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Synchronous groupware is programming that enables real-time collaboration among geographically-distributed work group members. Synchronous groupware typically includes file transfer, chat, shared whiteboard, application sharing, voice, and video. In comparison, asynchronous groupware enables people to collaborate remotely, but not necessarily at the same time.
A study group from the University of Canberra in Australia evaluated the differences between synchronous and asynchronous groupware. They used Lotus Notes (an asynchronous product) for several months, after which they used Microsoft NetMeeting and AussieMOO (both synchronous products). They found that synchronous groupware meetings required a degree of organization that wasn't necessary for asynchronous work. Because work group members had to "attend" the meeting all at the same time, synchronous work demanded punctuality, whereas an asynchronous group could catch up with the project and respond to messages on their own time. The study group also found that managing the meeting was crucial, for example insisting that a single topic be adhered to at any given time in order to make the discussion easier to follow. Although the group found that the synchronous system made more demands on participants, it also led to more dynamic interaction, more quickly resolved issues, and shorter work periods.
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