Within the cent years the internet technology has changed significantly and unexpected opportunities became reality, as web conferencing. In recent years, web conferencing has become more and more popular as well within business for cross border meetings as for students for divergent reasons. Nevertheless, web conferencing is not yet general accepted as a substitute for face-to-face meetings. There are a lot of reasons why face-to-face is still the most common way to meet, one of the reasons could be that students have the idea that meeting physically helps them to get better results for their group work.
In this study the effect of substituting physical meetings by web conferencing on group work results among students will be investigated. The study will only focus on SUB Master students at Masochist University. This study will be carried out within five days in a controlled experimental environment by the GAPS research group, which is a team consisting of three doctoral students experienced in teaching and research projects. The use of web conferencing becomes increasingly popular within academic institutions (Sumner & Hosteller, 2002).
Students often face very different situations which makes meeting physically not always possible, especially in case of different geographical residences. Therefore, an ever increasing number of students use web conferencing for their academic group work if they are not able to meet physically. Masochist University is very well known for its “Problem-Based Learning system” also known as PL. A main part of PAL is that the students have to perform different tasks within a fixed group. The tasks students need to prepare within groups demand a lot of negotiation and collaboration.
Thereby, the group members need to meet either physically or collaborate 3 y using web conferencing. As mentioned, it is not always possible for students at Masochist University to meet physically because of the high number of students from different nationalities that, for example, do not stay the weekends in Masochist. Moreover, each student has his own academic and personal schedule which makes physically group meetings very challenging. Web conferencing is a new opportunity that can help students to overcome the challenges of meeting physically.
Students do not need to be at the same place and can meet from any location that is most convenient to their personal schedule. Masochist university is always interested in new trends, innovation, improvements and development. As well they want to ensure and attain high quality of group work results, especially within the PL system. To generate these results, Masochist University has to consider if more space for group meetings or new working places providing web conferencing services should be created.
To give answer to the question above, Masochist University wants to know if web conferencing is the best way or has at least a positive effect on the quality of group work result; especially in times where the use of web conferencing is growing exceptionally. This concern leads to the following research question that will be investigated in this study: Does web conferencing instead of physical meetings affect the quality of students’ academic group work results?
Researching this question will give Masochist University a broader insight in the knowledge they need for helping students achieving highest quality of their group work results. Different implications from this research question for Masochist University and other institutions will be discussed in the RELEVANCE OF RESEARCH QUESTION section of this proposal. 4 3. PROBLEM ANALYSIS A research on group work and communication ethos is of high interest as student group work bears valuable benefits, such as learning synergies, enabling of critical thinking, collaboration and organization training (Folder & Brent, 2001).
Research on group work focuses, for example, on influences on the group work process, communication quality or efficiency (Burke, 2001). Generally, the object of these investigations are aspects related to the group work process, not the final outcome. The group work process consists of very different variables, which all influence the outcome (Noses & Unmans, 2008): Individual characters have different skills, opinions and levels of competence. Group member behavior is influenced by task difficulty as well as by feelings and emotions.
Additionally, external support, time restriction and requirement pressure have an effect on the group’s performance. Finally, the level of acquaintance among group members matters as success is higher if group members know each other. Web solutions are advantageous in the group work process as they help overcome the “limitation of people not being in the same place at the same time” (Noses, 2005). Thus, people are given a high flexible way to communicate, collaborate and share information over the internet (King, 2010). The most appropriate web solution for group work is web conferencing.
This is a synchronous technology that allows people to meet and collaborate online (Valises, Stark-Danes, Eva, Leveling & Wingman, 2007) via software or webbed applications (licensed or free). The most popular web conferencing tool is Skips (Microsoft Live Meeting, 2007). Web conferencing consists of six main features: Audio streaming, text chat, video streaming, desktop application sharing, whiteboard and file exchange (Peters & Bell, 2006). The use of web conferencing methods leads to changes in the group work process. Groups must take into consideration particular reparation and management of resources (time, equipment etc. And skills (e. G. Keyboarding) (Folder, & Brent, 2001 The crucial factor 5 distinguishing web conferencing from physical meeting is distance: physical absence has been found to lead to participants’ perception of a cold and unsociable environment (Hiking , 2006). Social context cues cause motivation, satisfaction, and participation, but are not prevalent in virtual meetings (Burke, 2001 ). Still, whether the missing personal environment has a significant impact on a group’s ability of task solving is ambiguous (Burke, 2001).
Microsoft Live Meeting (2007) states that web conferencing can create a powerful environment for virtual teams that closely approximates face-to- face meetings. It leads to better and more effective communication and coordination and develops a common group memory. Moreover, web conferencing improves collective knowledge, resource sharing, diverse perspectives and inter-organizational cooperation as well as promoting greater creativity (Sumner & Hosteller, 2002). As a side effect, it is very time efficient by lowering travel time (Gouger, Higgins, & McIntyre, 1993).
Hence, web conferencing methods are potentially increasing efficiency. Particular situations have been found to be more beneficial to these methods than others: The success of web conferencing depends on the number of group members that participate (Murphy & Cashews-Carr, 2007). Structured tasks are more suited than unstructured tasks (Rice, Davidson, Dancegoer & Gay, 2007). R. M. Bernard & K. Lundeberg-Carroll (2001) emphasize that web conferencing improves organizational skills as greater coordination and adoption as well as the role of a moderator are needed.