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Project Proposal

Starting Position

A global market as well as a globally distributed product development process requires engineers with competence in globally distributed teamwork. Due to the continuously increasing time pressure, collaboration in teams with physical presence will be replaced by collaboration over networks in the future.
Today, many systems for supporting net-based teamwork are commercially available. However, these systems are only slowly integrated into industrial business processes. Beside technical problems, a major reason for this slow technology integration is the users' missing acceptance, which arises from the unknown new workings methods induced by the new technology.
In order to encounter this problem, a new topic was integrated into the lecture "Visualization, Simulation, and Interaction - Virtual Reality 1". Here, mainly technical aspects such as transfer protocols and algorithms are taken into account. However, a scenario for applying this knowledge is missing so far.

Defining a Scenario

Modified working methods as a result of a new collaboration technologies cannot be taught theoretically, but have to be experienced by using the technology directly. In addition, the benefits of of using new collaboration technology can be experienced, thus generating acceptance for the new technology.
Due to the heterogeneous background of the students in the lecture mention above (D-MAVT, D-ITET, D-INFK, D-MTEC), a training scenario is required which allows a realistic working condition without necessitating specific knowledge on a certain field. The scenario should demonstrate the necessity of an IT-based collaboration technology, and it also should generate a basic knowledge for choosing adequate collaboration means for a given task. In a first step, a simple example should demonstrate that current collaboration means such as chat, e-mail, etc. are not suitable for many tasks. Furthermore, the scenario should also show that many tasks will require an additional channel for transferring information, e.g. for sketching new ideas, for describing complex structures, etc. The scenario should also integrate video (often assumed to be unnecessary) in such way that its additional benefit becomes clear to the users. However, the scenario should also show that new collaboration technologies also will have an impact on traditional working methods, requiring an adaptation by the users. If the users adapt to this new technology, this will result in a significant benefit in task solving.
The scenario will give the opportunity to perform a net-based collaboration using a concrete given task. By solving this task, students will experience the benefits of a net-based collaboration technology, but also its current drawbacks. As a result, students should realize, for which working processes the new technology can be used. This will also create acceptance and the willingness to use such collaboration technology also in later business live.
Beside the theoretical basics given in the lecture, the scenario allows the students to experience a realistic usage of collaboration technology and thus to achieve knowledge about the correct usage of this technology in net-based business processes.
Prior to the project, the ICVR (Innovation Center Virtual Reality) at IWF of ETH Zurich realized a technological environment, the so-called 'Collaboration Room'.  This room is ready to use for the proposed project. In addition, personnel of ICVR will assist in supervising the students during the exercise.


The proposed project allows to transfer knowledge, which cannot be taught theoretically. This practical experience will create acceptance for net-based work, will generate the knowledge how to use the technological means, and will teach how the technology influences typical business processes. This practical experience will be supplemented by the theoretical knowledge taught in the lecture.
The students will use the collaboration scenario in order to learn how to use information technology for collaboration in a meaningful way for typical business processes.  By a suitable selection of the scenario, the knowledge to be transferred is not in the foreground, but is actively elaborated during the exercise.
This new learning method that will be applied within the scenario can be derived from the so-called 'synektik' method, which is typically used in brainstorming sessions. Within this method, the user first departs from the actual problem by working on a completely different topic, and comes back to the original teaching topic by reflecting the task he just solved. In addition, the scenario is designed in such a way that the teachers could be fully involved. By doing so, the dialog between teachers and students can be intensified. In this case, a communication and collaboration over networks has the positive side-effect of a higher anonymity, which allows to overcome possible thresholds in the dialog between teachers and students.

Student Exercise 24. October 2007

The following images give some impressions of the exercise, in which two teams of 2 - 3 persons each had to solve different tasks over the network. The task was chosen in such a way that it can be solved without any prior knowledge. The tasks had the goal to demonstrate the necessity and capability of communication tools.

The task description is
in the sector "Intern"

Student Exercise 21. November 2007


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