Decide on a time and place
Before all else, you’ll need to decide on a time and place to hold your virtual study session. Of course, since you won’t be meeting at an actual place, choose a video conferencing platform to hold your meet-up. As mentioned, Zoom, Google Hangouts, Skype, or Microsoft Teams can all work. Find one that most of your classmates have already used to avoid technical difficulties. When deciding on a time, it can be challenging to make something work for all of the participants in different time zones. Be sure to communicate with your group about what works well for everyone. Aim to meet with people in the same country or similar time zones.
Set an agenda for your group
Before you meet, set an agenda for what you hope to accomplish during your study group. This goal can differ for each group member, but it might be helpful to share your ideas with the group via email beforehand. Simply jot down your discussion points, any readings or complimentary assignments to review, and what you hope to work on during the session. Setting an agenda will help mitigate some of the awkward silences or time spent figuring out what to do that many students naturally experience in virtual study groups. Furthermore, use a document sharing platform like Google Drive or Dropbox to share important documents, notes, and your agenda with the group. You’ll be able to comment on and edit these documents to maximize your productivity during the study session.
Create responsibilities for each participant
Maybe you’re the person who always ends up leading the group and keeping people on task during study sessions, or maybe you’re the one who sits back and jokes around with your classmates the entire time. One way to avoid this common problem is to assign responsibilities to each participant. At the beginning of your study session, identify one member as the “Leader,” one member as the “Scribe,” and one member as the “Questioner.” The Leader is in charge of leading the conversation, the Scribe is in charge of taking notes and keeping track of the conversation, and the Questioner will ask everyone questions to keep the conversation going. When everyone has a role, they’re way less likely to let one person do all the hard work.
Do your homework ahead of time
Rather than just showing up for the study group, be prepared with your notes, readings, and comments to engage the group. Depending on your study group’s agenda, you may assign each member a topic to teach the rest of the group, or you may give each member a section of the reading to review and present to others. Study groups can often consist of participants wasting time wondering how to be productive, but by doing your homework ahead of time, you’ll come to the group with knowledge to share with others and a willingness to learn from others.
Balance work with fun
Of course, any study group is bound to delve into lighthearted conversation at times. The point of the study group is to interact with people and break up long periods of studying in isolation. Especially if your school is online, you’re probably craving some meaningful social interaction right now. So don’t forget to enjoy yourself while balancing that fun with school work. Encourage participants to bring their own snacks to the virtual meet-up. Play some soft music if people are comfortable with it. Even kick off the study group with some fun icebreakers or get-to-know-you questions. Above all, help people feel at ease and excited for the next virtual study group. Hopefully you can make your study group a weekly recurrence for the remainder of the semester.