Collaboration in the Large: Using Videoconferencing to Facilitate Large-Group Interaction
Diane H. Sonnenwald (University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill, USA), Paul Solomon (University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill, USA), Noriko Hara (University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill, USA), Reto Bolliger (University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill, USA) and Thomas H. Cox (University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill, USA)
Copyright: © 2003
This chapter discusses the social, organizational and technical challenges and solutions that emerged when facilitating collaboration through videoconferencing for a large, geographically dispersed research and development (R&D) organization. Collaboration is an integral component of many R&D organizations. Awareness of activities and potential contributions of others is fundamental to initiating and maintaining collaboration, yet this awareness is often difficult to sustain, especially when the organization is geographically dispersed. To address these challenges, we applied an action research approach, working with members of a large, geographically distributed R&D center to implement videoconferencing to facilitate collaboration and large group interaction within the center. We found that social, organizational and technical infrastructures needed to be adapted to compensate for limitations in videoconferencing technology. New social and organizational infrastructure included: explicit facilitation of videoconference meetings; the adaptation of visual aids; and new participant etiquette practices. New technical infrastructure included: upgrades to videoconference equipment; the use of separate networks for broadcasting camera views, presentation slides and audio; and implementation of new technical operations practices to support dynamic interaction among participants at each location. Lessons learned from this case study may help others plan and implement videoconferencing to support interaction and collaboration among large groups.