Academic journal article Quarterly Review of Distance Education

Key Factors in Online Collaboration and Their Relationship to Teamwork Satisfaction

Academic journal article Quarterly Review of Distance Education

Key Factors in Online Collaboration and Their Relationship to Teamwork Satisfaction

Article excerpt

Online instructors today search for ways to engage students in authentic activities in their courses to create real-world learning experiences. Collaborative grouping is 1 way that instructors promote students' creativity and productivity during the teamwork process. The present study is an attempt to enhance our understanding of students' teamwork experiences. The researchers in mis study investigated the relationship between collaboration factors and teamwork satisfaction among 46 graduate students. Online survey protocol was used to collect data. Results revealed that the selected collaboration factors jointly accounted for 63% of the variance in online collaboration satisfaction. "Trust among teammates" and "organization practices" were effective factors for explaining online collaboration satisfaction. Recommendations for instructors to improve students' collaboration experiences are provided.

INTRODUCTION

The rapid development of technology during recent years has broken down the physical and temporal barriers of schooling by removing time and space constraints. The evolution and innovation of the social system have taken place by conveying knowledge and experience in the human society. We now live in a global village sharing knowledge and exchanging information with people all around us, near and far. Lehtinen, Hakkarinen, Lipponen, Rahikainen, and Muukkonen (1 999) stated that "One of the basic requirements for education in the future is to prepare learners for participa- tion in a networked, information society in which knowledge will be the most critical resource for social and economic develop- ment" (p. 2). Working in an online environment, more and more instructors realize the importance of providing quality feedback, encouraging intrapersonal interactions, and engaging students in meaningful and effective learning activities that will prepare them for life in this networked world.

The rapid development of technology has also changed the ways students learn and has shifted students' role towards self-directed exploration in the online learning environment. Current research suggests that an online collaborative learning environment can positively affect students' performance on problem-solving group projects. Uribe, Klein, and Sullivan's (2003) study suggested that computer-mediated collaborative groups had positive attitudes toward learning collaboratively and performed significantly better than participants who worked alone. In addition, a collaborative environment that encourages clear and strong definitions of the group itself has the potential to raise group productivity (Lee, Rogers, & Postmes, 2002; Thompson & Ku, 2006).

The collaborative learning environment is learner-centered in nature with the instructor giving a certain degree of the autonomy to student collaborative groups. Students are then encouraged to become active agents who will be discovering and constructing knowledge by working at their own pace within a problemsolving environment. In collaborative learning, the aim is not only to help students to produce successful products but also to ensure that each group member participate actively in the problem-based learning environment.

Collaborative Learning

Collaborative learning is defined as "an activity that is undertaken by equal partners who work jointly on the same problem rather than on different components of the problem" (Brandon & Hollingshead, 1999, p. 1 1 1). Collaboration involves the interdependence of individuals as they share ideas and reach a conclusion or produce a product. Collaboratively, these individuals must come to a common understanding of the problem, identify what they as a group already know, and focus on what areas they need to research or investigate further. They must also come up with a plan of action and possibly conduct independent work that will ultimately affect the rest of the team.

Katzenbach and Smith (1993) defined a collaborative team as a "small number of people with complementary skills who are committed to a common purpose, performance goal, and approach for which they hold themselves mutually accountable" (p. …

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