Point/Counterpoint: Group projects in university

Does group work result in learning opportunities or massive stress?

Throughout our university degrees, most students eventually undergo the experience of a group project.

For many, these are the anxiety-ridden nightmares we dread the whole semester. However, others look forward to the exercise of working with their peers and making friends in the process. Read the arguments of our writers and decide for yourself which side of the debate is correct!

Point: Group projects are unfair, especially in a pandemic

When I finished high school, only one thought crossed my mind: thank God I don’t have to work with people in a group project ever again. I am sure you felt a weight was lifted off your shoulders too — the weight of carrying grades of other people around.

I felt my sanity was restored and I could live a happy peaceful life without having to explain something repeatedly because one group member simply never read the book.

The first year of university passed without any danger of me being involved in group work, to my relief. However, as the new online semester progresses, many of my professors have decided that it is a great idea to start giving them out. Luckily for me, this occurred in the middle of a pandemic.

Done in the midst of remote learning, group projects join complete strangers from different time zones that have low to no chance to actually get to know each other before working on the project.

I get group work is a part of life and that we’re bound to work with others in our jobs post-graduation.  However, what I do not understand is why professors love it so much. I do not think they remember how annoying and frustrating it is to do all the work because some people do not care as much about their grades as you.

With group work, I have done full projects on my own, designed presentations, and literally given people exactly what to say. Despite all that effort, the highest grade I have been able to get in group work is a 65 per cent.

This is typically because of one unmotivated group member that feels inaccessible and impossible to work with. Even if you give them the easiest job, they find a way to avoid taking responsibility and make the others work twice as hard.

Put simply, this work is unfair. I love it when work is graded individually as it allows you to work in peace, knowing you are the master of your future. 

On the other hand, I love group work when you can actually pick the people you work with — those dream teams that have all the magic you need to get a nice and easy A. Sadly, this scenario is as rare as seeing the comet Halley twice in a lifetime.

Usually, you get a pre-assigned group, and they are comprised of at least one or more slackers. As a result, you know that you will be stuck doing most or all the work with people that seem interested in sabotaging their grade and yours along with it for some strange reason.

The anxiety will rise as the deadline approaches and your group has not put anything in that shared Google Doc. You, as the good student you are, will have to pull an all-nighter, to more or less save your grade. Any one who has experienced this dread will tell you the same thing— that group work indisputably is the worst.

-Christian Sanchez

Counterpoint: Despite online school, group work still has its benefits

Though group work now doesn’t have the same charm as the awkward first meet up would for traditional in-person school work, it still has its perks. 

Group work has always been beneficial, even if your partners don’t exactly pull their weight. Even if your partners don’t complete their sections, you’ll always have the satisfaction of writing up their exclusion clause indicating that they didn’t contribute and will receive no credit for the assignment. Boy, does it feel good to know someone who didn’t pitch in will get a zero. Otherwise, it’s still nice to have partners to divide up the work, leaving less for yourself.

Group work also allows for easy validation from peers in your classes. This is especially useful if you’re in an introductory undergraduate course with hundreds of other students. With the added concept of communication and collaboration being a ‘need,’ you can compare answers without worrying about being marked for plagiarism.

Not only that, but meeting people online is hard, and being forced to work together on a lengthy assignment might give rise to an otherwise unlikely friendship. Especially for those of us who aren’t on campus or from Edmonton, group work is an excellent way of meeting your peers while studying in the safety of your own home.

Being placed in a group also puts pressure on everyone to finish their own work. Personally, this is a benefit for me because I’m much more likely to do my work if I know someone is relying on me. The fear of being excluded and given a zero does pretty much the same job too.

With everything being online, it’s easier than ever to contact your group members. Although you won’t be able to meet up and be forced to work while you’re there because of the suffocating atmosphere, you have more options to meet.

Finally, professors often assign further deadlines for group work because of the coordination required, which is great if you’re struggling with inactive or nonresponsive groupmates. It’s also great because who doesn’t want a free extension?

Group work might be frustrating because of group members, but it has its pros and if you’re fond of dishing out zeroes for the deserving, it’s even better.

-Jin He

Jin He

Jin is the 2021-22 Production Editor at The Gateway. She previously served as a Deputy Arts and Culture Editor at the Gateway. If not sleeping, she can often be found supporting local artisans and sporting some wicked earrings.

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