Some students love them, others dread them, but group projects are a part of college that you’re going to have to learn how to deal with. Most of the people that hate doing group projects have had negative experiences with them in the past. There’s the guy or girl who doesn’t pull their own weight or the member that nobody ever seems to be able to contact.

Professors tell you that group projects are a way to help prepare you for the “real world” and build your leadership skills. But they can’t fool us; we know they’re just a way to torture us!

On a serious note, though, you can actually gain a lot from group projects in college — things you’ll be able to apply in your career or any other team-oriented activities. So think of your group assignments in school as practice.

In order to help you get through those sometimes annoying assignments, consider putting these tips into action.

Related12 College Organizational Tips

Get to Know the Members and Bounce Ideas

If the groups are randomly assigned, there’s a good chance you don’t know anything about the people you’re working with; you don’t know how they work, you don’t know if they even care about the class. But knowing this info about them will help you plan out how you tackle the project.

For instance, you’ll be able to find out who the weak links are. It’s a sad truth, but you’ll more than likely have one or two members who contribute little to nothing. They might be the one that hardly ever comes to class and whose goal is just not get an F. (There’s nothing like a good ol’ underachiever in your group!)

Start bouncing ideas and brainstorming about the project:

  • What’s the topic of your project?
  • How will you present?
  • How long will the paper be?

The more you prep for the project, the easier it will be to complete.

Choose a Communication Method

The next step you should take for group projects is deciding on how everyone will keep in contact. Some people only check their email once every two days; some people never pick up their phone. So make sure that you all have a way to reach each other.

Luckily, there are so many different options available:

  • Phone/Text messaging
  • Email
  • Facebook
  • Google Hangouts
  • Skype
  • Meetups

Trading contact information and staying in touch will make life with group projects much easier.

Pick a Leader

Often times in groups, a leader will naturally emerge. There’s actually research to support this. The group leader isn’t necessarily the “boss,” but they tend to direct things like meetups, communication between members, and organizing how the group will handle the project. Basically, they act as facilitators.

If you’re going to be the leader of the group, remember: Being a leader isn’t about doing all the work, it’s about making sure all the work gets done.

Set a Realistic Timeline

If your group project won’t be due for a few weeks, setup some type of timeline that details what pieces need to be done by when. This is important because you might have a procrastinator or two in your group that wait until the very last minute to do their work. And also, different people like to work at different paces.

Some people will probably want to knock the project out ASAP; others might have a more packed schedule to work around. Setting up a timeline with checkpoints for when each part should be done will help keep everyone on the same pace.

You can also set a time to meet up in person to go over everything or work together if you want. Just make sure it’s at a time that everyone has available.

Divide and Conquer

The main benefit of being in a group is that instead of doing all the work yourself, you can break the assignment up and have each member do a part. That means you don’t have to spend as much time or do as much work.

The brainstorming and getting to know each other steps will really come in handy here. In a perfect world, every member of the group would be responsible enough to handle an equal portion of the work; however, that’s not reality. That member I mentioned in the beginning, whose goal is just not to fail, is not the person to put in charge of anything that will make or break the project.

You’ll have to give them something light to do so that in the event they blow it off, the rest of the group can cover it and take care of it. (I’ll mention how to handle the group slackers next.)

When dividing up the work, make sure that everyone is ok with their part. Some people might not be great at writing, but they could be experts at putting together PowerPoint presentations. Others might not be the best presenters, but they can gather information and data like nobody’s business. Play to each member’s strengths when dividing the work.

How to Handle the Weak Links

The worst part of group projects is dealing with people that don’t pull their own weight. It’s annoying — it slows the group down and it’s plain disrespectful. There are a few different options you have for dealing with these people.

  •  Talk to them — It’s an awkward conversation, but it needs to be had. Make sure that they realize that it’s important for everyone to do their part in order to get a good grade on the project. Hopefully they understand and start working harder.
  • Don’t give them anything important to do — If you just want to get through the project and don’t necessarily want to stress out about someone who doesn’t care about the assignment, just set them up with the most basic tasks. Best case scenario, they get their part done and its one less thing you have to worry about. Worst case scenario, they don’t do it and the other members take care of it.
  • Kick them out the group — If someone isn’t doing anything at all in the group, this is probably the best option. You don’t want them to get credit for everyone else’s work. If they aren’t willing to contribute, let them fail on their own.

Power through group projects with these tips and avoid the setbacks that accompany working with others. There’s a good chance you’ll be working in groups for years, so the more effective you are at it, the easier it will be to handle them.


RelatedUse Google Docs to Tag-Team Class Note Taking


Image: Jisc infoNet