University’s New Study Skill: Online Group Work

In a world where isolation has now become the norm, we’re all spending most of our day working independently. Some of us are embracing the distraction-free study time to concentrate on our own work, whereas others are missing the social interaction of sitting on floor two with friends, discussing our weekends while working on a reading for a seminar. Whichever category you fit into, navigating a group project is daunting in corona-times for all of us. Fay Inverarity shares her tips on how to make a groupwork lemonade out of this sour online study lemon.

We’ve grown used to online seminars and pre-recorded lectures, yet group work is still a difficult task without cafes and classrooms as meeting spots. Online collaboration is the newest skill students are having to master, but there are a couple of things you can do to make the transition a lot smoother:

  • Create a WhatsApp group

Mobile phones have become the lines of communication between people during COVID-19 and this goes for group projects too. It may seem like an obvious first step, but it’s important to create a group space where you can post your ideas and discuss the best time to meet over video chat. In normal times, you would probably arrange to meet over a coffee and discuss your group strategy for the project, it’s really helpful to still do this virtually! WhatsApp is a great option, as you can share files and images, add the meeting time into the calendar on your phone or even video call via your group chat to make sure nobody misses the call. If you don’t manage to swap phone numbers or a member of your group doesn’t have WhatsApp, the group function on teams also works well!

University’s New Study Skill: Online Group Work
  • Split up the work

At this point in the term, with deadlines looming and seminars moving online, ‘Teams fatigue’ is affecting most of the student population. To reduce your screen time and give your eyes a break, it’s often more effective to separate some of the work between you during your first meeting. This reduces your workload and allows you to focus on one specific section, on which you can work at your own pace, rather than spending hours on a video call working through the whole project.

University’s New Study Skill: Online Group Work
  • Find the right file-sharing software

While Teams and WhatsApp can be great for sharing your files, if you want to work simultaneously on a document, Google Docs is another great option!  This is especially useful during a group meeting as you can share your screen via Teams, or just use it to share your ideas and discuss in real time.

Extra tip: Each member could use a different colour for content they add to the document, so you can easily identify each other’s contributions and ask questions.

University’s New Study Skill: Online Group Work
  • Have a chat!

As I said previously, group work would usually start over a coffee. As many seminars are now held via Teams, the previously informal tone of group meetings can easily get swapped for the more formal tone of a university seminar. The first few sips of your hot drink would usually be partnered with a casual chat about your weekend plans or laughing about a recent WarwickFess post… it’s vital to still incorporate this into your virtual group meetings (if you’re at home, introducing your pets always goes down a treat). We’re all missing social interaction, so a casual chat could not only improve the group rapport but brighten someone’s morning!

If anyone is particularly missing the social side of university, the library runs a virtual community space (LOL!) where you can connect with other students and take part in regular online events. It’s a great way to take a break from work, like you would usually have been able to between lectures. You can find the lounge here.   If you can’t work from home, you can always join a virtual meeting via Floors 1 or 2 of the Library or the discussion area of Rootes.

University’s New Study Skill: Online Group Work
  • Approach the project with an open mind

Although the tips above can prove helpful in creating a cohesive group, they are very unlikely to work unless you approach the project with an open mind. While we’re all cautious of a new style of working, approaching virtual group work with the preconception that it will be difficult is going to hinder your ability to work well as a group. Nearly everyone has forgotten to unmute themselves or had a tech-disaster at some point this term. We’re all in the same boat and, now more than ever, it’s critical that we support one another and help everyone to master online collaboration; it is the very meaning of teamwork.

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