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Effects of culture on computer-supported international collaborations

2004-03-01
Swigger, K
Alpaslan, Ferda Nur
Brazile, R
Monticino, M
This paper discusses results of a case study from an on-going project to investigate how cultural factors, as identified by the Cultural Perspectives Questionnaire (CPQ), affect the performance of distributed collaborative learning teams. The results indicate that a team's cultural composition is a significant predictor of its performance on programming projects. Cultural attributes most strongly correlated to group performance included those related to attitudes about organizational hierarchy, organizational harmony, trade-offs between future and current needs, and beliefs about how much influence individuals have on their fate. Moreover, the type of programming task affected the strength of the relationship between individual cultural attributes and performance. Participants in the study included computer science students from the University of North Texas (Texas, USA) and students from the Middle East Technical University in Ankara, Turkey. Students were divided into culturally diverse work-teams and assigned programming projects to be completed using special collaborative software. The programming tasks ranged from simple design projects to more complicated programs that required extensive collaboration. Cultural distinctions between work-teams were based upon the students' responses to the CPQ. Project performance was evaluated with respect to programming accuracy, efficiency, completeness, and style. The results presented here have important implications for the formation of distributed collaborations and, in particular, to educational institutions offering distance-learning programs that require team projects.