Guidelines for Working Collaboratively in Virtual Teams

Guidelines for Working Collaboratively in Virtual Teams

Shelley Stewart (University of South Florida, USA)
DOI: 10.4018/978-1-5225-9814-5.ch005
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As virtual teams continue to become more prevalent, educational administrators, faculty, and other members of online communities must discover and employ guidelines for effectively collaborating in online contexts. Applying the same traditional team strategies to those working in dispersed groups of people may hinder communication and prevent optimal results. In today's world, teams need to execute and learn at the same time. It is time to re-define what constitutes a (virtual) team and consider new avenues for cooperating in an increasingly diverse, global, and continuously “plugged-in” society. A set of practical steps for why and how virtual teams can collaborate in digital environments is presented. Tips for implementing the steps are provided. An analysis of technological tools available for facilitating online team collaboration is also shared.
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Seventy percent of people globally work remotely at least once a week (IWG, 2018). Within the United States, whereas 20 percent of employees worked one (1) or more days per week virtually in 1996, by 2016, 60 percent of employees had the option to work one (1) or more days a week from home or other off-site location. More than 60 percent of organizations now offer telecommuting benefits, an increase of 14% as compared to 2012 (Society of Human Resource Management, SHRM 2016). Working productively in teams has been and will continue to be critical in many professions, including educational technology contexts.

Global virtual teams are becoming the new normal as people and projects continue to expand across borders, made possible by technological advances. Virtual teams present advantages such as the opportunity to capture multiple perspectives, harnessing top talent regardless of location and accelerating innovation while constructing new knowledge (Derven, 2016). Virtual teams are those made up of people in different physical locations (Ferrazzi, 2014). Virtual teams are also variously defined as geographically dispersed, electronically dependent, dynamic, or comprising diverse members working remotely (Gibbs & Gibson, 2006; Kirkman & Mathieu, 2005).

Virtual teams often operate apart from, around or in parallel to a more formal organization. Therefore, it is important to define and agree upon shared governance, decision frameworks and team protocols. Determining guidelines for the team, roles, responsibilities, sharing, access and storage of information, as well as technology selection is essential. Each virtual team will have its own unique culture. Setting guidelines for how, when and why the team operates helps form team cohesion and can accelerate progress (Derven, 2016).

Key Terms in this Chapter

Online Synchronous Learning: Online learning or meetings occurring in real time.

Virtual Groups/Team: People that are geographically, organizationally and/or time dispersed workers brought together by information and telecommunication technologies to accomplish one or more organizational tasks.

Asynchronous Learning: Learning occurring when learner and instructor or learner and learner are separated by time and distance.

Collaboration: Working with others to produce or create something.

Team Research: The study of teams and their attributes.

Netiquette: Rules of behavior for the Internet and virtual communication.

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