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Effective online group work

It may feel a little bit awkward to work in groups digitally, especially if you do not know each other. It is tiring to sit in front of a screen for a long time and it may be difficult to pay attention to what is being said all the time. But with the right planning, it could go as smoothly as if you were meeting in person. It’s just a matter of paying particular attention to structure. Remember that there are no conflicts between frameworks and creativity, even if it may feel that way.

Plan together

Arrange a start-up meeting where you can plan all of the group work together. Decide how often and how long your meetings will be. Make sure that everyone can get hold of each other easily if necessary. Set deadlines for sub-goals. Clarify what each person is expected to do before the next meeting and how the different tasks fit together as a whole.

Allocate the roles

For every meeting, appoint a chair who convenes the meeting, keeps track of the time (and the breaks) and has the last word. It is a good idea to rotate the position of chair between meetings. Maybe the different tasks can also be divided up: someone takes notes, someone keeps track of time, someone allocates speaking time and then you change during the break.

Check in and out of the meeting

Start each meeting with an opportunity for everyone to talk about their current situation and the conditions for their participation. It is particularly important to “check in" mentally when you are not physically in the same room and cannot read each other as you usually would. Finish in the same way with a check out, allowing everyone to say something about what they got from the meeting.

Set rules of conduct

Come to an agreement about what is okay and what is not during your time together. Is it okay to check your mobile from time to time or should they be switched off and put away? Is it okay to sit in a café where people are talking in the background or do you expect people to be somewhere private? How important is it for everyone to be on time and stay for the whole duration? Should the microphone be muted when you are not speaking or is it okay to interrupt?

Joint documents 

Make sure that there is joint documentation of the group work. It may be "to-do" lists, memos and timetables, but also texts for joint work or a script for an oral presentation. It is important that everyone has access to everything, partly because it will be easier to delegate if someone falls ill, and partly so that everyone has an overview of all of the work and not only their own. Agree on whether it is okay to add comments or make changes to each other's texts.