Making the adjustment to remote learning has not been easy. Even though our experiences may differ in significant ways, we all may feel a lack of motivation or loneliness at times. At the Weingarten Center, we are fortunate to have weekly meetings where we can maintain a connection with our colleagues and hold each other accountable. Given the circumstances, I would like to offer some advice for doing something similar: online study groups.
What You Need to Get Started
Before you start a study group session, it’s a good idea to lock down most of the logistics. A strong logistical foundation helps to keep the group moving!
- Start your online study group with 3-5 people. A group of this size is easier to manage logistically and avoids the intimidation that we may experience in large groups.
- Identify the online resource you will use for meeting together. You are welcome to use any video conferencing software you’d like, but BlueJeans, Zoom, and Microsoft Teams are popular choices.
- Get organized virtually. We suggest keeping the contact information of your group members in a shared digital folder (OneDrive, Google Drive, etc.). This folder can also be used to store meeting notes, resources, and any products created in the study session.
- Make sure everyone is aware of the time, location, and purpose of the study group. Since finals are just around the corner, your study group may decide to discuss practice problems or talk through important diagrams. Just remember to keep the sessions productive!
Now that we’ve covered the logistics, let’s move on to creating a safe space!
Developing a Good Group Dynamic
Part of developing a good group dynamic involves setting clear expectations about how the group interacts. When everyone is on the same page, we often feel more motivated to get to work! Here are a few tips:
- Take some time to introduce yourselves and lighten the mood with an icebreaker or two. Even if finals are approaching, taking 10-15 minutes to shift the atmosphere can ease everyone’s nerves.
- In order to create a safe space, spend some time creating a group contract that outlines the values of the group (being helpful, giving constructive feedback, respecting boundaries, etc.) and how to handle potential conflicts.
- Create buy-in by including everyone on important decisions and through assigning roles. Some important roles are a group coordinator, note-taker, resource organizer, and discussion facilitator. The group coordinator sends emails and meeting invitations out and the resource organizer maintains the shared digital folder. Feel free to rotate these roles once the logstics are in place and allow everyone to pick a role that works for them. The bottom line is this: share responsibility.
Creating a Space for Learning
Once you all are clear on the expectations you have for each other, it’s time to create a space where learning can thrive! In a virtual environment, you may decide to get a little creative by using online applications like Coggle, BitPaper, and YouTube, but our advice below is still applicable:
- Work with your group to develop a growth mindset toward your course material. The mindset of your study group is important for maintaining motivation as you work through course content. Even amidst the challenges, it’s important to think constructively about your course material.
- Identify material that makes for good discussion. One of the benefits of study groups is the opportunity to check your understanding by talking to each other. Take some time to identify the concepts, relationships, or important equations in your course and discuss them together.
- Choose study activities that will train higher order critical thinking skills. It’s likely that you will have to apply, analyze, and evaluate ideas on your exam, so practice these same thinking skills with your group. Annotating diagrams, explaining solutions, drawing concept maps, and creating study guides are great ways to improve your critical thinking skills! Feel free to get a little creative as well!
Final Thought: Social Accountability is Key
Aside from the opportunity you have to multiply your resources, develop higher order thinking skills, and become a more effective learner, study groups are great for maintaining a sense of connection with peers and for improving motivation. As long as the goals and expectations of the group are clear, every student is likely to achieve because they are heard, valued, and held accountable.
Feel free to talk with any of our learning instructors about how to get a study group started and work collaboratively toward your learning goals by calling us at 215-573-9235!
By Staff Writer: Gabriel Angrand, STEM Learning Instructor