, Volume 4, Issue 3, pp 213-233

Developmental differences between distributed and face-to-face groups in electronically supported meeting environments: An exploratory investigation

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This longitudinal pilot study compared the developmental patterns of groups in three types of electronically supported meeting modes: face-to-face, dispersed-synchronous, and dispersed-asynchronous. The modes differed primarily in interactivity, channel capacity, and synchronicity. Comparisons were made along several behavioral and socio-technical dimensions which influence the group development process. Face-to-face groups tended to exhibit more effective leadership and coordination competence over time as compared to the distributed groups. However, along several other group process dimensions such as cohesiveness and equality of participation, dispersed groups did not differ from their face-to-face counterparts. Moreover, groups in all three modes performed equally well in terms of the quality of outputs. These results suggest that electronically distributed work groups—with adequate time and training—can become cohesive and perform effectively in the long run.