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Research Papers

Evaluating Wikis as a Communicative Medium for Collaboration Within Colocated and Distributed Engineering Design Teams

[+] Author and Article Information
Carolynn J. Walthall, Srikanth Devanathan, E. Daniel Hirleman

School of Mechanical Engineering,  Purdue University, West Lafayette, IN 47907

Lorraine G. Kisselburgh

Brian Lamb School of Communication,  Purdue University, West Lafayette, IN 47907

Karthik Ramani1

School of Mechanical Engineering; School of Electrical and Computer Engineering,  Purdue University, West Lafayette, IN 47907 e-mail: ramani@purdue.edu

Maria C. Yang

Department of Mechanical Engineering,  Massachusetts Institute of Technology, Cambridge, MA 02139

https://engineering.purdue.edu/PRECISE.

1

Corresponding author.

J. Mech. Des 133(7), 071001 (Jul 01, 2011) (11 pages) doi:10.1115/1.4004115 History: Received December 25, 2009; Revised December 11, 2010; Published July 01, 2011; Online July 01, 2011

Wikis, freely editable collections of web pages, exhibit potential for a flexible documentation and communication tool for collaborative design tasks as well as support for team design thinking early in the design process. The purpose of this work is to analyze dimensions of wiki technologies from a communication perspective as applicable to design. A wiki was introduced in a globally distributed product development course, and the experiences and performance of colocated and distributed teams in the course were assessed through observations, surveys, and site usage analytics. With a focus on communication in design, we explore the advantages and disadvantages of using wikis in student engineering design teams. Our goal is to use wiki technologies to enhance support for design processes while exploiting the potential for increasing shared understanding among teams. Distributed teams used the wiki more as a design tool and were more supportive of its use in the course whereas colocated teams used it for documentation. The usage patterns, the number and type of files uploaded, and the wiki structure provided indicators of better performing teams. The findings also suggest ways to improve and inform students about best practices using the wiki for design and to transform the wiki as a support tool for communication during early design collaboration.

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Copyright © 2011 by American Society of Mechanical Engineers
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References

Figures

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The early design phase involves more general-purpose tools than later phases

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Role of communication in shared understanding among teams using wiki

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Experience using wikis prior to ME553

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Comfort using wikis after ME553

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Usefulness of wiki for communication

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Methods of communication to discuss ideas

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Usefulness of wiki for communication

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Ease in structuring wikis

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Page-view frequency for leading subgroups of the semester

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Page-view frequency with respect to assignment deadlines

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Total time on wiki and performance

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Average views per page and performance

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Relationship of files uploaded to performance

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