Team project work for distance learners in engineering – challenges and benefits

Endean, Mark; Weidmann, George; Armstrong, David; Moffatt, Jim and Nixon, Tony (2008). Team project work for distance learners in engineering – challenges and benefits. Engineering Education, 3(2) pp. 11–20.



Team Engineering (first presented in autumn 2006) was the first course (module) at the Open University (OU) to use wikis and video-conferencing in combination to support the work of project teams. Teams of five students, working remotely from one another, tackle an engineering project over 32 weeks.

The teams schedule regular meetings throughout the project and these are conducted using FlashMeeting, a lightweight video-conferencing system being developed by the OU's Knowledge Media Institute, KMi ( Unlike other systems, FlashMeeting requires no software installation. In addition, it not only archives the meetings but also provides detailed analysis of the proceedings.

The teams are encouraged to use the wiki facility in the OU's virtual learning environment (VLE) for their collaborative report-writing. The collective work of the team is assessed through these reports. The performance of the individual is assessed through their reflective account of the project. The archiving facility in FlashMeeting has been of huge help in developing this. For the next presentation of the course a learning journal is to be added to the existing means of support.

Feedback from tutors and students alike has been extremely positive, whilst recognising the limitations of the technologies in their current implementations. This paper gives an account of the students' achievements and offers an assessment of the pedagogic potential of using these media together.

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