By Alex Niles
Group projects can be the best type of assignment. Although they usually require a lot of work outside of class, the collaboration amongst group members undoubtedly prepares students for their future careers, and if the group’s work is sufficient, everyone who put in their fair share of work should earn an A. Sounds all fine and dandy, right?
Well, as Communication students, we know that there are drawbacks to group projects. Scheduling meeting times, making sure everyone is doing what they’re supposed to be doing, and meeting crucial deadlines are all stresses that come with working in a group. If you’re thinking about becoming a Communication major, you should know that most your classes will require several group assignments, because, well you know… communication. The following ideas will provide you with information and advice pertaining to selecting your groups.
#1: Working with friends is great, but stay on task.
Almost anyone will tell you that working in a group with close friends is the best way to go. Yes, meeting friends outside of class (for work or for pleasure) is always a plus. You already have contact information and you’re comfortable with each other. It seems like an ideal situation. Zach Hibbard, a Communication Major with an emphasis in Public Relations and Health Communication, reflected on his time working with close friends. “I had a good experience working with a group project in my Principles of Public Relations class,” Hibbard said. “It was a good combination of friendship and hard work… to this day, that is still on of my favorite projects that I have ever done.”
A big downside, however, is that friendship-based groups can lead to a lack of productivity. Although you and your friends may see eye-to-eye on how the project should be structured, often times meetings can fly off the rails and become sidetracked.
By all means, work with your friends. You know them better than your other classmates. Just make sure to work together like associates first, friends second.
#2: Never be afraid to deny someone from joining your group.
We’ve all dealt with a lazy group member who always seems to forget to do their part or never attends meetings. More often than not, you didn’t seek that person out to be in your group, but rather they came to you. A non-contributing member is no help to anyone in the group. The hard-working group mates get annoyed, the project lags behind, and it means more work for everyone else.
If you’re a group’s facilitator and a known sloth-like classmate asks to join your group, it is okay to politely tell them no. If you’re not the group’s leader, it is still okay to express your concern about a potential group member to your project manager or your professor. Everyone is in this to get a good grade. You should never feel bad about doing everything you can to preserve that.
#3: Have fun, be creative, and learn something.
Many people dread group work, understandably so. Group projects often require late nights and butting heads. However, if you have the right attitude, they can actually be enjoyable. With or without friends in your group, projects allow you to express and exchange ideas with other people. That’s something that really shouldn’t be taken for granted.
Additionally, putting together a presentation allows you to be creative. Almost every professor will allow you to present your research and information in just about any way you see fit. You want to start your PowerPoint with a 45-second monologue from The Departed? As long as you can relate it to your project, go right ahead and do it.
It’s also important to take lessons from your projects. Think about why you’re researching what you’re researching. Think about what you can take with you after the class is over, after graduation, and beyond. If you keep all of this in mind, you should be well-prepared for you next group project.
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