Pontificia Universidad Católica de Chile Pontificia Universidad Católica de Chile
2017 Miranda, Constanza; Leal, DavidMaurice Forget. “Geographically Distributed Teams in Engineering Design: Best Practices and Issues in Cases of International Teams Working from Different Continents”.In ASEE Annual Symposium. Columbus. (2017)

Geographically Distributed Teams in Engineering Design: Best Practices and Issues in Cases of International Teams Working from Different Continents

Revista : ASEE Annual Conference Proceedings
Tipo de publicación : Conferencia No DCC


It is not rare to have engineering design teams in companies, working from different parts of the world on a shared project. This new addition to the working context has been triggered by advances in communication technologies and the knowledge economy. This begs the question, are today’s engineering students prepared to enter the workforce in this new international teaming environment? Most of the research that reports on geographically distributed teams or virtual teams is performed under industrial contexts. Thus, research is limited with regards to collaborative or distributed teams in educational environments (Dym et al. 2015). This is what motivates our study.This paper investigates the challenges and benefits of partnering students located in different hemispheres under a problem-based, innovation driven, engineering design course. For this, we build on a previous experiences of teaming up students from Chile and the United States, as well as students from Finland and Mexico. In this second endeavor, we grouped 7 students from Finland and Chile to fulfill a semester long course. The students met physically during two specific periods of the semester and then worked remotely throughout the span of the project. Students followed the same curriculum and deliverables. Qualitative data analysis was performed on semi-structured interviews (taken at different points of the semester), blogs and other forms of self-reported data. The outcomes are presented as a case study.The contributions of this paper are threefold. First, and aligned with the interest of accreditation institutions such as ABET, it provides insight on how to instill the ability to work within global teams to ensure that graduates will have the skills to enter the profession successfully. Secondly, we identify strategies to orchestrate the work of cross-cultural teams. These can be taken by any educator and can be translated to its own engineering teaching practice. Finally, we examine the potential pitfalls in cross-cultural teams. We assert that, as in the field of medicine, it is critical to discuss the issues and complications so that the intervention can contribute to the educational experience. Future work may involve the study of more cases with engagement of the community at ASEE.