WIL Surprisingly Accurate

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Shades of Aerosols
Creative Commons License photo credit: NASA Goddard Photo and Video

Tohm Curtis

Week #5 – Diary of Eco Finance student

Mid semester break rolls in and Group Assignments begin. Group assignments are one of those marketable nightmares that are the direct result of Work Integrated Learning (WIL). It is one of the many popular ways Higher Education tries to simulate employment to make people more employable.

For those disputing whether Group Assignments are a new thing, let me clarify: All pervasive group assignments are a new thing. A largely mathematical/statistics based assignment was traditionally done by an individual. Now it is given to 5.

While I’ve always criticized Group Assignments as “enough work for 5 people, done by 1.” I find it hard to make a case against them, given the objectives of WIL.

Grossly unfair, inequitable and stressful they do accurately reflect an office environment. That is an individual is recruited into a unit that is to all extents and purposes an unknown to them, much like being randomly assigned to a group of students.

Pareto applies in the office as it does in Group assignments. 80% of the work will be done by 20% of the group. For a group of 5 people this means 1 person. Which is how group assignments generally fall out.

All that’s missing is the aspect of management. In Australia’s culture of ‘working’ managers (people who do the work of the employees, rather than managing the employees), group assignments are close enough. But the ‘rookie’ manager mistake in group assignments is to delegate work to a dead-weight group member.

In the working world you could actually fire this deadweight loss (though generally managers don’t because they either feel more loyalty to the employee/friend than the firm’s customers or it could be politically unpopular). You can’t in a group assignment. Sure you can give them 0% credit, if they sign off on it, but this rarely happens.

No the status-quo is to drag the deadweight along for the glory.

If as a student you want to test out your managerial talent though, you can actually try and delegate. Usually the work is done by one person by default, they are simply the most risk averse or impatient and plough ahead before a group can actually meet.

Few students (and employees) have the maturity to realize there is more reward in mastering group assignments through trial and error than the short run reward of good marks in that particular subject.

Sounds like management to me! Alas, just because the reflection of reality is accurate doesn’t mean it’s good. Universities are supposed to be the cutting edge, and thus should be rising above the unpleasant realities.

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