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PNW Pioneer

Column: Stop online group projects, stop the madness

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Two summers ago, I foolishly decided to do business writing online, a mistake I have regret ever since. In the syllabus the professor told the class that one of the bigger projects in the course was a group project to which she comically added, “Yes, an online group project can work.” As I dropped the class after that group project turned into a colossal failure, I can safely say that professor was full of it.

Every group project is essentially the same thing: the group immediately designates the one student who will probably end up doing 80% of the work, the 1-2 people who will somewhat help them out and the one person who waits until everything is done to ask, “So do you guys need me to help with anything?” It’s a faulty process, but at least when the group is meeting in person we can hash out all these responsibilities right away. Online group projects begin with this awkward standoff of everyone trying to figure out who is going to start the conversation first. Two weeks later, usually two days after the first part of the project is due, the students finally start talking.

It’s in our very nature to slack off with our online classes, and put more focus in our on campus classes. Online means that you don’t have to wake up early, and that you can do the entire class in your pajamas, on your laptop and with Netflix streaming “Stranger Things” while you work. I have received an A in every online class I have had in my college career except for the online business writing course because it was such a nightmare.

The main issues with my group project were not in the students participating, but with the process in general. The project entailed creating a large presentation professional enough to present to a city council. This should have been simple enough, but the issues arose when we realized that we didn’t have any proper ways to communicate. Not everyone had a Facebook page nor wanted to make a Facebook page, so instant group messaging was off the table, and several students were not comfortable giving out their phone numbers so group texting was not going to happen either. Meeting in person was not an option either as one of the students was in Ohio for the summer. All of this could have been avoided if this were an on campus class where students mandatorily had to meet in person. The work was unevenly distributed as one person ended up doing the entire project due to miscommunication. They got an A whereas the rest of the members of the group got Fs, causing me to drop the course.

The following school year I took the course in class, and was met with a world of difference. Since we met in class, we were able to communicate and share the workload evenly.

This semester I am enrolled in MGMT 487, another online course that focuses on group projects. Two of my groupmates are personal friends who I have known for years, so we have been able to communicate efficiently. Compared to other groups in the class, we are actually doing much better with our coursework. This is because we have already done what group projects are meant to do, build relationships. Group projects are meant to teach students how to work with and how to network with others. You simply cannot build as effective of a relationship through a computer screen as you can in person.

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