Group work sucks

What students tell me: Group work sucks. What I do about it: Assign a group project. The big secret in all of this? They produce great stuff.

Here’s a video one of my classes put together in April. It’s part of a website highlighting Gallaudet University clubs that have gone quiet — lost clubs that the students felt should “be heard.”


The group project is a required exercise in a general studies course I teach to first-year college students.

Sometimes, the project goes well. Most of the time, though… well, it devolves into disarray and misery. We research best practices in team work and project management and discuss the exasperating moments. When the stress climbs toward freak-out levels, I remind them that the project grade weighs about as much as a flea in the overall score for the course.

I started this concept to arm freshmen for team assignments later in college and the work place.  I keep doing it because, every term, the students surprise me with feats of creativity and leadership.

The video above began when eight students were tasked with creating a website and a launch event to announce it. Over a few weeks, with about 30 minutes of class time per week, the teammates brainstormed themes and chose one by consensus, decided which clubs would be their focus, designed a flyer, planned their event, produced the video, created website copy, and put it all into a website. And then — here came the big surprise for GSR 150-01 — they added closed captions to the 8+ minute video (if you didn’t notice the little “CC” button, give it a click now!)

Wait a minute, you’re probably thinking. Closed captions? Isn’t that the accommodation corporations like Netflix have resisted for years, or insisted was too much of a burden, despite the Americans with Disabilities Act? 

Yes. Even though closed captions are a royal pain, time consuming, and technically challenging, a bunch of 18- to-20-year-olds decided it was important to make their video accessible to all — even the large group you might call the ASL-impaired. And one of them made closed captions happen.

I just hope they forgive me for the exasperation.



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