Global Learning at Home: Understanding Students' Experiences in Global Virtual Team Projects

Session Fr1: Nov 12, 11:45 AM


With the increased and increasingly globalized outlook of the engineering industry, there is a need to develop an engineering workforce with skills targeted towards cross-cultural and transregional technical work. At the classroom level, global virtual teams provide a platform to prepare students for industry-level global team environments without having to travel abroad. Scholarship has shown, however, that global virtual teams face myriad challenges: technical and cultural incompetence, scheduling issues, openness to and knowledge about intercultural adaptability, and the failure to develop cross-cultural relationships (Alves, 2018; Levitt, 2013; Liu et al.,2015; Whitman et al.; 2005). With this study, our aim is to gain a holistic perspective of students’ experiences in a global virtual team project to understand better what and how they learned through the experience. We collected data from 71 students, coming from the United States, Mexico, and Ecuador, who worked together in 7 project teams over the course of one semester. This data includes pre- and post-course individual student reflections in which they describe their goals, challenges, and learning outcomes as well as pre/post assessments using the Intercultural Development Inventory instrument. We will code these reflections for emergent themes and re-code them using a holistic coding scheme (Saldaña, 2013). We anticipate that students’ understanding and perspectives on intercultural collaboration will shift over the course of the semester. Through our analysis we aim to characterize different developmental patterns and explore whether the shifts in the content of students’ reflections aligns with any shifts in their scores on the Intercultural Development Inventory. By using a longitudinal and holistic approach we aim to gain a more nuanced understanding of students’ experiences working on global virtual teams compared to earlier studies that have typically relied on quantitative approaches alone. These results can inform the intentional design of global virtual team projects, which can provide an opportunity to improve access to global experiences for engineering students.