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Working in groups

This book looks at how effective groupwork can be, how important it is to be a good team player and how this preparation at university will help you in your working life beyond university.

Site: Solent Online Learning
Course: Succeed@Solent
Book: Working in groups
Printed by: Guest user
Date: Friday, 24 March 2017, 10:15 AM

Group work

During your academic studies you will be asked to work in groups with other students.Learning about how effective groups work and how to be a good team player will help you at university and also prepare you for working life.

Businesses list team working as one of the key employability skills graduates need to have in order to be effective in the workplace (Confederation of British Industry, 2011).

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This book will look at:

  • why you should work in a group;
  • a self-evaluation to help you identify what knowledge you already have and what skills you need to learn
  • how to set up a successful group;
  • the locations and facilities available especially for students for group work on campus;
  • how to communicate with your group and use shared documents through using online tools.

This book will also offer further guidance on working in groups:

  • where you can go for more help;
  • recommended websites for advice on group and team work;
  • issuing books/ebooks from the group work reading list
Watch this video for a student's perspective on working in groups:

Why work in a group?

"Great things in business are never done by one person; they're done by a team of people."
Steve Jobs, Chairman and CEO, Apple Inc. 2009

Group or team work is an important life skill that can help you get on at home, university and work. Through working with others you can learn new skills, draw on other people's talents, experiences and perspectives, and support others.
You can use group work to your advantage to achieve more than you would have done on your own. This is an approach taken by successful businesses that bring teams of people together and help the company thrive.

Watch Google employee Lisa talking about the importance of being part of a team:

To view captions click on the CC button. Or view the transcript by clicking on the YouTube button and watching the video on YouTube.

Many businesses would fail if people didn't work together as a team – as demonstrated by Formula 1 team Vodafone McLaren Mercedes when they asked the drivers to build a car without all their team members:

Just as Google and Vodafone McLaren Mercedes headquarters have spaces where teams can work together, so does Solent University. Find out from the library where your group can work on campus.


Evaluate your skills

It would be useful for you to complete a self-evaluation of your current skills and knowledge before you start reading about working successfully in groups. This will help you identify knowledge and skills you already have, as well as areas you want to learn more about.

You can use the self-evaluation to monitor your progress through learning about group work and it will also encourage you to reflect on your learning. 

To carry out a self-evaluation of your skills, complete the interactive quiz below or download this printable checklist: 

Group working skills (Word doc)

Setting up a group

Whether you are working with a group of friends or people you have never met before, it is a good idea to set some ground rules so you are all working towards the same goal. 

Setting up a group contract.
As you may not know the people in your group very well, it is helpful to set up a contract which outlines how you are going to work as a team from the start. This document can be referred to at a later date if there are any issues within the group. The contract should also abide by university guidelines. Watch this video for a student's perspective on group contracts:



Selecting group members
Although you will want to select the people you know, it will be a more interesting experience if you pick people you don't know.

  • Successful groups are made up of people with different skills, knowledge and experiences.
  • A diverse group will offer more opportunities to learn from each other.
  • Forcing yourself out of your comfort zone will better prepare you for working in teams in the workplace.
  • The working reality is you will have to work with people who are colleagues rather than friends.

Getting to know each other
It will help you to relax in each other's company and focus on your group goals if you use some of these 'getting to know each other' ideas:

  • True or false: ask everyone to list three facts about them, the group have to guess which one is false.
  • Interviews: in pairs interview each other for 5 minutes finding out about the other person. Then introduce your fellow student to the group recalling as much as you can about them.
  • Southampton secrets: ask everyone to share their name and recommendation of a 'secret location' in Southampton. It could be their favourite restaurant, pub or live music venue.
  • Word association: individually introduce yourself and list three words that best describe you. Then, as a group, generate a list of words and phrases related to the group task.

For example: if you have to develop a marketing strategy for a new brand of coffee you might come up with 'aroma', 'taste', 'cappuccino', 'buzz' or 'pick me up'.

