Whether you’re pursuing an online degree or studying on campus, sharing ideas – and studying with classmates – can improve your chance for in-class success. Fortunately, technology makes that easier – not to mention, more accessible – than ever, with tools geared toward online study groups. Here’s where to start, what to consider and how to get the most from your study time in an online course.
Establish Your Group
Getting to know your fellow students helps you better understand their study habits and daily routines. Once you feel out fellow students, establish a small, edited online course study group with likeminded, suggests Schools.com, which notes that groups of no more than six participants works best. Another option is to form two groups, says Grace Fleming of About.com. She then recommends mixing up participants up from time to time. Whatever you decide, be sure to seek students who are both interested in group work and likely to pull their weight.
Come to a Consensus
Upon exchanging contact information, decide on a meeting schedule and come to a consensus about the best ways – and at what frequency – to disseminate information and schedule collaborative meetings. Odds are, everyone is being pulled in many directions. That’s why it’s essential to appoint a group leader to moderate and organize discussions. That’s also why it’s wise to have a candid discussion about everyone’s strengths, weaknesses and study styles. By knowing who’s a good note-taker or analytical person, for example, time can be tailored to what works best. It can also help avoid disappointments down the line.
Keep It Short and Focused
There’s no reason to drag things out. Schools.com recommends keeping the group study sessions short and to the point – in other words, allot 45 minutes to an hour, tops. This enables participants to zero in on the agenda. It also prevents burnout.
Although virtual study can take place from any locale with an Internet connection, be sure you – and your fellow classmates – connect from a quiet place. Commit to joining the group on time, and don’t depart early as this affects the flow of information and breaks concentration.
Choose the Tools
To meet, use the group discussion functionality on your school’s online course platform or a tool such as ThinkBender, a real-time app for chatting, group discussions, shared notes and online interaction. This, and other crowd-sourced learning and online study tools, enables groups to discuss topics and share videos, websites and other resources seamlessly. ThinkBender also proves helpful for file management, has text and video chat features and offers a collaborative whiteboard so study buddies can work on problems together. Also worthy of consideration are Windows-based Microsoft’s SharedView, no-installation-required Vyew and Mikogo for Mac and PC.