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How to Be Successful in a Virtual Group Work

written by: Heather Marie Kosur•edited by: Donna Cosmato•updated: 1/8/2011

Most online students are not sure how they need to go about group work in the online world. Moreover, they have mixed feelings of how to bond, communicate, and get along with online classmates.

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    Introduction to Virtual Group Work Issues

    If you are unsure of how to react and behave in a virtual group work scenario, read on. This article puts together some tips that would help you work efficiently within a group project. Many times, students enjoy being a part of forums and discussion groups but find it troublesome actually working on a group project. Read on to know more about how to go about a virtual group project.

    Most online group projects involve five steps. These are:

    • The group project would have three or four other team members.
    • The group project is expected to be completed as a team.
    • The group project usually contains presentations and is huge in its content.
    • Team members do not respond to emails or chats.
    • One team member ends up doing all the work by themself.

    If this sounds familiar, follow these simple strategies to assure success in a group project.

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    Strategies for Effective Virtual Group Work

    Strategy 1: Bonding

    It is very important to bond with group members---to break the ice, post photos, details, etc.---so that team members can know each other personally. It is a good idea to start a forum and discussion group to discuss happenings, events, and interest items. Where there is a failure to bond, there would be a failure to flourish.

    Strategy 2: Identify the Tasks

    It is a good idea to discuss and identify the tasks at the beginning of the group work. The key is to divide the work and let individual team member’s work on their tasks. Finally, bring together all the work and make sure it blends in. The work should flow and sound as if it was done by one person only. Thus, the writing style and formatting may have to be altered. Get the work checked by all team members, and let them make changes.

    Strategy 3: Identify the Tasks with the Bigger Picture Kept in Mind

    The tasks need to be done in a way that the bigger picture is kept in mind. The final objective of the group work should not be forgotten about. Thus, delete all irrelevant tasks and perceive tasks that are relevant to the overall objective of the group project.

    Strategy 4: Simplification and Breaking of Tasks into Steps

    The complexity of the entire group project should be broken down into four to five smaller projects. This should be further divided into two to three steps. Delegate the tasks and set achievable and realistic goals in time frames. The work must be evenly distributed so that there is no resentment among group members. It is a good idea to listen to the requirements and ideas of all team members evenly.

    Strategy 5: Coordination

    Make sure there is enough time for each group member to complete his or her task. It is a good idea to set out dates on which the virtual group would meet and discuss their findings.

    Strategy 6: Communication Plan

    It is recommended to define a communication plan and communicate regularly with an instant manager or video chat.

    Strategy 7: Talk it out

    No matter what the matter is, it is important to be transparent. Transparency and clarity is the key to success in a group work. No matter what the deal or friction is, talk it out and solve the matter.

    Strategy 8: Keep Reviewing

    Tasks can be poorly defined and vague. Thus, it is a good idea to continuously review the tasks and discuss any misconceptions. After delegation, regular catching up and reviewing of tasks is important.

    Strategy 9: Redefining Goals as the Group Work Progresses

    Flexibility and adjustments need to be made on a timely basis. The overall goal or objective might need to be changed as the project progresses. The content, purpose, length, complexity, format, and structure all can be altered as the project grows. All goals should be defined in the SMART way, i.e., specific, measured, achievable, reasonable, and time-based. However, there is no need to be rigid.

    Strategy 10: Rewards and Bonuses

    All group members should have their own tasks for which they are responsible. If done accurately, they should be rewarded in terms of acknowledgement in the form of a group thank you message.

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    By following these ten steps, you will be able to complete virtual group work efficiently and successfully.