Pontificia Universidad Católica de Chile Pontificia Universidad Católica de Chile
Miranda C., Goñi J., Hilliger I., Lugo J. (2020)

Assessing the Work of Geographically Distributed Teams in Engineering-Design: Time Allocation in the Design Process as a Form of In-Class Analytics

Revista : International Journal of Engineering Education
Volumen : 36
Número : 1(B)
Páginas : 399–410
Tipo de publicación : ISI


Engineering Design practice is increasingly becoming a global activity where individuals, who are geographically distributed, work together as a team. Although the mainstream core of engineering design trains students to face teamwork from a co-located standpoint, existing studies point out the benefits and tradeoffs of distributed team training. This article explores the complexities of working in distributed teams by assessing distributed team experiences on three different continents. To achieve this goal, the study was organized in two stages. In the first stage, a framework was developed based on a yearlong mixed-methods study where four engineering teams from two prestigious universities in Chile and the U.S. worked together on open-ended problem-based challenges. Subsequently, the data from other 11 teams including distributed work among students in Chile, the U.S., and Finland, in the period spanning from 2016 to 2017, was collected and analyzed. A time tracking research instrument was created assessing how teams allocate their efforts within the design process and how this allocation varies across co-located and distributed teams. In addition, 10 semi-structured interviews were conducted with students from the first stage in order to triangulate the information. Findings show that distributed and co-located teams spend similar amount of time in convergent and divergent design activities. Moreover, evaluators identified improvements in the end solutions designed by students since there seems to be a cultural and academic complementation in the solutions proposed by distributed teams. All teams tend to use more time on convergent activities rather than divergent ones, especially when preparing presentations for a larger class group. Special attention should be paid on the convergent stages of teams’ design processes in order to provide the right educational scaffolding to facilitate learning. This study sought to shed a light on the possibilities of working with geographically distributed teams, and we found that, overall, the trade-offs are not significant.