The biggest worry I had before starting library school was about group projects. Online group projects.
It’s not that I don’t like working with other people. I love working with my colleagues in real life — it’s just I was very worried about having to work online with people I have never met before: I don’t know their work style, I can’t tell from online communications their emotions, I don’t know if they are reliable — what if they never contribute to the projects? Or what if they don’t like my work that they report me for not being useful enough? I am an ESL student, what if they can’t understand me? All these unknowns were making me very nervous before school even started.
So far, I have had group projects in all the classes I have taken for my distance MLIS degree. There were groups that I hated and groups that I absolutely loved — some of the group members had turned into dear friends. After four semesters of group work experience, I have come up with some thoughts on ways to create successful and more enjoyable group projects.
- Treat your Group members the Way you want to be treated
The most important thing I learned is to treat your group members the way you want to be treated. I would say if everyone has this mindset, there would not be any “bad groups!” If you don’t want other people to not contribute, then you should contribute! If you want others to submit their work on time, then don’t be late on your part! So many times I had expectations for other group members, but I didn’t realize maybe I could have done better at the same time.
- Don’t wait for others to start
You got the assignment and was assigned into a group. Now, you are just waiting for someone to start the discussion on dividing the workload and communication preference. You still haven’t heard from anyone in the group two days before the due date. You start to worry: Have they already started working on the project without including you? Should I email the teacher about it?
Please, please don’t wait for others to initiate the discussion. It’s great that if your group members are on top of things, but many of them may be very busy with other events in life that they forget about the group assignment. Once you received the group assignment, send a quick message to all members to get the project rolling. Email the professor if you don’t hear anything from them — maybe some of them had dropped the class but the teacher forgot to inform you. It happened to one of my groups.
- Be flexible
Distance MLIS students come from different backgrounds. They could be full-time workers who have more than one job, or they could be stay-at-home parents who can only work on school work at night. Be willing to be flexible with your schedule or ways of communications can make arranging group meetings so much easier. At the end, we just want to get the work done.
- Don’t be afraid to express your thoughts
I always had this feeling that I was not as smart as other library school students. Therefore I didn’t want to express my opinions. I didn’t want other people to find out I am not intelligent. However, I have learned that everyone’s opinions matter that even I could provide useful insights other group members didn’t think of.
What other tips do you have for making group work more enjoyable?
Alice Law is a MLIS student at Wayne State University.