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Efficient group work using digital meeting technology

It might feel somewhat complicated to do group work digitally, especially if you don’t know each other. We get tired from sitting in front of a screen for too long and it can get awkward when everyone always has to listen to what is being said. But with the right planning, working together digitally can be as smooth as meeting in person. It’s just about being extra diligent with the structure. Remember that there are no contradictions between structure and creativity, even though it may feel that way.

Plan together

Meet for a kick-off where you make a shared planning for the entire group project. Come to an agreement on how often, how many times and for how long you will meet. Make sure everyone can easily contact each other if something happens. Set subgoal-deadlines. Clarify what each person is expected to do until the next meeting and how the different tasks fit into the larger structure.

Assign roles

Assign a chairperson for each meeting who welcomes everyone to the meeting, keeps track of the time (and the breaks!) and has the last word. It’s good if the chairperson changes between the meetings. Perhaps it’s possible to also assign the different tasks: someone takes notes, someone keeps track of the time, someone passes the word, and then you switch roles during the break.

Check in and check out of the meeting

Start each meeting with a round where everyone gets to share something about their current situation and their ability to participate. To “check in” mentally is especially important when you’re not physically in the same room and able to read each other’s body language in the same way you’re used to. End each meeting in the same way, with a check-out where each person gets to share something they take away from the meeting.

Agree on guidelines for a pleasant atmosphere

Come to an agreement on what’s OK or not during your shared time. Is it OK to check your phone from time to time or should all phones be turned off and put away. Is it OK to sit at a café where people are talking in the background or is everyone expected to sit in a more isolated space. How important is it that everyone is on time and stays for the entire session? Should the microphone be turned off when it isn’t your time to speak or is it OK to interrupt?

Document together

Make sure that there is enough shared documentation on the group project. This could mean “to-do”-lists, memos and schedules but also texts created for shared tasks or scripts for oral presentations. It’s important that everyone has access to everything, partly because it makes it easier to delegate if someone is sick, partly because everyone gets an overview of the entire project and not only their own part. You can collect your files on Google Drive or on Canvas if you have a shared break-out room there. To-do lists or brainstorming are perhaps better suited for Padlet. Come to an agreement on whether it's acceptable to leave comments or edit each other's texts.

Under the section Digital Tools, you will find information about the various tools mentioned in the text.