June 14, 2015
June 14, 2015
June 17, 2015
Computers in Education
26.1704.1 - 26.1704.19
Virtual Peer Teams: Connecting Students with the Online Work EnvironmentThis study examines use of online collaboration tools and development of Virtual Peer Teams(VPTs) in a geographically-distributed research experience for undergraduates (REU) to supportresearch outcomes and student cohort development. A 10-week REU program consisted of anetwork of research facilities that each typically hosted three to six undergraduate students towork on research projects. These small local cohorts of students formed cohesive communities,but a larger cohort of 30 to 40 students across the network of facilities was slow to form. Initialattempts to use telecommunication methods (e.g. web meeting methods) to connect all the localcohorts had little impact in broadening the students’ social and intellectual network. The use oftechnologies to support collaborators has many challenges associated with developing a level ofcohesiveness between its members. Our conjecture was that students across the network neededan extended time period and targeted projects with common goals to develop a level ofcohesiveness that began to approach the level of the peers that were co-located.The VPTs mimic geographically dispersed virtual teams that are now common in industry.VPTs consisted of four to six students from multiple REU sites around the US who were askedto experiment with various collaboration and social network technologies to complete specifiedresearch-based and social tasks (e.g. Skype, WebEx, Google Hangouts, LinkedIn, CourseManagement System, InterLACE, Google Docs). The VPTs were studied over two REU cyclesone year apart. Surveys were used to collect formative and summative feedback. Significantchanges in tools and tasks were made between year 1 and year 2 based on student feedback.Students agree their VPT experiences were significant in their professional development andbroadened their network of colleagues. Further VPTs increased their ability to comfortablyprovide feedback to their peers, learn about other research projects in the network, and develop anetwork of colleagues beyond their local research facility. In addition, earlier assessments ofREU cohorts indicated that students have gained competencies with social media for connectingwith friends and family, but need more practice with IT tools that they will see in the rapidlychanging work environment. Students indicate that they have continued to use onlinecollaboration tools and skills learned through the VPTs when they return to their homeuniversities after completion of the program. This paper will describe the VPT model, the tools,student reactions, successes, and lessons learned. It should be of interest to faculty andresearchers interested in running an REU program and the development of undergraduates’professional skills for working on geographically distributed projects.
Anagnos, T., & Lyman-Holt, A. L., & Brophy, S. P. (2015, June), Virtual Peer Teams: Connecting Students with the Online Work Environment Paper presented at 2015 ASEE Annual Conference & Exposition, Seattle, Washington. 10.18260/p.25040
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