La Trobe students share their advice for succeeding in group work

Success in group work can often come down to how good your team is at getting organised, communicating and working together as a team.

Who knows the secret ingredients to group work success better than other students who’ve done it before, right? MyLaTrobe did a callout for the best advice.

1. ‘Meet up’ first to break the ice

Although COVID-19 has us all cooped up at home, that’s no reason not to get to know your team. Set up a Zoom meeting with your group work classmates and get to know each other a little.

Zoom meetings regularly with the first to make a plan and a shared online document for work to go on.’


2. Establish an agreed way of working

“Agree upon a group chat method that includes all members.”


This is a big one. After you break the ice in your initial Zoom meeting, start organising how you’re going to keep in touch. Whether it’s on Messenger, WhatsApp, via email, or by text – make sure everyone is connected. Next, set up regular Zoom catch ups. This could be straight after your online tutorial each week or another time that suits everyone. Agree on the main channel for communicating with each other, and remember to check for messages regularly.

Communicate and LISTEN.’


3. Review the assessment criteria and rubric

Set clear expectations from the start and communicate with each other.’


Both the assessment criteria and rubric are usually available within the first few weeks of classes. Familiarise yourself with both of these and the different levels of achievement. Think about what the minimum expectation might look like and what a top mark might look like for your project. Keep coming back to the assessment criteria throughout each phase of your project to make sure you’re still on track.

4. Make use of online tools

Google Docs/Google Slides – lifesaver.’


‘Use Google Docs and online PowerPoint to make it easier.’


Google Docs, OneDrive, Microsoft 365, SharePoint, Trello, AirTable and so on – there are loads of free online tools to allow you to work as a team online. For most projects, you’ll usually want to have a live shared online document for drafting. This allows each member of your team to work on the same document at the same time. You’ll also need another program to create your final class presentation. If your project is complex, it could be a good idea to use a project management program like Trello or AirTable as well. See what works for your team and get everyone to agree on the most suitable programs for your project.

Make use of the Trello app to stay on track with progress and task allocations.’


5. Set goals for meetings

“Talk often, pre-structure the discussion using the rubric and assessment criteria, tick off a step each time.”


There’s nothing worse than wasting time in a meeting that could have been an email. To avoid this, set an agenda for your regular Zoom sessions. What do you want to achieve? Which aspect of the project will you discuss? Do you have questions you need answers to? Are there any roadblocks preventing you from moving forward? Add them to an agenda and share with the group in advance. Your meetings will be shorter and more productive.

6. Prepare in advance for Zoom sessions

Organisation, knowing due dates and attendance at all online classes – stay focused!’


Following straight on from number four, it’s critical you’re prepared before each regular Zoom catch up. Take a look at the agenda you and your teammates have agreed on and investigate how you can contribute to the discussion and goals for the meeting. You definitely don’t want to be the person who hasn’t done the prep work and sits there silently the whole time. Prepare a few dot points and an update on the tasks you’re working on to add to the conversation.

7. Divide and conquer

Make a plan and assign tasks.’


Decide as a group how you’re going to break up the workload. Will you split it out by task or section, or a mix of the two? It’s important to agree on what each team member will tackle and when they’ll need to have it done by, which brings us to the next point…

Make a clear designation of what work each person is responsible for.’


8. Set up deadlines for tasks

Start early, break the task down into roles for each group member and help each other.’


Once you’ve broken up your tasks for each team member to complete, set deadlines. Allow a little buffer room in case something comes up. Everyone in the group should agree on the deadlines. Check-in regularly with each other to see if the agreed deadlines are still realistic or need adjusting.

Assign tasks to each member, set up a deadline, fix up a time for a conference call.’


9. Listen to each other and be respectful

Every point of view matters. Listen to every member of the group.’


Everyone works differently – there is no perfect way, it’s all about adapting to the capabilities of your team. Ensure every member of your team feels that their contribution is valued – they may perform better which is a win-win for the team. Listen when others are speaking and be respectful in your interactions. People interpret things differently, especially online or via text, so take this into account before communicating. Know that there is support available if you encounter unacceptable behaviour in group work.

It’s better to talk to groupmates as professionals than just text them. Words carry empathy. Texts don’t.’


10. Keep communication open

Communicate efficiently.’


We’re human and life happens. You never know what someone is going through behind the scenes in their personal life. Allow flexibility in your planning and communicate with your team right away if you need to adjust the goal posts. Open communication is key to keeping the team on track and preventing last-minute stress.

Understand everyone has differing schedules and priorities and work with that as best you can.’


11. Allow time to review and revise

Keep reminding everyone of the deadline.’


Allow longer than you think you need to review each other’s work and the project as a whole. Often this part is left until the last minute, which causes a lot of stress. You may consider assigning members of the team to review one section by a certain date, or the project as a whole. Keep track of any changes you make and discuss why you’re making changes with the group to keep communication open. You definitely don’t want to be starting the review process the night before it’s due.

12. Set a faux deadline

Set a final deadline well before the actual final deadline. This allows a buffer for things to go wrong. Agree on the deadline with your teammates and work backwards when creating deadlines for tasks.

Set a due date before the due date because inevitably someone won’t do their part.’


13. Try your best

Don’t lose your motivation <3.’


The only way you’ll let your team down is if you don’t try your best. As they say, your best is all you can do. Stick to your timelines, communicate if you need to make adjustments, hit your deadlines, ask questions and contribute in group discussions and support your teammates.

14. Leave time to practise before presenting

Motivate everyone to start early and be creative in presentations’


Practising in the (virtual) hallway minutes before your presentation is stressful! Avoid the unnecessary stress and leave a few days to practise and make amendments before your final presentation.

15. Be there for each other

Group work can be stressful. Keep in touch and check-in regularly. You might not be friends (this may the first time you’ve spoken with some of your group), but you can still support each other. Be kind and know that there is wellbeing support available if you or a classmate needs it.

‘Get everyone’s opinion, cooperate with each other and complete the task as a team.’