This study examined the potential of online collaboration tools to develop team cohesiveness and research skills of undergraduates participating in Virtual Peer Teams (VPTs) in a geographically distributed research experience for undergraduates (REU). The VPTs mimic geographically dispersed virtual teams that are now common in industry. VPTs consisted of four to six students from multiple REU sites around the United States who were asked to experiment with various collaboration and social network technologies to complete specified research-based and social tasks. Surveys were used to collect formative and summative feedback. Students agreed their VPT experiences were significant in their professional development and broadened their network of colleagues. Further, VPTs increased their ability to comfortably provide feedback to their peers, learn about research projects at other sites, and develop a network of colleagues beyond their local research facility. VPT assignments were motivated by earlier assessments of REU cohorts, which indicated that students had gained competencies with social media for connecting with friends and family, but needed more practice with IT tools that they will use in the rapidly evolving work environment. Students indicated that they have continued to use online collaboration tools and skills learned through the VPTs when they returned to their home universities after completion of the summer REU program. While further development of the VPT concept is warranted to address specific student learning outcomes, results imply that students’ experiences had a positive impact on their use of these tools and their confidence to use them in future professional interactions involving virtual collaboration.
Thalia Anagnos, Alicia Lyman-Holt, and Sean Brophy. "Virtual Peer Teams: Connecting Students with the Online Work Environment" ASEE Annual Conference & Exposition (2015): 26.1704.1-26.1704.19. doi:10.18260/p.25040