On the list of phrases that strikes fear into the hearts of students everywhere, "group work" is only slightly behind the clear winner "public speaking." However, group work is often a component of college courses, including online courses.
The reason why professors require group work is the same as why they require public speaking--employers want their employees to have those skills, as well as other related skills developed by working in groups/teams (and public speaking).
According to the 2019 Job Outlook report by the National Association of Colleges and Employers (NACE), the top 8 (ranked) skills employers want:
All student, whether online or face-to-face, need opportunities to learn and develop those skills.
Working successfully in teams generally requires both communication skills and problem-solving skills, and students working in groups usually have opportunities to display initiative and develop leadership skills as well.
Successfully working in groups in any setting (online or face-to-face) requires good communication. Many problems that arise when working in groups are due to group members not communicating at all or group members ignoring other members' attempts to communicate.
If your professor has assigned group work in your course, he/she will assist you in communicating with your group members. However, professors are not mind readers and will not know if group members are not communicating (or not contributing) without the other students reporting it.
Tips for communicating with fellow students:
Tips for communicating with professors:
There are many different methods of communication and collaboration available to students. The best method for you and your group will be the method members are willing and able to use consistently.
Discuss and agree on a method within your group at the beginning of the project/assignment.
Using email might be the least complicated way to stay in touch, especially if you start with a group email (including all group members) and then always "reply all" to keep an ongoing email chain going.
Some students prefer texting over email, and it can work fine as a primary means of communication if a group text is used AND all group members agree to use it.
If you haven't used OneDrive before to save files, it is available with the other Office apps once you're logged in to your school email.
Google has multiple apps that allow varying degrees of communication and collaboration. Although a Gmail account is required, Gmail accounts are free to create (and many students already have them).
Google Docs, Sheets, and Slides
Depending on the course and assignment, your professor might give specific instructions on how to organize your group--or they might give no direction. If your professor gives you instructions--follow whatever your professor says. If your professor does not--see below for suggestions that could work on many situations.
*Determine what role(s) each group member will serve. The role(s), and number of role(s), will depend on how many are in your group--and on the assignment/project. All group members actively participate in the main 'work' of the group (e.g. making suggestions, doing problems/questions, writing a final report, etc.)
*Based on the complexity of the assignment/project, your group might want to identify additional steps (not specified by the professor) to be completed.
*Based on the final deadline of the assignment/project, decide on intermediate deadlines--in addition to any intermediate deadlines set by the professor.