Within the broad scope of research on virtual teams, there is scant research that specifically addresses the topic of virtual research teams in university environments. Existing research on virtual research teams primarily focuses on research and development within corporations (Hanebuth, 2015). However, the importance of virtual research teams is becoming more apparent as more and more faculty are interacting within the confines of online environments, especially faculty at universities with online education as a primary focus.
While faculty at University of Phoenix teach in both online and “brick and mortar” learning environments (“Become a Faculty Member,” 2017), the majority of these faculty provide instruction within online, virtual classrooms. Given the numerous states represented by faculty within geographical locations across the United States, many faculty have limited interactions to engage with other like-minded faculty for possible research and other scholarship opportunities. In these instances, chairs of the University Research Centers strategically look for opportunities to assemble faculty in virtual research teams.
Virtual research teams (VRTs) serve a multilateral function within the research center setting. Foremost, within VRTs, faculty are afforded the opportunity to collaborate with like-minded faculty to construct scholarship that provides meaningful contributions within their fields. Within our research center, VRTs are categorized as special interest groups (SIGs), topic-specific research teams or targeted-scholarship project teams.