June 22, 2008
June 22, 2008
June 25, 2008
13.655.1 - 13.655.12
Group Communication via Technology for Engineering Work: Perceptions on Effectiveness
Group work is an important part of the engineering curriculum as employers are stressing the need for future engineers to be able to work collaboratively with those both in and out of their preferred field. The use of technology in the classroom is also becoming a necessity as most students today have been immersed in technology since childhood and globalization is forcing engineers to connect to all parts of the World1.
Engineers must become World-Class Engineers that are able to work with a wide variety of cultures in a collaborative setting from their own desk as the World is "flattening" through the effects of globalization and technology2. The need for students to be prepared for collaborative work through technology brings about the question on just how does technology, such as email, instant messaging (IM), and text messaging, affect the group dynamic.
The traditional face-to-face collaboration for localized group work may be reshaped by the widespread use of technological communication3, such as IM. Most new college students are arriving to school already familiar with communication technologies. A recent Pew Internet and American Life Project study found that in 2004, 62% of the internet users between the ages of eighteen and twenty-seven had used IM4. This number will only continue to rise as the technology becomes more and more popular.
A trend towards the use of IM over face-to-face meetings is already taking place in the business world. In addition to personal use, 10% of the IM users in 2004 were business people5 and the Radicati Group predicted half the IM users to be business users by 20064. The use of IM in the business world leads one to believe that students should be exposed to IM as a tool for group collaboration. However, inclusion of IM as a tool for group collaboration brings about other concerns that should be addressed.
One concern with the use of IM for group work is how this technology will affect the traditional group dynamic. If the students use IM heavily, will the face-to-face meetings cease to exist? If this is the case, will it defeat the purpose of exposing engineering students to the experience of group work that employers say is a necessary skill?
Another concern is how different students will react to and perceive the use of the technology. Gender and learning style are two differences that may play a key role in how students feel about using technology as a collaboration tool, and thus should be addressed. Gunawardena and Boverie6 found that student satisfaction varied according to learning style when using computer- mediated classes. Chou and Wang7 studied learning during homepage design training and found that the learning style was a significant factor in the scores for different tasks. These results are enough to draw concern that if technological collaboration tools are a necessity for tomorrow's engineers, these differences should be addressed to determine how all students could benefit.
Bauer, D., & Okudan, G. (2008, June), Group Communication Via Technology For Engineering Work: Perceptions On Effectiveness Paper presented at 2008 Annual Conference & Exposition, Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania. https://peer.asee.org/3877
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