ICT Processes for Virtual Academic Research Teams (VART) in Academia

ICT Processes for Virtual Academic Research Teams (VART) in Academia

Jason S. Lecoure (Saint Mary’s University, Canada) and Wendy R. Carroll (Acadia University, Canada)
Copyright: © 2009 |Pages: 6
DOI: 10.4018/978-1-59904-845-1.ch052
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Abstract

The purpose of this chapter is to bring these smaller self-forming, informal academic research teams into focus to understand the effects of ICT and associated processes which have emerged to support such formations. In addition, the identification of different traits within the small teams will be noted. This chapter will provide insight about virtual academic research teams (VART) based on the literature to date in this area as well as some insights about VARTs from two recent exploratory empirical studies (Carroll & Lecoure, 2005; Lecoure & Carroll, 2004). Specifically, it will address questions relating to the ways in which these teams come about, the different types of virtual research teams that exist, and the possible practices which result in the success these teams.
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The Evolution Of Varts

Understanding Virtual Teams

Advances in information technology over the past decades have increased the number of teams in various settings working across time and space. This new organizational formation has heightened interest by both academics and practitioners to explore virtual work teams. Although there is an increasing emphasis in the literature relating to the study of virtual teams, the work is still in its early stages of development (Powell, Piccoli, & Ives, 2004). The most prominent theme in the literature to date has focused on the challenges experienced by virtual teams, especially as relates to media richness and information communication technology tools (Andres, 2002; Maznevski & DiStefano, 2000; Powell et al., 2004). Specifically, this research has focused on the ways in which a business deals with the opportunities and challenges that are associated with the development of virtual teams and its effective use of information mediated technology. Studies have provided insights regarding the use of various communication channels from collaborative such as face to face, telephone, video conferencing, and instant messaging to asynchronous such as letters and e-mail (Majchrzak, Rice, Malhotra, King, & Ba, 2000; Pauleen, 2003; Townsend, DeMarie, & Hendrickson, 1996; Watson-Manheim, Chudoba, & Crowston, 2002). More recent works have begun to focus on areas such as team design, culture, training, relationship building, trust, communication, coordination, and task/technology structure fit.

Numerous definitions of a virtual team have been posited in the literature to date. Although variations exist between the definitions, most researchers agree in general terms that a virtual team is a group that is distributed and works across time and space using information communication technology (see Ahuja, Galletta, & Carley, 2003; Bell & Kozlowski, 2002; Jarvenpaa & Leidner, 1999; Lipnack & Stamps, 1999; Manzevski & Chudoba, 2000; Powell et al., 2004; Wong & Burton, 2000). One issue that has arisen with respect to definitions and terms in this area is the semantics concerning the words “team” and “group.” Both terms are used interchangeably. However, it has been noted by some researchers that the term team “should be reserved for those groups that display high levels of interdependency and integration among members” (Powell et al., 2004). Considering this distinction, this article will define a virtual team as a “group of people who interact through interdependent tasks guided by a common purpose that work across space, time and organizational boundaries with links strengthened by webs of communication technologies” (Lipnack & Stamps, 1997, p. 7).

Key Terms in this Chapter

Distributed Groups: Refers to a group formation when members are y located in different geographic areas.

Media Richness: Refers to the amount of information which can be exchanged and transmitted through a specific communications channel such as telephone, email and face to face. Some channels provide for a stronger capability for exchanging information effectively.

Virtual Team: “A group of people who interact through interdependent tasks guided by a common purpose that work across space, time and organizational boundaries with links strengthened by webs of communication technologies” (Lipnack & Stamps, 1997, p. 7).

VART Team Formations: Four types of team formations for VARTs as identified through an exploratory study which include mentor, expert, common interest and collegial.

AIRT: Academic International Research Teams are normally formally established and work on research initiatives which involve several countries and cultures.

VART: Virtual Academic Research Teams are both formally and informally establish teams that work in separate geographic locations and communicate with team members using information communication technologies.

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