Date of Award

Fall 2020

Document Type

Open Access Dissertation

Department

Educational Studies

First Advisor

Michael Grant

Second Advisor

Tammi Kolski

Abstract

The purpose of this action research study was to evaluate the impact of virtual collaboration on social connectedness among a group of culturally diverse women participating in an online business strategy course. This study was guided by three research questions (1) How and to what extent does virtual collaboration impact social connectedness among a group of culturally diverse women participating in an online business strategy course? (2) How and to what extent does a group of culturally diverse women use virtual collaboration tools for activities in an online business strategy course? (3) What are the experiences of culturally diverse women participating in an online business strategy course?

This research study was situated within The Prominence Association for Women, a membership organization for women of color who are entrepreneurs. Data was collected from three participants (n=3) who were members of the organization participating in an eight-week online business strategy course that also functioned as a virtual community of practice (Ardichvili, 2008). A convergent parallel mixed methods design was employed to collect data. Quantitative instruments included presurvey and postsurveys versions of the Online Social Connectedness Survey instrument (Bolliger & Inan, 2012) and a self-designed Technology Use Survey. Qualitative data was collected in three phases of semi-structured interviews with each participant being interviewed at the beginning, midpoint, and end of the eight-week course.

Quantitative data from the Online Student Connectedness Survey was analyzed with descriptive statistics and results indicated an increase in feelings of social connectedness across the three subscales (comfort, community, and interaction and collaboration). For the Technology Use Survey, the frequency of engagement with virtual collaboration tools for different activities varied across participants. Inductive analysis for qualitative data produced one assertion (participants perceived technology can support the development of strong intimate relationships when entrepreneurs who are women share similar backgrounds, common goals, and past experiences), and three themes: (a) entrepreneurial progression, (b) richness of synchronous interaction, and (c) interdependence fosters authentic connections. Findings were drawn from the converged data. These convergent findings revealed that virtual collaboration can positively impact social feelings of connectedness when activities are supported by virtual collaboration tools that allow participants to work towards common goals, to build a support network, and to participate in meaningful skill development that could contribute towards advancement as entrepreneurs.

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