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At our university, we have a Student Computing Group of about 25 students. I would describe about 1/3 as self-motivated, innovative, and/or having some level of professional, technical experience. Personally, I am a grad student with about 2 years of experience developing web applications, from requirement development to system administration. I do not mean disrespect to the remaining students, and I am by no means perfect either. I am glad that everyone is interested in participating, but a majority of the students need to be told what to do and how to do it in order to get anything done.

We are dividing the Student Computing Group into teams that can work on projects in various areas of interest: networking, robotics, mobile apps, and more. Off the top of my head, I figure that one motivated, innovative student can help give instruction to one or two students without impairing productivity too much. I could be completely off base, but that is why I am asking.

What techniques for project management can be applied in a scenario where the majority of team members are dependent on strict requirements and instructions, while also keeping in mind that everyone, including the team leads, will only be able to contribute something like 3-20 hours a week to any given project?

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Some of what you are observing is simply people who are new to the software creation process and they need to get themselves oriented and develop some momentum and things will get better for them. Some of them will never improve much from what you see today.

I think you have come up with a good strategy of pairing the motivated and able students with those who need help. The able students might not be thrilled in some cases but they can learn a lot by teaching. Furthermore, if they are the top producers in school today, they will be the team leads and architects once they start doing this professionally so they need to get experience mentoring others.

The one thing I would say you need to add to the process is that the folks you are designating as leads need to be supported in two respects.

First, you or another overall project lead need to meet with these guys in small groups once a week and discuss their experience leading. Some of these guys are going to be naturals and have people they work well with and there won't be any problems. Others are going to be control freaks or undiplomatic in how they support their colleagues. Someone needs to meet with them to briefly discuss how things are going and be prepared to coach them on coaching or to reassign partners if needed. Some of them may just need simple questions answered.

Second, some of the performers will just decide that it is easier for them to do everything themselves rather than help/let their partners do it. Someone needs to make sure that doesn't happen. Also, make sure that everyone is committing some time to the project each week.

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