Too Early, Too Bad: Uncovering and Understanding the Initial Participation Paradox in Technology-Mediated Learning Teams


Research Problem: Time is of the essence in technology-mediated teams. However, research has been inconclusive about the impact of team participation on outcomes. A possible reason can be found in the temporal dimension; particularly, we refer to the time points examined in relation to the entirety of the period. Indeed, we can find research attention on initial participation (IP) in fields such as social psychology. IP refers to the contributions of team members during the earlier half of the team's lifespan. Comparable efforts are in want in information systems contexts where the relevancy and saliency of IP is no less. Research Questions: Does IP affect outcomes of technology-mediated teams? Do team size and task type affect IP in technology-mediated teams? Literature Review: Based on a review of literature that includes group development, information overload, and integrative complexity, we discover an IP paradox. More intense IP, in terms of amount and equality, could decrease outcomes, namely, task performance, team learning, and outcome satisfaction. Moreover, two cornerstone boundary conditions of teamwork, team size and task type, could affect IP. Methodology: A quantitative field experiment with 49 technology-mediated learning teams that involved 245 participants was conducted. These teams used a wiki to complete a task in a course in higher education. Data were collected from a pretest survey, posttest survey, and electronic records of the wiki (editcount and wordcount). Qualitative data from participants were also sought for the sake of triangulation. The data were analyzed using partial least squares. Results and Discussion: The results show that higher IP amount and equality decreased task performance and outcome satisfaction as predicted. However, higher IP amount did not significantly affect team learning although this was significant in the hypothesized direction for IP equality. As for team size, larger team sizes increased IP amount but lowered -
P equality. Task type did not affect IP amount and contrary to our prediction, multiple solution tasks instead of single solution tasks decreased IP equality. Nevertheless, the findings support the notion that higher IP leads to detrimental outcomes. This suggests the importance of coordination mechanisms in the initial period especially in time-limited teams. For instance, knowledge leaders and facilitators can step up to organize and reduce information overload during the initial period to ensure an easier time synthesizing in the later period and better task performance. The current work was limited in terms of using only objective data for participation amount and equality. Future research could involve a combination of perceptual and objective data as well as other types of participation constructs, such as task related, norms and rules, and socioemotional acts for a richer insight into the IP paradox.

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