Succeeding in an Online Course

Be Active While Working in Groups

Many online instructors require that students participate in groups to complete certain projects, case studies, or other assignments. Online groups have many of the same characteristics as groups in face-to-face classes. For example: in both, you typically choose roles, dole out the work, brainstorm ideas, make decisions, set deadlines, collaborate to create a final product, etc.

The obvious difference online is that you are not working with the rest of your group members in person. However, there's nothing that says you can't schedule a meeting at a library, coffee house, or pizza parlor.

Realistically, though, most of your group work will be done online. And because of this, you need to understand some important details of working together online.

  • Most of your group work will be done asynchronously in a group discussion board. Since group members will leave postings to read and documents to share at different times of the day, you will want to log in every day (perhaps even multiple times a day) to keep the communication flowing.
  • The discussion board will be available to you and the other members of your group. The exception is that your instructor also has access to it; students outside your group do not.
  • The instructor might also give your group access to a group chat room. Use this when at least two members of your group are logged in at the same time. If two or more members of your group have access to Instant Messaging, you can use that, too.
  • Seek clarification on discussion board postings that might seem insulting or critical. Often in electronic communications, meanings are misinterpreted due to a lack of visual cues. Perhaps a good way to deal with misundertandings is to ask the person if she really meant what she posted.
  • If there was no misunderstanding, and the posting really is insulting, don't reply immediately. Take some time to try to see things from the other person's perspective, and when you reply, try to be as positive as possible.

If you notice that a fellow group member is not contributing the way he should be, should you post a note in the group discussion board to spur the student to action?