7 Things You Should Consider For Successful Online Group Experiences

What You Need To Consider For Creating Successful Online Group Experiences

If you are just starting out in online learning, you may be thinking what I thought some years ago when I was in your position. I secretly hoped there would never come a time when I will have to do group assignments, because I thought being in a group was very challenging. Do not be discouraged; being in an online group has its challenges, but it can also be fulfilling if you and your team approach the group in a positive manner. In this article, I discuss 7 things to consider for successful online group experiences.

1. Do Not Be Afraid To Take The Leadership Role

As an online learner, you might find yourself in a group where no one wants to be the leader, because being the leader is automatically associated with having the majority of the workload. This latter thought was proven wrong when I entered my first online group assignment. For, as much as I was not the leader, I ended up taking over the majority of the work because the leader was happy to delegate.

If you are one of those persons who think that being the leader of a group means you will get the majority of the assignment workload to handle, I hope my experience has placed another twist on things. I hope that the next group assignment you are involved in you will not back down from being the leader just because of the workload. Whether or not you are the leader, as long as you are a person who takes the initiative, is serious about maintaining a high GPA, and is serious about learning what each assignment is intended to teach you, I assure you that taking the leadership role might be in your own best interest. For not only will you develop some courage as an aspiring leader, but also you will learn more about the assignment that a person who just contributes their share of the work and does nothing else.

2. Organize Meeting Times Ahead Of  Time

You might be scared of taking on the role of the leader; however, if you are a person who loves to meet deadlines and worries when there is lack of progress in the group, then you have another reason to be the leader. As the leader, you will have the opportunity to show your strong points in terms of organizing things. For example, one of the challenges of online learning is that almost everyone works full time, has a family, and other obligations.

There is also another challenge of living in different time zones. For these two reasons, it should be a priority to set the date and time for meetings so that everyone who can be there can have enough time in which to organize around their other commitments. At the same time, because of the time zones, it may not be possible for every member to be present: The group members should give consideration to these members. On the other hand; these members should not take their time zones difference as an excuse not to do their share of the assignment.

3. Set Goals For The Group Meeting /Discussion

When the meeting is set, members should begin sourcing resources for the assignment so that each member brings some useful information to the discussion. Each group member should become familiar with the criteria and instruction for the assignment. The goals for the meeting should be about what the group hopes to accomplish in terms of the number of questions on the assignment. This preparation will save time when the meeting day comes, as everyone would have already become familiar with the objectives of the assignment.

Goal setting prior to meeting times also saves the time that is often lost during the communication process during online meetings. While there are times when a group chat will occur without any glitches, there are other times when time is lost because the chat room malfunctions. In the event that this happens, the group should not suffer too badly if they had their goals sorted out prior to the meeting.

4. Be Punctual And Encourage Punctuality Among Members

This point ties in somewhat with the point above. Punctuality should be exercised whether or not it is online or traditionally classroom. Oftentimes group members have other things taking place, and if someone shows up late, this could upset the plans of another member who is on a tight schedule. Respect your time and expect others to respect your time.

If you are in an online learning group meeting and more than one member is present, do not cancel the meeting for that reason. As long as you had prepared prior to the meeting, you and anyone else present can go through the resources and start the meeting/objectives. Those who show up late will fill in and read the chat to get an idea as to what was going on.

5. Set A Date For Submission Of Information From Each Person

One of the things online learners should keep in mind is that successful group experiences go hand in hand with the overall performance of the group. If one member fails to deliver, it affects the entire group’s performance. Failure for members to submit their portions of the work, within reasonable time, can result in conflict within the group.

In addition, imagine how you would feel nearing the due date for an assignment and having no idea if the group will be able to submit the assignment on time. Therefore, setting a date for everyone to submit their portion of the assignment will relay those fears and force everyone to commit to the deadline.

6. Assign The Final Organization Of The Paper To A Group Member With Great Organizational Skills

Whether or not you are the group leader, it is each person’s responsibility to ensure that the person who gets to put the assignment together is able to do so. In addition, if that person fails to deliver, there should be another person willing to finish and change accordingly.

I can recall my experience in a group where one other person volunteered to put the assignment together. However, when the person submitted the assignment for the group to review I felt a few conflicting emotions. I looked at the assignment, looked at the objectives and criteria, and looked at number of pages in the document. The final document was many pages above the stipulated pages. The assignment was due for submission the following day and there was very little time in which to make the corrections. I submitted my recommendations and after a few hours and no one responded, I went ahead and edited the document.

7. Be Prepared To Deal With Conflicts And To Do So Professionally

I was not going to add this final point, but I realized not doing so would not complete these tips at all. I can recall an incident where one group member became upset and unkind in words to me, because I took the initiative and edited the final document that this group member submitted. The group member created more pages in the document than was allowed for the assignment: Had we submitted the document as it was, we would have lost marks. Everyone saw that the changes were necessary; unfortunately, this group member could not see past her personal feelings.

The lesson I wish for you to take away from this scenario is that, within online groups, there will be conflicts even without you intending to cause such. Sometimes you will need to act regardless of how someone else feels. What you do or do not do may result in an unpleasant situation, but the choice will be yours to make. Whatever you do, always remember that you do not always have to respond in kind to someone who behaves unkind towards you. Maintain your professionalism at all times.

Final Word

Do not let this article scare you. It is possible for you to have positive online group experiences despite the many challenges. Every group experience is different: From each of the experience that you have you will learn something new. We all have our differences, and once we come together for a common goal we must take certain things such as mentioned above into consideration so that everyone comes out better than they were in the beginning of the group experience.

Helpful resource: Creating Effective Collaborative Learning Groups in an Online Environment