As part of getting to know your group, members should also share contact information. A group contact details form is a useful starting point:

Group contact details (Word doc)

Developing your group identity
Research carried out by Solent University found that managers from top graduate employers consider group identity as a key element to successful group work (Kamau & Spong, 2011). Think of your group identity as a brand you want to create and believe in:

  • Group name – it needs to be motivational and inspirational.  'Group A' doesn't inspire anyone.
  • Group logo – so you can brand your work and online presence.
  • Group mission statement – can you sum up your group's purpose in one memorable sentence? This will help you keep focused on the same goals.
  • Group space – your lecturer might be able to allocate your group a physical space to work in. Or you could be allocated (or create) an online space, for example on myCourse or myPortfolio.
Watch two Solent University students talking about how to keep in contact with your group outside university hours:

Ground rules / contracts
A group contract should agree how you would like to work together: where you meet, how often, how you communication, how meetings will be run and how you will deal with conflict. The group contract can be a 'live' document that you amend. For example, you might increase the number of times you meet to ensure you complete the task by the deadline.

Include the following:

  • Name of your group;
  • Names of group members (and you can attach the contact sheet);
  • Key information i.e. name of unit / module, task brief and assignment deadline;
  • Communication methods i.e. getting in touch with each other and sharing information (see online tools for ideas on communication approaches);
  • Group meetings - Where you will meet, how often and how they will be run;
  • Group roles - Team leader and other roles;
  • Project plan - Key milestones (dates) you need to meet;
  • Conflict resolution - How you will resolve disputes, How you will resolve breaches of contract e.g. a group member not attending meetings;
  • Name and signature of each group member and date signed.

Create your own version of the contract, or download the one designed by Solent University researchers for students working in groups (Kamau & Spong, 2010):

Group contract (PDF opens in new window)

Remember: studying at university is about constantly challenging yourself.

The next time you are asked to select a group of people to work with make the decision to pick students you haven't worked with before.

 

City campus

Mountbatten Library

  • Group zones - group desks and sockets.
  • Vending machines
  • Bookable study room (ML002a) with table and cable connection to connect laptop and view work on a large monitor. To book the room, enquire at the Mountbatten Information Point within the Library foyer.

For more information about group zones and bookable study room:

Where to study (Weblink opens in new window)

For more information about Photocopy Centre help desk (floor 2) or Mountbatten Information Point (Library foyer):

Laptops are available to borrow (Weblink opens in new window)

For further help - Carina Buckley and Helen Capstick, ML002

Learning Skills Tutor (Weblink opens in new window)

For more information about the wireless network - located in GA (basement), 0B (foyer), 0C (on the right past the foyer), 2A (floor 2):

SolentNet wireless network (Weblink opens in new window)

Tip:

When borrowing items from the library for a group project remember whose card you used as they will be liable for any fines.

Some items have multiple copies, or may be available as ebooks which the entire group could access. Check the library catalogue for availability.

Andrews Learning Resource Centre

  • Teaching rooms (areas)-bookings are displayed outside each room, or check room bookings from the My Timetable link of the main portal page.
  • overnight laptop, camera, video camera and tablet loan service.

The group study area next to the help desk in Andrews LRC (Ground floor):

Andrews Learning Resource Centre (Opens in new window)

Herbert Collins

  • soft seating, tables and vending machines on ground floor (through main entrance, straight down to the end of the corridor, turn left)

Sir James Matthews

  • Break out area for informal group work
  • Plasma screen for viewing material, or practising a presentation.
  • Formal boardroom area with moveable tables and a Smart Board.
  • Individual and group area has non bookable single and multi-occupancy computer stations
  • The centre also offers a daily laptop loan service.

For group study in the Matthews Learning Resource Centre (over the park from East Park Terrace, basement):

Learning Lounge (Opens in new window)

City Campus map.

Warsash Campus

Group areas

  • Learning lounge and common room on ground floor of Drummond Building for Warsash students (DB001).
  • Drummond small meeting room on the 1st floor (DBMR1).

