In a time where more of us are experiencing online learning than ever before, I wanted to provide encouragement on a situation that oftentimes sends chills up students’ spines: group projects. I understand all too well that there can be a feeling of dread when navigating group projects and being online can create more challenges. However, there are many benefits to group projects, online or in person. Having shifted back and forth from in person learning to online learning and back again, I can offer some insight into the benefits of group projects, especially when meeting in person is not an option:
- Community- The first item on my list of benefits is, in my opinion, probably the most important. As a bonafide introvert, my first reaction to hearing about forthcoming group projects was to recoil. I was certain that I could do a more effective job completing any assignment on my own. However, after partaking in a fair share of group projects, I realized I was naïve to ignore just how important building community is to the learning process. After all, was I in higher education to merely earn a specific GPA? Or was I there to push myself out of my comfort zone, meet new and interesting people, and build new skill sets?
- Discovery of individual strengths- Discussing community brings me to the second benefit of group projects—learning how to bring your best self to the table. While this may be obvious to some, as an introvert my gut reaction is always to forge ahead alone and complete any task how I see fit. However, with that tactic, how could I ever understand where I fit within the group? What are my personal strengths? How can I use my own talents melded with the talents of others to create a superior product or reach a more streamlined conclusion? Learning about your strengths now will benefit you in future projects and boost your self-esteem once you know how to implement what you do know and remain flexible about what you don’t.
- Real world experience- Whatever our chosen career path, it seems unlikely many of us will work in an environment where we do not need to be able to navigate relationships, develop our sense of flexibility, and organize around the workflow of others. Additionally, with so many of us conducting our work online, learning how to conduct group projects virtually can really come in handy! There is a distinct culture to virtual communication, relationship building, and organization. With so many online platforms to learn, there is undoubtedly a benefit to learning the software and even etiquette of virtual professional communication while still in school.
- Shifting or sharpening perspectives- Working with others and developing relationships will help us learn more about their perspective. While there may be nothing wrong with the way we individually analyze a specific challenge, there is great benefit to seeing issues from the perspective of someone with different lived experiences than yourself. Ultimately, you may not shift your own position, but understanding a variety of perspectives can be used to compare, contrast, and integrate a variety of perspectives to create an even stronger argument. It is only through engagement with others that the benefit of their unique perspectives can be realized. So, the next time you’re assigned a group project, try to approach it as an opportunity to broaden your perspective and be open to discussion and conversation.
Hopefully some of these benefits will allay any negative feelings you might feel when first reading a syllabus that states “group project” as a requirement.
-Stefanie Lehman, Global Campus Virtual Mentor