5 Benefits of Group Work in Online Courses and Degrees

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Want an unfair advantage in tomorrow’s workplace, business world and social environment? Choose online degrees or courses that encourage group work.


Here at University of the People, we encourage group work and collaboration in practically every course you take.


But with students all over the world, each determining her or his own schedule, why do we think this is one of the most important parts of our online university culture?


Here are 5 of our top reasons:


1) Online Group Work Keeps You Accountable to Your Studies


One of the biggest challenges of online learning is actually following through and doing the work. Not only do we have a million distractions online, but online studies are usually done on our own time, squeezed in between many other responsibilities – caring for family members, making a living, maintaining friendships and, on occasion, even getting some sleep.


It’s easy to let a task slip, even if the task is important to you – if it’s not urgent, if there are no deadlines, if no one is holding you accountable for completing it.


Reporting to a group of people that you didn’t do the work is OK once or twice, but then it gradually becomes more and more uncomfortable. Chances are, if reporting to a group is part of your online course or online degree requirements, you’ll end up doing the work, even when you don’t feel like it, so you won’t have to tell your accountability buddies that you didn’t do it again.


2) Online Group Work Makes it Easy to Create Personal and Professional Relationships


The best thing about being accountable to people who are going through the same thing you are is that they understand.


Not everybody is going to understand what it means to get a degree online, or to juggle your studies with your child’s needs, your aging parent and your boss’ increasing demands. Not to mention, how challenging it is to come from a different culture than the one that designed the curriculum.


When you have a group of people who are going through the same thing as you, you can feel safe to voice when things are difficult, and ask questions when you don’t fully understand.


Out of this vulnerability, there’s a bigger chance for friendships to flourish, unlike times when feel isolated and have to hide yourself.


As a bonus, if you’re taking a professional course or studying for a degree, your online peers will probably be your future colleagues.


The group work helps you build the foundations for professional relationships and partnerships that could potentially accompany you for years to come. The more authentic relationships you develop now, the more doors will likely open for you down the line.


3) Online Group Work Teaches You How to Give and Receive Feedback


Nobody in the world is born knowing everything, and if we don’t stay open to learning what we don’t know, we’ll never grow.


If you’re a student, you probably believe that.


But that doesn’t mean that it’s easy.


It’s especially difficult to stay open to learning when someone criticizes your work after all the hours you’ve put in, or after you’ve overcome challenges to complete work.


The beautiful thing is that, the more you practice getting feedback and not taking it personally, the more you’ll understand what the most important pieces are to take from the feedback in order to improve, and what to leave behind.


Knowing that you take feedback so well will probably make your future colleagues and employers feel safer when it’s time to give you some feedback in the workplace.


That, in turn, will likely make it easier for you to get promoted over time, because your boss will know you’re open to learning and growing for the sake of the bigger picture.


But giving feedback in an empowering way is also extremely important.


Learning how to get your message across in a way that doesn’t offend the other person, in a way that encourages them to listen instead of shutting down, will also serve you well in the workplace.


When you’re the boss, it’ll be easier for you to get your team to do what it needs to do if you can master the art of giving feedback.


The more you practice in your group now, the easier it will be in the workplace later.


4) Online Group Work Lets You Practice Collaborating with Others


Workplaces are getting more and more collaborative. Not only are you supposed to work well with people on your own team, but you’re gradually expected to collaborate with people on other teams as well.


Part of that collaboration requires learning to compromise. Sometimes, what you want to do isn’t what the rest of the people you work with want to do. Other times, what you want to do might not be in the best interest of the company.


Collaborating with fellow students prepares you for real life much more than studying on your own, because you have to find a way to navigate between your wishes and goals, your group members’ wishes and goals, and the ultimate result everyone needs to achieve together.


Sometimes, of course, it means speaking up for what you believe in, and doing it in a way that respects others’ opinions, needs and cultural differences… which leads us to one more benefit of online courses and universities that encourage group work:


5) Online Group Work Breaks Down Cultural Barriers and Helps You See Real Human Beings Instead of Generalized Stereotypes


When you take an online course or attend an online university, there’s a good chance your fellow students will be from other countries and cultures. In fact, when you become a student at University of the People, you can pretty much expect to be the only student from your country in the classroom, because we try to make each classroom as culturally diverse as possible.


We found that students get new perspectives that open them up to new ideas they never would have thought of otherwise, which helps them reach unexpected business and career success.


As a result, working with people from different cultures and staying open to cultural differences are two of the skills our students and graduates get most excited about.


Another benefit is that people start seeing real human beings instead of one big, foreign culture that might not be represented on the news or popular culture in a positive way, or at all.


They start realizing that nationality, religion, race and gender are just some aspects of people’s identity, and by getting to know real human beings behind the stereotypes, they become more open to accepting and celebrating the beautiful diversity this world has to offer.


To Sum Up, Online Group Work Prepares You to Become Tomorrow’s Best Employee, Business Owner and Global Citizen


The world is changing, and it’s changing fast. An increasing amount of workplaces expect you to collaborate with people who have a different background from you – whether it’s across the office or across the world.


And with social media getting more popular every year, staying open to people with different backgrounds can increase the pool of people you can connect to, relate to, and have fun with.


If your course or university gives you the opportunity to collaborate with students from other cultures and countries, we recommend embracing the opportunity and showing up the best way you can.


If you do, you are guaranteed to have an advantage in tomorrow’s workplaces, and you’ll probably make new friends along the way that you otherwise never would have met.