In the Drummond Building:

SolentNet wireless network (Weblink opens in new window)

Carina Buckley or Helen Capstick by email at succeed@solent.ac.uk:

Learning Skills Tutors (Weblink opens in new window)
Warsash Campus map (Weblink opens in new window)

Additional facilities for group work

  • City Campus - email academic.rooming@solent.ac.uk for bookable rooms for groupwork.Bookings should be made 7 days in advance.
  • Warsash Campus - contact Faculty Office (ground floor of the Coastguards building) on 01489 556279 (x: 4279), 01489 556220 (x: 4220) or email wma@solent.ac.uk.
  • Talk to your lecturer who might be able to allocate lecture space for you to use.

Media equipment

To book Media equipment (camcorder, data projector etc) and reserve equipment online using the booking form:

Media Resources (Weblink opens in new window)

Online tools

With technology and the internet teams can work together without ever physically being in the same place. You might have been given a project where you are part of a virtual group working together online, or you're working offline, but recognise that online tools can make the collaboration process a whole lot easier.

There are thousands of online collaboration tools available that are used by people and businesses across the world. The following pages offer a quick guide to online collaboration and some recommended free tools that will make working together and communicating in a group even easier.

Remember:

Use your own personal account (e.g. emailing each other) for some but with others you'll want to create a group account that you can all access with the same user name and password (e.g. a shared to do list).

Online collaboration

Online collaboration is all about working together in a virtual environment. MyCourse is Solent University’s Virtual Learning Environment (VLE). Here you can access course material, participate in forums, message fellow students and lecturers and work together virtually in a group.

If you're working in a group for an assignment task, your lecturer might have already set up space in myCourse for you to work together. For guidance on how to use the site visit myCourse help for students.

With online collaboration the information tends to be in one location (such as a course on myCourse). All users can access, read and, where permission is given, edit content.

This video guide to Google Docs explains how groups can collaborate online:

To view captions click on the CC button. Or view the transcript by clicking on the YouTube button and watching the video on YouTube.

Remember:

Whilst sharing project documents is useful, the most important tools you can use online are the ones which will help your group communicate effectively.

Communication

You'll already use many different forms of technology to keep in touch with friends and you can use these to communicate with your group. Discuss what people prefer to use and then make sure you check these regularly. It's no use agreeing to communicate via Facebook if someone only checks their account once a week.

View this video on how booking a pod in the library (in 0C) can help with group work:

Communication tools you could use include:

  • Email (university or personal account);
  • Phone;
  • myCourse messaging;
  • myPortfolio - you can create groups, chat on forums and create pages;
  • Discussion boards where users can create their own groups (e.g. Google Groups or Yahoo! Groups and at Solent you can use myPortfolio);
  • Social networking where online communities come together (e.g. Facebook, Google+, Twitter);
  • Instant messaging (IM) where you can chat in real time (e.g. AOL Instant Messenger (AIM), Skype or Windows Live Messenger).
Google Groups (Weblink opens in new window)
Yahoo! Groups (Weblink opens in new window)
myPortfolio (Weblink opens in new window)
Facebook (Weblink opens in new window)
Google+ (Weblink opens in new window)
Twitter (Weblink opens in new window)
AOL Instant Messenger (Weblink opens in new window)
Skype (Weblink opens in new window)
Windows Live Messenger (Weblink opens in new window)

Sharing files and content

Sharing files in an online space mean that you can all view and edit them (without sending emails with large attachments). Your file management is easier as you don't all end up with slightly different versions of the same document.

Remember:

Discuss as a group how you will manage this online process to avoid accidental deletions.

You can also use online tools to help you work in the same shared space, on the same content.

Watch the video below for an example of a speech written by a group of students:


To view captions click on the CC button. Or view the transcript by clicking on the YouTube button and watching the video on YouTube.

