Don’t dread group projects

By Kaylyn Zielinski

Group projects can teach students important lifelong skills if they take them seriously.

NIU came up with eight student learning outcomes (SLOs) that every undergraduate should achieve during their college experience here — one outcome being the ability to collaborate with others to achieve specific goals, according to the NIU Progressive Learning in Undergraduate Studies (PLUS) website. Students should embrace group projects to better their communication skills for future semesters and careers especially since group projects are a core part of being an undergraduate Huskie at NIU.

ACCESS director Shevawn Eaton said group projects can help and hurt students. Eaton said sometimes the dynamic of the group outweighs the project, and that can create problems. But although there can be issues with the way a group interacts, Eaton said that’s something everyone has to deal with in every career field; group projects allow students to learn how to work around the weaker person of the group.

“It is a more challenging environment … but you need to realize that the power of the group is better than the sum of its parts ­— meaning that the group has a symbiosis that makes a project better because you have a group mind that’s working on it instead of individuals with little corners. Sometimes you can come up with really good ideas and projects than you would have on your own.”

For students who choose their group members, choose carefully. Select group members by who are going to be assets to the group.

Freshman theatre major Hannah Dixon has had multiple group projects this semester, and although she doesn’t like them, she knows they can help her in the future. Dixon said she thinks group projects help people to communicate with each other, but when thinking of relying on others she jokingly cited an anonymous quote.

“When I die, I want the people I do group projects with to lower me into my grave so they can let me down one last time,” Dixon said.

It’s important to meet in person to figure out ways to tackle the project properly by the deadline, especially if group members are decided by a professor. It is easier to make sure everyone is holding up their end of the project in person. Also, when meeting in person it is easier for students to make their projects more cohesive. Lastly, students should always put their best efforts into the project both to benefit themselves, their groups and their grades.

Eaton said there are benefits to working in a group environment in the workplace.

“When you’re solving problems in the work place, having a bunch of people trying to solve a problem, it’s a lot better than sitting in a desk trying to figure it out on your own,” Eaton said. “You learn to communicate through that process, too, which isn’t always easy.”

Students should focus on the benefits they can receive from group projects now and in the future. Group projects aren’t going away anytime soon so it’s important to embrace them while still at NIU so students don’t have to try and develop communication skills as a professional.