University of Colorado (UNITED STATES)
About this paper:
Appears in: EDULEARN09 Proceedings
Publication year: 2009
Pages: 2836-2845
ISBN: 978-84-612-9801-3
ISSN: 2340-1117
Conference name: 1st International Conference on Education and New Learning Technologies
Dates: 6-8 July, 2009
Location: Barcelona ,Spain
Concerns have been raised in the online education environment of problems that can occur due to limited social interaction between the students. Problems cited are retention of students, learning retention, and the problem of ‘fading back’ or non-participation. Social cues, social interaction and the development of trust have been shown to mitigate these problems.

As online programs at universities expand students are increasingly working in online teams where members may never, or only occasionally, meet their team-mates face-to-face. There are many factors that can affect how well online team members communicate and how well they work together. One of these factors is that of relational links (RL). We report on a study that compared online teams trained in the concept of Relational Links with teams that received no training. Twenty-three online teams worked on an task together online over the course of two weeks. Twelve of the teams were given training on the development of Relational Links (RL) prior to working together. The remaining 11 teams received no training. All electronic communication between team members were recorded and analyzed using the Time, Interaction and Performance (TIP) framework to discern if the communication modes and functions differed between the teams that received training and those that did not. This study reports on the results of the analysis.

McGrath’s Time, Interaction and Performance (TIP) theory was adopted for the theoretical analysis framework. This framework looks not only at group activities, or functions, that occur while working on a project, but also analyzes member contributions throughout the process. TIP theory suggests that group members contribute to the group according to three levels or functions: 1) production – completion of the task 2) group well-being – maintenance of group relationships, and 3) member support –definition of individual group member role or relationship within the group. Tip theory also suggests that regardless of the function, group members contribute to the group at one of four stages or communication modes when working on a project. The communication modes include inception, problem solving, conflict resolution and execution. Groups move through the various functions and modes in different manners.

Our overall research question is:

Are the patterns of communication modes and functions used by teams with (RL) training different from those of teams without training?

This prompts our four propositions:

P1: Teams that have received relational link training will spend more time in Inception mode than teams without training.

P2: Teams that have received relational link training will spend an equal amount of time in Solution mode than teams without training.

P3: Teams that have received relational link training will spend less time in Resolution mode than teams without training.

P4: Teams that have received relational link training will spend an equal amount of time in execution mode than teams without training.

All four propositions were upheld. Our paper discusses the reasons and significance of these results.
relational links, virtual teams, tip analysis.