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How to Improve Group Work

Group projects can be among the more challenging assignments you’ll tackle in college.  But this bad reputation has more to do with the group members than the assignments themselves. If you’re paired with difficult or disengaged group members, it can make the entire process harder than it needs to be, and working with others generally comes with personality conflicts. So how do you successfully get through a group project?

When working on a group project you need to strive for five things: Understanding, Responsibility, Organization, Communication, and Cooperation.

Understanding

With a group project, you want to start on the right foot. How you begin can set the mood for the entire project.

The best way to begin is to make sure all group members understand the assignment. This will make completing the assignment easier for everyone and starts you on the path to a good grade. Take time to go over the instructions or prompt together and break them down into key points. Be sure everyone in the group understands the assignment before proceeding to the planning stage.

Responsibility

A group assignment, like any other assignment, requires personal responsibility. Group members should pull their weight, but they should also take an active role in the group. Students should accomplish tasks and be able to measure their contributions through self-management and accountability.

While you can float by with only one group member doing the work in high school, projects become much more difficult and time-consuming in college. Without every group member pulling their weight, the entire group’s grade can be affected heavily. Don’t be afraid to set the expectation that there will be no free riders in your group.

Organization

1. Determine what your assignment is.

Discern what is being asked of you. What is the assignment and what does your group need to do to complete it? When you know what your assignment is, break it down into key points. Know what is expected of you and where you need to start. If you are to choose a topic to cover, know the options and criteria you must meet. You may be asked to meet a word or slide count or a certain number of sources – be sure to adhere to those.

Ex: My group is assigned a 15 slide presentation on the Battle of Yorktown. From this information, we can determine:

  • The project is a presentation.
  • The subject is the Battle of Yorktown.
  • Criterion includes a 15 slide count.

2. Assign roles.

Groups often take a “divide and conquer” approach to projects, opting to split the work among themselves, making sure all group members have a job or task to work on independently. Other groups work all together nearly every step of the way, using their combined skills to tackle the work. Whatever group you find yourself in, assign roles to each member of the group, and define the responsibilities that come with the titles. Individual contribution is key to having an effective work group. Having roles will make the project run more smoothly and can aid in decision making and problem-solving. Potential roles include project leader, note taker or recorder, organizer, and editor.

3. Create a timeline.

From start date to due date, plan and schedule key points of the project’s timeline. Decide as a group when you’d like certain tasks to be completed and how you’ll go about meeting deadlines. Your group should also try to find time to meet in person or online to work together, give updates, and check-in on overall progress.

4. Set goals.

Decide as a group what you’d like to achieve during this project and how and when you plan on accomplishing your goals. Some goals you might try to set are completing tasks by a certain date or gaining knowledge on the subject you’re studying.

Communication

Communication is the sharing of information, thoughts, and ideas. Without proper communication, group members can cause major damage. Key points and details may be missed, group members may become lost or left out of the loop, and the project may become jumbled because of the clumping of several people’s work with no neatly packaged final product.

You want to be able to easily contact your group members in and outside of class to work on your project, address any issues, and be overall prepared for the due date. How you do this is up to your group, but the goal is to be easily accessible. Exchange numbers, set up study sessions in person or over the phone, and use messaging apps to keep in touch.

You also want to share information and resources in a convenient and reliable way. Shareable documents like those on Google Docs’ and collaborative organizational tools like Padlet and Hive are great for organizing and storing info to be used by many people at once. Having materials available to all group members will benefit the group in the long run, allowing for independent work and seamless integration of separate ideas and resources.

TIP: Want to improve group communication? Check out ezTalks’ “How to Improve Communication and Collaboration in the Workplace

Cooperation – Improving Group Dynamics

How to deal with difficult project team members

When working with a disengaged or uncooperative group member, you have three options:

  1. What is the problem?

Are your groupmates lazy? Demanding? Problematic? Some issues are more easily fixed than others, so decide if your partner can be persuaded or appeased, if compromises must be made, or if there is simply no reasoning with your difficult peer.

  1. Try to come to an understanding.

If your groupmates can be reasoned with, help them understand the importance of working together, if only for the project. Insist on cooperation or compromise and hopefully, you’ll get through to them.

