Using google docs to support work flow management in teams of engineering students

Nataliia P Perova-Mello, Purdue University


The purpose of the present study was to investigate how teams of engineering students integrated Google Docs to support their workflow management process. ABET criteria dictate that engineering students need to learn how to work together and practice effective ways of communication. Learning how to work well as a team is linked to the development of positive interdependence, which is at the core of the cooperative learning model and is based on social interdependence theory. A “sink or swim together” attitude in students is an important component of a successful teamwork experience (Smith, 1996). One of the important aspects of supporting interdependence in teams is to provide multiple opportunities for interaction in and outside the classroom. In this study, the use of Google Docs software was explored as a way to support workflow management during the collaborative report-writing phase by teams of engineering students enrolled in an undergraduate sustainable engineering course at a large Midwestern university. Design-Based Research (DBR) was used in this exploratory case-based study as an approach to “capture the dynamic of the learning ecology” (Collins et al., 2004), and to help inform the development of an instructional framework on how to integrate Google Docs to better support teams’ workflow management. The results of this study point to the need for instruction to emphasize to student engineering teams not only the technical “how to” knowledge of the tool but also the power of the tool’s affordances. The term “tool usage metacognition” has been coined to describe an attribute teams should develop to use software to support their workflow management more effectively in a blended learning environment.




Streveler, Purdue University.

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