Group work in college splits student, alumni opinions

By Tianxin Li, Contributing Writer

Group work, almost an inevitable topic in college, has long been loved and hated by many professors and students. While some people think it can improve efficiency by dividing the work, others find it annoying as it takes time to coordinate with others, and they might be dragged down by their teammates.

Kexin Xue, sophomore in Engineering, shared an unpleasant group work experience.

“Last fall, I signed up for CS 222, which is basically all about group projects,” Xue said. “Initially, I found my group members, but one of them filled up the wrong form, so we ended up randomly assigned to different groups. And in that new group, no matter how I (tried) to contact them, they never respond.”

On the other hand, Chelsea Roman, freshman in LAS, said she had a positive experience working in groups last semester.

“I took a biology class last semester, and some students in this class created a group chat on Snapchat,” Roman said. “We talked about the materials our professor covered in class, helping each other to understand. I think this group really helped me to increase my studying efficiency.”

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Tom Ackerman, a University alum, said he was not a big fan of group work when he was a student.

“It could be frustrating sometimes having to deal with people not pulling their own weight in the group projects or being incommunicative and disorganized,” Ackerman said.

However, now, Ackerman said his experience of working at the University of Illinois Foundation changed his opinion on group work.

“As an adult with a job, I think group work did help me have skills that helped in the workplace,” Ackerman said.

Similarly, William C. Barley, an associate professor in LAS, said he feels that learning how to do group work in college is significant.

“If you are going to get a job in any contemporary organization after graduation, you have to work in groups,” Barley said. “So in many ways, taking the time to learn how to work in groups during college, I think, is really important for becoming someone ready to go into the contemporary workforce.”

In addition, he gave three suggestions to students struggling with group work: Meet early, meet frequently and check your interpretations of other people’s behavior before you make judgements.

It’s easy to think that group members are not being responsible for the group if they have not finished their work when the deadline is approaching. However, maybe they just work at their best leading up to a deadline. These differing approaches can create conflict.

Although practicing how to work in groups is important in college, Ackerman said he doesn’t think that all schoolwork should be group work.

“It’s good occasionally to have this kind of learning of skills and learning habits: Deal with your peers and manage your peers to get work done,” Ackerman said.


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