  1. Inform your professor.

If you find there’s no working with a group member, contact your professor to request mediation or to help decide how to proceed. If you cannot gain cooperation, your professor can assist in finding a solution.

  1. Deal with it and do the work for them.

This is actually a non-option or last resort. Allowing free riders to go on without contributing will only increase the workload of the rest of your team and do nothing to prevent this sort of behavior in the future. While it is a choice you can make, it is not one that will benefit you much. Consider other alternatives before you choose to stick it out.

TIP: Want to know more about improving group dynamics? Check out MindTools’ “Improving Group Dynamics – Helping Your Team Work More Effectively”

Be sure to connect with us @ecampusdotcom on Twitter, Instagram, & Facebook for more resources, tips, and some great giveaways! And when it’s time for textbooks, eCampus.com has you covered for all your course material needs at savings up to 90%!

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Must-Read Non-Fiction Books For College Students

When you go to college, you meet new people, see new places, and learn new things. You undoubtedly have a lot to learn the next few years, so why not get a jump start? Books are one of life’s greatest teachers. They can influence how you see yourself and the world around you. With every book you read, you’re exposed to new perspectives that will help you understand others and open yourself up to all the possibilities ahead.

Taking the time to read improves your ability to focus, enhances your vocabulary, strengthens your empathy, and provides new experiences through a variety of characters. In a university setting, where people from all walks of life are studying different fields and engaged in different interests, a book can be the bridge to understanding your differences and pushing against your own assumptions.

We’ve created a two-part blog series full of must-read books for college students as a starting point to prepare you for this exciting chapter in life. While reading fiction takes you to the imaginative world, non-fiction unfolds the reality; you get to know real people and their lives. Reading about the experiences of others can teach you valuable life lessons, help you avoid pitfalls and make the most of new opportunities. In this first part, we’ll explore non-fiction titles. Be sure to check back for part two – fiction titles! 

Some of these titles may be familiar, others may not – but they all have a valuable story to share. These books cover everything from overcoming obstacles and following your dreams, to learning valuable life lessons about self-discovery, and more.

Non-Fiction:

The Defining Decade: Why Your Twenties Matter And How to Make the Most of Them Now  by Dr. Meg Jay

Rather than falling in line with what everyone else their age is doing; this book helps twenty-somethings think about the choices they’re making now and how those can positively or negatively affect them later in life. The book covers topics ranging from self-care and healthy relationships to finding a meaningful career. Bonus: Check out this TED Talk where author Dr. Meg Jay shares three pieces of advice for how twenty-somethings can reclaim adulthood in the defining decade of their lives.

Lean In for Graduates by Sheryl Sandberg

Following her first bestseller Lean In: Women, Work, and the Will to Lead – Sandberg has enlisted the help of experts for Lean In for Graduates, a handbook that offers instruction and inspiration for the next generation. Lean In for Graduates includes the full text of the original book as well as new chapters on finding your first job, negotiating your salary, listening to your inner voice, and leaning in for women of color and millennial men.

How to Win Friends and Influence People in the Digital Age by Dale Carnegie

 Dale Carnegie’s book How to Win Friends and Influence People, first published in 1936, has been rebooted to include the complexities of modern times and will teach you how to communicate with diplomacy and tact, project your message widely and clearly, be a more effective leader, increase your ability to get things done, and optimize the power of digital tools.

The Power of Habit by Charles Duhigg

In The Power of Habit, award-winning business reporter Charles Duhigg takes a deep dive into why habits exist and how we can manipulate them to our advantage. This book explores an interesting argument: The key to exercising regularly, being more productive, and achieving success is understanding how habits work. By harnessing this power, we can transform our businesses, our communities, and our lives.

I Want More Pizza: Real World Money Skills for High School, College, and Beyond by Steve Burkholder

By realizing that he had many questions about financial literacy while in high school and college, Burkholder became an educator and wrote this book to help other learners like him. The book offers actionable, easy-to-understand information to help students build good habits and learn how to live within their means.

Designing Your Life: How to Build A Well-Lived, Joyful Life by Bill Burnett and Dave Evans 

In this book, Burnett and Evans show us how design thinking can help us create a life that is both meaningful and fulfilling, regardless of who or where we are, what we do for a living, or how young or old we are. The same design thinking responsible for amazing technology can be used to design and build your career and your life, a life of fulfillment and joy, constantly creative and productive, one that always holds the possibility of surprise.

