How to Start an Online Study Group

Online education is exceedingly convenient, allowing you to fit your lectures and assignments amidst your existing busy schedule. Unfortunately, online education can also be exceedingly isolating, as you rarely get the chance to communicate with your professors and classmates face-to-face. If you are the type of student that thrives amidst a community, you might need to go out of your way to connect with your peers during your online degree program, and the best way to form strong and lasting bonds is through a regular study group.

An online study group can improve your grades while boosting your social and emotional wellness. Here are a few tips to help you create an online study group that brings you success:

Establish the Group’s Purpose

“Studying” is a broad term that describes all manner of academic activities, from reading course materials to learning and practicing skills to preparing for exams to completing assignments. Your study group can focus on any one of these tasks, or it can try to encompass them all. Additionally, your study group might be dedicated to a single course, or it might cover an entire course load for a particular program, like a bachelor’s degree in psychology, in which all students are enrolled in the same classes. You should make it clear what the group is trying to include during meet-ups, so you and other members can set appropriate expectations.

Keep Your Group Small

As tempting as it might be to add every member of your massive lecture class to your study group, you should try to keep the group small. You might approach a few students who seem to have similar study habits to you based on your interactions in class discussions, but you should limit your group to around five members. This will make it easier to coordinate meeting times and communicate during meetings without conflicts or cross-talk.

Determine How You Will Meet up

Online education allows students from all over the world to engage with the same courses, which means it probably isn’t feasible for your study group to meet in person. Instead, you should choose a platform that facilitates communication and is easy for everyone to use. With the members of the group, you should determine whether you want to use a text-based tool, like Discord, or a video conferencing service, like Zoom.

Establish Consistent Meeting Times

Your study group should meet on a consistent and predictable basis, to allow members to schedule other elements of their education, work and life around the group. Depending on the group’s goals, you might need to meet once or more per week — or you might only need to meet once per month or before exams. Again, you should talk to your group members to find a time that is free for everyone to get together and study.

Keep Meetings Brief

Experts advise dedicating between two and four hours per credit per week to studying — but your study group meetings certainly should not last so long. You need to have time to study on your own, outside of the group, so you should restrict meetings to about an hour, especially if you are meeting on a weekly basis. This will also make it easier to schedule group meetings, as many people might need to balance other life responsibilities alongside the study group. If you or other members do want to continue engaging with meetings longer than the allotted time, you should be allowed to, but members should be free to go after the first hour.

Choose the Meeting Host

Every group needs a leader. Your study group leader might not make unilateral decisions, but they will help organize and direct conversations to ensure that meetings are productive and efficient. The meeting host will be responsible for communicating with all members before, during and after meetings and structuring meetings to keep everyone on task. Just because you are creating the group doesn’t mean you need to be the host; you might talk to your group members to determine who would function best in the leadership role.

Set Rules for the Study Group

There is always a chance for conflict to arise when people get together. To reduce the possibility of distracting and disturbing conflict, you might work with your group members to create a set of rules that govern member behavior. For example, you might restrict conversations to topics related to program courses, or you might require a certain amount of preparedness from members before meetings. You should also agree on the consequences of breaking established rules, like removal from the group.

 If there is one downside to online education, it is that meeting and interacting with classmates becomes exceedingly difficult. By forming a study group, you can benefit from deep relationships with your peers now and into the future.

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