Date of Award

Fall 2003

Document Type

Dissertation

Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy in Information Systems - (Ph.D.)

Department

Information Systems

First Advisor

Murray Turoff

Second Advisor

Starr Roxanne Hiltz

Third Advisor

Jerry Fjermestad

Fourth Advisor

Rosalie Ocker

Fifth Advisor

Bartel Albrecht Van de Walle

Abstract

The improvement of Internet technology has motivated distributed work groups to collaborate without meeting face to face. Although asynchronous meetings through Web-based group communications systems enable groups dispersed temporarily and geographically to collaborate more flexibly, parallel and non-linear communication among dispersed members also challenge effective and efficient group coordination. Moreover, the Web-based asynchronous meeting is distinguished not only from the face-to-face meeting but also from the synchronous computer-supported meeting in terms of coordination process. However, previous asynchronous group communications or virtual team research focused more on the comparison of this new type of meeting with the face-to-face meeting. Not many research efforts have been exerted to improve the productivity of this new form of meeting and find ways to overcome its disadvantages. Facilitation was proved effective to enhance the productivity of synchronous meetings. However the effect of structured discussion through facilitation was not clear in asynchronous meeting settings even though facilitation is a common practice in asynchronous group communication systems.

This study examined the effect of a facilitated structure in improving the productivity of asynchronous decision-making groups. Delphi was chosen as the facilitated structure because it has been widely used as the paper-and-pencil-based structure to facilitate dispersed experts in collecting their opinions. In this study a computer-based Delphi structure was implemented through asynchronous Computer-Mediated Communication. A 2X2 controlled experiment was conducted to investigate the effect of Delphi structure on the effectiveness of small-sized (5-6 members) and medium-sized (10-12 members) asynchronous computer-supported groups. The formal facilitation using Delphi structure was effective to improve the productivity of asynchronous groups in generating more ideas. On the contrary, informal leadership by group coordinators seems to have played a more important role in producing better reports. In terms of per person ideas, small-sized groups were more productive, even though medium-sized groups produced more total ideas than small-sized groups. The superiority of Delphi groups and small-sized groups is related to their higher equality of participation. This result suggests that in asynchronous meetings, equal participation of group members in discussion is important in improving idea generation productivity while in synchronous meetings, the process loss of production blocking plays a crucial role.

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