A comparison of group processes, performance, and satisfaction in a face-to-face versus computer-mediated engineering student design teams

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Whitman, Lawrence E.
Malzahn, Don E.
Chaparro, Barbara S.
Russell, Mark C.
Langrall, Rebecca
Mohler, Beth A.

Whitman, L. E., Malzahn, D. E., Chaparro, B. S., Russell, M., Langrall, R. and Mohler, B. A. (2005), A Comparison of Group Processes, Performance, and Satisfaction in Face-to-Face Versus Computer-Mediated Engineering Student Design Teams. Journal of Engineering Education, 94: 327–337. doi: 10.1002/j.2168-9830.2005.tb00857.x


Industry often requires engineers to work in teams. Therefore, many university engineering courses require students to work in groups to complete a design project. Due to the increasingly global nature of engineering, opportunities for students to navigate the issues of distance, time, culture, language, and multiple perspectives associated with virtual teams are becoming particularly desirable. To understand students’ experience with virtual teams in a graduate course on principles of lean manufacturing, a group of researchers at a midwestern university compared the project performance, selected group processes, and satisfaction of students randomly assigned to face-to-face and computer-mediated communication design teams. Students in both the face-to-face and computer- mediated communication design teams performed equally well on the final project, and reported similar patterns in group processes with a few exceptions. Students in faceto- face design teams were more satisfied with the group experience than those in the computer-mediated communication design teams; however, all reported an overall positive experience.

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