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Phoenix Forward

How to create a winning college support team

Team learning

When Michelle Hoaglund began studying for her bachelor’s degree in the psychology program at University of Phoenix, she was determined to succeed.

A working mother of two, Hoaglund quickly figured out that she couldn’t do it alone and that whomever she worked with would be key to her educational success. So she decided to form an all-star team.

“For the rest of my program, these same students became my support system and took the stress out of my schoolwork,” says Hoaglund, who graduated this past June and has maintained friendships with the four other women in her group.

She suggests taking the following steps to create a successful learning system:

Find the right people.

Find the right people.

“Pay close attention to your classmates in your first few classes,” Hoaglund advises. “Look for students who match your work ethic.” She sought students who aimed for the highest grades.

It might take several classes, Hoaglund notes, but once you’ve identified those students, ask if they’re interested in working with you through your degree program.

Though not always possible, you can also try to be on the same learning team — a group of four or five students who work together throughout a semester, collaborating on projects and presentations.

Create a Circle of Friends.

Create a Circle of Friends.

Request that your academic advisor place you and the rest of your group in a University program called Circle of Friends. With your advisor’s approval, Circle of Friends arranges for your group members to be in the same classes throughout your degree program, so you can work together until graduation.

Use an online discussion group.

Use an online discussion group.

“Once the circle was created,” Hoaglund says, “we took it one step further and formed our own private group on Facebook.” Team members then used the Facebook® page to post questions, hold discussions and seek feedback on coursework. “Our Facebook group became our lifeline to making it through school,” Hoaglund says. The PhoenixConnect® academic social network can be used for the same purpose.

Although all five members of Hoaglund’s Circle of Friends were not always on the same learning team in each course, they were always in the same classes, which allowed them to confer about assignments.

Engage with your group.

Engage with your group.

Ask questions, give feedback and share what you know. In Hoaglund’s case, as the women got to know each other, they became champions of one another’s goals.

For instance, when Hoaglund missed classes for a week because her town was flooded, her group made sure she didn’t fall behind. “They were like, ‘You can do it. Let me walk you through what you missed,’” she says.

“We all had different backgrounds, politics and religious beliefs, but it didn’t matter,” Hoaglund adds. “What mattered was that we created a place where we could vent any kind of frustration, knowing there were always people there for support.”


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