INSIGHT FROM THE CLASSROOM EXPERIENCE
Collaborative technologies exemplify information technology that has evolved in response to the need to increase efficiency and effectiveness of group meetings and cooperative work. As groups play a more important role in organizations, the use of collaborative technologies becomes more endemic. However, students training for organizational positions generally do not receive a high level of training in group work or working with collaborative technologies. To address this challenge we introduced three collaborative technologies, Group systems, SAMM, and Option Finder, in two graduate business courses. Our main objective was to better understand how these technologies might be introduced and integrated into the classroom environment to support the learning process. The students’ provided feedback on the use of the technologies regarding positive and negative aspects and methods of improving the process. The positive aspects of using these technologies were they provided a more efficient decision making process, anonymity, faster feedback and a more structured and focused process. The negative aspects included a lack of interaction among the students, a difficulty in learning the technology and not enough time. It is believed that the negative aspects were more an artifact of constrained classroom time than a response to the technology. Methods of improvement included more discussion and more training on the technology.
During the past ten years collaborative technologies have evolved. These technologies can be characterized by variations along the continua of time, space and level of group support (Alavi & Kenn, 1989; DeSanctis & Gallupe, 1987; Johansen, 1988). The term Group Support System (GSS) refers to a computer-based electronic system, frequently implemented on a local area network (LAN) to support the work of groups and to supplement the meeting process (Dennis, et. a1. 1988). Computer-mediated communication systems (CMCS) are systems that focus on the communication-related activities of team members. Both provide tools that can be used during or between face-to-face meetings and tools for groups working at different locations. These systems have been shown to improve productivity (Valacich, et. a1. 1994), increase collaboration (Kock and Mcqueen, 1997; Wallace, 1997), effectiveness (Easton, et. AI. 1990), and creativity, and shorten meeting times (Nunamaker, et. a1. 1989). These systems can improve group work by: I) enabling all participants to work simultaneously, 2) providing equal opportunity for Volume 1, NumberJ participation, 3) enabling larger group meetings thereby bringing more information to the meeting, 4) providing process structure to help the group focus on key issues,and 5) supporting the development of organizational memory (Gray and Mandviwalla, 1999). For a more complete review ofpast research on GSS see (Briggs, et. aI, 1998), (Niederman, et. a1. 1996) and (Pinsonneault and Kraemer 1989). Many of the activities ill university classrooms, especially in graduateseminarclasses, resemble those of a meeting and may benefit from the use of collaborative technologies. However, very little research has been conducted on how these systems can be effectively used in a classroom environment (Aiken, 1992; Hayne, 1994). This paper reports on a study conducted in two graduate business courses utilizing three collaborative technologies, GroupSystems" , SAMM, and Option Finder. The study tracked perceptions on positive and negative impacts of the technology and suggestions on how its use might be improved. The insights gained from this study are not discipline specific, opening the door to applicability for all classrooms and training 13 environments where the task is appropriate for collaborative technologies. BACKGROUND ON COLLABORATIVE SYSTEMS
Collaborative technology systems exist in various configurations and...