Lit Review: Geographically Dispersed Teams

Lit Review: This is a post in a series focusing on the research studies on videoconferencing.

Baker, G. A. (2000). Understanding the role of information technology in supporting geographically dispersed teams: An experimental study. Retrieved from ProQuest Digital Dissertations. (AAT 9994205)


This experimental study used the 2×2 factorial design to compare the function of groups with text only, audio only, text and video, and audio and video. The groups were playing simulation games that required them to choose between short term individual interest and long term collective interest. In the study, the participants used CU-SeeMe, but the study references room based videoconferencing as well. The participants were undergraduate students. The technical method of group interaction was compared with the quality of the group’s strategy decision, the group cohesiveness, and the group’s task performance.

The results show that the quality of the strategy decision had a significant effect on task performance, and that task performance had an effect on group cohesiveness. Video added a significant impact on the strategy decision, but not on cohesiveness. The text based communication allowed for greater concurrency because many people could talk at the same time.

Interesting Ideas

Important pieces of group collaboration: “the distribution of communication among participants, how group members interact in the dissemination of information, and the members’ capability to communication information and group choice” (p. 6).

Synchronicity is the ability of a medium to provide rapid communication in both directions and how easily the receiver can interrupt the sender (p. 15). Concurrency is how many simultaneous conversations can happen in the medium. Hmm. Twitter has high concurrency!

Comments & Application

It seems to me that studies done with undergraduate students where they are working on work that is just a simulation should certainly be taken with a grain of salt when applying to actual work in the real world.

However, this study confirmed for me how we work in the Jazz workshop. All tools are used – collaborative document sharing, Twitter, Skype, chat rooms, discussion boards, wikis, and audio conferencing, and videoconferencing – both desktop and room baseed. We pick and choose the tools based on what is needed. For the early planning meetings with 20+ facilitators attending, we use the phone conference supported by a text chat in Skype. The text chat allows for the “side conversation” or supporting conversation to what is covered in the audio review of the content. This way everyone can be involved but it’s more efficient. When we get down to the planning the week before Jazz and the evening debriefs with facilitators, we are meeting with 3-4 facilitators in a 4×4 screen layout via video. Here the video is critical as we plan, debrief, mentor, and problem solve the issues that arose in the workshop that day.

The important lesson is to know and use all the tools, and be comfortable with which tool is most appropriate for the task at hand.

Another important lesson comes from the relatively low level of group coherence for all the distance groups. It is very hard to get to know and trust others when meeting at a distance. Yet, in the Jazz workshop, we expect just that! We need to continue to be deliberate about ways to connect the facilitators before hand that we can learn to know and trust each other even more before the actual workshop occurs. It certainly takes time.

Question for You
What do you think of these results? Do you prefer a certain way of meeting with those at a distance? Why?

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