Whether you love it or hate it, group work is an unavoidable part of the university experience. While it can be challenging at the best of times, when you have to work in an online forum it throws a real spanner into the works. Thankfully, group work can be done online successfully provided you adhere to some important ground rules. The university’s Academic Learning Support team advises that the three keys to online learning success are to manage your time, be proactive, and set up a support network. The following tips will help you smash out your group assignments in our new ‘normal’ online environment.

Be transparent about responsibilities and accountabilities

Being unable to physically meet might make it harder to track progress as a group. This is where it is really important to be transparent about individual responsibilities. Open communication to allocate specific tasks can keep the whole group functioning and progressing. Everyone should know who is responsible for a certain element of the assignment. Accountability also includes clear and strict deadlines which all in the group are aware of. It helps to have these things written down on a shared platform like Google Docs so it is easily visible and accessible.

Dan Levy Zoom GIF by SAG Awards

Utilise online resources

 We are lucky to have a wealth of online resources which facilitate group work in an online environment. Use platforms such as Google Calendar and Google Docs to plan and organise work. Cloud share documents allow you to easily see who what work has been done and how the overall project is progressing. Zoom and Google Hangouts are both great for online meetings. Don’t forget that as University of Newcastle students you also have free access to a whole bunch of software and tools that facilitate online learning, including the whole Microsoft Office suite!


Regular communication is critical in group work, regardless of whether you are working exclusively online or not. Since you may not be able to catch up with your group after class at uni it is important to find new channels for communication. Make a group chat, schedule in Zoom meetings, and keep your team-mates informed on how you are tracking.

Check-in with each other

Completing group work on top of other university assignments and commitments is a challenging time for most people. Whether you are working with new people or friends, it’s important to establish a supportive and considerate environment. While that is easier to do with people you are familiar with, it is just as important that you set the scene of respect with classmates you haven’t worked with before too. Regularly check in with each other, have some light-hearted non-uni related discussion, and adjust workloads if needed based on what everyone can handle.

Make it fun

Lastly, keep things fun! Themed Zoom meetings are always a hit. Fun themes include funky hats, ‘where you’d rather be’, and ugly shirts. Being able to laugh through the process makes it much more enjoyable and bearable. Find something which makes your group laugh and keep the good vibes going!

Feature image via Unplash


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