Maximizing Group Work While at the iSchool
Published: April 6, 2023 by Kesheena Doctor
One facet of the iSchool and our future career as librarians is working with others. Though group work can be very enjoyable and rewarding, it is also very easy to fall into traps that can be detrimental to a group’s success. I’d like to share some tips and strategies for effective online group work that I’ve gained from my past experience as a volunteer and as a project leader for various jobs.
Getting Started and Sharing
When initiating a conversation about impending group work, introduce yourself with your name, pronouns, schedule, the time zone/area you are in, some meeting dates, if you want to meet via Zoom or through a Google Meeting and, ask other group members for their input to decide on a consensus. Often, initial group conversations revolve around introducing yourself and setting up a meeting time, so having a list of possible meeting times can speed up the conversation and finalize a meeting date sooner. One fantastic tool group members can use for planning meeting times is Doodle, which is a free and simple tool to find the best time for group meetings. Calendly is also another great app to use for scheduling meetings.
Google Suite or Microsoft Office can also work as effective tools for organizing group work. While I am a fan of Google Suite, the iSchool offers an array of tools for iStudents to use, including Microsoft 365 and Zoom. The iSchool also offers some great information on group work as well as the INFO 203 course, which has a module dedicated to group work. INFO 203 peer mentors also provided some quick tutorials on using many of the features the iSchool provides students. Furthermore, LinkedIn has a great tutorial on conducting online meetings and improving teamwork skills for those who would like more coaching in these areas.
Preparing for Meetings
Once an initial meeting time and group particulars are decided on, a meeting agenda should be drafted so everyone knows what to expect at the meeting. It’s a good strategy to have even a simple meeting agenda so meetings don’t become too lengthy and important details aren’t omitted. Since many of us in the iSchool have such busy schedules with school, work and family, a meeting agenda will also ensure time isn’t wasted with longer or unnecessary meetings.
Asking group members to prepare for the meeting can also help expedite your first meeting, especially if members are only able to meet for an hour or less. If possible, delegate roles to members beforehand and request that all group members review the assignment and come prepared with any questions for the meeting.
Keeping in Touch and Accountability
Once everyone has met and the project is underway, sending updates on your work to the group is highly recommended. For example, for my INFO 202 group project, my group members and I would text daily updates about our individual progress. Then, if a group member had any trouble completing a task or had any time conflicts, another team member would take on their task. Though not feasible for all situations, our group was flexible with individual productivity. My INFO 202 group worked on multiple projects together and if a person did not do as much work on one project, they would take the lead on another project.
As graduate students, we all have busy lives and may have difficulty meeting all tasks set before us. Before committing to a project task, knowing your work style, capacity and weaknesses is very important for group work. If you have trouble writing, it’s not a good idea to be the project’s editor. However, if you excel at grammar and spelling, being the editor may be the ideal position. When each member of the group contributes their best talents, the group’s dynamics, efficacy and success are enhanced.
The iSchool has many tips on how to manage your time, including this blog post from a prior student blogger. Knowing how much time you need to commit to a group project can also be estimated by knowing what the group expectations are for an assignment. If the group is striving for a perfect score, adding more time to the project may be needed. Finally, have fun with the project and get to know your fellow group members. I’ve found that with core classes, I will have two or more classes with the same students, including past group members.
Overall, communication is key for group projects and is even more important when collaborating virtually. Do you have any tips for a successful group project? Please share them below.