Abstract: Context: Many organisations are increasingly developing virtual teams to work on their global projects. By definition, a virtual team is a group of geographically scattered persons collaborating to accomplish a project or an organisational task. Managing virtual project teams is more complex than managing traditional projects. Many engineers seeking successful managerial and leadership positions in their career opt for postgraduate degrees in engineering management to update their knowledge and skills and foster their managerial skills.
Purpose: This paper examines weather current curriculum and learning strategies in a postgraduate engineering management program provides students with the necessary skills to operate in virtual teams.
Approach: The research identifies the skills required for managing virtual teams working on engineering projects. By way of an exploratory example only, this research also analyses subject outlines and claimed outcomes of a postgraduate engineering management program to detect weather the program provides students with knowledge and skills needed for working and managing virtual teams. This paper represents a preliminary study for ongoing research that is being designed to answer this research question in a more rigorous and scholarly manner.
Results: It was found that the program equips engineers with updated necessary knowledge, skills, methodologies, techniques, and tools to effectively manage engineering projects across a wide range of industries. Students of the program would also develop soft skills including communication which is of particular importance for virtual projects. The program included practice based strategies such as discussions, role-plays, presentations, and teamwork activities where students are heavily exposed to the "online" world to share and exchange information. The assignments are designed to ensure that student's clear and concise writing and presentation skills are developed, which is highly desired in virtual settings given the high probability of misinterpretation of messages.
Conclusions: The program was found to recognise the changing nature of project management, and has adopted adequate learning strategies that provide students with the opportunity to develop the skills required to overcome the communication, technology and leadership issues arising from working in virtual teams. The research has highlighted the importance of adopting innovative learning strategies in universities in order to develop successful learning outcomes for individuals.
To cite this article: Tawk, Tarek; Al-Kilidar, Hiyam and Bagia, Ravindra. Skills for managing virtual projects: Are they gained through graduate project management programs? [online]. In: 27th Annual Conference of the Australasian Association for Engineering Education : AAEE 2016. Lismore, NSW: Southern Cross University, 2016: 20-29.
[cited 24 Jun 17].