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Leadership In Student Distance Education Teams

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2006 Annual Conference & Exposition


Chicago, Illinois

Publication Date

June 18, 2006

Start Date

June 18, 2006

End Date

June 21, 2006



Conference Session

Program Delivery Methods and Real World Concepts

Tagged Division

Engineering Management

Page Count


Page Numbers

11.865.1 - 11.865.12



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Paper Authors


Leroy Cox University of Missouri-Rolla

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LEROY R. COX is a postdoctoral fellow in the Engineering Management and Systems Engineering department at the University of Missouri – Rolla. He holds Bachelors degrees in Mechanical Engineering and Engineering Management (1999), a Masters degree in Systems Engineering (2002), and a Ph.D in Engineering Management (2005) all from UMR. He has industry experience in the areas of process improvement/reengineering and mechanical design. His research interests include organizational behavior, virtual teams, and managing people in organizations.

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Susan Murray University of Missouri-Rolla


David Spurlock University of Missouri-Rolla (ENG)

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DAVID G. SPURLOCK is an Assistant Professor of Engineering Management and Systems Engineering at the University of Missouri-Rolla. He earned a bachelos degree in electrical engineering from the University of Dayton, a M.A. in psychology from Pepperdine University, and a Ph.D. in organizational psychology from the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign. His research interests include individual and organizational decision making.

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NOTE: The first page of text has been automatically extracted and included below in lieu of an abstract

Leadership in Student Distance Education Teams Abstract

Interactive video technology has become a widely used medium for education. A prominent implementation of this technology, interactive distance learning, involves groups of students at local and remote sites connected by audio and video teleconferencing. This approach has made the task of delivering vital undergraduate and graduate engineering courses to distributed audiences much easier.

As this approach has permeated more curricula, distance education instructors have increasingly assigned projects that require distance learners to work together as an element of the final course grade. This trend presents an interesting opportunity for researchers to understand the nature of interactions among course participants involved in project teams.

This paper presents the results of an investigation of project leadership behaviors in the distance learning environment. Surveys were administered via online protocol to fifty-three students, comprising nineteen project teams. Results indicate that those teams led by individuals who clarified roles and task requirements, and recognized the strengths and individual needs of teams members performed better on their assigned tasks. Implications for instructors utilizing project teams in distance education, as well as traditional teams where communication technology (e.g., email) is highly relied upon, are presented.


Warren Bennis, in his essay, “The Coming Death of Bureaucracy,” stated the following:

The organizational structures of the future will have some unique characteristics. The key word will be temporary. There will be adaptive, rapidly changing temporary systems. There will be task forces organized around problems to be solved by groups of relative strangers with diverse professional skills. The groups will be arranged on an organic rather than mechanical model; they will evolve in response to a problem rather than to programmed role expectations. Organizational charts will consist of project groups rather than stratified functional groups. Adaptive, problem-solving, temporary systems of diverse specialists, linked together by coordinating and task-evaluating executive specialists in an organic flux – this is the organization form that will gradually replace bureaucracy as we know it. Teaching how to live with ambiguity, to identify with the adaptive process, to make a virtue out of contingency, and to be self-directing – these will be the tasks of education, the goals of maturity, and the achievement of the successful individual.5

Bennis’s predictions, penned in the 1960s, were profound, and nearly forty years of hindsight have given validity to his predictions. The current reality in the business world is flatter organizations, an approach to operations using Total Quality Management principles, and more use of self-directed teams. Realizing that it is necessary and important to develop the

Cox, L., & Murray, S., & Spurlock, D. (2006, June), Leadership In Student Distance Education Teams Paper presented at 2006 Annual Conference & Exposition, Chicago, Illinois. 10.18260/1-2--337

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