In the past I have tried to avoid writing public responses to articles that others write in The Minaret. However, after reading Kerianne McGraw’s article last week regarding the overuse of group work and other educational tools in the College of Business, I must speak up. After reading through the article numerous times, I get the distinct sense that Ms. McGraw fails to grasp how truly important group projects are to preparing us for the not just the business world, but just about any career where you’re going to work with other people. I also find her assertion that professors assign too many group projects to be well overstated.
Having been employed in multiple industries almost nonstop from the age of 16 to the present, I can tell you firsthand that strong interpersonal skills are a must for nearly any job. I worked for five years in the retail industry holding multiple job titles, ranging from part-time sales floor stock boy to custom framer. In the entire time I worked in retail I can tell you that I was much better at dealing with my co-workers, as well as customers, having worked in group environments in school.
After being in the computer information systems major program for three years, I ventured out into the business world and had the opportunity to participate in multiple internships. The first was in a traditional office environment working as a part of the Network Communications Group. Yes that’s right, you’ll find that many corporations break up their departments into smaller working groups so that they can work more efficiently among each other.
I was even more surprised to find out that when working on projects of large and small scale, people from the departments involved were assigned to teams to work together on accomplishing their goals. When these project teams gathered to do work, it was not at a time they would normally be together with everyone else they worked with – in our case the classroom environment. Instead, they scheduled special meeting times to get work done.
As you can see in the business world, the ability to work well in groups and schedule your time with them efficiently is an important skill. Expanding further a bit on scheduling your time, I couldn’t help but notice a comment left on our website by Dr. Anne Stockedell-Giesler, Professor of English, who addresses the fact that students are expected to be spending two hours on work outside of class per credit hour.
“I say this not unsympathetically–I mean, I’d love it if I only had to work 12 hours a week, instead of attending countless meetings, reading several hundred pages of student writing per week, meeting with students, and eking out a moment whenever possible to do my own research. But, alas, the ‘real world’ doesn’t work that way.”
Dr. S-G’s statement shows the realities of how work is done in the real world. Most full-time jobs you will encounter out in the world claim you are expected to work 40 hours a week, but as most long-time businesspeople can tell you, it will generally be more. College is the exact same way. Classes are designed for you to be learning from activities both in and outside of class. If you can’t handle multiple project meetings as well as your usual work every week, then perhaps you should consider a different career path.
I have been involved in at least two projects in addition to my usual studies, working at The Minaret, and a job, and still had time for a social life for the last two years. Professors are not expected to take into consideration your other classes and social activities when giving assignments, just like your boss will not when you reach the real world. They assume that you will get the job done without excuses about not being able to find time to do it.
For those who haven’t yet gotten to the point in your collegiate career that you’ve become inundated with projects, I have some advice for you. Start by discussing classes that you will be taking in the future with your classmates as well as professors and find out what the workload will be like. You’ll be surprised how much you can find out. From there, you’ll want to take these suggestions into consideration when making your schedules. I can tell you personally that you never want to double up on any capstone classes in the same semester. In the case of you MIS majors out there, that means don’t take ITM 419 and MGT 431 together. You will not survive unless you have no life, even then it won’t be an enjoyable semester.
I hope I have shed some light on the subject for those of you out there like Ms. McGraw who believe group work was created just to make us students miserable. If you still believe that, I feel sorry for you, because things won’t be getting better anytime soon. All I can tell you is to find a way to make the best of it, bro!
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