Student group work can be challenging, especially when working around conflicting team schedules. Consider the availability of each team member including those with part-time / full-time work, personal conflicts, deliverables from concurrent courses, and working around time zones to attend classes remotely. Below are some helpful tips to assist both instructors with assigning group work, and students when faced with completing common group work challenges.
- Provide Class Time for Groups to Meet: All enrolled students are expected to be available during weekly scheduled class time. Carve out some of that class time (>30min) for student group work, ensuring a shared time for groups to meet.
- Group by Shared Availability / Interest: Survey students on their preferred academic work hours and create groups according to shared availability. Don’t assume shared schedules (i.e. by time zone). Alternatively, allow students to select their own groups after providing brief (<15min) ‘networking sessions‘ during class. Randomly assign students to breakout rooms in Zoom to build personal connections and find peers with shared interests / skills prior to selecting their groups.
- Highlight Challenges & Building Skills: Discuss group work challenges beyond the academic environment to highlight and encourage the development of related project management and teamwork skills.
- Clarify Project Expectations at the Start: Ensure all project expectations are stated clearly at the start of the semester to allow students plenty of time to arrange team meetings accordingly. Be mindful that updates to specific project details closer to the deadline can be challenging for teams to accommodate, having to coordinate around already set schedules.
- Discuss Group Expectations: Set an initial group meet early in the project to discuss roles, expectations, and timelines.
- Meet Regularly: Establish a “standing meeting” where group members are expected and able to meet, such as every Friday from 10-11am EST. Having a time blocked off in your groups’ shared schedule encourages consistent team discussions and ensures everyone is on the same page. If there is no need for a meeting in a particular week, the group can easily cancel it.
- Share an Online Work Space: Work from shared online folder(s) and document(s) where all group members can contribute in real time, at any time. Note: All York University students have access to a suite of MS Office tools. You can collaborate through an ongoing text chat using MS Teams, or share documents online with Word, PowerPoint, Excel, etc.
- Set Strict Deadlines: Set strict project timelines and expectations early on, especially if unable to discuss in real-time due to schedules. Example: Gather resources to a shared folder by date 1, add feedback to a shared word doc by date 2, etc. Note: Have a shared calendar / timeline with deadlines for intermediate steps, and incorporate buffer time wherever able to accommodate any unknown delays.