Working with Online Learning Teams

Working with Online Learning Teams

If you take a series of online learning courses, at some point you’ll probably work within an online learning team. An online learning team is a group of about three to six people who collaborate on one or more projects, with everyone on the team earning the same grades. Many institutions of online learning believe these teams teach students valuable lessons about collaboration, self-assertion and mutual respect.

Working on a learning team can be exciting. Team members are usually assigned by the instructor, often at random, which means students within a team will have different backgrounds, life experiences and skill sets to share with one another. However, these teams can also be challenging, even frustrating. A member of a team could suddenly drop the course, leaving everyone else to pick up the slack. One or more members could fail to meet their agreed-upon responsibilities, or fail to participate in group meetings, or do a poor job with their portion of the project, resulting in a lower overall grade for everybody. If you do have such an experience, try to consider it a valuable lesson. After all, navigating the professional world sometimes means dealing with employers, employees and colleagues who disappoint you.

The first thing to do when you find yourself on a learning team is make sure everyone in the group has everyone else’s phone number. If you can’t get online for a planned group instant messaging session, you need to let your team know; maybe you could even participate in the meeting over the phone. Next, break down the project into smaller parts, and establish an iron-clad timeline so everyone knows when each element of the project should be completed by. Then it’s time for the hardest part: deciding who will handle which task. Try to play to each team member’s strengths. For instance, if your project involves a visual design element, assign it to your most artistic person. Just divide up the work as evenly as possible. It’s also a good idea to overlap assignments. That is, instead of having John be responsible for, say, all the vocabulary words in Chapter 2, make both John and Jane responsible for the Chapter 2 words. That way, if John doesn’t do his job, Jane will make sure your group isn’t missing those words! (And whatever you do, DO NOT wait until the last minute to do your share of the work.)

Don’t waste much time making decisions. You might appoint a group leader or you might decide to vote on decisions, but whatever process you adopt, figure it out early and stick to it. Also, keep copies of all your communications: save emails and other messages so you have a written record should conflicts between teammates arise. And everyone should review the work everyone else does. If you have an issue with something someone else on your team has written, by all means explain your concern. You should state your position respectfully, of course, but don’t go along with an element that makes you uncomfortable. Remember, your name will be signed to this project, indicating you approve of everything in it.

More often than not learning teams provide valuable educational experiences. If the members of your group are knowledgeable and put in solid efforts, you can learn more and retain more information from a course than you otherwise would. And if you happen to live near one or more members of your group – or maybe even if you don’t – you could arrange to meet them in person sometime. It’s possible to strike up new friendships that way.

Online learning market place

Apr 27, 2012