Supporting Collaboration and Communication in Videoconferences

Supporting Collaboration and Communication in Videoconferences

Manuela Paechter (Karl-Franzens-University Graz, Austria), Mareike Kreisler (Karl-Franzens-University Graz, Austria) and Brigitte Maier (Karl-Franzens-University Graz, Austria)
DOI: 10.4018/978-1-61520-729-9.ch011


Working together in a group may lead to advantages such as a higher task performance, gains in individual knowledge or social skills, or a higher motivation. In many situations of our daily life, the members of a group cannot meet face-to-face to work together but have to rely on communication media. This paper focuses on collaboration with the support of specific communication media, namely videoconferences. Two empirical studies will be described. The first study shows that groups which communicate via videoconferences for solving a task can achieve the same results as face-to-face groups. In order to achieve results equivalent to face-to-face groups, videoconference groups have to adapt their communication behavior to the specific characteristics of videoconferences. In the second study presented in this chapter, different trainings for collaboration in videoconferences will be investigated. One of the trainings in which students learned rules for collaborative problem-solving proved to be successful: Students who had obtained such a training achieved better problem solutions than students without a training.
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Communication With Media

Communication can be understood as an ongoing process of coordination and interaction which may serve many purposes: Developing an impression of each other, exchanging information, working together, giving mutual support, etc. It can be regarded as a collective activity in which the participants have to coordinate on content as well as on process. The communication partners continually ensure that they are attending to, hearing, and trying to understand what a communication partner is saying. Therefore, they use means such as positive or negative evidences, visual and verbal back-channeling cues, or references to former contributions. In this way they ensure a common ground of mutual understanding (Clark & Brennan, 1996).

Communication partners try to minimize their collaborative effort to ensure understanding. They behave economically and try to invest only as much effort as necessary while being as clear and informative as possible. Clark and Brennan (1996, p. 135) describe this behavior as the principle of the “least collaborative effort”. The effort that is needed to ensure mutual understanding may change with the communication medium. Communication behavior that can be applied efficiently in one medium may not be applicable in another one or may cost more effort. Media vary on different dimensions that influence communication behavior.

Various theories of communication with media agree on several media characteristics that may influence the communication between two people or a group of people (Clark & Brennan, 1996; Dennis & Valacich, 1999):

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