Just because you aren’t in the same room (or country!), doesn’t mean that you can’t collaborate effectively. Like any kind of group work, for it to work well, you need to think through how you will work together in advance.
Read any Instructions you are Given
The work you’re asked to do in groups, and how to do that work, will depend on your courses. Make sure that you read any instructions that your instructor gives and ask questions if you have them. Note any deadlines and guidelines on how you should work in your group.
Set Regular Meetings, Make Agendas, Take Notes
If you spend some time at the outset to set expectations on participation, roles, and communication, it will help in the long-term. So, what are some things you can do?
- First, spend some time getting to know each other! In addition to names and contact information, share interests and hobbies, favorite music or sports, or what your favorite (or least favorite) animal is.
- Know that your classmates don’t all have access to the same internet and physical workspace resources. Talk to each other and check out what on-line resources work for you and your group (Zoom, Google Hangouts, Canvas chats, etc.), and together decide what is going to work best for everyone.
- Remember that your classmates might be in different time-zones. Keep this in mind when scheduling meetings.
- Group work, both online and in-person, works best when you set regular meetings and stick to them. Agree on the agenda for your meeting in advance.
- Take notes in a shared document so everyone can contribute, follow along, and refer back to the group notes when you’re studying on your own. GoogleDocs or Word Online (in Cornell Box) are good options to consider.
- If you are using Zoom, you can use the Zoom whiteboard feature to collaboratively work on ideas.
For more ideas, check out this article, “Gain Skills in Online Course Requiring Group Work” in US News and World Report.
Check-in With Each Other Regularly
Consider doing remote team-building activities with your group. If you were together in person, you might walk out of class together and talk about plans for the weekend or ask about where someone lives, if they have siblings, what sports they play, etc. Try to do some of this with your virtual group.
Use a few minutes of scheduled meeting time to ask how things are going or to do an ice-breaker. If you build this into the agenda (5 min or so) and stick to the time allotted, you can still have plenty of time for your work.
If someone has been absent from your group meetings or chat, ask them directly if they’re still able to participate in the project. If you aren’t getting responses within a day or two, let your instructor know. This is not about being petty, it’s about taking care of each other.
For useful information, go to the Cornell Covid-19 updates page covid.cornell.edu.
Many of these tips are adapted from the Center for Academic Innovation at the University of Michigan—thank you to our colleagues for generously sharing their resources.