Digital scholarship projects, by nature, are often group projects. While group projects often get a bad rap, we think they can be successful and even instrumental in creating a successful digital scholarship project. To address the potential pitfalls of group projects, it’s important to define everyone’s roles at the outset. What are the roles and responsibilities of each group member? Does each member agree to these expectations?
For big projects, consider a project compact. Project compacts are a way to lay out, at the outset, the roles and responsibilities of contributors (including collaborating faculty, students, and staff), and how those contributions will be acknowledged. They can address time frame, work scope, project management, and how changes and adaptations can and will be proposed, reviewed, and implemented.
To ensure an equitable group experience, it’s helpful to establish group norms in addition to roles and responsibilities. How will the group communicate? What forms of communication are preferred or unacceptable? How will the group address conflict or roadblocks?
As an instructor, you should plan on scaffolding different steps of the project. By completing the project in phases, you can provide feedback throughout the process and better identify issues as they arise. Additionally, you might ask your students to rotate through different tasks or roles as the project progresses. Doing so can help ensure a more equitable distribution of labor and prevent students from being pigeonholed into certain tasks based on their perceived strengths or weaknesses (e.g., male students doing more of the technical work while female students work on style or design).
At the end of the project, you can ask your students to submit reflections on the process of completing the assignment. Think of this less as a chance for students to tell on their peers and more of an opportunity for them to self-assess their own contributions.