Investigating the group development process in virtual student software project teams
To remain competitive in today's global economy, organizations must be able to keep costs down, respond quickly to demands for new products and services, solve complex problems that often cross technical and functional areas of expertise, and be willing to use innovative work structures. Organizations also must be able to coordinate work across a variety of intra- and inter-organizational boundaries. Many companies are addressing competitive challenges by adopting teams as the primary organizational work unit and by using communications technologies to bridge organizational and physical boundaries. Teams that work across space, time, and organization boundaries using technology are virtual teams. The increasing reliance on teams in industry has had an effect on education as well. Colleges and universities around the world are preparing students to work in virtual teams by incorporating distributed teamwork in distance-learning courses and by offering courses in collaboration with other post-secondary institutions. This study investigates the group development process in virtual student software project teams. The research uses grounded theory methodology to analyze the electronic communications of these virtual student teams. The study looked at virtual teams over a three-year period within the framework of the Runestone project. Four themes emerged from the data analysis: dialog, attitude, relationships, and trust. The themes revolve around a core category of team cohesiveness. The findings of this research add to the small body of empirical research on virtual teams by demonstrating that: (1) trust can exist in virtual teams; (2) trust can be measured by analyzing only communication artifacts; (3) team members in virtual teams can use lean CMC media such as IRC to develop social relationships; (4):certain communication behaviors and strategies do influence team development; (5) is possible to use IRC logs to investigate team process; and (6) there are specific associated with the themes of dialog, attitude, relationships, and trust that cohesive teams and non-cohesive teams.