Observed Patterns of Dysfunctional Collaboration in Virtual Teams

Observed Patterns of Dysfunctional Collaboration in Virtual Teams

Wing Lam (Universitas 21 Global, Singapore), Alton Chua (Nanyang Technological University, Singapore) and Cecelia Lee (Universitas 21 Global, Singapore)
DOI: 10.4018/978-1-59140-556-6.ch067


To collaborate is defined in the Wordsmyth (2002) dictionary as “to cooperate or work with someone else, especially on an artistic or intellectual project.” The widespread adoption of the Internet and increasing sophistication of online communication tools have led to the emergence of collaboration in virtual teams in which members work with each other without the constraint of being physically together (Townsend, DeMarie & Hendrickson, 1996). Unlike traditional face-to-face teams, members of virtual teams may be geographically distributed, work in different time zones, and may never even meet face-to-face. Virtual teams therefore rely heavily on asynchronous (e.g., discussion boards, e-mail), and to some extent synchronous (e.g., videoconferencing, online chat, telephone) collaboration tools to support the interaction. In the educational scene, many academic institutions are turning to the use of virtual teams to meet the growing demand for online education (Zhang & Nunamaker, 2003). Distance learners, who have limited face-to-face interaction opportunities, are organised into virtual teams to collaborate, solve problems, and conduct projects in much the same way as virtual teams in corporate organisations do. Apart from overcoming the barriers of space and time, virtual teams afford an environment conducive to peer-learning (Bailey & Luetkehans, 1998). Although the dynamics of traditional face-to-face teams in the educational setting has been well studied (Slavin, 1989), the use of virtual teams raises new issues in relation to how the physical, temporal, and social separation of students affects the learning process. This article reports on the experiences of using virtual teams in an online university.

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