Abstract: Wikis, freely editable collections of web pages, exhibit potential for a flexible documentationÂ and communication tool for collaborative design tasks as well as support for teamÂ design thinking early in the design process. The purpose of this work is to analyze dimensionsÂ of wiki technologies from a communication perspective as applicable to design. AÂ wiki was introduced in a globally distributed product development course, and the experiencesÂ and performance of colocated and distributed teams in the course were assessedÂ through observations, surveys, and site usage analytics. With a focus on communicationÂ in design, we explore the advantages and disadvantages of using wikis in student engineeringÂ design teams. Our goal is to use wiki technologies to enhance support for designÂ processes while exploiting the potential for increasing shared understanding amongÂ teams. Distributed teams used the wiki more as a design tool and were more supportiveÂ of its use in the course whereas colocated teams used it for documentation. The usageÂ patterns, the number and type of files uploaded, and the wiki structure provided indicatorsÂ of better performing teams. The findings also suggest ways to improve and informÂ students about best practices using the wiki for design and to transform the wiki as a supportÂ tool for communication during early design collaboration.
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