Professor Perspective: Succeeding in Online Group Projects

Professor Perspective: Succeeding in Online Group Projects

Professor Perspective: Succeeding in Online Group Projects banner

As a student finishing up my undergrad, I hated group projects. I, an English major, preferred to buckle down and get whatever project or paper I was assigned finished on my own. But as a business minor, I found myself in courses that were completely different from my literature classes. As it turns out, business professors loved to assign group work — or that’s how it seemed to me. In my groups, I often found myself volunteering to write whatever assignment we were given in exchange for less face time during a presentation or less number-crunching during a finance project. Personally, I dreaded group work in college.

At JWU Online, we know working in groups can be daunting — especially when you’re taking courses in the online classroom. Many of our staff members also teach online and some say they use group projects to help build their students’ sense of independence.

Directly from our trusted faculty and staff, here are some key pieces of advice and information on what to expect from a group project in an online class at JWU:

“I recently amended my group project mentality. I have a term-long project that the students can do individually or in groups. If they choose to be in a group, they must self-select their group members (with the consent of the other members, of course). This has been very well received by the students. Establishing milestone checkpoints also helps. It is easy to let several weeks slip by — so having mandatory checkpoints keeps everyone honest and on target.”

— Dave Cartwright, Academic Director of Online Programs – Management

“I encourage students to work closely with each other to share their experiences in order to maximize their learning. I am currently developing a leadership course for online and what I learned from the past is helping me create a different kind of group/team assignment. In this course, students will not only have the opportunity to see what their classmates say about selected leadership topics, but then they will have to reflect upon how their classmates’ ideas can impact their own growth and development as a leader. I strive to have students connect textbook theory to practical and personal application; if they stay open to the possibilities, they can begin to recognize and appreciate how working with others can offer real potential value to their own lives and careers.”

— Anice O’Connor, Academic Director of Online Programs – Science & Liberal Arts

“I feel that course projects (whether group or individual) are often opportunities for students to make the class what they need it to be, particularly if there are choices in topic, company, or issue. As a member of a group working on such an assignment, I would encourage students to see if they can take a leadership role in their group and suggest a focus of the project that helps them with their career or educational goals. It’s also a good time to push oneself — to try on a new role or new direction with the support of classmates and the instructor. If a student wants to develop their management skills, leading a group — organizing what tasks need to get done, facilitating the group communication and collaboration, and leading discussions on shared expectations — is a great opportunity.”

— Karen Bellnier, Assistant Director of Online Education

“Just like working with a group in the world outside the classroom, I find that clear communication is one key to success. In an online course, this becomes even more important because you aren’t meeting face to face each week. Take the time to set group goals for your team so that everyone is on the same page. Whether you use the built-in group spaces in ulearn or set up a work space elsewhere online, check in with your group often and let your teammates know what you’ve done, where you’re struggling, and answer any questions they may have. The most successful groups are the ones in which each member of the group takes personal responsibility for their contribution and communicates well and often.”

— Susan Bastian, Instructional Designer

“To help prevent issues in my classes, all group participants are graded by their peers as well as by me. This prevents someone from not doing their part or not showing up or being difficult in some way. I might not see each person’s individual contribution but the other group participants would. So, if you are worried that you won’t be noticed, it won’t happen in any of my groups. Sometimes I even have the group put together their own grading sheet that includes what they think they should be graded on and what should be expected from each group member. This also includes how the group as a whole should be rated.”

— Prof. Patricia Steiner, EdD

“I previously studied at a university that used group projects in every course. At the time, everyone hated group projects. As I have grown in my professional career, I have come to realize that group projects are very reflective of how the real world works. When you work on a project, use it as an opportunity to gain experience that will benefit you beyond the classroom. My advice is to take the opportunity to lead as often as you can. It lets you control the outcomes, teaches you how to set deadlines for yourself and others, and also teaches you valuable leadership skills in a real world scenario.”

— Josh McCarthy, Director of Online Marketing & Financial Operations

Do you have questions about taking classes online? For more information on how JWU Online can help you reach your career goals, contact us at 855-JWU-1881 or email [email protected]

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