Media Richness & Individual Perceptions of Teams

Article excerpt

Abstract

The purpose of this study is to demonstrate that lean communication media influence the perceptions of participants in virtual versus face-to-face teams. Students participated in either a virtual or face-to-face team environment and returned completed surveys. Results illustrate that leaner media richness in virtual teams accounts for lower individual perceptions of team ability, team trustworthiness, and satisfaction with team in virtual teams. Implications and study limitations are discussed.

Introduction

Increasingly, proficiency in multimedia learning environments is becoming a necessary tool for students in higher education as computer-mediated instruction supplements or even completely replaces the face-to-face classroom. Distance learning via various computer-based, virtual platforms is becoming commonplace where students are exposed to online and/or computer-mediated learning and need to gain competencies in their use through increased media literacy with electronic learning resources. According to Goodfellow and Lea (2005), the dearth of online, text-based literacy remains the greatest challenge for educators in the move from print-based classroom interactions to electronic-based interactions.

Piccoli, Ahmad, and Ives (2001) found that with regard to virtual versus face-to-face basic-skills training, there were no significant differences in performance between undergraduate students enrolled in the two environments. However, the virtual learning environment led to higher reported computer self-efficacy, while participants reported being less satisfied with the learning process. The current study further investigates the differences between face-to-face and virtual learning experiences by focusing on individual perceptions of team ability, team trustworthiness, and satisfaction with team in virtual and face-to-face collaborative projects.

Background

Media can be characterized as residing along a continuum of lean to rich According to this schema, media are classified based on the following criteria: feedback, multiplicity of cues, language variety and meaning, and personal focus. Lean media include much of computer-mediated communication, such as email and other text communication, while the richest media is associated with face-to-face communication (Daft, Lengel, & Trevino, 1987).

People are not likely to be equally comfortable and satisfied with different media, nor is it likely that people believe that different media can be used interchangeably to accomplish particular tasks. One study (Straus, Miles, & Levesque, 2001) examined the effects of different media, such as-to-face, telephone, and video conference, for both interviewers and applicants. Results suggest that interviewers rated applicants less favorably in face-to-face interviews as compared to telephone interviews. Applicants, on the other hand, generally preferred face-to-face interviews over telephone or videoconferencing types of interviews. One notion the study did not examine was whether applicants would gravitate toward particular types of jobs based on the type of media used and the outcome of the interview.

Information technologies that facilitate communication in new media are simply tools that are only useful if people adopt them and use them productively (Bandura, 2002). Thus, when faced with choices among various media, satisfaction with adopted media is an important concept that affects not only current adoption but future adoption of media as well. One study by Jacques, Deale, and Garger (2006) demonstrated that two constructs, perceived usefulness and ease of use, from the Technology Acceptance Model (c.f. Davis, 1989; Venkatesh & Davis, 2000) predicted future intention to use an in-class, computer-mediated testing system. However, none of the above studies examined the impact of media richness in a group decision-making context. The current study, using face-to-face and computer-mediated group communication, examines the effects of media type on individual perceptions of team satisfaction, team ability, and team trustworthiness. …