Editor’s Note: Do you have a question about distance learning or coping with school in these challenging times? The Den is starting a new feature called “Ask Kelly,” and each week Kelly Browning, an early childhood education/special education major and student ambassador at the Henry County Regional Academic Center, will answer questions from the Mercer community. Email her at kelly.l.browning@live.mercer.edu or fill out our online form to submit your question anonymously.

Dear Kelly,

My professor has assigned a group project as our final. How can we be expected to complete a group project when we can’t meet as a group?  I feel like I’m doing all the work. Wouldn’t it just make more sense for us to do projects independently?

Group projects can be overwhelming, especially when you feel like you’re doing all the work. The one thing I think we all need to remember, however, is the reason why professors assign group projects in the first place.

One reason is so you can see all the working parts of a particular assignment, without having to do all the work to put them together.

More importantly, however, is professors assign group projects because the ability to work collaboratively in a group situation is an essential life skill, one that you will need as you go out into the workforce. Being able to work with peers cohesively on a project or assignment is, more than likely, something you will encounter later on, and you need to know how to delegate responsibilities and work together.

One day, when you find that dream job, you will be given tasks that you must complete with your coworkers. You will experience challenges when working on those tasks. You may have coworkers that don’t pull their weight or who you don’t get along with, but regardless, you must still complete the task.

The hope is that even through the challenge, your collaborative efforts and abilities show through and reflect on the final product.

While our current situation as students does bring about challenges, there are some things you can do to assure your project is a success and that everyone in your group has a role to play in it.

The first thing you need to do is start a group page through Canvas. You can do this by going to your class, clicking “People,” then choosing “Groups.” At the top of the page there is a button that says “+Group.” Click that, and you are on your way to developing your group page.

The reason you want to do this is because the group page can be the one place that you all submit your parts of the project. You can add files, have discussions, make announcements and chat.

The best part is that your professor can oversee all that is happening. This instills accountability into the project. If a person isn’t pulling their weight, the professor has the ability to monitor that, especially if you have had to email them about the situation.

While a lot of people feel they would rather work independently, the great thing about group projects is we all have strengths and weaknesses. My group partners have strengths in areas I may struggle in, while I’m strong in areas they may not be.

Every group needs to discover what “superpowers” each team member possesses. For those comic book fans reading this, the Avengers don’t all have the same powers, but they use their strengths collaboratively, as a team, to ensure the best outcome.

Ask your team members what strengths they have, and then design a Roles and Responsibilities form on a shared document and ask your group partners to fill it out. Create a space for them to write their name, email address and phone number.  Design a column where everyone chooses a role for the project, based on their strengths, and then writes their responsibilities for the project, along with the dates they will have their parts completed by. Share this form on your group page in Canvas, and make it visible to your professor as well. 

Finally, and most importantly, is to meet with your group regularly, at least once or twice a week. While you may think this is impossible, Mercer has made a way for this to happen.

All Mercer students have free access to Zoom video conferencing. All you have to do to start a meeting, is go to mercer.zoom.us. Once you log in to Zoom, click on “Manage Participants” at the bottom of the screen, and when the window opens to the side, click on “Invite.”

I recommend copying the URL and then going to your group page on Canvas and starting a new announcement called, “Let’s Zoom (add date),” and paste it into the announcement. That way, your professor knows your group is meeting on a regular basis and can drop in if they would like.

On Zoom, you have the opportunity to share your screen to show ideas or what you’ve completed to your group partners, along with the ability to record the meeting, so you can post it on the group page in case anyone wants to go back and review what was said. 

Although we are all faced with new challenges at this moment, we do have the ability to figure out how to rise above them.  Group projects are an excellent way to meet new people (my group and I have become very close), learn how to delegate responsibility and provide the opportunity to practice teamwork, an essential life skill.

Through equal collaboration and accountability, your group can produce a successful project, even when you are meeting online. Just remember to keep an open mind, do your best and work out any issues with professionalism and respectfulness.

Like I’ve said before, you can do this, because you’re a MERCER BEAR!

I wish you health, happiness and continued success throughout your journey.

 

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