8 Tips for Creating Successful Virtual Study Groups

Classrooms Team

Dec 12, 2020

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Taking classes online has become the new normal, and your study groups should reflect these changes. They help you avoid procrastination and provide a sense of accountability. You can use them to collaborate on assignments — when allowed — and get different perspectives on your work. You’ll learn to support one another while simultaneously improving communication skills.

How can you gain these benefits in a digital setting? Create a successful virtual study group by implementing these eight tips.

1. Choose a User-Friendly Platform

Begin by choosing a user-friendly program that will be free to group members. You should aim to have a platform that offers videoconferencing and messaging features. Popular free ones include Google Meet, Zoom, and Skype. Your school might grant you access to premium plans for these sites, so be sure to reach out before signing up.

These platforms offer chat features during video calls, but you’ll need some form of instant messaging for scheduling meetings. Consider apps that are free internationally and work using Wi-Fi. These apps often allow you to disable notifications, so you won’t be distracted by your group chat unless you choose to engage.

Popular instant messaging apps include:

  • Facebook Messenger
  • WhatsApp
  • Discord
  • Slack

2. Utilize Digital Tools

Embrace the digital resources that your group has available at its fingertips. Numerous tools are free and can enhance your study group’s productivity. Consider using a timer to keep your group on track during the discussion. The Marinara and Tomato timers are both available for free and integrate with your phone or computer.

Besides timers, your virtual study group can create online notecards and study cards. Popular sites include StudyBlue and Evernote, but there are countless more tools available for free on the internet.

If you have a Gmail account, you get access to Google Docs, Google Slides, and Google Sheets, which you can share with team members. This is especially useful when collaborating on a group project. Discuss with your virtual study groups to determine their preferred digital tools.

3. Establish an Agenda

Virtual study groups need to have a sense of direction to act as a resource to members. Hold a meeting to evaluate the needs of the group and designate the team’s purpose. Some might focus on reviewing class notes and discussing ideas. Others will act as editing and proofreading teams. Ultimately, design objectives that will fulfill the needs of all members.

Agendas should be established before each meeting to ensure virtual study groups remain effective. Seek input from team members and post any questions and objectives in the group chat. Plan to set a time limit for each meeting so participants can budget their time accordingly.

4. Assign Responsibilities

Assess member strengths once you’ve created your group. After evaluating, assign responsibilities so each team member contributes and benefits from discussions.

Potential roles to assign to team members include:

  • Moderator: Keeps discussions on track.
  • Notetaker: Records notes during meetings.
  • Researcher: Does the research before and during sessions to further discussion — numerous participants can be researchers.
  • Debater: Argues alternative perspectives to provide differing opinions and further the discussion.
  • Editor: Edits the notes and projects for correctness  — this role is sometimes split between all members.
  • Peacekeeper: Keeps the peace during discussions when things become heated.
  • Organizer: Organizes the meetings and group announcements.

Depending on how members feel, you may decide to rotate responsibilities with each meeting to keep things fair.

5. Set Goals

Goals provide a source of motivation to team members. They give direction and purpose to the actions of the group. You want to feel that you are gaining something from the collaboration. Building SMART goals will make those accomplishments feel measurable and realistic.

Setting goals will improve your group’s focus, and therefore its productivity. The objectives you develop now will help to sustain the momentum of your group’s long-term success.

6. Strike a Balance

Balance is crucial to living a healthy life. Too much studying can lead to stress and burnout, so be sure to make time for socializing in your group. If you’re utilizing the Pomodoro technique, you can study for 25 minutes and socialize for five.

Regardless of how you choose to divide the time, remember to stay focused and make it an enjoyable experience. Group members will stop participating if they are miserable.

7. Stay Positive

Positivity is contagious, so watch how you display your emotions. Your attitude can quickly rub off on teammates, for better or worse. Take breaks if discussions begin to feel overwhelming, and communicate how you can make the experience better.

There’s no such thing as a stupid question, so be open with your group and explain your thoughts. They will appreciate your optimism and honesty.

8. Create a Backup Plan

Life is complicated, so sometimes, team members may miss the scheduled meetings. Create a backup plan so they can still participate. Consider recording your videoconference or rescheduling for another time. Maybe one group member would be willing to host a makeup session.

Discuss options at your initial meeting, and ask everyone to provide their schedule to coordinate a time. Try keeping appointments consistent so people can plan around them each week.

Practice Makes Perfect

When you hit bumps in the road, you make adjustments and keep going — the same goes for virtual study groups. You may have hiccups, but practice makes perfect. Over time, you’ll create a balanced dynamic that produces terrific results.

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