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Visually and verbally supported synchronous text chat tutorials help in gaining common ground among culturally diverse distributed learning teams and their local tutors.


Cultural Context

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


This design pattern was used in collaboration between Hong Kong and Korea, and Hong Kong and Taiwan.



In this learning community, local tutors predominantly instruct local teams. After a local tutorial teams use the STRUCTURED CHAT to compare local activities and instructions and develop a shared understanding of changes suggested by the tutor.



After a local, face-to-face tutorial students discuss remotely the options for the development of the designs but cannot gain common ground about the direction they want to follow. This might be due to differences in the local and remote tutors’ advice or because some students do not want to simply adopt one of the tutors’ opinions without discussing the feasibility of other suggestions among the entire team. However, since local teams are assessed locally, the local tutors’ opinion has a high significance for them. A breakdown among the local and remote team occurs because possibly contradictory instructional advices of the tutors cannot be resolved in the global team. Hence, instructing distributed design-learning teams exclusively in local face-to-face tutorials causes breakdowns in the coordination and decision making process of the global virtual team.



How can you support the global virtual team to coordinate and resolve potentially conflicting local instructions?



Collectivist Community Orientation and Hierarchical Authority Orientation cultures have a tendency to follow the tutor’s advice without question. The result is that in a chat discussion about local instructions, students hold on to their local tutor’s advice. Nevertheless, maintaining harmony in the global virtual team is also important to Collectivist Community Orientation cultures. However, if tutors give different advice in separate local tutorials, harmony in the global virtual team is disturbed. Harmony can only be restored if both tutors’ views are balanced and a decision is imposed from above.



Let local instructors advice not only local teams but also global virtual teams. Establish several synchronous computer-supported peer tutorials over the project period involving local and remote instructors and students of the global team.


Schedule at least three sessions, one at the beginning of the project, one interim and a final presentation, is a minimal need to establish common ground in this design learning community. Synchronous peer tutorials involving local and remote tutors and teams are major project milestones and offer ultimate awareness of the progress in the teams and the opinion and suggestions from both tutors. Design decisions can be made instantly. Possible conflicts in advices can be discussed on the spot. In textual synchronous communication tutors can refer to representations of the designs stored in the ANNOTATED DESIGN GALLERY as reference for the discussion. However, video-supported presentations of the teams’ designs are especially successful. In the discussion and comparison of local implementations students and tutors can communicate in reference to shared physical design artefacts. Since sound quality is a problem sometimes, textual synchronous communication can be used to support the visual demonstration of the design artefacts.



In visual and textual supported synchronous discussion and tutorial sessions, students explain their design implementations in detail by means of sketches and prototypes. The discussants can immediately check and clarify misunderstandings in the design process. Both teams share and explain the design process from their local point of view, which fosters equality among the teams. All attending students and tutors gain awareness and common ground through High Contextual Communication Orientation.


Having gained a view of the entire picture of the global team’s process and progress, tutors can discuss the proposal among themselves and communicate the decision and instructional advice immediately and in unity to the global team. High Contextual and multi-modal information about the designs enables tutors to give Low Contextual Communication, clear and direct advice. Due to the strong Hierarchical Authority Orientation of the students, the advice is taken without objection. This resolves possible uncertainties of the students and restores the harmony in Collectivist Community Orientation cultures. While the conclusion of the discussion satisfies Achievement Orientation cultures. cultures, the involvement of the entire community reassured Ascription Orientation cultures. cultures that they are aligned with the project’s values and goals, too. Therefore, global resolutions given by the tutors should address universal goals and directions but should refrain from giving concrete tasks for both teams. Even if the team’s abilities and skills do not match the assignment or task, the students would not object to the tutors’ instruction. Collectivist Community Orientation students would not speak up in front of the community, not wanting the tutor to lose face. Hence, while discussing the new design direction, teams can clarify new tasks and roles that evolved from the tutorial.


Resulting Context

You can use the pattern STRUCTURED CHAT to achieve global resolutions.


Related Work

Vogel et al. (2001) and Rutkowski et al. (2002) reported about the benefit of structured instructional feedback for collectivist cultures.


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