Group projects were right up there with cumulative final exams for my least favorite thing in college. You are bound to get some group project groups where no one wants to work or no one wants to agree on anything. Those dreaded projects where you end up doing EVERYTHING. It happens… so how do you survive it?
1. Choose your group wisely (if you can)
- If your professor lets you choose your group then you will need to think about it wisely. If you have friends in the class make sure you consider if they will actually do their fair share if you ask them to be a part of your group. If you have an open size range for your group consider that too. Just because the professor says 3-6 people in a group does not mean that you should try to get 6 because it’s less work per person. If team members #5 and #6 aren’t interested in doing their work then you could end up doing more work trying to get them to do theirs.
- Unfortunately, you don’t always get the luxury of picking out your teammates. If you are in this situation then get to know your assigned teammates right away and figure out how much each teammates strengths and weaknesses.
2. Delegate based on strengths
- It’s tempting to mechanically divide up the work that’s due. However, it will be much more efficient to divide up based on strengths. If there is a creative element then having the graphic design student handle that part is probably for the best. Use your judgment to make sure the work is still decently evenly divided but don’t worry about everything being perfectly divided if that means the wrong people are doing the wrong work.
3. Use Google Docs for everything
- Using Google Documents means that you can access everyone’s work. I had a friend who had a classmate drop the class near the end of the semester and he had all of their research on his computer and he never responded to them about getting the research! They had to re-do over a months worth of research. Don’t let something awful like that happen to you. Make sure everyone in the group has access and just work off of Google Documents – encourage people to put their research and rough drafts into Google Documents as well.
- This can also help with seeing who is really doing what work. On the right hand side you can see the history of the document and any/all edits made by your teammates. You can also see WHEN they did the edits. Hopefully you get teammates that are on top of their work but if you don’t then this can help you keep track of who is actually doing what if that information is needed.
4. Meet right before or after class
- Try not to assume that your classmates have infinite time to meet up and work on the project. And don’t get frustrated if someone has a limited schedule. A lot of students work full time while going to school or are on a sports team with a lot of practice and game time commitments. So when scheduling meeting times try to suggest right before or after classes, that tends to be when busy students have some availability. If everyone can’t meet in person then have someone take detailed notes and send them over to anyone who couldn’t make it.
5. Set early deadlines
- You do not want to have deadlines due the day the actual project is due. If possible, setting a deadline to finish the project a week before is ideal. It gives your group time to proof read each others parts and make sure that everything flows together nicely. It also gives you time to push someone to finish their part if they haven’t or, worst case scenario, for the rest of the group to DO someone’s part if they won’t do it.
6. Call out people not pulling their weight
- This is a GROUP project. Which means each member in the group need to pull their weight. However, that doesn’t always happen. Sometimes it’s minor and not worth causing conflict over. Sometimes, though, you need to say something. Usually if you need to say something it is a frustration that is shared among the other teammates as well. So discuss it with them and make sure you don’t cross the line between teammate and bully. They are the ones who ultimately will suffer the most from not doing their fair share. Tell them that they need to do the part they were assigned and by the deadlines that your group set. If they are unwilling to step up then warn them during peer evaluations this will be brought up.
7. Thank your teammates
- As you are sighing relief that your group project is done and you survived… make sure to thank your teammates. It’s a small world and there’s a high chance you are in the same major and therefore will be working in the same industry. Don’t burn any bridges over a group project. Thank them and leave a good lasting impression.
Group projects are part of the college experience. You can get through them even with a less than ideal group. Keep your group on track with deadlines in mind and you will be fine!