Group Support Systems in the Case Method Classroom

By HBS1908 (cc 3.0)
By HBS1908 (cc 3.0)

Research Question: How can real-time collaborative technology be effectively integrated in the business school classroom?

Abstract: This exploratory study reports on term-long use of a discussion-based GSS by 137 undergraduate business students in a case-based core MIS course. We develop a model of student participation in case-based learning environments and examine the role and impact of technology on participation. Overall participation increased dramatically as students became more comfortable and adept with the technology. The GSS appeared to provide marginalized students with a ‘voice’ in the classroom, and allowed prolific participators an additional outlet. However, we observed some potentially negative consequences, such as a decline in the proportion of messages containing novel ideas, examples, information requests, and references, and some students expressed difficulty with multi-tasking – simultaneously typing and listening. As a result, we advocate further exploration of this technology in the classroom, and suggest that its use be more structured, dividing class time into “technology” (GSS only) and “human” moments (oral discussion).


Findings: Between the first and second halves of the course, the following (i)ncreases and (d)ecreases were observed: message quantity (i); message length (d); agreements and disagreements (i); analogy (i); question marks (i); reference to external data (i); humor (i). Results were examined via follow up interviews

Implications: (1) In-class GSS use increased participation, with positive effects (familiarity, engagement, supportiveness, inclusion). (2) However, also negative effects (message quantity overtook quality, and after controlling for quantity, net decreases in novelty, agreement, analogies, questions, requests, references). (3) In terms of student “best practices”, the best overall contributors focused heavily in one fora (either personal, or on-line) — few were highly successful in both media. Argues for separation of “technology” and “human” moments.

Citation: Parent, M., Neufeld, D.J., Gallupe, R.B. (2002). An exploratory longitudinal analysis of GSS use in the case method classroom. Journal of Computer Information Systems, 43(1), pp. 70-80. [link]

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