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First-Year Engineering Student Perspectives Of Google Docs For Online Collaboration

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2017 ASEE Annual Conference & Exposition


Columbus, Ohio

Publication Date

June 24, 2017

Start Date

June 24, 2017

End Date

June 28, 2017

Conference Session

First-Year Programs: Wednesday Potpourri

Tagged Division

First-Year Programs

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Paper Authors


Natasha Perova-Mello Oregon State University

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Natasha Perova-Mello is currently a Postdoctoral researcher at Oregon State University in the School of Civil and Construction engineering. She recieved Ph.D. in Engineering Education from Purdue University. She previously worked at the Harvard Graduate School of Education as a Research Assistant focusing on students’ learning algebra and also taught an introductory physics course at Suffolk University, Boston, Mass. Before that, she worked as a Graduate Research Assistant at the Center for Engineering Educational and Outreach at Tufts University, Medford, Mass. Natasha received her M.S. in mathematics, science, technology, and engineering education in 2008, M.S. in electrical engineering in 2005 from Tufts University, and B.S. in electrical engineering from Suffolk University.

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Sean P. Brophy Purdue University, West Lafayette (College of Engineering)

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Dr. Sean Brophy is a learning scientist, engineering, and computer scientist who teachers design and computational modeling to first year engineering learners. His research in engineering education and the learning sciences explores how students learn through interactions with technologies. He is particularly interested in how learners construct knowledge as they engage in complex problem solving. He continues to explore new methods to support human cognition with cognitive devices.

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This research study investigates how first year engineering design teams use Google Docs to manage their workflow process. Teams need to develop workflow practices that maximize each team members’ potential to collaborate effectively. Technologies can provide a means for supporting a team’s workflow with a high degree of productivity and collaboration. For example, online tools like Google docs provide multiple methods for team members to build knowledge together. Students entering today’s workforce need to experience online collaboration and work management to better prepare them for virtual engineering contexts that are becoming more prevalent in engineering professions. In this exploratory study, our guiding research questions are: (1) How do engineering student teams organize their workflow using technology, such as Google Docs and (2) What instructional support is needed to facilitate a more effective use of Google Docs? We used Google Docs because of its affordances to facilitate complex and interconnected core processes of collaborative work such as team awareness, knowledge building and knowledge management. Google Docs affordances can be used to support engineering team workflow management by providing opportunities for a higher level of interaction and interdependence among team members, by making workflow more transparent, by reflecting the rhythm of the work process and by helping teams not only manage their workflow but actually get into the flow of higher productivity and investment in the shared work. Our target audience are first year engineering students engaged in a semester long design project. The Design-Based Research (DBR) methodology was selected to address proposed research questions in a naturalistic setting. The rationale for using DBR was rooted in this method’s focus on helping “understand how, when, and why educational innovations work in practice” (Design-based Research Collective, 2003, p. 5). In this paper, we will focus on presenting results of a qualitative analysis of student responses to open-ended survey questions that were conducted during mid and end of the Spring 2016 semester at a large midwestern university. The results of this study will be used to inform engineering pedagogical practice that increase teams’ workflow processes. In addition, some results can contribute to the development of new workflow support technologies that will be focused on the needs of engineering students. This paper will be of interest to all instructors who have their students work collaboratively on projects that result in work products like a design notebook, or a final report.

Perova-Mello, N., & Brophy, S. P. (2017, June), First-Year Engineering Student Perspectives Of Google Docs For Online Collaboration Paper presented at 2017 ASEE Annual Conference & Exposition, Columbus, Ohio. 10.18260/1-2--28364

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