Year of Yes: How to Dance it Out, Stand in the Sun, and Be Your Own Person by Shonda Rhimes

Shonda Rhimes, the mastermind behind TV favorites like “Grey’s Anatomy” and “Scandal,” chronicles how one little word changed her life forever. An introvert at heart, she explains how saying “yes” for one year impacted her in ways she did not expect. The book chronicles her life after her Year of Yes had begun – when Shonda learned to explore, empower, applaud, and love her truest self. Yes!

Hidden Figures: The American Dream and the Untold Story of the Black Women Mathematicians Who Helped Win the Space Race by Margot Lee Shetterly

“Hidden Figures” follows the interwoven accounts of four African American women who participated in some of NASA’s greatest successes. It chronicles their careers over nearly three decades as they faced challenges, forged alliances, and used their intellect to change their own lives, and their country’s future.

The Book of Joy: Lasting Happiness in a Changing World by the Dalai Lama

Nobel Peace Prize award winners His Holiness the Dalai Lama and Archbishop Desmond Tutu have survived more than fifty years of exile and the soul-crushing violence of oppression. Despite their hardships, they are two of the most joyful people on the planet. In this book, you get to explore the Nature of True Joy and confront the Obstacles of Joy—from fear, stress, and anger to grief, illness, and death. They then offer us the Eight Pillars of Joy, which provide the foundation for lasting happiness.

Whichever you choose to start with – cross some of these off your reading list, and trust me, they’ll leave you feeling more prepared for the adventures ahead! 

Stay tuned for part two: Must Read Fiction Books for College Students. 
Be sure to connect with us @ecampusdotcom on Twitter, Instagram, & Facebook for more resources, tips, and some great giveaways! And when it’s time for textbooks, eCampus.com has you covered for all your course material needs at savings up to 90%!

How to Save Money On Food in College

In college, spending is a constant. Tuition, housing, and transportation can weigh heavily on your bank account, so you want to save where you can. Often, students will sacrifice when it comes to food, choosing to miss meals or opt for snacks rather than a balanced, full meal. It’s a quick way to save a little cash, but it can result in a lack of nutritional health. What other options are out there? Here are some solid ways to save money on food.

Cooking at Home

Cooking is an easy way to save money and improve your diet. By cooking at home you can have more control over your health, gain new skills, and be more financially conscious.

Learn to Cook

College is all about developing new skills, and while it may sound difficult, learning to cook is an easy, fun way to save money. Anyone can learn to cook, and there are endless arrays of step-by-step recipes and how-to videos at your fingertips (hint: just browse Pinterest!). You can find fast, easy beginner level meals that taste great. Who knows? You might even be able to show off at Thanksgiving.

TIP: Learning to cook has never been easier! The Welcome Table’s “How to Learn to Cook (for Beginners)” and Bon Appétit’s “The 7 Essentials of Becoming a Better Cook” are great resources for beginners and future chefs! 

Learning how to cook has become a health-focused hobby,  making it a great way to begin creating your own healthy eating habits. You don’t even have to be a pro! And money is no issue. There are plenty of healthy options on a low budget.

TIP: Want to eat healthily but don’t have much money? Find tips in The Girl on Bloor’s blog post, “EATING HEALTHY ON A BUDGET + 10 CHEAP DINNER IDEAS.”

You can also invest in cooking tools to help you out in the kitchen. Think about purchasing appliances, dishes, and utensils that fit your needs. While it seems like an expensive goal, having cooking tools and appliances on hand can be a big money saver in the long run, especially if you live in a dorm where they are not provided. Cooking tools also give you more food options and make meal prep easier.

Plan & Prep

Meal planning and meal preparation save time and money, especially for a college student’s hectic lifestyle. Meal planning entails finding recipes or choosing meal ideas and buying ingredients needed for the meal, while meal prep is about actually preparing the food to be cooked.

Meal planning eliminates worries about what your next meal will be and how you will afford it by planning ahead and managing funds. Not to mention, indecision is removed, so you won’t waste twenty minutes trying to decide what you want to eat two or three times a day. Finding recipes and buying the needed supplies ahead of time will make the rest of the week a breeze.

