The Online Study Group Survival Guide online study group survivalMost people don’t do their jobs completely alone – even if they office alone. Real life requires interaction with people, whether electronically or face-to-face. An important part of online education is learning to connect and work with others via Internet technology.

In case you were wondering, that’s why your high school teachers assigned those group projects. And that’s why you’ll often find group work as part of your post-high-school education. Because learning to get along with people is one of those life skills that takes lots of practice. When you can work with people to achieve goals, you’ll be able to work your way up that career ladder.

If you’ve been assigned to a group that you think may be made up of one part normal, two parts devil spawn, keep reading. In this post, we’ll take a look at some common personality types that make study group dynamics interesting. We’ll offer some tips for surviving and succeeding – and none of our tips involve exorcism of any kind.

The Ringleader.

There’s always one in any group: a natural leader who oozes charisma and quickly takes control. This person usually has a great “big picture” view but can often miss the details. The Ringleader thrives on being the group’s spokesperson because they may enjoy hearing themselves talk. They like to “help” the rest of the group by delegating tasks.

The key to working with this person is to make the most of his or her natural abilities and love of the limelight – but don’t let them overlook key details and don’t let them shrug off their share of the work. Sure, they can read the details of the project out loud for the rest of the group. But make sure, along with the rest of your team, to spell out specific roles and responsibilities, due dates, and any other important details up front to keep things fair for everyone.

The Introvert.

Don’t let this person’s quiet, well-mannered demeanor fool you: this is somebody who knows how to get things done, who usually has a very well-informed opinion and tends to be a major asset to any group.

Make your group an inclusive, safe place to participate by setting “no wet blanket” ground rules up front. When introverts feel welcome to share their thoughts and opinions, they’ll often shine. This personality type can be  a significant asset to any group – independent, hardworking, often with brilliant ideas. They’re just not particularly forthcoming with them. Don’t pressure or bully them to share – just be inclusive and they will usually surprise you.

The Cantankerous.

Speaking of wet blankets – if there’s a blanket of any kind to be thrown, there’s usually one person who will pitch one at everyone with both hands. This person may not have learned many social graces, or, they just plain don’t care whether they make anyone uncomfortable. They have a negative attitude and are often disrespectful to the point of distraction from the group’s purpose. At the extreme, they spew hateful, offensive commentary and bully others in the group.

Often times, when someone is pushing boundaries in a group, it only takes one or two people to publicly call them on it in order for them to back off, buckle down and participate appropriately. Sometimes, though, you will have to power through in spite of this person’s toxic behavior. Don’t let it affect you or sour your group – stay positive and productive. Plus, it’s always a good idea to make sure you are aware of your institution’s policies on bullying. If you have the option to remove unproductive bullies from your group, remove them. If not, make sure to have backup coverage for the assignment your wet blanket is responsible for so you don’t get left high and dry.

The Free Spirit.

This person is usually very passionate, well-intended, and possibly easily distracted. What they lack in structure and discipline, they make up for with enthusiasm. But unfortunately, enthusiasm doesn’t drive results.

The key to getting something accomplished when working with the free spirit is to provide structure where there isn’t any. This means someone – say, the ringleader – will need to provide reminder emails when tasks are due or break down an assignment into small to-do lists. Most importantly – the free spirit should be held as accountable as the rest of the team for getting the job done.

Learning to achieve goals as a group is a major part of learning how to win at life. And it’s something that you will practice for the rest of your days. Every group or project team is different, but there are always some archetypal personalities that come into play whenever there’s a group of people involved. These are just some ideas for dealing with the various types of personalities you may encounter.

Have you had any opportunities handling any of these types of people? What’s worked for you? Share your experiences here.


Ms. Shelly has spent more than a decade working in higher education. She currently serves as executive vice president for Grantham Education Corporation. Ms. Shelly is passionate about changing lives – about making college education accessible and affordable to more people and preparing students and graduates for success.


One response to “The Online Study Group Survival Guide”

  1. Myvle says:

    nice post about online study group.

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