Online Group Work

Just because you aren’t in the same room (or country!), doesn’t mean that you can’t collaborate effectively. Just like with any kind of group work- for online group work to be successful it helps if you think through, in advance, the ground rules for how you will work together. See LSC’s Student Guide for Studying Together for more tips.

Read the Instructions!TIP: This is a fantastic preparation for your future career! Many industries rely on remote, collaborative work.

Make sure that you read any instructions that your instructor gives and ask questions if you have them. (And most definitely ask questions if the professor does NOT give you instructions.) Keep track of deadlines and take note of your professor’s guidelines on how you should work in your group.

Set Regular Meetings, Make Agendas, Take Notes

Time spent at the outset clarifying group members’ expectations on participation, roles, and communication will help in the long-term.

  • Take time to get 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. Play Baking Bingo. Share your current favorite TikTok dance. It can feel awkward to connect with classmates when you’re not in the same physical space, so you’ll have to make the extra effort to connect.
  • It’s everyone’s job to be aware that we 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.
  • 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.
  • Access compassion for each other and offer flexibility if you can–your group may need to figure out the least bad time to meet, instead of the best time.
  • 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, Word Online (in Cornell Box), etc., work well.
  • Find a collaborative screen sharing tool that works for your group.

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. Doing some of this with your virtual group can help build camaraderie and connection.

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 will still have plenty of time for your work–and your work may be better!

If someone has been absent from your group meetings ask them directly if they’re still able to participate in the project. If you don’t get responses within a day or two, let your instructor know. This is not about being petty, it’s about taking care of each other.


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.

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