working on the project and available to talk you can meet up for a chat or phone call. Google Talk as well as other common services like MSN Messenger, Yahoo IM, AIM & Skype can give you the capability to talk with other students.
Take time early on in the lifespan of your group to meet together. This can really help everyone get on the same page before everyone goes off and starts doing their work on the project. As you go along you may this less, especially as everyone takes their tasks they have and goes to work on completing them, but make sure to meet together as often as you need to ensure the success of the project.
You may also offer to provide a meeting agenda so that everyone knows what will be covered. They can spend time putting together anything they need to present to group and you will show the group that you are interested in the project as well as in valuing their time.
When meeting pick somebody to take notes of the discussion and post a list of action items along with deadlines so that everyone continues to be on the same page. If there is a discussion thread or place to post such things specifically it can also alert your teacher to how you’re group is progressing.
These are but a few tips that can help your group work run more smoothly in an online college. I wish you the best in having productive meetings with your fellow students.