I started a masters program a few weeks ago. Tuesday is the due date for the last project in the first class. We had three weeks to do it, where “it” includes a 10 page lab report on password cracking tools, a 10 page white paper discussing a particular medical organization, its data breach(es!), and what we’d convey to the board for an action plan moving forward. Good bit of work, but spread over 3 weeks and 5 people, presumably not so bad.
The first week mostly went by, and nothing happened. Note: our group, as are the other groups in the class, was randomly assigned by the professor. Further, because it’s an online program, none of us had ever met or interacted with each other before. We had a deliverable due a week in for a communications plan and a project plan. I had vowed to not be the stuckee trying to herd cats, but as the week went by, I eventually caved and setup the group meeting. We “met” and established regular checkpoints on Sunday, roughed in a communications and project plan, with a goal of completing our initial research and building out a rough outline by the following Friday.
Friday came, and the shared outline document had… my contributions. Another team member had added two links with no context as to why we’d use them. Another teammate had been in the document and edited it – to remove a character and replace it. Not looking strong. I asked each team member for commitments, documented them in our outline, and we said we’d meet again on Sunday, that they’d work on the outline building off of what I’d put together.
We met on Sunday. I’d committed to working up the lab report so it was out of the way. That took me a good portion of Saturday, as the assignment guidance required me to interrogate each password separately, and across 16 passwords with two different cracking strategies, there’s a good bit of tending and screen captures. On Saturday, I had a system, worked it through, and then wrote up the paper, which included several discussion questions outside the scope of the lab itself, requiring further research. Answered all but one of the questions, and bounced a question to the professor to help us better tune our lab report response. On Sunday, the team met again, and our outline was… no further. But the team divided the sections we thought needed covered in the whitepaper, each team member took a few segments, and each team member committed to writing their section before this past Friday. The theory was that I had written the lab report, we’d pull in some small sections from that, but that the rest of the team was responsible for the lift on the whitepaper, and I’d help with the smoothing of the paper and the setup of the presentation.
It’s now the final Sunday before things are due. On Friday, most sections of the paper were still empty. I pointed that out Friday morning in our group chat and said I wasn’t bailing folks out. Members of the team collaborated on Saturday morning, though still not in the document itself. We’re now on the final Sunday call, and folks are attempting to arrange the bits of content that they’ve written into something. We’re still missing segments of information and are over page count, grammatically incoherent in some places, and just a mess overall.
Did I mention I hate group projects? My only saving grace is that I can demonstrate my own individual contributions through the completed paper and through version history in Google Docs. Several are now slogging through online. I’ve left the call but said I’ll be on standby once the folks who are still wrestling thing they’re in better shape so we can do the pruning of the paper and work the presentation. UURRRRRRGHH!!!