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Watching activities in an international community online portal support the awareness and coordination of community relevant information and actions in geographically and culturally dispersed teams.


Cultural Context

Supports Collectivist Community Orientation and Hierarchical Authority Orientation cultures. Bridges High and Low Contextual Communication Orientation, High and Low Uncertainty Avoidance Orientation, Achievement and Ascription Orientation cultures.


This pattern was recurrently observed in Hong Kong/Korean collaboration.



You established a collocated design learning community using the GRAND OPENINING design workshop.



Unfortunately, not all international community members could attend the collocated workshop. The visiting international students will have to return to their home country. Awareness about progress in other global virtual teams and activities in the international community would ether rely on local inter-team communication or would be lost once the visitors return to their home country.



How does one coordinate multiple global virtual learning teams that work on similar design projects?



In a short-term design project, students rarely take time to individually and actively maintain an international online community. However, teams with a Collectivist Community Orientation tend to consult the community’s views and actions in order to remain in harmony with the community goals and rules. Participants like to watch what other community members do. Moreover, Hierarchical Authority Orientation cultures expect the authorities to maintain environments in which information about community matters are constantly updated and distributed. If such environment is limited to local ways of distributing information, the feeling of an international community cannot arise or be maintained. Therefore, awareness of online community activities, design project requirements, learning assessment criteria and announcements of news or changes in community issues made by the authorities are valuable information for global virtual teams that should be accessible by everyone anytime.


Technological Solution

Coordinate community activities through a public accessible online community portal that also allows entry to the individual group homes. In order to facilitate the acceptance and regular use of such a community space, all team traffic is direct through this entrance hall. Allow the access of INTERNATIONAL HOMES of teams via the community space.


Social Solution

The use of a community portal makes distributed global teams aware of community relevant information. In this public space, design briefs, lecture materials and curricula are made available to all members of the design learning community. The participating universities and design streams are described and represented in this place. A global announcements communication channel is used to publicize changes in curricula or milestones anticipated in the project. Private team spaces can be accessed from this public space, much like in a block of flats, private flats are accessed via a community entrance hall. This comination of public and private space stimulates global teams to monitor what neighbouring teams are doing and allows for comparison of the design learning progress.



Collectivist Community Orientation cultures develop a shared understanding of the design scope over time by continuously interpreting information provided in the community environment like design briefs, announcements, changes in activity, or other teams’ progress. In Collectivist Community Orientation cultures, monitoring other teams helps dealing with breakdowns in the design and learning process of one owns team. The perception of the performance of other teams is basis to evaluate one owns performance. Design processes can be compared. This also helps High Uncertainty Avoidance Orientation cultures to gain awareness and confidence in accepting a diversity of design and learning processes utilized in the community.


The community hall balances cultural dimensions in which team members might differ. Small amounts of information and hints that raise awareness are balanced with direct messages from instructors, design briefs and lecture materials online. While, community members, who prefer, direct, neutral and Low Contextual Communication interpret explicit messages to build a shared understanding, High Contextual Communication and affective communicating cultures feel the emergence of a learning atmosphere that encourages further interaction in the online community.


Due to an Hierarchical Authority Orientation, student feel save and embedded in a community when the authority (group of instructors) demonstrates that every aspect in question is taken care of and changes are announced when relevant to the community, so that every team can pursue their work. Moreover, Ascription Orientation cultures feel a dedication to the project and the wish for a good collaboration, which is more rewarding to them than the achievement of a perfect final product or good grading. Nevertheless, COMMUNITY WATCH also supports Achievement Orientation cultures due to a high visibility of the designs put forward online. which earns recognition by the community.


Resulting Context

Use the pattern READY STEADY GO to introduce this online community to the participants in early stages of the project. Allow each team can access their INTERNATIONAL HOME via this community portal.


Related Work

Bennett and Dziekan (2005) developed an online learning platform to support the initiation and coordination of design projects based on the users awareness of activities in the online community.


<-- Design Patterns Network

Comments (1)

Anonymous said

at 1:09 pm on Jun 26, 2008

Hong Kong/Korean teams watched community activities online. This could be attributed to a shared Collective Community, Hierarchical Authority orientation in those cultures. A comparison with Hong Kong/Austrian collaboration showed that online community coordination seemed of less concern for teams of mixed Collective Community, Hierarchical Authority and Individual Community, Equal Authority cultures. On the other hand, Hong Kong/Taiwan teams that also shared a Collective Community, Hierarchical Authority orientation successfully coordinated community matters and activities by watching community activities. However, the solution that supported Hong Kong/Korean teams was not used in this case. As in the Hong Kong/Korean collaboration, some members could not attend the collocated workshop. Nevertheless, Hong Kong/Taiwan teams engaged in informal inter-team communication within and between other teams. A possible explanation for this might be that they share a very similar work style and views on socializing and working. Usually, all teams worked in the design studio locally and engaged in synchronous chat discussions with remote teams, which was often supported by video or synchronous sketching and drawing. Information from remote synchronous communications was then shared with other locally co-present students in Hong Kong and Taiwan. Thus, community activities were coordinated through locally and remotely co-present community members. Team and community coordination was nearly exclusively handled though daily synchronous communication among Hong Kong and Taiwanese students. Hence, a shared Collective Community, Hierarchical Authority orientation supports community coordination but watching parallel teams' activities seems not the only solution to this problem. Similarities Polychronic Time and High Contextual Communication dimensions among Hong Kong and Taiwanese students seemed to have favored communicative over instrumental coordination.

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