You may undertake group assignments this semester. Usually you’d get together with your fellow team members to discuss your work. But because of COVID 19, you’re working from home. Online discussions via video platforms are now essential for group assignments. Consequently, you have an opportunity to develop your online communication and collaboration skills—skills that are transferable to the workplace. These skills will help your group manage the assignment, share ideas and information, and resolve problems.

In workplaces remote teams use online meetings to communicate and make decisions. University assignments reflect this situation. You may be confident communicating online via social media. However, you will need to adapt how you interact and your language for online discussions about group assignments and team projects, in a similar way to that required for workplace meetings. You will often require an agenda, and for members to prepare. Participants also need to contribute constructively and solve problems.

Have an agenda

An agenda, which is the list of what you’ll discuss, ensures all group members share expectations. Agenda items could include

  • Discussing the assignment question and instructions
  • Distributing separate tasks for individual group members
  • Brainstorming
  • Developing a timeline towards completion

All members can add items to the agenda via a shared document.

Prepare for the meeting

To prepare for an online group discussion or project team meeting

  • Read through the agenda
  • Organise the information you’ll need to access during the meeting
  • Find a quiet space to work
  • Check the video platform, especially if you haven’t used it before

Contribute constructively

Once the meeting starts use communication and collaboration skills like active listening and emotional intelligence and focus on making productive contributions to improve the outcomes.

Active listening involves rephrasing and remembering others’ ideas. In other words, showing you’re engaged in what they’re saying. It is also about being attentive to others’ body language, which you can see, thanks to the video platform. Interpret body language to register the tone of members’ remarks. An open forum for sharing ideas between members will improve the project, and active listening helps create that open forum.

Contribute to discussion during the meeting and build on others’ ideas. Contributing shows your commitment to the project. Reciprocally, provide encouragement and feedback on each other’s contributions. Asking questions and clarifying others’ expectations is also an essential part of working together. If problems occur, focus on the cause of the problem and finding a solution, rather than blaming each other.

Emotional intelligence is a highly valued ability. If you sense any hostility in a meeting, even if it is only minor, help keep participants focused on the issues and not on each other.

  • Acknowledge other members’ feelings and positions
  • Actively listen, and praise contributions
  • Be courteous
  • Move conversation towards ways of resolving problems and proceeding with the project

As you develop your communication and collaboration skills, keep a record of your experiences and articulate those skills to potential employers when you graduate. Student Futures is an online tool designed to help you prove your employability edge and stand out from the crowd.

Online meetings enable you to discuss ideas, solve problems and produce work cooperatively. For more information about collaborating and communicating online visit Research and Learning Online.

Zoom is a video platform available to use for online meetings at Monash University. Check out the Library guide for Zoom.


About the author: Tim Alves is a Learning Skills Adviser at Caulfield Library.