GROUP WORK

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Some people are surprised to find out that online learning can involve group work.

Learning how to collaborate with colleagues and work as a team is key to future success in the workplace. 

Now that working from home is becoming more common, learning how to work as a team from separate locations is essential – giving online learners like you an advantage.

On this page we’ll explain the importance of group work and provide some tips on how to collaborate effectively online.

Why do I need to complete group work?

The study you are currently completing is designed to help you succeed in the workplace. Jobs that require no teamwork or collaboration are very rare, so it’s important for you to learn how to work effectively in groups.

In fact, many courses require graduates to demonstrate their ability to collaborate and/or contribute to the achievement of team objectives, making group work an essential course component.

Benefits of group work

  • Learn how to work with others effectively.
  • Have your ideas considered from another perspective.
  • Learn from your teammates.
  • Teach others what you know – the best way to develop your understanding of any topic!
  • Make new friends in your course.

Common challenges

  • Making sure everyone’s ideas are heard and respected.
  • Dividing work equally so everyone feels like they have contributed a fair amount to the project.
  • Organising key documents and ensuring all members have access to the most up-to-date versions.
 
 
 
Man stressed at a desk

What do I do if a group member isn't doing their fair share?

If you use the key strategies in the next section, hopefully, this won’t be a problem. However, if you do find that one team member isn’t responding to your messages or completing their fair share of work, follow this process:

  1. If you have contact details for your teammate outside of the portal, try more than one method of communication before asking your facilitator for help. Things happen, and you may find that your teammate has a perfectly good reason for not being in touch. Keep your messages positive – e.g. ‘I’m really looking forward to working on this with you and would love to get started.’
  2. If your teammate isn’t doing their fair share of work, get in touch with them and ask if they would like some help getting started or progressing with the task. It may be that they are confused about their role in the team or have blocked out some time to complete their share of the task on a specific day. You may decide on a task they are more comfortable with or spend some time talking them through what they need to do. Regular communication is key to staying on track.
  3. If you are unable to make contact with your teammate or they are making no effort to contribute to the task, let your facilitator know early.

Key strategies for effective group work

1. Have your first meeting as soon as possible.

Reach out to your teammates in the My Classmates section of the portal as soon as you find out who you’re working with. Introduce yourself, tell them a little about yourself, and suggest 2-3 ways to meet. These may include a Microsoft Teams meeting, a group call over Facebook or WhatsApp, a Zoom meeting….there are plenty of options! Offer to set up the meeting and provide 2-3  timeslots for your group members to choose from. There may be a bit of back and forth as you find a time and communication method that suits all of you, but it will be worth it! 

2. Make your first meeting count.

1. Introduce yourselves.

2. Work through the assessment instructions and marking rubric together and ensure that you all understand what is expected of you. Write a list of questions for one team member to take back to your course facilitator if necessary.

3. Ask each team member to identify their strengths (e.g. creating templates, research, writing,  presenting, editing, leadership) and parts of the task they may find challenging.

4. Nominate a note-taker. Go back to the assessment instructions and write a list of the tasks that need to be completed. Work as a group to assign tasks evenly amongst your group, taking into account each team member’s strengths.

5. Work together to create a timeline that covers the day of the first meeting to the assessment due date. Set mini-deadlines for each task and record them on your timeline.

6. Work together to decide when, where and how you will meet. Add your meeting dates to your timeline.

7. Decide how you will work collaboratively.  Working on a live document (e.g. on Word or Powerpoint) is a common collaboration method in the workplace. Other collaboration tools include Microsoft Teams and Smarthinking Study Groups (see below for information on how to set these up). Nominate a team member to set this up.

8. Decide how you will keep in regular communication. You may choose to set up a group chat on WhatsApp, Facebook Messenger, or another messaging service. Nominate a team member to set this up.

9. Finish your meeting by each explaining what your next step will be. If a team member is unsure of what they will do next, work as a group to help them.

Three learners talking online

3. Communicate! Communicate! Communicate!

Use the tips below to ensure you communicate positively and constructively – and keep in touch! 

Top tips for effective communication

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Do…

✔ Remember that behind every computer, there is a human being. 

✔ Start messages with a warm greeting – even if it’s as simple as ‘good morning’ or ‘ata mārie’. 

✔ Think before you speak and read what you’ve written carefully before you push ‘send’ to make sure it can’t be read in a way you didn’t intend it to be read. 

✔ Try to understand points of view that may differ from your own. 

✔ Remember that everyone is at a different point in their learning journey and has their own strengths and weaknesses.

✔ Make sure that your feedback is constructive and won’t lead to hurt feelings. 

✔ Report any bullying, harassment or abuse to your facilitator immediately, even if it’s not directed at you. 

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Don’t

✘ Name call – ever! 

✘ Say or write anything you wouldn’t say to your facilitator or classmates in person. 

✘ Make assumptions about someone’s gender, ethnicity, disability, religious affiliation, culture, political beliefs, or sexual orientation unless they have shared this information about themselves. 

✘ Discriminate or stereotype based on gender, ethnicity, disability, religious affiliation, culture, political beliefs or sexual orientation. 

✘ Insult or dismiss other people’s ideas. 

✘ Write a post or message when you’re feeling annoyed or angry. It’s always best to sleep on it. 

✘ Assume everyone feels the same as you. 

✘ Get angry if someone disagrees with you. 

✘ Write in ALL CAPS or use lots of exclamation marks to express anger. 

Collaborating using Microsoft Word.

Your eCampus NZ account is a full Office 365 account. This means you have access to Word and PowerPoint, which include lots of features that support group work and collaboration.