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Tips for group work in the Online MBA

How group assignments will be completed during your online MBA program is an important consideration as it will affect not only your grades, yet also your stress levels, learning, and growth. Although the Professional and Executive programs, likewise have group work, the online MBA brings with it the possibly differing dimensions of location and time zones.

In your 1st residency you will be asked to complete and submit a Project Charter. While this is to be used as a guideline and may be amended later if needed, it helps layout the basis for how each team plans to function and work most effectively together. From my experience, a couple things for consideration for inclusion in the Charter would be: do you choose a ‘Team Lead’ for each class (and if so how is the role defined), how will your team divvy up group assignments, will you use milestones/periodic deadlines, and through which mediums do you intend to collaborate?

My team chose to elect a Team Lead for each class and rotated in a manner ensuring each member had the role and no member held the role in consecutive classes. Queens online MBA is a Leadership Development program. The ability to coordinate tasks, deadlines, and team members is a necessary skill, and will improve with practice. Personally I would stress the term “coordinate”. By Team Lead, we were not looking for a “boss”, and certainly not a “dictator”. For my team, the Leaders’ role was to help organize and synchronize the group assignment(s) of each class.  The preference was for the work to be discussed, with individuals stepping up to the assignments. If however, there was not group consensus, or an unfilled task(s), the Leader would delegate assignments as necessary.  Though we worked to spread work as evenly as possible, it was also expected the Leader would step in as needed to help ensure the deliverable(s) met deadlines and expectations.

With each (or most) courses lasting only 8 weeks, they will go by quickly! Though a group deliverable may not be due until week 7 or 8 of course, it can sneak up on you, as you will certainly have plenty else to keep you busy each week. For this reason, we found setting agreed upon periodic deadlines to be essential. (An additional recommendation for inclusion in your project charter is how the team and the work will be addressed should any team member(s) miss assigned deadlines.)

Frequent communication between group members and how you chose to collaborate will be essential. For my team, “WhatsApp” (www.whatsapp.com) worked great. For collaboration we utilized both Skype as well as Google Hangouts. We also made extensive use of Google docs (allowing multiple users to simultaneously edit a document in real-time). Other teams I know, at times, met in person. If and when feasible, this is certainly recommended (in conjunction with Google docs or other). I would also recommend when collaborating remotely on a deliverable, it is understood each group member needs to be using a computer or perhaps a tablet. While phone access is feasible, any member using only a phone will likely be much more restricted in how effective they will be at physically contributing and editing the deliverable (thus unfairly leaving the manual work to other team members).

Working within your team will provide challenges, yet also opportunities for learning and further development of your Leadership skills. If utilizing a Team Lead scenario for each class, I would also recommend the Team Lead of each class actively seek feedback immediately following the class. Comprising a brief (10 questions or less) scaled survey via Survey Monkey, Google From, or similar and sending to teammates is an excellent method for determining areas one can improve in and a great basis for individual discussions with team members. Feedback (and subsequent open discussions) will serve as a building block for your continued growth and success as a leader.

About the Author

Jesse is a member of the initial cohort of Queen's MBA program, Class of 2016. He works as a Business Analyst currently employed in the Charlotte area.