Working together, thousands of miles apart – students share top tips for remote group projects

Thanks to covid-19, we are all experts at working remotely now. But what about working remotely as a group? With many students set to study from home for the remainder of the year, we asked Glion students to share their experiences of remote teamwork – the challenges, benefits and their tips for efficient and productive collaboration.

In addition to not being in the same room, there are a number of challenges to overcome with remote group work. But it is possible if you plan and use the right tools, as London Master’s Semester 2 student, Morgane Horreard, explains.

“As we were all in a different time zone, we had to first understand what the best time was to work together, and organize our timetables accordingly”, she said.

“We usually started the project with an online meeting to divide the tasks, so each of us could organize our own schedule and do the work in due time. We also stayed in contact during the entire project through WhatsApp. We used Google Docs, which allowed us to share ideas, make updates on any documents and access everyone’s work.”

Organization will keep you focused

For London Master’s student, Marjorie Denis-Delobel, when you have group members all over the world, organization is key, both as a team and individually. “To avoid missing any meeting or class, I accepted every calendar invitation and used Outlook as my timetable. I also created my own schedule on paper with all my important deadlines.”

“It can be challenging to stay motivated while studying from home, so I had to be very rigorous and develop an at home routine to stay on track. I put my alarm on every morning, I always got dressed and worked at a desk in a calm environment. A daily walk and gym sessions also helped me stay focused.”

Communicating effectively

Every group knows that they achieve their best output when all members are communicating and co-operating. Even with the best intentions, this can be difficult when you are not on-campus. But Master’s student, Aditi Parmar, had a solution.

“The communication is not as seamless and free-flowing when you cannot meet your team-mates in person, conflict-resolution also becomes more challenging. But with time, we all could adapt to it despite the time zone differences. Social media was a big factor in accomplishing the projects successfully.”

“I tend to be impatient in my communication, so I had to bear in mind the time zone differences and not take it too personally when someone took more time to revert back. From this experience, my tip for working in groups remotely would be to be proactive in sending communication and patient when receiving it.”

Overcoming the impersonal

One of the joys of group work is the collaboration, the buzz of ideas flowing and the excitement of working closely to deliver something you are all proud of. When you are collaborating remotely, the lack of group energy and emotion can be stifling, but BBA student, Yuma Yamada, found a solution.

“It was very challenging that we weren’t able to share the atmosphere of the face to face meeting. When we have face to face meeting there is something else other than just having the conversation in one place. We receive the member’s reactions, feeling, nuances and so that we understand fully about what the member wants to say by using full five senses.”

“To come up with the solution, I tried several things but at the end what was the most effective for me was to give all members time to speak even if they don’t have anything to point out. Therefore I could fully understand what they think about the topic of the meeting or conversations. This might take more time than in a usual face to face meeting, but when you factor in time saved in not all attending a physical meeting room, it’s not much more overall.”

Ready for a more remote future

For BBA student, Simran Bherwani, remote group work was a valuable future career experience that was, in some ways, better than in-person, as long as everyone was organized.

“My project group members decided that we would have online meetings twice a week, instead of four-five times, but they would be longer meetings. This way we would choose a time that would be somewhat suitable for everyone and we would keep the meetings longer in order to complete a bigger proportion of the work.”

It was a very comfortable way of working, as we worked at times that best suited us”

“Working remotely with my group taught me many, new crucial skills that will be very useful to me in my future career. Additionally, it was a very comfortable way of working, as we all worked at times that best suited us and then shared it with the other members. Remote learning and working in groups has helped me feel prepared and has given me the ability to know how to tackle such a situation in the future.”

Remote group working – tips and takeaways:

  • Be aware of time zones
  • Use tech to collaborate and communicate efficiently: WhatsApp, Google Docs, social media
  • Be proactive in sending communication and patient when receiving it
  • Try more calls, or fewer and longer calls to keep everyone on track. See what works for your group
  • Recreate the personal connection of in-person meetings by giving everyone time to speak and share
  • Create a routine: use an alarm, get dressed, work at a desk and exercise to stay healthy and focused