How I “Survived” Online Group Work

Most people grunt at the thought of group work, especially in a group of more than two. Some of the common problems are differing opinions, differences in age, generations, experiences, etc. It is time to pull that group work vest from out of your closet because it is no stranger to the Purdue online experience.

I always found group work simple: tasks are delegated, we have a timeline, and we can meet at convenient times and locations. However, if you haven't noticed, your classmates are from all around the world, not only proving that Purdue provides a world class education, but you will be working with people who may not even be the same country as you!

My first group assignment was for a global communication class where we had to design a strategic communication and marketing plan. There were six, that’s right, six of us and we all were in different time zones, with one of us was living in Taiwan! The only interaction we had were in class discussions and class introductions, but we were not going to have that chance of meeting in the library to discuss everyone’s comfort levels with the assignment criteria. Here are a few things that helped me get through this assignment!

•    I emailed everyone in my group with another introduction and an outline of the assignment.
•    We each identified immediate tasks that needed to be started.
•    We picked a platform to discuss the assignment.
•    We identified times where we could all meet despite time zone restrictions!
•    We continuously sent updated versions of the assignment.
•    We designated ONE person for a final review and submission.

One person just has to take the initiative in bridging that awkward first email, because there is a huge task to be completed and there is no time for delay. Tasks can be designated by expertise, workload, relevance, or any other system that is helpful--the purpose of doing so is you don’t want someone who isn’t particularly great at writing concluding thoughts writing the conclusion, or someone who stumbles when they speak executing the final presentation.

Social media is your friend! You are in an online class, so use social media platforms to your advantage such as Facebook Messenger or Google Hangouts. Pretty much anything on a google platform will allow multiple members to work on one document at the same time. If you have that one person (there always is) that has a Yahoo account or just does not feel comfortable using social media, there are conference call options as well. I would highly recommended chatting live because emailing for the entire assignment almost NEVER works to anyone’s advantage. Things happen; people forget, it goes to spam, or people don’t read messages all the way through.

The dynamic of every group is different and no assignment is the same, but keep in mind that this experience can help if you work remotely in your everyday life or if group work is not your cup of tea--I would like to say get used to it because there’s no avoiding it!

Happy Grouping!

Learn More About Online Group Work

Allicia Washington is a student in Purdue’s online Master of Science in Communication degree program. The program can be completed in just 20 months and covers numerous topics critical for advancement in the communication industry, including crisis communication, social media engagement, focus group planning and implementation, survey design and survey analysis, public relations theory, professional writing, and communication ethics.

About the Author
Allicia Washington-White completed her undergraduate studies at Alverno College in Milwaukee, WI where she majored in English and minored in Spanish languages and culture. During her junior year, Allicia traveled to South America to immerse herself in Ecuadorian culture for one semester. Allicia was a student leader on campus and have been given many opportunities to sit on student boards, work closely with the dean of students, represent the college in an official capacity, as well as create and preside over a student organization which has sustained since inception in 2012.

She graduated from Alverno with honors in May 2013 and was honored to speak on behalf of the graduating class while serving as emcee during commencement.  For the last three years, Allicia has been working in the non-profit sector and has recently launched a website for her Milwaukee based communications services. She truly has a passion for helping others find their voice and share their stories through the art of communication.

In her spare time, Allicia loves fitness and works out at home regularly. To keep her bilingual skills fine tuned, she attends local Spanish Meetup groups with members of the Milwaukee community. Allicia devotes much of her spare time to her son Kalsey.

After receiving her Master's degree from Purdue University, she hopes to rise in her position as she will have the experience as well as the education that make her a valuable asset to any company.

*The views and opinions expressed are of the author and do not represent the Brian Lamb School of Communication.