Whether you’re an online student or a student at a traditional school, study groups can be hugely beneficial. They can help you increase your understanding of concepts, get clarification on certain materials, and review information to help you prepare for a test. All students can participate in or organize a study group, even those who are online students. Online study groups can be just as effective and helpful as in-person study groups, and with some preparation and organization, your online study group can help you increase your understanding and improve your grades.
Each online study group needs a goal. It may be to review information from a specific chapter and ensure everyone is comfortable with all the concepts. It may be to prepare to write a paper on a specific idea. It may be to study for a test and get the best grade possible. Everyone in the group should have a similar goal so that each study session can be focused on achieving it. Individuals should discuss their goals for an online study group before the first meeting to ensure that everyone is on the same page.
Choose a Platform
Once you’ve established a group of people for your study group, choose how you’ll actually meet online. Your school may have a platform for you to use, or you may need to set one up outside of your school. Google is a great tool for this, as you can organize Google hangouts, share screens, use Google docs, utilize a virtual whiteboard, and so much more. You may also consider using ThinkBinder, Rcampus, or something else similar.
Every student has different strengths, and it’s important to utilize everyone’s strengths within the group as well as ensure all aspects of the group are organized and taken care of. You should select a leader for the group who can ensure everyone stays on topic, knows when to move on from one concept to the next, and hold members accountable for their roles. You may also wish to have a note-taker, a time-keeper, and so on.
No one likes being part of a group where only a few people pull their weight and the rest just show up without contributing to the group. You should establish expectations for the group right from the start so that anyone who does not wish to uphold them can find another group. These expectations should include things like being prepared for the study sessions, committing to stay on task and focused during meeting times, staying positive and encouraging during study sessions, and more.
Determine How Study Time Is Managed
This may be primarily up to the group leader, but it’s important for the entire group to have a conversation about how the study session time is going to be managed at each meeting. It may change from meeting to meeting, but each group time should include asking members what they want to touch on, a review or presentation of information, and a summarization of what the group went over during the session. Certain meetings may be more focused on one concept than on a comprehensive review, but the group should decide how study time is going to be managed from the start so that everyone is on the same page.
This is a minor detail of creating a study group online, but with any study groups, the number of members should be limited. If a study group gets too big, productivity will lessen and the group may deal with some unforeseen challenges. It’s best to keep online study groups around five to eight members, but you may find that slightly fewer or slightly more work best for you. As others seek to join your group, just be aware of how the group dynamic shifts and be cognizant of the productivity and efficiency that occurs during study time.
Consistency is an important factor in the success of any study group, and it may be even more important in online study groups. Consistency is multi-faceted in these situations. Your group should be consistent in meeting regularly, ensuring that everyone is aware of the meeting schedule and what is going to be covered at each meeting. You should also be consistent in communicating with one another outside of the meeting times so that everyone knows what to expect at the next meeting and is properly prepared for it. Finally, you should be consistent in the way you run the group meetings. This includes not only sticking to the agenda you’ve determined, but also in starting and stopping on time. This consistency will make your group more effective as all group members will know what to expect and will feel as though their time with the study group is respected, leading them to then return that respect toward the group and other group members.
Wrap Up & Summarize
Having a summary at the end of each meeting should absolutely be included in your normal agenda for meetings. One person may have the job of keeping notes of key things you go over, or it may shift from one person to another during each meeting. Either way, someone should be in charge of notating the main ideas and concepts that you review during the group meetings, and the summary should be discussed at the end of each meeting. Additionally, it will serve the group best if that summary is sent in writing to each member at the end of the meetings so that they can easily reference which meetings covered what information.