We present the results of an experiment investigating two different modes of collaboration on a series of computer-aided design (CAD) tasks. Inspired by the pair programming literature, we anticipate that partners working in a fully synchronous collaborative CAD environment will achieve different levels of quality in CAD models depending on their mode of collaboration — one in which the pair is free to work in parallel, and another where the pair must coordinate to share one control.
We found that a shared CAD control led to significantly better overall CAD quality than parallel CAD control. In addition, the shared control mode led to more complete and consistent CAD models, as well as the tendency for participants to follow instructions to correctly replicate features for the design task. As is predicted in the literature, a trade-off relationship (albeit weak) between quality and speed via the parallel collaboration was found. In contrast, the shared control mode shows no clear relationship between speed and quality.
Collaborative CAD is increasingly seen as an appealing tool for modern product design teams. This study suggests that the benefits of this tool are not solely the effect of the tool itself, but result from the collaboration style of the designers using the tool.