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on 13 September 2015

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Global connectivity has created opportunities to collaborate and utilise the expertise and experiences of individuals from around the world. This allows teams to tackle complex tasks together and organisations to keep teams focused and in sync on cooperative projects (Nunamaker, Reinig & Briggs, 2009; Ubell, 2011)
Motivations for Online Teamwork

Each individual within a team has key strengths and unique skills about them. "It is only when the contributions of all team members are valued that teams will function efficiently" (Tang, 2015, p.4).

Structure of Online Teamwork
Structure of Online Teamwork

Sometimes an individual can take on a dysfunctional role, which is a role that may impact the team in a negative way. These roles may include traits such as dominating, manipulating, taking all the credit, competing, withdrawing and being sarcastic or cynical (Tang, 2015). These behaviors can have a major impact on the team. For example, team members not completing a task they have been assigned to would put the team behind and also create stress amongst each individual.
Structure of Online Teamwork
Online teamwork has emerged as a key means for people to collaborate. We will examine the motivations for working in online teams, their characteristics, key roles and the technology with which teams are able to work together as we continue to evolve online teamwork into best practice in the 21st century.
Characteristics of Online Teamwork
Aspects of successful teamwork include a culmination of many elements that enable group collaboration.

Characteristics of Online Teamwork

The disadvantages of online teamwork are apparent when one or more key elements are missing, such as; a fractured vision could create a project that isn’t unified. If communication is poor, the progression slows down and generates pressure on the team. When respect toward members or from team members is lacking, roles are not fulfilled or the atmosphere is negative it creates an unfriendly environment making it difficult to work together.

The advantages of teamwork, when the characteristics are fulfilled to the highest level, show that greater opportunities are provided to create more successful group collaborations and final products.

In order for online teamwork to be successful the team need structure, which includes specific roles for each individuals. A team role is a "tendency to behave, contribute and interrelate with others in a particular way" (Belbin Associates, 2014, p.1)
(Trustmarque, 2015)
For further information outlining Belbin’s team roles, see this youtube video –
Motivations for Online Teamwork

Online teamwork is a flexible, convenient and cost efficient form of collaboration resulting in meaningful interactions and innovative problem solving. Other advantages include:
Improves communication and critical thinking skills
Assessing and testing ideas and providing immediate feedback
Build strong relationships
Resource sharing
Provides transparency and accountability
Challenged decision making (Falls, 2014; McIntyre & Watson, 2015; Ted, 2010 Tedx, 2012)

Online teams can be difficult to manage due to logistical factors and differences in personality, ethics, values and cultures. There is also potential for misinterpretation due to lack of non-verbal cues. Other challenges may include:
Role and responsibility ambiguity
Absent team members
Unproductive meetings
Disorganised information
Lack of personal relationships
Unreliable technology (COFAonlineUNSW, 2011; Falls, 2014; Kear, 2012; Ubell, 2011)

Research has shown that online teams are especially proficient in problem solving and creative thinking (Ubel, 2011). A 2009 study found that well-managed teams can outperform those that share office spaces. Another found that productivity gains of up to 43% have been possible using virtual teams. (Ferrazzi, 2014)

Motivations for Online Teamwork
With the changes and advancements in technology, such as high speed internet, web-based programs, file sharing, email and video-conferencing, collaboration has become a more productive way of working. Teams or groups have traditionally operated on a face-to-face basis, but increasingly teams are virtual, that is, team members may be dispersed geographically and will thus need to communicate via technology.

The Wisdom of Team (1993)

Technology to Support Online Teamwork

The main benefits of using technology within teams is that it allows disparate groups with different schedules and in different locations to work together more effectively. Other advantages are:

• Many means to communicate - instant messaging, video and phone conferencing, e-calendars, webinars
• Decreases project completion times and costs
• Eliminates travel time
• Enhance the team’s ability to monitor and track progress using project management software (By Sam Ashe- Edmunds, Demand Media)

Technology to Support Online Teamwork

Online group learning, sometimes referred to as computer-supported collaborative learning (CSCL) can provide an ideal environment for interaction if implemented appropriately, however, virtual team communication can also present specific challenges, such as:

• How comfortable are team members communicating in a mediated or technology dependent way?
• Different cultures and different time zones? (Timmerman & Scott 2006; Gareis 2006).
• Over communication sending messages through more than one channel, and thus in turn exacerbating
message overload? (Bélanger & Watson-Manheim 2006)
• Is the team self-managed, or will some type of leadership be necessary? (Carte, Chidambaram & Becker 2006)


Virtual teams have different operation mechanisms, or ways of interacting, than traditional teams. Virtual team members scatter and reside in different places and different time zones. They overcome these obstacles and are able to pursue interdependent tasks or team projects when mediated by technologies.

Technology to Support Online Teamwork

The collaboration of individuals for the purpose of a project through the medium of the Internet.
21st Century Online Teamwork
Characteristics of Online Teamwork


Some examples are:

A group vision
- clear purpose agreed upon by the team.
- regular contact - crucial in decision making and being able to move on quickly.
- being prepared, adhering to deadlines and being sensitive to others opinions. Disagreements need to be heard then resolved in a pleasant manner.
Roles and duties
- Individuals become key elements in working together.
- Participation and showing interest without tension, provides a sociable and accepting environment (Stanford University, 2007).
Online teams can be an effective and efficient form of collaboration for the 21st century. By applying some fundamental guidelines, a well structured and well managed team can make use of modern technology to improve productivity and expand communication across traditional barriers.
21st Century Online Teamwork
Characteristics of online teamwork =
Vision + Communication + Respect + Roles + Atmosphere

A researcher of team managements, Meredith Belbin, has proposed nine team roles that would benefit a team to success. These roles include:
Team worker
Completer Finishers
Resource investigator
Specialist (Belbin Associates, 2014)

None of us is as smart as all of us (Grabiec, 2014)
Global Virtual Teams (ESB Business School der Hochschule Reutlingen, 2014)
Teamwork (Husken, n.d.)
(Book Boon, n.d)
(Blog Spot.n.d)

(Ciston, 2014)
(Belbin Associates, 2014)
(Yussupov, 2014)
Teamwork (Handball/PE Blog.n.d)
Examples are implemented throughout small and large organisations and within secondary and tertiary education. Organisations may introduce online teamwork to increase productivity amongst their employees. With a vast range of online communication tools which can allow organisations who aren’t co-located to interact in a variety of ways. Schools and universities design assessments where it is compulsory that groups work in teams online using communication tools. This implementation encourages students to focus on enhancing their communication and teamwork skills.
(Dashan, 2014)

Disadvantages include the lack of personal, face-to-face interactions the team would usually experience; body language, tone of voice and facial expressions. These are diminished in an online environment which can generate communication barriers and time management issues. The constant need to schedule each individual meeting can become problematic and the struggle to engage all members of the team can become difficult as the level of activeness may vary across the team.

With various forms of online resources at our fingertips the hardest part is selecting which to use. There is a vast range of resources available such as Facebook, online forums, Skype and emails. Also advantageous are the flexibility and versatility of communicating online and the people you encounter throughout your experience.
21st Century Online Teamwork
(Bozar, 2012)
(Online Learning Insights, 2013)

(Teamwork & Leadership, 2012)
Positive Quotes for Teams (2015)
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