Geographically distributed teams in engineering design: Best practices and issues in cases of international teamsworking from different continents

Constanza Miranda Mendoza, David Leal Martinez, Maurice Forget

Research output: Chapter in Book/Report/Conference proceedingConference contributionScientificpeer-review

Abstract

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 continents under a problem-based, innovation driven, engineering-design course. For this, we build on 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 seven 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.

Original languageEnglish
Title of host publicationASEE annual conference & exposition proceedings
PublisherAmerican Society for Engineering Education
Volume2017-June
Publication statusPublished - 24 Jun 2017
MoE publication typeA4 Article in a conference publication
EventASEE Annual Conference - Columbus, United States
Duration: 24 Jun 201728 Jun 2017
Conference number: 124

Publication series

NameASEE annual conference & exposition proceedings
ISSN (Print)2153-5965
ISSN (Electronic)2153-5868

Conference

ConferenceASEE Annual Conference
CountryUnited States
CityColumbus
Period24/06/201728/06/2017

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  • Cite this

    Mendoza, C. M., Martinez, D. L., & Forget, M. (2017). Geographically distributed teams in engineering design: Best practices and issues in cases of international teamsworking from different continents. In ASEE annual conference & exposition proceedings (Vol. 2017-June). (ASEE annual conference & exposition proceedings). American Society for Engineering Education.