Useful websites for working collaboratively and sharing content:

  • Dropbox – allows users to share files and folders with others;
  • Google Docs – allows you to create, share and edit online documents, spreadsheets, presentations, drawings and forms;
  • Video sharing websites (e.g. Vimeo, YouTube);
  • Image sharing websites and normally you can also share video (e.g. Flickr, Picasa);
  • Shared blog – online diary you could write as a group (e.g. Blogger, LiveJournal and Wordpress);
  • Presentations – share presentations online (e.g. Prezi, slideshare);
  • Wikis – a website that allows the creation and editing of pages by multiple users (e.g. wikis on myCourse, Wikispaces);
  • VoiceThread – a collaborative tool that allows you to share media files (images, documents and videos) and leave comments on them.
Dropbox (Weblink opens in new window)
Google Docs (Weblink opens in new window)
Vimeo (Weblink opens in new window)
YouTube (Weblink opens in new window)
Flickr (Weblink opens in new window)
Picasa (Weblink opens in new window)
Blogger (Weblink opens in new window)
LiveJournal (Weblink opens in new window)
Wordpress (Weblink opens in new window)
Prezi (Weblink opens in new window)
Slideshare (Weblink opens in new window)
Wikispaces (Weblink opens in new window)
VoiceThread (Weblink opens in new window)

Getting organised

Scheduling regular meetings (whether virtually or offline), a shared task list and keeping records of what's going on can all be done online. Some recommended free websites are:

  • Shared calendars (e.g. Google Calendar);
  • Meeting organisers – really useful as you can ask people to indicate when they're available for meetings, rather than hundreds of emails discussing when people are free (e.g. Doodle, MeetingWizard);
  • Virtual meetings – you can use IM tools (see above list) or virtual worlds such as Second Life (find out about Solent Life - Solent University’s own island within Second Life);
  • Shared blog or wikis – to keep a running commentary of project progress (see above list)
  • Shared to do lists so you can keep a track of who is doing what and what is left to do (e.g. Remember The Milk, Ta-Da List, Toodledo);
  • Social bookmarking websites – to keep a record of all the useful websites in one place, rather than constantly emailing a ‘great link’ to each other (e.g. Delicious)
  • Evernote for note taking, archiving, to do lists, file sharing, image records, document tracking etc
Google Calendar (Weblink opens in new window)
Doodle (Weblink opens in new window)
MeetingWizard (Weblink opens in new window)
Second Life (Weblink opens in new window)
Solent Life (Weblink opens in new window)
Milk (Weblink opens in new window)
Ta-Da List (Weblink opens in new window)
Toodledo (Weblink opens in new window)
Delicious (Weblink opens in new window)
Evernote (Weblink opens in new window)

Remember:

Professional versions and applications for mobile phones often have a subscription charge

Safety when working together online

You should be as considerate of others when collaborating online as when meeting face to face:

  • Think before you post
  • Draft your message first – could someone misinterpret what you've written?
  • Keep your messages clear and simple
  • Consider the tone of the message
  • Don't use UPPER CASE (it indicates shouting)
  • Express emotions by using smilies
  • Give someone a call to sort things out if online is proving difficult.
  • Set the privacy and/or data settings to the preferences you prefer.

Remember:

Copyright laws applies to using, reproducing and publishing information online.  Visit Solent Library's guidance on copyright for further information

Guidance on copyright (Weblink opens in new window)

More help

If you'd like some more help with Group work you can:

  • Ask your lecturer for guidance.
  • If you are a disabled student you can also contact Access Solent for guidance and support.
  • View the glossary to help you understand the words used in Group work.
  • Read a book or ebook from the reading list found in Extra resources.
  • Visit recommended websites in Extra resources for further guidance on Group work.

If you have any feedback about Group work or additional material you'd like to see in the course, please email us at succeed@solent.ac.uk.

Thank you to all staff and students at Southampton Solent University who contributed to this course.

Extra resources

Reading List

Read a book or ebook from the group work reading list.

The following titles are available from the library:

Recommended websites.
This is currently being updated.

Downloadables

Documents used in this resource

Group working skills (Word doc)
Group contact details (Word doc)
Group contract (PDF opens in new window)