Thursday, 28 January 2016

Tools and tips to help you ace group assignments



Group assignments are an essential component of learning, yet when group assignment is uttered its often followed by a collective eye-roll or groan. Thankfully, gone are the days of group assignments being the bane of everyones tertiary-education experience. Weve found the best tools and thrown in a couple of handy tips to help your group assignment run as smoothly as possible.

Online databases

Most universities and institutes will have an electronic resource database that students can access for free. This is where you and your group members can access hundreds of online resources, such as journals and case studies, which can support your studies and research.

Depending on the course you study, The Tax Institute has additional resources available from subject sponsors. For example, if you are studying a Graduate Diploma of Applied Tax Law you will have access to resources from sponsors such as Wolters Kluwer CCH and Thomson Reuters.

There are also a number of free or subscription-based databases and search engines useful for finding and accessing articles in academic journals, repositories or other collections of articles. For example, the Australasian Legal Information Institute is a free online resource with state-specific tax and law databases, news and journals.

Collaboration apps

From managing to-do lists to sharing links and files, Trello is a great project management application. Trello brings everything together in the one place and represents your assignments as boards. Creating a board is simple to do, as is adding lists and cards. This function makes it easy to organise work and breaks large assignments into manageable sections. You can assign tasks to fellow users and set due dates, or allow users to claim items they would like to complete. Trello integrates files not only with your computer but with just about every other platform, including OneDrive, Google Drive, Dropbox and many more. Trellos basic features are all available in the free version.

Slack is another great collaboration app that allows users to discuss ideas, ask questions and share files instantly with team members, all in the one place. Slack has different channels that allow for conversations to be organised in different ways from groups to topics. Slack's basic package is free to use. 

When youve complied all your research from online libraries and databases, you can use Evernote to bring all your documents into the one place. Evernote is a great app that allows you to save and share web articles with your group members, as well as take in-text notes. Evernote also has task-tracking capabilities, which allows you to discuss progress with your team. 

Allocate tasks to each member

Group assignments often go awry when theres zero accountability or if boundaries are blurred. Using a collaboration app, such as Trello, is a great way to assign roles and responsibilities to each group member based on their talents and strengths. In saying that, it is also important to be flexible when it comes to offering support and sharing the workload. The most effective collaborative projects are a game of give and take.

Set expectations from the outset

If you want to deliver an exceptional group assignment, communication is key. Setting clear time frames and establishing deadlines in advance will ensure that important tasks unfold smoothly. During your initial meeting, remind group members to flag issues and obstacles as soon as they occur. Once again, using an app like Slack can help create on open dialogue, set clear expectations and will get you closer to your goal.

Embrace active listening

Unlike working independently, group assignments mean committing to listening to your partners perspectives and putting yourself in their shoes. The art of taking the time to listen and provide feedback on other ideas will make your fellow collaborators feel respected and trusted. Making every effort to cultivate strong working relationships can determine whether your joint project succeeds or fails.

Understand how to negotiate conflict

Even if you set clear expectations and listen to your team members input, problems will occasionally arise. If team members disagree on something, allow them the time and space to communicate their issues and vote on the outcome as a group. Knowing how to overcome conflict and turn criticism into constructive feedback is an undeniably powerful skill.

Its worth remembering that career success isn't related to hard skills alone. Whether you aspire to become an accountant or dream about a career in corporate tax, a knack for soft skills such as communicating and collaborating with clients and stakeholders is more likely to ensure that you excel. What are your top tips for collaborative working?

Need the perfect resource tool, have a look at membership with The Tax Institute. Find out more today!