Self-Organizing Units in an Interdisciplinary Course for Pervasive Computing Design


We conducted a case study of a design course that focused on bringing together students from engineering, industrial design, and marketing to use pervasive computing technologies to design, coordinate, and build a “smart” dorm room for disabled individuals. The class was loosely structured to encourage innovation, critical thinking and interdisciplinarity. In this environment, teams were created, disassembled, and re-created in a self-organizing fashion. With few norms, teams were expected to be interdisciplinary, form quickly, and work together by creatively integrating their disciplinary expertise. In observing this semester-long class, we found certain conditions that will enhance pedagogical tools designed to expedite team formation and improve collaborative practices in a classroom setting. Similar to open source software development, we found that groups can form randomly in a loosely coordinated environment that is both self-managing and self-directing if instructors create a strong normative foundation to the class. In this case study, we observed that the applied concept of self-organizing buffered with strong faculty input invests group members with a greater commitment to be productive, effective, and innovative.

Interdisciplinary collaboration, Group formation, Self-organizing units