Studying Together Online

Working with other students is an effective way to master challenging course material. This guide will help you work together online.

Steps to setting up a remote/online study group

  1. Find other students to study with.
    • You may prefer to study with your friends, but it turns out people often learn best when they study with people who think differently than they do. Be open to studying with people you might not otherwise hang out with.
    • Larger groups are hard to manage online, so keep your group to fewer than 5 people.
    • Your professors may set up systems in their courses for students to work together outside of class. Start by asking your professor or TA if your course has a system for matching students into study groups.
    • If there is no system in your course for matching students into study groups, check back here soon for more info.
  1. Decide how often you want to meet (once or twice a week is ideal) and find a time that works for everyone in your group.
  2. If you change your mind about studying with other people don’t be a ghost! Let the students you’ve been in contact with know that your plans have changed so they can move forward planning without you.
  3. Decide how you want to meet—on Zoom or another platform. Make sure you whatever you choose allows screensharing and shared annotating, this will be key to working effectively together online.
  4. Find out from your professor the specific course expectations for students working together. This may be in the syllabus, if it is not, email the professor to ask. Each class has its own unique expectations, it is up to your group to ensure that you are not violating academic integrity and that you are following your professor’s guidelines for group work.

For your first meeting:

Establish group expectations/ground rules. For healthy group dynamics it is essential that you agree ahead of time on these issues before they come up: hosting duties, phone use during meetings, prioritizing agenda topics, equal participation/sharing airspace, treating each other respectfully, communication preferences and plans, and whatever other topics your group members identify as important. Unless your internet cannot support using your camera, we strongly encourage your group to agree to meet with cameras on to foster a sense of connection and accountability with each other.

It’s especially important to agree ahead of time on what you will be doing together in study group, within your course’s expectations for group work. Will you be doing homework, making study guides, reviewing confusing topics? Tip: reviewing all the lecture slides together is not a good use of everyone’s time. Reviewing specific confusing slides is a good use of time.

Consider rotating roles within your study group so that no one gets burned out. Some roles that are good to rotate include:

  • hosting (setting up the online meeting space and inviting others to it)
  • facilitating (leads the meeting, makes sure everyone gets to contribute)
  • timekeeping
  • info gathering (goes to TA or professor office hours or tutoring to clarify questions the group was not able to answer)

Group Generated Summary

This is important! After a quick check in, start each of your study sessions discussing what topics/ideas were covered in class this week. Have your course materials (book, notes, etc) handy. Students often want to jump right into homework or problem-solving, but taking just a few minutes to reflect and get an overview of what you are learning in class is invaluable for seeing the big picture and making connections among important concepts. Doing 10-15 minutes of this big picture thinking each week is like money in the bank when preparing for exams. When you do big-picture thinking with other students you can see information you might have missed and consider concepts from a different perspective.

Sample Agenda for a 1 hour meeting

  • Check in-how is everyone doing? (5 minutes)
  • Reminder of this week’s roles (1 minute)
  • Group generated summary (10-15 minutes)
  • Group members list which topics/problems they would like to work on, facilitator leads vote to decide how to prioritize (5 minutes)
  • Get to work! (30 minutes, longer if this is a longer meeting—schedule in a 5 minute break for every 60 minutes you meet together online)
  • Wrap up: what are your plans for next time? (5 minutes)

Frequently Asked Questions

What if you get stuck?
If you find that you’re stuck on a confusing topic or problem you can go as a group to office hours or tutoring. If you find that your group could use some help working effectively together, LSC can help. Email Learning Strategies Center learningstrategiescenter@cornell.edu and ask for a study group consultation.

What if you’re worried about members of your group?
There is so much going on right now, these are truly difficult times. Cornell really is a caring community, and if you have concerns about the health or well being of one of your group members please reach out for help. Cornell Health has some great mental health resources, including a 24/7 help line.


Would you like to learn more?