Most lists of study tips include a suggestion to join a study group. There’s a good reason for this. Joining a study group is a great way to practice recalling material, collaborate with peers, and get questions answered.
But how do you form or meet up with a study group if you’re going to school remotely?
You do it the same way you attend your classes: on video chat. An online study group is a particularly good idea right now, when many students are feeling isolated from friends and classmates. Forming study groups with friends and studying together over video chat kills two birds with one stone: you get work done while spending time with friends.
However, it is hard enough to stay focused during in-person study group sessions. When you take your study group online, things can get even more difficult. So, here are some tips to help make your study group sessions effective and efficient, whether you’re meeting virtually or in person.
Have an agenda and keep track of time
It can be easy to get off topic and start not studying, especially when the other group members are your close friends. While it’s good to take breaks occasionally, the point of study groups is to actually study. If you veer off-topic and don’t return to the subject at hand, a study group session can end up being a waste of time.
To stay productive, create an agenda or plan for the study group before the meeting, or at the very beginning of the meeting. Have a test coming up next week? Figure out what you want to cover during that meeting, and get to it.
For example, you can plan to review a few chapters of study material, or cover lectures from the first three weeks of class. The group should decide how much time to spend on each chapter or lecture, making sure to get everything in during the meeting.
After creating an agenda, designate someone to keep an eye on time throughout the study session. During busy times like midterms and finals, it’s especially important to respect everyone’s time: your friends may have other assignments due soon!
Here is a sample agenda for a study group meeting:
- Outline a study guide (15 minutes)
- Go over major concepts in Chapters 1-3 (30 minutes)
- Take a break (5 minutes)
- Review any difficult concepts or questions about the material (25 minutes)
- Generate practice questions (10 minutes)
- Test each other with the practice questions (30 minutes)
Divide up the material
Another effective use of your study group’s time is to work together to create a comprehensive study guide. You can work on the study guide before or during the study group session. Rather than have one person do all of the work, divide up the material evenly between group members. One person can do Chapter 1, another person Chapter 2, and so on.
Before or during the meeting, group members can work on their section of the study guide, become “experts” on those concepts, and highlight potential areas of confusion.
Then, in the study session, have everyone share their study guide section and combine the information in one document.
Come up with questions before the meeting
One of the benefits of studying with other people is getting clarification on confusing concepts. People learn differently. A concept you find easy to understand could be really challenging for someone else.
Have everyone in the study group come to the meeting prepared with a few questions they had about the test material. That way, the group can focus on the areas members need to review, rather than going over material that everyone already understands.
Collaborate with tools that allow multiple editors
Especially when working remotely, it’s nice to use tools that allow everyone to edit the same document at the same time. That way, instead of having five different documents full of people’s notes, you can all work together on one document. This could be a study guide, a list of questions, or notes from class.
Google Docs is a great, free tool that allows you and your friends to collaborate remotely.
Generate practice questions and test each other
A great way to learn material is to practice recalling the information you need to know for your test. Learning scientists call this the testing effect. When you attempt to answer questions, you can assess what you actually know and what you need to review. This allows you to focus on the content you don’t know as well.
To take advantage of the testing effect, study group members can generate practice questions together and then quiz each other. Everyone can take turns asking and answering questions. If you have a larger study group, divide up into smaller groups so that everyone can get plenty of practice.
While recalling answers to questions is a great way to study, explaining concepts to others also has its benefits. If you are able to explain a concept to someone else, then chances are you have a solid understanding of the concept.
Make a note of any concepts that remain unclear
Sometimes there are concepts that nobody in the group really understands, despite best efforts. If your group can’t figure out a practice question, or there are still some lingering questions about a concept, write down these questions and concerns.
One of the study group members can then bring up these questions to the teacher, professor, or teaching assistant later on—whether in class, at office hours, or via email. Then they can relay the answers to the rest of the group.
Create and share Quizlet study sets 😉
If you’re studying together for a test that requires memorization, team up to make Quizlet study sets during a study session. Each group member can make a study set for one chapter or set of lectures, and then share that set with the rest of the group. Then each member will have study sets for all the material.
For example, if you have a French test coming up, your study group can divide up the vocabulary on the test, make Quizlet sets, and then share them with each other. You can even create a class or folder to organize these sets.
These tips will help you work more effectively and collaborate better with your friends and peers—in person or online. What tips do you have for studying effectively in groups? Let us know in the comments!