In this blog, MSc student Megan shares her experience of taking part in group work online whilst studying for her MSc during the global pandemic.
Whether studying at an undergraduate or a postgraduate level, group projects are an essential part of most university courses and can contribute varying amounts to your final grade for certain modules.
Group projects can be tricky at times, and that’s without throwing a global pandemic in the mix! The pandemic has resulted in all group work and team meetings having to take place virtually from our own homes/accommodations, rather than being able to meet in person within WBS or on campus. This has meant that we have all had to adapt to a new style of group working, whilst also figuring out how to overcome the traditional challenges associated with group projects.
Throughout my undergraduate degree, and now within my MSc course, I have completed numerous group projects. Based on my experiences I have created a list of my top tips that I think are helpful when approaching group projects, particularly online-based ones.
- Use your camera.
Don’t underestimate the effect that turning your camera on can have. Within WBS, project groups are randomly assigned, this often means that you will be working with new people, who you are yet to meet or work with. Turning your cameras on for meetings is a great way to get to know your teammates. It can also improve communication between group members, as you can see facial expressions, make hand gestures etc. The fact that all lectures and seminars are currently taking place online means that we rarely see our course-mates, so sometimes it is nice to be able to talk face-to-face (albeit virtually) to other students.
- Plan a weekly meeting.
Once you have made contact with your group members it is then time to arrange video meetings. This year has proved particularly difficult to try and arrange meetings at a time that suits everyone. We all have different seminar timetables, different commitments outside of university and due to the lockdown restrictions in England, students are located all over the world, in completely different time zones. So, once you have found a time that suits everyone, schedule this as a weekly team meeting, that way you don’t have to arrange new times each week, as you know this time suits everyone.
- Create a project timeline.
Sometimes it can be hard to know where to begin with group projects. I have found that the best way to get started is to create a project timeline, work backwards from the deadline and set weekly targets for what you want to achieve. This way, you should be on target for the deadline and have a progression track. It also allows all group members to contribute and have accountability for their parts of the task.
- Be engaged.
This seems like an obvious one but it really is important. Virtual learning has its benefits, but it also means that we are at risk of being easily distracted, for example by our phones, TV’s, the food in the fridge... With teamwork it is especially important to be engaged and listen to the thoughts and feedback from team members, to ensure you have the best chance at success.