Creating Virtual Communities That Work: Best Practices for Users and Developers of E-Collaboration Software

Creating Virtual Communities That Work: Best Practices for Users and Developers of E-Collaboration Software

Ashley Van Ostrand (California State University, Channel Islands, Camarillo, CA, USA), Spencer Wolfe (California State University, Channel Islands, Camarillo, CA, USA), Antonio Arredondo (California State University, Channel Islands, Camarillo, CA, USA), Andrea M. Skinner (California State University, Channel Islands, Camarillo, CA, USA), Ramon Visaiz (California State University, Channel Islands, Camarillo, CA, USA), Megan Jones (California State University, Channel Islands, Camarillo, CA, USA) and J. Jacob Jenkins (California State University, Channel Islands, Camarillo, CA, USA)
Copyright: © 2016 |Pages: 20
DOI: 10.4018/IJeC.2016100104
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Abstract

The use and import of virtual collaboration (VC) has increased at an exponential rate. Despite its potential advantages, however, VC continues to be hindered by feelings of distrust, detachment, and even isolation among virtual team members. For each of these reasons, the present study analyzed more than 1,500 survey responses to develop best practices for current users and developers of e-collaboration software. More specifically, this study used an expanded variation of Vorvoreanu's (2008) Website Experience Analysis (WEA) to explore participants' views of the seven most popular VC programs in use today: Basecamp, Dropbox, Google Drive, iDoneThis, Join.me, Skitch, and Skype. Qualitative results of this study revealed the significance of (1) name recognition, (2) interpersonal facilitation, (3) clarity/simplicity, (4) cost consideration, and (5) mobile accessibility. The study's results were then used to develop five corresponding implications for both users and developers: (1) increased integration, (2) expanded physicality, (3) supplemental training, (4) financial entrée, and (5) utilized flexibility.
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Virtual Collaboration

Virtual collaboration (VC) is defined as team members located in more than one geographic location who strive toward a common goal through the use of communication technology (e.g., Kock, 2000, 2008; Konradt & Hoch, 2007; Peters & Manz, 2007). The origins of VC trace itself to the late 1970s, beginning with early research into multiuser spaces and collaborative systems (Tate, Hansberger, Potter, & Wickler, 2014). By the late-1980s, the phrase cooperative learning was coined to describe instructional approaches that allowed students to work together online (Breen, 2013). During the late-1990s, I-Rooms became a popular way to define computer-mediated environments used for intelligent interaction, and by the mid-2000s both virtual worlds and virtual collaboration environments were created to “supplement the existing social web with virtual spaces that provide a means for the simultaneous presence of individuals” (Tate, Hansberger, Potter, & Wickler, 2014, p. 2-3; Bosch-Sijtsema & Sivunen, 2013).

Today, there are a myriad of terms and definitions used to describe VC processes: groupwares (Munkvold & Zigurs, 2005), online environments (Breen, 2013), collaborative technology (Wainfan & Davis, 2004), virtual teams (Townsend, DeMarie, & Hendrickson, 1998), virtual employees (Chen, Volk, & Lin, 2004), virtual organizations (Mowshowitz, 1997), virtual applications (Newman, 2014), digital work (Meares & Sargent, 1999), and learning networks (McKinney, McKinney, Franiuk, & Schweitzer, 2006), to name but a few. Although each of these terms shares certain characteristics, such a diverse range of terminologies has also resulted in a wide range of types, each with its own set of specific advantages and disadvantages. The present section outlines each of these realities in turn.

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