Many American corporate organisations as well as educational institutions are turning to online group work. Online group work brings together people from all over the world to get the job done. Working face to face in groups can be challenging and rewarding. With virtual groups, the problems and advantages are unique to this type of environment. Differing opinions on how the project should be tackled can cause some to shy away from working with others. Yet, some find the opportunity to work with a diverse group a golden opportunity for exchanging exciting new ideas and innovations.
Working together online builds cooperation and raises trust levels. The online environment closes culture gaps and creates a diverse collaboration. A 1991 Academy of Management Journal article said cooperative groups exhibit more positive "group think" than groups composed of members who have individualism in their attitudes. Plainly stated, online group work that produces diverse and creative ideas from people from all over the world is a positive addition to American know-how.
Members of online groups often meet with communication hurdles caused by language barriers and time constraints. Although the Internet never sleeps, people do, and getting a project complete while members of the group are missing can cause a strain. Because there is no face-to-face interaction, members may feel reduced accountability to the group, and when problems arise--such as complaints that not everyone is doing his part--mediation of conflicts can be more difficult.
Other advantages and disadvantages
Anonymity is both a plus and a minus in the online environment. Some work better when the spotlight is off.
Leadership and the ability to establish a leader is difficult in an online work group environment.
Editing group work in an online environment where there is language and other cultural differences can be touchy and uncomfortable.
In an online environment, groups are often at a disadvantage where "getting close" is concerned. This emotional distance can show in the group's work. However, for some the opposite is true. Distance can create group members who work on the project of the "project's sake" and get the job done without emotional attachment to other group members.
- How to Survive Virtual Group Work
- University of Leeds
- Facilitating Group Work
- "Harvard Business Review"; The Work of Leadership; R. Heifitz and D. Laurie, 2001
- Academy of Management Journal"; Effects of Ethnic Group Cultural Differences on Cooperative and Competitive Behavior on a Group Task; T. H. Cox, S. A. Lobel, P. L. McLeod; 1991.