Working Together: How to be a Valuable Team Member

I must admit that, since middle school, I have despised group work. In my desire to earn good grades, I have often—and unfortunately—ended up doing the majority of the ‘teamwork’ alone. In the few instances where other individuals are willing to pull their own weight, I tend to still take on the leadership role, mainly because I crave organization and like to have structure.

The team experience is, in many ways, very different online than in a classroom setting. Since it is usually impossible to meet with other members physically, it takes a greater effort to stay in-sync as a group.  Below, you will find some tips that have helped me to navigate teamwork online.

  1. Utilize the tools in ANGEL. Use and check e-mail and discussion boards often. Many classes also offer programs for teammates to chat live—this is especially valuable when trying to get a project ready for submission.  The live chat helps everyone contribute and is often recorded so the professor can evaluate each person’s input, or students unable to attend can listen in later.
  2. Take initiative and get started ASAP.  You may or may not be a natural leader. However, it is important to remember that, in addition to being graded on contribution, each assignment has a grading rubric.  Review the assignment’s instructions, rubric, and other communication. Then, if helpful, organize this information for future reference. I usually print out all the information, place it in a folder, and write out the essentials so I won’t have to shuffle through a stack of papers to find out what is required. If your assignment is due in a few weeks, make time NOW to begin—when a project is done little by little, it usually comes together better than if rushed at the last minute.
  3. Communicate with your professor.  If a team member is not contributing equally, let your professor know early on. In the past, this has helped me to know how to approach my teammates, as instructed by the teacher.  If your communication does not create change, let your professor know and he or she will usually contact the student about the issue.  Also, if you are struggling with understanding the assignment or have a personal issue than hinders your ability to contribute for a period of time, communicating with your team and instructor can ensure you do not lose credit.
  4. Finally, share about yourself. If you are particularly good at visual arts, for example, let your group members know. There may be a way to incorporate that into your assignment. Or, if you work odd hours and cannot make live chats, let your team know how you can contribute in other ways.

Team work may not be the most enjoyable experience for most of us; however, we can make it a valuable one if we pull our weight and challenge ourselves to go above and beyond what is required. Any job we have in the future will require teamwork; if we learn how to take initiative and responsibility now, it will only foster more success in the workplace, and in life, later.