TIP: New to meal planning? Check out thekitchn’s article, “The Beginner’s Guide to Meal Planning: What to Know, How to Succeed, and What to Skip.”

Meal prep makes quick meals fast and convenient; prepping them in advance reduces cooking time and may only require a few steps like assembly or microwaving. Prepping meals at the start of the week essentially does half of the work for the rest of the week. The time it takes to prep your meals is easily worth the time you save that can be used for other activities like homework or free-time.

TIP: Want to learn how to meal prep? See Healthline’s article “How to Meal Prep — A Beginner’s Guide” for tips and info!

Cheap Meals Are Your Friend

College students have a particular brand when it comes to their lifestyle. Lack of sleep, a huge workload, and the signature broke college student foods often prevail. Ramen, mac n’ cheese, and a collection of junk food – these foods aren’t usually healthy, but they’re really cheap. Ready-to-make meals are the savior of college students everywhere. Until you get tired of the taste.

While you shouldn’t eat ramen all the time, that sort of cheap meal is a cost-efficient option you’ll likely benefit from. And they come in a variety of options, like instant noodles, frozen microwave dinners, and pizza in all forms. Cooking is a useful skill, but it isn’t always the first priority. Stock up on ready-to-make options.

There are other options besides ready-to-make meals, too. Easy beginner meals and dining hall delicacies can be beneficial, cost-efficient options that can be healthy and tasty. Don’t count them out if you have access to them! The internet is home to plenty of recipes to suit your needs, and you never know what you’ll find on campus.

TIP: Want to eat cheaply without sacrificing your wallet or tastebuds? Check out Goodful on Buzzfeed’s “22 College Eating Hacks That Are Cheap, Easy, And Healthyish” for tips and tricks on making the most of what you have.

How to Make the Most of Your Money

Budgeting

Meal planning allows you to budget, or plan the amount of money you will spend on food. Determine how much money you have to spend on food. You can make a weekly or monthly budget, factoring in groceries, eating out, and snacks. Have a plan for your spending habits.

Ex. You have $70 to spend on food for the week, or $10 a day. After adding up the cost of each item you need, you plan to spend $50 at the grocery store. That leaves $20 to eat out once or twice during the week.

Budgeting also makes grocery shopping more effective. With a budget in mind, writing grocery lists becomes a more organized process, especially with a meal plan in mind. And rather than filling up the cart with whatever you see, you have a plan of action and an ideal spending limit. With both aspects of shopping – expenses and goods – in mind, a student can make the best choices for themselves.

TIP: Budgeting doesn’t have to be a struggle. See “How To Make A Food Budget You’ll Stick To” from Work Week Lunch to learn how to make a realistic budget!

Student Discounts

Many businesses have student discounts, especially those near campus. Restaurants, movie theaters, and your campus’ corporate partners can off.

Couponing + Couponing Apps

Couponing is known to be a time-consuming but beneficial hobby. Coupons reduce prices of everyday products and can make shopping more accessible to those with less money. People who coupon actively look for and pursue deals they find. College students would do well to learn how to coupon. It could be a major advantage not just for their food budgets, but also their budgets for basic necessities like hygiene and cleaning products.

TIP: Want to learn how to coupon? “How to Start Couponing for Beginners: 2020 Guide” from Thrifty Nomads can give you all the information you need!

Fast Food

While eating fast food all the time can be costly and unhealthy, it can be a good change every once in a while.

Take advantage of as many deals and promotions as you can! Dollar menu items can be much less costly than items on the regular menu, making them better options for eating out. Students can even purchase several items to last a second meal. Promotions and happy hours can offer free and reduced prices, so if you find yourself hungry at favorable times of day, treating yourself isn’t a bad idea.

TIP: Who doesn’t like free stuff? Save The Student’s “Ultimate list of free stuff” is your guide to freebies from all sorts of restaurants, stores, and websites!

Be sure to connect with us @ecampusdotcom on Twitter, Instagram, & Facebook for more resources, tips, and some great giveaways! And when it’s time for textbooks, eCampus.com has you covered for all your course material needs at savings up to 90%!

Works Cited