Communicating in group projects

by Abby Ponder

There are two words on a syllabus that have the potential to strike fear into the hearts of students everywhere: “group project.”

People are wary of group projects for a variety of reasons. Sometimes it’s a matter of finding time in an overwhelmingly busy schedule that accommodates several people; sometimes it’s a matter of having communication difficulties with your fellow group members; and sometimes it’s simply that you’re a strong, independent student who doesn’t need a group support system.

Whatever your reason, sometimes group projects can be stressful experiences–even with wonderful group members.

However, they’re an important aspect of both college life and life in the real world. People have to collaborate on projects all the time to turn out a successful product. Learning those skills can only help you in the long run.

Still, though, sometimes even when you know something is good for you, it might not be something you’re looking forward to. So, how do you make the best of your situation?

First and foremost, communication is essential. Depending on the scale of your project, there are various ways to communicate effectively with your group members. Technology of the 21st Century really is your best friend in this instance. Some viable options (and their pros and cons) include:

  1. Email: This is the standard form of communication amongst students, but is it the most effective? It depends. Emails allow you to be very verbose in your content and share files. If you have a lot to say in one burst of content, emails will definitely work in your favor. However, if your group is on the larger side, emails can sometimes make it difficult to ¬†communicate with everyone. If one person forgets to click “reply all” or to “CC” everyone, then a communication gap can appear and information has the potential to be lost in translation.
  2. Group Texts: When you’re trying to decide when and where to meet, group texts can be a swell way to handle the communication side of things. They’re also nice for sharing quick bits of information or asking questions on a smaller scale: “When is the paper due? Are we meeting at six?” When it gets more complex than that, though? Maybe not. Another thing to keep in mind regarding group texts is that some people may have phones that are incompatible with the rest of the group. Make sure to clarify such things before establishing it as your go-to method.
  3. Facebook Groups: This is my personal favorite way to communicate because it combines all the aforementioned methods into one. You can post files, share status updates, and keep everything organized in one place.
  4. Google Drive: Want to work together but can’t meet in the same place? Google Drive is the tool for you! You can write and edit one collective document at the same time and save it automatically. This can be super helpful in the collaborative process, but do keep in mind that meeting up at least once is a very good idea in order to make sure everyone is on the same page.
The most important thing during a group project is to collaborate. If you work together and communicate, your chances for success will be much greater.
If there are several individuals working together, it might also be a good idea to assign specific roles to members–an editor, a designer, an organizer, etc. Make sure everyone is involved throughout the entire process.
So, what are your strategies for communicating in group projects? Let us know!
Stay tuned for next week’s post about the actual writing process for group projects.
This post was originally published on March 30, 2015.
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